Transitions, Conflict Mitigation and Peacebuilding

Transitions in governance, particularly in societies emerging from conflict, are critical opportunities to establish the rule of law. The outbreak, escalation and recurrence of violent conflict, particularly those in which large-scale human rights abuses are committed, present a significant, ongoing threat to development, peace and stability. Political transitions – ranging from elections to peace agreements after civil war – have often served as triggers of violence. Other circumstances that lead to violence are often rooted in core grievances, including impunity, lack of access to justice, systematic inadequacy of government response, ethnic and religious divisions, unresolved legacies of past conflict and the oppression or neglect of vulnerable communities. Rule of law strategies can play a critical role in mitigating conflict that accompanies these transitions.

ABA ROLI adopts conflict-sensitive approaches in the design and implementation of programs. We work at multiple levels, using participatory, consultative methods to link grassroots with higher-level perspectives on strategies to establish the rule of law in such contexts. Our programs include a variety of interventions that have been developed with the primary goal of strengthening the response of justice sector actors to conflict. A recurring theme in our work is the importance of strategies that situate the response as close to the affected communities as possible.

Transitional justice and accountability for gross violations of human rights

At the most basic level, ABA ROLI’s institutional reform programs strengthen the core capacities of national jurisdictions, particularly where a period of conflict or repression has gutted the justice sector’s capabilities. Such capacity building can contribute to conflict mitigation and post-conflict peace-building by facilitating effective accountability for human rights abuses and, more generally, reestablishing the rule of law. We believe, where possible, that the trials of perpetrators of human rights abuses should take place in national courts, and our assistance to justice sector institutions in post-conflict settings seeks to develop their capacity to undertake such proceedings consistent with international standards.

Effective transitional justice requires that the transitioning community buys into the justice process. Accordingly, in post-conflict settings, ABA ROLI develops programs to engage affected communities in the design of transitional justice strategies and solutions. Our lessons learned from this work have been reflected in our Guide on Community Participation in Transitional Justice.

Engaging and empowering civil society

Capacity building for civil society partners, including women, youth and traditionally marginalized groups, is another important strategy of ABA ROLI’s work in transitional and conflict-affected contexts. We train civil society on substantive law and build their skills in documenting human rights abuses in a way that can be used in subsequent accountability processes. We partner with civil society to design and implement community-based early warning and response systems that have staved off attacks on villages, home to hundreds of thousands. We develop consensus-building processes that incorporate the views of civil society on constitutional reform and institutional design. Such programs contribute to atrocity prevention, transitional justice and peacebuilding, providing an outlet for grievance, an alternative to violence and a sense of justice done, while also contributing to the reestablishment of the rule of law.

Strengthening legal institutions and frameworks governing electoral and political processes

ABA ROLI’s programs assist in-country efforts toward peaceful transitions to new governing structures. This work includes substantive guidance on constitutional and legislative reform in line with international standards as well as support for civil society input into such reform processes and public education to explain new structures, rights and processes. In this work, we have put a particular emphasis on reaching, engaging and empowering women and other marginalized communities. Our programs also include technical support for election law reform, related trainings of legal professionals and mobilization of the legal community to ensure compliance and pursue legal remedies for any election law violations.