Reconciliation as a Political Concept : Some Observations and Remarks
This paper summarizes a number of observations and reflections on the phenomenon and practice called “reconciliation”, in connection to peace processes and peace-building initiatives. In particular it draws from processes followed by the author, in East Timor in particular, but also in Europe, the Middle East and, more recently, Colombia. It is a discussion paper. The purpose is to invite to reflection, both on the level of perspectives as well as concepts. It is developed from a lecture called “The Challenge of Reconciliation” held at Universidad Nacional, Bogotá, in December 2003. Following substantial revision since then (making the text more than double in length) I realize that today not many parts of the original text are still recognizable from that presentation, then organized by the Embassy of Sweden in Colombia, as part of its commitment to the peace process in that country. I have accepted the invitation of the Center of Political and International Studies (Centro de Estudios Políticos e Internacionales, CEPI), at Universidad del Rosario, to publish this work in progress, to reach a broader public in Colombia and contribute to the discussion on econciliation. The field of “political reconciliation” is evolving, definitions of reconciliation are abounding, and different contributors have different takes on the subject matter, quite naturally. It is the author’s view, that reconciliation can and should not be “held captive” of any particular field of study. It relates to fundamental, some would call it existential, issues of meaning, trust, contradictions, and suffering in the midst of a violent, political reality. It is wise to tread softly on ground with such a complex bottom.