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Mapping Commemorative Cultures, Best Practices and Lessons Learned

This project seeks to compare experiences and examples from various contexts around the ways in which significant dates from past conflicts, atrocities and other significant events, such as peace treaties, truces and internationally observed dates, have been commemorated in official state narratives versus alternative victim- or survivor-centered narratives. Choosing indicative examples of commemorative dates in various contexts can help transitional justice and memory practitioners, peacebuilders, policymakers and community stakeholders understand and identify the gaps that exist between the official narratives of victory, heroism, sacrifice and injustice and the narratives of victims and survivors who have suffered because of or in relation to those same events.

Project Overview

Context

In past decades, the marking of commemorative dates and practices, as part of memorialization initiatives contributing to broader post-conflict truth-telling processes, can help establish a collective record of events. But at the same time, since those dates have become more visible online and on social networks, they often trigger points of contention and resurface dangerous rhetoric – views that may turn into open violent threats.

Apart from exacerbating divisions between communities, the marking of commemorative dates and practices also points to issues of citizenship or belonging. Following an armed conflict or in societies characterized by regimes of authoritarianism and repression, government-led commemorative initiatives tend to center and prioritize the narratives of their own heroic triumphalism or suffering, while denying atrocities committed or neglecting victims they consider not “theirs,” or outside their group. Such memory politics contribute to the building of a national identity grounded in ethnic belonging. This results in distortions of the past, and further exclusion of certain social groups that are perceived as “others.”

However, such symbolic reparations, like commemorative dates and other memorialization events and activities, can serve as a form of recognition of human rights violations, and possibly even an apology, for legitimizing the experiences of victims and survivors. They can also be integrated into wider reparations strategies, as the recognition of victim-centered narratives can encourage the reintegration of victims and survivors into society. The marking of commemorative dates and events not only provides a counter-narrative to mainstream narratives or even supplements a national narrative, but it can also serve as history education for future generations while promoting civic engagement and contributing to democracy-building processes, by rewriting of a national identity based on respect for human rights and democracy.

Project Details

The Mapping Commemorative Cultures, Best Practices and Lessons Learned project aims to identify and map context-specific best practices and lessons learned from commemorative cultures. The Consortium and local partners will conduct research to produce case studies on significant commemorative dates and events and how they are recognized both in the public sphere by officials as well as in the local sphere by grassroots civil society organizations (CSOs) and victim- or survivor-centered associations. To increase the visibility and accessibility of the Consortium’s research, the Consortium will design a digital map of the context-specific commemorative practices by both officials and grassroots organizations and initiatives from the case study documents. The digital map will serve as an interactive and innovative method for relevant transitional justice practitioners, scholars and participating communities, highlighting best practices and lessons learned, through a webpage based on a Google Maps platform that can be viewed from GIJTR’s website. Drawing from the findings of the case studies undertaken in the first project activity, the Consortium will engage with multiple transitional justice stakeholders in the format of a policy paper to highlight important lessons learned from its research as well as underscore the importance of memorialization processes as an essential component and key pillar of transitional justice. Together with participating local partners from the case study development process, as well as other CSOs and relevant transitional justice stakeholders, the Consortium will convene a virtual panel discussion. This discussion will aim to encourage diverse cross-regional engagement, dialogue and learning on commemorative practices more broadly, but also context-specific best practices from grassroots initiatives, as well as present its findings and lessons learned from the case studies examination.

Context

In past decades, the marking of commemorative dates and practices, as part of memorialization initiatives contributing to broader post-conflict truth-telling processes, can help establish a collective record of events. But at the same time, since those dates have become more visible online and on social networks, they often trigger points of contention and resurface dangerous rhetoric – views that may turn into open violent threats.

Apart from exacerbating divisions between communities, the marking of commemorative dates and practices also points to issues of citizenship or belonging. Following an armed conflict or in societies characterized by regimes of authoritarianism and repression, government-led commemorative initiatives tend to center and prioritize the narratives of their own heroic triumphalism or suffering, while denying atrocities committed or neglecting victims they consider not “theirs,” or outside their group. Such memory politics contribute to the building of a national identity grounded in ethnic belonging. This results in distortions of the past, and further exclusion of certain social groups that are perceived as “others.”

However, such symbolic reparations, like commemorative dates and other memorialization events and activities, can serve as a form of recognition of human rights violations, and possibly even an apology, for legitimizing the experiences of victims and survivors. They can also be integrated into wider reparations strategies, as the recognition of victim-centered narratives can encourage the reintegration of victims and survivors into society. The marking of commemorative dates and events not only provides a counter-narrative to mainstream narratives or even supplements a national narrative, but it can also serve as history education for future generations while promoting civic engagement and contributing to democracy-building processes, by rewriting of a national identity based on respect for human rights and democracy.

