Show Me Your Impact: Evaluating Transitional Justice in Contested Spaces

Colleen Duggan

Created 10/09/2015




This paper discusses some of the most significant challenges and opportunities for evaluating the effects of programs in support of transitional justice – the field that addresses how post-conflict or post authoritarian societies deal with legacies of wide spread human rights violations. The discussion is empirically grounded in a case study that assesses the efforts of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and one of its Guatemalan partners to evaluate the effects of a museum exposition that is attempting to recast historic memory and challenge racist attitudes in post-conflict Guatemala. The paper argues that despite the increasing trend to fund transitional justice programs, many international aid donors are stuck in traditional and arguably orthodox paradigms of program evaluation. This is having a negative effect not only upon the administration of aid but also upon how transitional justice research is perceived and valued by local populations. The case study experience indicates that there is no perfect evaluation model or approach for evaluating transitional justice programming – only choices to be made by commissioners of evaluation, evaluators, and those being evaluated. These are profoundly influenced by the extreme politics and moral values that define transitional justice settings as contested spaces in which calls to remember the tragic past must be balanced with aspirations to re-build a hopeful future.

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