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Exploring the links between experiences of injustice and violent conflict: expert roundtable


In the process of building peace and justice, a series of connected injustices are worthy of increased attention. Justice tends to be thought about within the confines of rule of law and accountability. Yet justice is not dispensed but experienced, and failing to respond to injustice is to court conflict. As such, the event suggested we should grapple with the breadth of those experiences and meanings of justice across societies in order to build peace. This entails, it was felt, involving a wider array of actors in collaborative actions to help solve justice challenges.

In an attempt to begin that process, the expert roundtable organized by the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law and Saferworld on 26th May gathered a mix of professionals in The Hague – some of whom may not usually work together. Building on an on-going expert blog series, participants spanned the fields of behavioral economics, private sector development, media, DDR, governance, rule of law, peacebuilding, youth, gender, urban planning and climate change.

Video clips from Bangladesh, Kenya, the United Kingdom, South Sudan and Armenia/Azerbaijan portrayed experiences of injustice that people encounter within their communities and how they impact on conflict dynamics. Although from different societies at distinct stages of conflict, the complexity, richness and indivisibility of perceptions of injustice is clear. However, the way in which these issues are understood and funded can sometimes belie that complexity, interpreting justice problems as simply rule of law issues. Rule of law is of course crucial, but should not become lazy short-hand for all justice work.

Participants therefore reflected on the peace and justice potential of putting equality and fairness at the center of political, economic, legal and social policy. Justice is not only a product generated by the state and formal institutions, but something that arises in everyday interactions.

The challenge is, therefore, to ensure that justice work addresses underlying causes rather than merely symptoms of conflict. By taking a problem solving approach to justice work, a much larger space for innovative approaches opens up, one that can harness the right blend and consortiums of different actors from different sectors. This might require a different taxonomy of what the most serious challenges are. If the peacebuilding and justice communities can embrace this breadth and put fairness and human rights at the center of their work, this would encourage us to question our default tendency to privilege addressing “crimes”, and instead focus on addressing interlinked justice problems and conflict drivers.

Keep an eye out on our website for a Saferworld position paper on avenues for how structural transformations across a range of interconnected fields might have a bearing on peace.