Project Details

The Mapping Commemorative Cultures, Best Practices and Lessons Learned project aims to identify and map context-specific best practices and lessons learned from commemorative cultures. The Consortium and local partners will conduct research to produce case studies on significant commemorative dates and events and how they are recognized both in the public sphere by officials as well as in the local sphere by grassroots civil society organizations (CSOs) and victim- or survivor-centered associations. To increase the visibility and accessibility of the Consortium’s research, the Consortium will design a digital map of the context-specific commemorative practices by both officials and grassroots organizations and initiatives from the case study documents. The digital map will serve as an interactive and innovative method for relevant transitional justice practitioners, scholars and participating communities, highlighting best practices and lessons learned, through a webpage based on a Google Maps platform that can be viewed from GIJTR’s website. Drawing from the findings of the case studies undertaken in the first project activity, the Consortium will engage with multiple transitional justice stakeholders in the format of a policy paper to highlight important lessons learned from its research as well as underscore the importance of memorialization processes as an essential component and key pillar of transitional justice. Together with participating local partners from the case study development process, as well as other CSOs and relevant transitional justice stakeholders, the Consortium will convene a virtual panel discussion. This discussion will aim to encourage diverse cross-regional engagement, dialogue and learning on commemorative practices more broadly, but also context-specific best practices from grassroots initiatives, as well as present its findings and lessons learned from the case studies examination.

Project Objectives

Through the examination of experiences and examples of commemorative practices, identify best practices and lessons learned from government- and civil society-led initiatives and interventions in diverse contexts and expand resources for transitional justice practitioners and relevant policy makers and communities dealing with narratives and commemorative practices that minimize, dismiss or deny victim or survivor-centered narratives.

  • Identify best practices and lessons learned from the government and civil society-led initiatives
  • Expand resources for transitional justice practitioners and relevant policymakers and communities

Generate learnings on how CSOs can intervene and promote best practices in contexts in which official narratives sideline victim- or survivor-centered narratives or neglect their needs

Develop case studies through desk research and interviews on how significant dates are commemorated in the public sphere by officials and how they are commemorated by grassroots initiatives and civil society organizations in at least 12 specific contexts across the African, Asian, Balkans, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle East regions.

Disseminate learnings and raise awareness among stakeholders on best practices for addressing divergent official narratives and victim- and survivor-centered narratives.

  • Design an interactive digital map that can be accessed from GIJTR’s website that compares experiences and examples from various contexts around the ways in which significant dates from past conflicts or atrocities and other significant events have been commemorated in official narratives versus alternative victim- or survivor-centered narratives, highlighting best practices and lessons learned.
  • Convene a virtual panel discussion to bring participating local partners from the case study documents, CSOs and relevant transitional justice stakeholders together to encourage diverse cross-regional engagement, dialogue and learning on commemorative practices more broadly and context-specific best practices from grassroots initiatives, as well as present its findings and lessons learned from the case studies.
  • Draft a policy paper aimed at multiple transitional justice stakeholders, such as local partners and as well as relevant government and UN officials from countries in which the case studies took place, to draw on and highlight important lessons learned from the Consortium’s research for the case study documents and underscore memorialization processes as an essential component and key pillar of transitional justice.

Policy Paper

Memorialization processes, in their many forms, are an essential component and key pillar of transitional justice. Both “official” narratives promoted by authorities and victim- and survivorcentered narratives can have a profound impact on how people perceive the past, in turn influencing the outcomes of other truth, justice and reconciliation efforts.
This policy paper is available in English, French and Spanish. Please, see the following section of this webpage to download the Arabic, French, and Spanish files.

Policy Paper

Arabic

Policy Paper

French

Policy Paper

Spanish

Case Studies

Algeria, France

This case study is available in Arabic, English and French

Bosnia and Herzegovina

This case study is available in English and Serbian

Croatia

This case study is available in English and Serbian

Haiti

This case study is available in English and Haitian Creole

Indonesia

This case study is available in English

Lebanon

This case study is available in Arabic and English

South Africa

This case study is available in English

The Philippines

This case study is available in English and Tagalog

Timor-Leste

This case study is available in English

Turkey

This case study is available in English and Turkish

About

The Consortium engaged local CSOs to conduct research and draft case studies using primary and secondary sources through interviews and desktop research on how significant dates are commemorated both in the public sphere by officials as well as in the local sphere by grassroots civil society organizations and victim- or survivor-centered associations in diverse contexts from the African, Asian, Balkans, Caribbean, Latin American and Middle East regions.

Policy Brief

Algeria, France

This case study is available in Arabic, English and French

Bosnia and Herzegovina

This case study is available in English and Serbian

Croatia

This case study is available in English and Serbian

Haiti

This case study is available in English and Haitian Creole

Indonesia

This case study is available in English

Lebanon

This case study is available in Arabic and English

South Africa

This case study is available in English

The Philippines

This case study is available in English and Tagalog

Timor-Leste

This case study is available in English

Turkey

This case study is available in English and Turkish

Image share by local partner in Algeria
Image share by local partner in El Salvador
Image share by local partner in Lebanon
Image share by local partner in Haiti
Image share by local partner in Croatia