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You are here: Home Research Resources Expert Guides Reparations, Reconciliation and Forced Migration Reparations, reconciliation and durable solutions

Reparations, reconciliation and durable solutions

Reparations, reconciliation and durable solutions

Please note that a significant proportion of the literature on reparations, reconciliation and the facilitation of durable solutions to displacement is addressed in the above sections. The purpose of this section is to provide additional detail on the nature and scope of the literature, and highlight a limited number of issues not addressed earlier in the guide.

Reparations, reconciliation and return

While the literature on reconciliation and reparations does not typically explicitly address the issue of forced migration, the connection between reparations, reconciliation and durable solutions has attracted considerable attention from researchers, who have focused in particular on the potential and limitations of real property restitution and compensation in terms of enabling the return of refugees and IDPs (for e.g. Black and Eastmond 2006). Redress for resettled or locally integrated refugees have rarely been explicitly investigated or discussed in the academic literature.

It is worth noting here that most studies on reparations, reconciliation and return are case-specific; to date, the return of displaced Bosnians and the potential return of the Palestinian refugees have received the most consideration. Research on restitution, compensation and the displaced Palestinians has focused on how redress may be used to resolve the refugee crisis and thereby support the achievement of peace between the Palestinians and Israelis. The International Development Research Centre has been instrumental in supporting this research agenda; many of the findings from this research programme are available through the Palestinian Refugee Research Net (PRRN).

Following the Bosnian war, the international community was optimistic that by ensuring displaced Bosnians could regain access to their homes, they would return and thereby 'reverse the tide' of ethnic cleansing. However, evaluation studies completed by the wide variety of organisations and experts involved in the return and restitution processes confirmed that by itself restitution was not sufficient to establish conditions amenable to the return of refugees and IDPs, particularly those from minority groups. In light of the difficulties encountered in encouraging minority returns through restitution in Bosnia, several researchers have turned their attention to how restitution can be used alongside a broader range of reparation, reconciliation, development and security initiatives to enable return (for e.g. Englbrecht 2004). Increasingly, researchers concerned with the Balkans are adopting a broader and more critical focus, looking at the limitations of using reparations and reconciliation programmes to promote return, and examining the insights the Bosnian case holds for other regions.

Notably, researchers working in Bosnia as well as in countries such as Guatemala have also examined the significance of exhumations and dignified burials for returnees (for e.g. Pollack 2003, Psychosocial Working Group 2005). Exhumations may be the first step in gathering the evidence necessary to launch trials and other means of redress that entrench the experiences of displaced persons and other victims of human rights violations in the national historical record.

Bradley, M. (2005) 'The Conditions of Just Return: State Responsibility and Restitution for Refugees', University of Oxford Refugee Studies Centre Working Paper No. 21.
Gazmere, R. and Bishwo, D. (2000) 'Bhutanese refugees: rights to nationality, return and property', Forced Migration Review 7.
Human Rights Watch (2004) Claims in Conflict: Reversing Ethnic Cleansing in Northern Iraq, New York, Human Rights Watch.
International Development Research Centre-Middle East Special Initiatives
Palestinian Refugee Research Net (PRRN)
Phuong, C. (2000) 'At the heart of the return process: solving property issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina', Forced Migration Review 7(5).
Psychosocial Working Group
UNHCR (2004) Handbook for Repatriation and Reintegration Activities, Geneva, UNHCR.
Wilkinson, R. (1998) 'Going Home: Mozambique Revisited', Refugee Magazine 112.

Reparations, reconciliation and democratic and economic development

Reparations and reconciliation programmes have the potential to stimulate economic development and the establishment of democratic governance and the rule of law. The developmental impact of redress is closely tied to the ability of redress to promote durable solutions to displacement (see section 6.1). For many refugees and IDPs, housing and property restitution and compensation is essential to rebuilding livelihoods and reintegrating into the community. The land tenure reform process that often accompanies the housing and property restitution programmes is critical to long-term sustainable development, as is the provision of support to communities that have regained access to their lands through restitution. In South Africa, for example, communities that regained title over their traditional lands typically remained impoverished and the productive capacity of the land plummeted as the owners lacked the skills and support necessary to establish or sustain viable enterprises (Tomkova 2006). Despite the need for post-land transfer support programmes, such initiatives are virtually non-existent, and issue has been largely neglected by researchers.

Scholars writing on reparations and reconciliation have suggested that the willingness to deal with the legacy of past injustices and uphold the right to a remedy is a 'pillar of the rule of law and democracy' (Echeverria 2002: 2). The question of how to build domestic support for reconciliation and reparation programmes in democratic countries such as Israel is a complex one that is being tackled by a number of civil society organisations as well as by researchers.

Alden Wily, L. (2003) Land Rights in Crisis: Restoring Tenure Security in Afghanistan, Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit.
Hovey, G. (2000) 'The Rehabilitation of Homes and Return of Minorities to Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina', Forced Migration Review 7.
Hurwitz, A., Studdard, K. and Williams, R. (2005) Housing, Land, Property and Conflict Management: Identifying Policy Options for Rule of Law Programming, New York, International Peace Academy.
IDRC Project - Repairing the Past: Reparations and Transitions to Democracy
SADC Centre for Land-related, Regional and Development Law and Policy
Tomkova, J. (2006) Addressing Injustices of the Past: Implementation Challenges of South Africa's Land Reform Programme and their Implications for Sustainable Development.
Last updated Aug 17, 2011