International Workshop on Reconciliation as a Peace-building Process

Cases of failure

UCLouvain, 09 - 10 July 2018

Reconciliation: Starting point

Since the end of the Cold War, more and more specialists in history, philosophy, psychology and other social sciences pay attention to what is designated as one the most important conditions for maintaining a stable peace: reconciliation between former enemies. However, reconciliation appears as an undertheorized phenomenon and a rather crude analytical tool. Therefore, it seems crucial to question the scope and limits of reconciliation as a peace-building process. 

The purpose of this conference is neither to overcome all the shortcomings of this concept, nor to define it once and for all. It is rather to put into question some basic assumptions regarding reconciliation after wars and mass atrocities. Indeed, how can numerous policy-makers, practitioners and scholars contend that reconciliation is necessary while it is often distrusted and rejected by victims? How can this concept be described as an obvious goal for some and as “indecent” by others? Is reconciliation, as such, always necessary and possible? Aren’t there cases where calls for reconciliation would prove to be fruitless and even detrimental for peace and/or democracy? In other words, in which conditions is reconciliation appropriate and effective – and in which cases is it not? 

To address these questions, a first workshop will take place in Belgium on July 9 and 10 2018 (Louvain-la-Neuve). The meeting is conceived as a multidisciplinary platform for practitioners (NGO workers, policy-makers, diplomats, artists) and scholars involved in post-conflict settings. In terms of disciplines, the workshop is completely open (sociology, law, anthropology, political science, social psychology, history, religious studies).

Rather than an additional report on the macro level, most participants in the workshop will concentrate on the scope and limitations of grassroots’ initiatives to favour a rapprochement between former enemies. They will particularly consider practices that are sometimes qualified as failures and will question this qualification. What does failure – or success - mean? Who decides what a failure means in this field? When? On the basis of which criteria? Is it possible to turn failures into success? How can we evaluate, assess, measure reconciliation? How can practitioners and scholars deal with the irreversible dimension of mass atrocities? 

Beyond some transversal topics (gender, structural funding opportunities, burden of emotions), one of the major red threads of the workshop will be the time factor (plural temporalities, transgenerational and intergenerational transmission). 

Methodology of the workshop

The workshop is conceived as a bridge between scholars and practitioners. Its objective is neither to produce strictly theoretical papers, nor to adopt a normative stance (check-list approach). It is rather to favour a pragmatic posture that leads to the clarification of challenges in the field – accent on “pragmatics” of reconciliation (dilemmas, tensions, discrepancies, contradictions)

We will ask political scientists who are not specialist in the field to be discussant in order to determine whether “reconciliation politics” can be seen as a public policy among others. Experts of the evaluation of public policy, in particular, will be most welcome to join the team.


Universite catholique de louvain ISPOLE MPI Luxembourg
Universite catholique de louvain MPI Luxembourg


European Commission


Leclercq 93
Place Montesquieu, 1
1348 Louvain-la-Neuve


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