Mapping patterns of meaning: reparation for victims of mass violence in intra-state peace agreements

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för samhällsstudier (SS)

Abstract: In the aftermath of armed conflict, peace and justice are no longer perceived as contradictory. Scholars and practitioners alike have increasingly argued that societies emerging from periods of conflict or repression need to address legacies of past mass violence and human rights abuses in order to sustain peace. This is the rationale behind the evolving field of transitional justice. While it is stated that transitional justice also makes headway in contemporary peace agreements, existing literature tends to remain unspecific. Albeit being the most victim-centred among the range of transitional justice mechanisms, the incorporation of reparation for victims of mass violence into peace agreements is particularly under-researched. This research gap is even more puzzling as it is a “basic maxim of law that harms should be remedied” (Roht-Arriaza 2004: 121). In response to this, this thesis establishes that only around a third of intra-state peace agreements signed from 2000 to 2009 have addressed reparation. Further, by means of an analytical framework that embeds thematic analysis within the structure of framing theory’s model of meaning-making, it maps how the studied peace agreements assign meaning to reparation in their texts. As a result, two themes labelled ‘reparation as the fulfilment of basic needs’ and ‘reparation as an act of justice’ are identified as constituting the broader patterns of meaning held within peace agreements’ reparation provisions. While the language of the latter equips harmed individuals with rights as victims, the former theme focuses instead on individual vulnerability and collective development needs. It deemphasises the link between harm experienced and violation committed. As it is suggested that the employment of particular themes and terminology lifts certain issues up the agenda while marginalising others, peace agreements’ authoritative meaning-making directly impacts on the lives of those victimised during conflict. Hence, this thesis highlights the need for more systematic research in this area to strengthen evidence-based reparation advocacy during peace processes.

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