Chandra Lekha Sriram

Justice as Peace? Liberal Peacebuilding and Strategies of Transitional Justice

Global Society


A forceful criticism of liberal peacebuilding has developed in recent years, challenging its twin emphases on democratisation and marketisation and the presumption that democratisation and market liberalisation are themselves sources of peace, when evidence demonstrates that each is more often destabilising and may even provoke a return to conflict. This literature has not, however, offered such an analysis of transitional justice, which is central to contemporary peacebuilding efforts. Transitional justice strategies are increasingly part of broader peacebuilding strategies, and share a faith that other key goods—democracy, “justice”—can essentially stand in for, and necessarily create, peace. This is not so obviously the case. Rather, transitional justice processes and mechanisms may, like liberal peacebuilding, destabilise post-conflict and post-atrocity countries, and may also be externally imposed and inappropriate for the political and legal cultures in which they are placed. This article examines the phenomenon of transitional justice through the lens of liberal peacebuilding, arguing that it shares with liberal peacebuilding a number of under-examined assumptions and unintended consequences.