Reconciliation in Societies Coming Out of Conflict

Facilitators: Dr Brandon Hamber & Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd


This course presents an overview of the concept of reconciliation in societies coming out of conflict.  Different theoretical and practical definitions of reconciliation will be explored.  The relevance of the term in societies grappling to deal with a legacy of human rights violations will be critically examined.  The course will investigate how the concept relates to and influences practical reconciliation work and its relationship to political transformation and transitional justice.  The course will draw on the international learning of academics, policy-makers and practitioners, as well as the facilitators own experience.  The course will explore some of the following issues:

  • Definitions of reconciliation
  • How the concept of reconciliation has been applied and used (both positively and negatively) in different contexts, particularly South Africa and Northern Ireland
  • Reconciliation within wider transitional justice debates, specific attention will be given to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission
  • The applicability of the concept when working with victims of violence and ex-combatants
  • Cross-cutting themes of the use of language, sustainable peace and how they relate to the concept of reconciliation

The course will combine both traditional lectures, guest speakers involved in reconciliation oriented work in Northern Ireland, and an interactive case study based approach. Discussions and group activities will be key aspects to the course design and delivery.

Provisional Schedule

Monday 11 June: Introductions, Definitions and Language

10- 12.30

  • Introductions
  • Definitions of Reconciliation     

13.30 15.30

  • Language of Conflict and Reconciliation
  • Group Discussion


Tuesday 12 June : Collective and Political Reconciliation

9.30- 12.30

  • Case Study: South African TRC
  • Video: Overview of the TRC

13.30 15.30

  • Group discussion
  • Summary and linking to Northern Ireland context


Wednesday 13 June: Interpersonal Reconciliation

9.30- 12.30

  • South African Video: Victims and Offenders
  • Victim Combatant Activity

13.30 15.30

  • Discussions with Victim and Ex-Combatant Groups (Northern Ireland)


Thursday 14 June: Integrating Collective and Interpersonal Reconciliation

9.30- 12.30

  • Sustainable Peace
  • From dialogue to enduring relationships
  • Discussions with participants on the Glencree Sustainable Peace Programme

13.30 15.30

  • Working on Presentations


Friday 15 June: Presentations and Closure

10.00- 12.30

  • Presentations and discussion

13.30 - 14.45

  • Evaluation
  • Closing session

Suggested reading

Bell, Christine. "Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland." Fordham International Law Journal 26, no. 4 (2003): 1095-147.


Biggar, Nigel, ed. Burying the Past: Making Peace and Doing Justice after Civil Conflict. Washington, USA: George Town University Press, 2003.


Bloomfield, David, Teresa Barnes, and Luc Huyse, eds. Reconciliation after Violent Conflict: A Handbook. Stockholm, Sweden: International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2003.


Govier, Trudy, and Verwoerd, Wilhelm. "Trust and the Problem of National Reconciliation." Philosophy of the Social Sciences 32 (2002).


Hamber, B. "'Ere Their Story Die': Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in South Africa." Race and Class 44, no. 1 (2002): 61-79.


Hamber, Brandon. "Rights and Reasons: Challenges for Truth Recovery in South Africa and Northern Ireland." Fordham International Law Journal 26, no. 4 (2003): 1074-94.


Hamber, Brandon, and Grainne Kelly. "A Place for Reconciliation? Conflict and Locality in Northern Ireland." Belfast, Northern Ireland: Democratic Dialogue, 2005.


Hayner, Priscilla B. Unspeakable Truths: Confronting State Terror and Atrocity. New York: Routledge, 2001.


Ignatieff, Michael. The Warrior's Honor: Ethnic War and the Modern Conscience. London: Chatto & Windus, 1998.


Lederach, JP. "Building Peace: Sustainable Reconciliation in Divided Societies." Washington DC, United States Institute of Peace Press (1997).


Porter, Norman. The Elusive Quest: Reconciliation in Northern Ireland. Belfast: The Blackstaff Press, 2003.


Rigby, Andrew. Justice and Reconciliation: After the Violence. London: Lynne Rienner, 2001.


Villa-Vicencio, Charles, and Wilhelm Verwoerd. Looking Back, Reaching Forward: Reflections on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa. Cape Town: University of Cape Town Press, 2000.


Weschler, Lawrence. A Miracle, a Universe: Settling Accounts with Torturers. 2 ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998.


Wilson, Richard A. The Politics of Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa: Legitimising the Post-Apartheid State. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.


Notes on Facilitators

Dr Brandon Hamber

Dr Brandon Hamber was born in South Africa and currently works in Northern Ireland.  He was trained as a clinical psychologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa and also holds a PhD from the University of Ulster. He is an Honorary Fellow of INCORE.  He is also a consultant to and co-founder of the Office of Psychosocial Issues based at the Free University, Berlin.  Before moving to Northern Ireland, he co-ordinated the Transition and Reconciliation Unit at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, where he remains an Associate.  He co-ordinated the Centre's project focusing on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. He is a Board member of the South African-based Khulumani Victim Support Group.  He was a visiting Tip O'Neill Fellow in Peace Studies at INCORE in 1997/1998.  Previously he was the recipient of the Rockefeller Resident Fellowship (1996) and was a visiting fellow at the Centre for the Study of Violence in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  He works mainly in the area of violence and trauma, mainly with victims of violence and ex-combatants in societies coming out of conflict.  He has written widely on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the psychological implications of political violence, and the process of transition and reconciliation in South Africa and abroad.  He edited the book entitled Past Imperfect: Dealing with the Past in Northern Ireland and Societies in Transition, which was published by INCORE/University of Ulster. 

Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd

Dr Wilhelm Verwoerd I was born in South Africa and currently works as the Programme Co-ordinator of the Ex-combatants Programme at the Glencree Centre for Reconciliation in Ireland.  He hold degrees from the University of Stellenbosch, and MA from Oxford University and PhD from University of Johannesburg/RAU in South Africa.  Before moving to Ireland he was a lecturer in the Department of Philosophy, University of Stellenbosch (1990-2001) and was a researcher within the Cape Town office of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (1996-1998).   He has been a Research Fellow at the Institute for British-Irish Studies, University College Dublin (2001-2002) and was a lecturer at the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College, Dublin.  He has written and lectured on reconciliation, forgiveness and the concept of mercy. He currently works as a reconciliation practitioner at the Glencree Centre and has worked extensively with ex-combatants from all sides of the conflict in and about Northern Ireland.  He is the author of My Winds of Change published by Ravan Press and co-edited with Charles Villa-Vicencio, Looking Back, Reaching Forward: Reflections on the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission published by Juta Publishing Co./ London: Zed Books.