When restoration precedes development

Sign that acknowledges a World Bank program of financing in a community project in Uganda Sign that acknowledges a World Bank program of financing in a community project in Uganda © Stephen Muneza

This article is a brief presentation of ICTJ's report on the need to establish repairs at the heart of development in Northern Uganda

In September, the International Centre for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) published the report “Building Blocks for Reparations. Providing Interim Relief to Victims Through Targeted Development Assistance”. The 20-year war in Northern Uganda, which ended with peace in 2008, has led to systematic and serious human rights violations, ranging from mass murder and rape to kidnapping and slavery. These heinous actions still have serious economic, health-related and social consequences which, combined with the non-recovery of most basic services, still make war victims a reality. The peace agreement itself highlights how “priority shall be given to vulnerable groups [generated by the conflict]”, making reparations central to the transition process. The problem is that the actions taken so far have been mainly symbolic or focused on post-conflict development alone. The report points out that in transition phases, reparations cannot be a substitute for post-conflict development policies, but rather serve as the basis for such policies, given their victim orientation. The centre focuses, therefore, on how repair programmes need to be improved and related to different policies for general development. The report was drawn up through interviews and focus groups with various officials, members of civil society and victims from the four northern districts concerned, combined with an analysis of Ugandan official documents and international reports.

The Centre highlights the fact that the Ugandan government does not currently have a unified repair programme, preferring instead development and aid programmes in the most affected areas of Northern Uganda. The problem is that these programs, besides not coordinating with each other, do not take into account the traumas, uniqueness and needs of the victims and therefore do not address the reparation of their wrongs. Most development policies focus on major infrastructure and economic projects, making much of the work done untargeted. The report, therefore, traces back this blindness to a top-down approach that leads to a lack of dialogue and listening of the communities, generating cumbersome and exclusionary admission procedures. This extensive and widespread mandate is also given to regional offices with a severe shortage of funds and staff, making it impossible to address the psychological, physical and legal damages and needs of these victims. On the other hand, several sources claim that the lack of transparency and accountability of public operators leads to widespread corruption and inefficiency. Overall, the victims of these heinous crimes are the groups that find themselves with a relatively lower possibility of receiving assistance from development programmes, increasing the risk of deteriorating their socio-economic conditions. The end result is a lack of fulfilment of their needs, leading, for example, to victims selling government delivered supplies at a low price in order to purchase goods that are actually needed.

The centre concludes that only an approach that focuses on overcoming the challenges and obstacles faced by victims can enable them, firstly, to derive equal and fair benefit from the programmes and, secondly, to implement development policies effectively. The report then proceeds with a number of recommendations for the different relevant actors. The government is asked to have a multi-ministerial and multi-programme design process, starting with the search for funds and ending with implementation. The process must be victim and gender-sensitive, with the understanding of the quantitative and qualitative challenges of each region and in close cooperation with local actors. Looking to local governments, the centre advises accurate assessments of the number of victims and the extent of harm suffered by them. Based on the data collected, the flexibility of local actors allows them to create economic, administrative, educational, psychological and social reconciliation support services for victims and children born during the conflict. In order to achieve this level of understanding, it is therefore essential to create communication and decision-making tools capable of ensuring the active involvement of the communities and, above all, of the victims involved. Systems monitoring the administration and the support to civil society - the latter being invited to monitor, support and assist all the activities mentioned above - therefore become key to guarantee a reparation that is conscious and satisfactory for these subjects.


To read more, please visit:



Author: Matteo Consiglio; Editor: Margherita Curti


Read 494 times