What is it about?

In the aftermath of armed conflicts, nations grapple with deep-seated socioeconomic disparities, often exacerbated by ethnic, religious, or regional divides. Most new armed conflicts or recurring conflicts happen over overlapping socioeconomic grievances or issues remaining unaddressed after the first conflict. Scholars argue that inequality and marginalization are catalysts for conflict and instability. When social groups based on ethnic, religious, caste, or regional background believe they are being treated unfairly and have recourse to violence, they are more likely to employ violent means to tackle horizontal (group-based) inequalities (HIs). Policymakers can implement tangible strategies to alleviate intergroup inequalities, such as promoting power-sharing arrangements, ensuring equitable access to public resources and services, and acknowledging and respecting different identities. However, can the common practice of implementing transitional justice after conflict be a good strategy to tackle group inequalities? In a post-conflict setting, transitional justice (TJ) emerges as a beacon of hope, aiming to mend the scars of past atrocities and foster reconciliation. TJ consists of a range of processes and mechanisms that aim to confront and address large-scale human rights violations during the conflict period, in order to serve justice, ensure accountability, and achieve reconciliation. These mechanisms include trials, truth commissions, reparations, and institutional reforms. This study delves into the complex interplay between TJ and HIs, shedding light on whether TJ measures effectively mitigate inequalities between social groups. While prior research has underscored the link between HIs and civil conflicts, scant attention has been devoted to examining how TJ initiatives influence post-conflict inequalities. By scrutinizing the accessibility of services and exclusion among various social groups after the TJ implementation, this study offers a pioneering quantitative analysis, unveiling nuanced insights into the TJ-HIs relationship. It argues that TJ has the potential to diminish HIs by addressing grievances, fostering opportunities, and reshaping identities that fuel conflict dynamics. Despite the noble intentions of TJ interventions, this study’s findings present that TJ appears to have no statistically significant impact on reducing inter-group inequalities in post-conflict settings. Surprisingly, even truth commissions, meant to uncover the truth and enhance reconciliation, do not seem to reduce HIs in the long run. This unexpected revelation challenges prevailing notions and underscores the complexity of TJ's efficacy in post-conflict environments.

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Why is it important?

While these non-significant results may dampen our optimism about the impact of TJ, they underscore the nuanced challenges inherent in TJ implementation. Nevertheless, this research constitutes a critical milestone in the ongoing discourse surrounding TJ efficacy. By offering one of the earliest cross-national quantitative examinations of the TJ-HIs relationship, spanning medium to long-term post-conflict periods, this research enriches our understanding of TJ's potential impacts beyond immediate post-implementation phases. Ultimately, this research underscores the need for continued scrutiny and refinement of TJ strategies to realize their full potential in promoting social inclusivity, mitigating disparities, and fostering sustainable peace in war-torn societies.


With this research, we gain insight into the existing data suggesting that the implementation of TJ may not significantly affect group inequalities. This discrepancy could be attributed to the macro-level analysis, which might present a different narrative compared to a micro-level study. Therefore, the field of TJ stands to benefit from both macro and micro-level studies, exploring its effectiveness across various outcomes in post-conflict contexts.

Dilan Nenningsland

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Equality after conflict: Assessing the effects of transitional justice on horizontal inequalities., Peace and Conflict Journal of Peace Psychology, April 2024, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/pac0000738.
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