Elise Ketelaars and Catherine O’Rourke
We are delighted to present a new issue of the Ulster University Transitional Justice Institute Research Paper Series on the Social Sciences Research Network. The issue broadly addresses the fields of peacebuilding and transitional justice in Northern Ireland and Latin America. Each of the papers emphasize, in their own ways, the importance of in-depth case study research in enriching their fields of scholarship. Moreover, the issue once again highlights the strong and durable relations that TJI scholars have maintained with practice and activism within and outside Northern Ireland. The issue displays the value of these ties in creating both impactful and innovative approaches to peacebuilding, humanitarian work and justice in societies in transition.
Cath Collins’ report summary on disappearance and enforced disappearance in past political violence in Latin America neatly illustrates the importance of scholar-activism-policy ties. In addition to being a professor at TJI, Cath Collins is the founder and director of the Transitional Justice Observatory at the Universidad Diego Portales, Chile. In her contribution, she collates and synthesises the results of three stimulating dialogues between law, social science and forensic (natural) sciences that took place in Santiago de Chile and Lima, Peru in 2017. The dialogues were organized to inform efforts to give domestic effect in Chile and Peru to the International Convention against Enforced Disappearance. The challenges addressed in the dialogues resonate across many other transitional contexts and confirm the value of disseminating this unique case study research.
The other three contributions concern the Northern Irish context in single case study and comparative research. The paper of Monica McWilliams and Jessica Doyle exemplifies the ongoing engagement of the authors and the TJI with understanding gender based violence in transitional settings. The paper explores the links between intimate partner violence and violent conflict based on findings from more than 100 in-depth semi-structured interviews with women victims of IPV from across Northern Ireland. The paper combines findings from McWilliams’ 1992 study on domestic violence in Northern Ireland with new data she and Doyle gathered during the course of 2016. The paper thereby presents a rare empirically grounded insight into the impact of transition from conflict to peace on intimate partner violence.
Kris Brown’s paper examines the impact on peacebuilding of partisan political commemoration. The paper’s salience is undeniable in light of Northern Ireland’s current ‘Decade of Centenaries’, which encompasses the foundational years in modern Irish history of 1912 to 1923, This paper, in addition to McWilliams and Doyle’s, is an output of the DFID-funded Political Settlements Research Programme, a unique North-South, scholar-practitioner consortium of five institutions (University of Edinburgh Global Justice Academy, Ulster University Transitional Justice Institute, Conciliation Resources, Rift Valley Institute and the Institute for Security Studies).
Finally, we are delighted to present a contribution on the role that ‘wild nature’ can play in peacebuilding, or ‘peace cultivation’. The paper was presented by TJI/INCORE’s Brandon Hamber and Alistair Little and Wilhelm Verwoerd at the 29th Annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg University in Minneapolis. Little and Verwoerd belong to ‘Beyond Walls’ which organises ‘the Journey through Conflict’ process in the framework of ‘Sustainable Peace Network’. Between 2004 and 2011 they have facilitated peacebuilding activities through immersion of participants in ‘wild nature’ in the Scottish Highlands and South Africa. The role of nature in peacebuilding activities has been underexplored. Through the continuous monitoring of the experiences of the over 100 individuals who participated in ‘the Journey through Conflict’ over the years, however, this paper gives a fascinating insight into the role of nature-based activities in peacebuilding. This joint intellectual effort between Hamber and the practitioners from Beyond Walls once again demonstrates how strong and sustainable ties between academia and practice create fertile ground for innovative contributions to scholarship.