Research Handbook on Transitional Justice
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Research Handbook on Transitional Justice

Edited by Cheryl Lawther, Luke Moffett and Dov Jacobs

Providing detailed and comprehensive coverage of the transitional justice field, this Research Handbook brings together leading scholars and practitioners to explore how societies deal with mass atrocities after periods of dictatorship or conflict. Situating the development of transitional justice in its historical context, social and political context, it analyses the legal instruments that have emerged.
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Chapter 9: The United Nations and transitional justice

Alison Davidian and Emily Kenney


This chapter explores the role of the UN in the field of transitional justice. It provides an overview of normative standards and actors working in the area, and focuses on three of the UN’s added values, namely: (a) the breadth of its work in post-conflict countries which allows it to reinforce synergies between transitional justice and development programming; (b) its ability to leverage relationships with member states and other intergovernmental bodies, to provide direct support to transitional justice processes; and (c) its convening power which provides a platform for victims and civil society groups to engage directly with governments. The chapter concludes that, while the UN has made positive advances in this field, its work is plagued by the same concerns and limitations that impact implementation of human rights instruments globally. UN entities, special rapporteurs, commissions of inquiry and treaty bodies can and do make recommendations to member states to respect international standards and norms, but it is up to states to act on them. Given the limitations of sovereignty, one of the UN’s greatest strengths in this area is its ability to engage diplomatically, advocate for the highest standards and provide a platform for civil society and victims associations to engage with the state. United Nations; norms; standards; actors; engagement

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