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Making peace with the past: transforming broken relationships

"The past is a central dimension of reconciliation. But reconciliation is essentially about the future: moving from a divided past towards a shared future. And so it means, at its core, building relations for the future"
Dr David Bloomfield, Accord Insight expert contributor
Policymakers and practitioners increasingly acknowledge the importance of reconciliation to sustainable peace. Yet it is often viewed belatedly, as a purely post-conflict concern. There is uncertainty about what type of reconciliation activity is possible at different phases of a peace process, and how to connect initiatives at different levels - from grassroots to elite.
This third Accord Insight reflects on practical approaches and challenges to address the legacies of violent conflict. Case studies from the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict, Colombia, Mindanao (Philippines) and Northern Ireland offer important insights into a diversity of approaches (successes and failures) in societies with different histories of violence and at very different stages on the conflict spectrum. 
"Reconciliation means much more than forgiving the perpetrator and understanding what happened; it implies ensuring that the conditions that gave rise to the conflict change deeply, and trusting that the state will never again cause or allow that situation to occur"
Rosa Emilia Salamanca, Strategic Director, Corporación de Investigación y Acción Social y Económica (CIASE), Colombia
They illustrate the importance of a diverse range of efforts to support peace processes and the reconstruction of post-conflict societies, and stress the need to 'transform relationships' away from past antagonisms in order to secure a more peaceful future. 
"Healing starts when those who acknowledge their violent acts propose how to ‘mend’ such wrongs. Accounting for past actions is an important element of healing and reconciliation; it is also among the first steps toward transforming relationships at different levels"
Rufa Cagoco-Guiam, Director of the Institute for Peace and Development in Mindanao, Mindanao State University
A joint analysis workshop held in November 2015, which brought together 35 experts, policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders, greatly informed the analysis and conclusions of this Accord Insight publication. Read Accord Insight 3 issue editor Mark Salter's workshop report here.


Issue editor

Mark Salter


Mark Salter has 25 years of experience in democracy, conflict, reconciliation and diversity management including with international NGOs, research institutes and intergovernmental organisations. From 2000 to 2010 he was a senior staff member of International IDEA, an intergovernmental organisation supporting democratic consolidation around the world. During that time he led the institute’s global work on reconciliation based on its Reconciliation after violent conflict: A handbook (2003). Since 2010 he has been an independent consultant.