From Revenge to Forgiveness: Strengthening Durable Peace in Post-Conﬂict Societies
In November, 2019, GLD and its partners Senior Research Fellow Kristen Kao (Principal Investigator), Michael Bang Petersen (Aarhus University), and Kristen Fabbe (Harvard University) were awarded 3.2 million SEK (approx. 320,000 USD) to study the drivers of reconciliation for rebel collaborators in Iraq. The project will run from 2020-2023.
Civil conﬂicts gravely damage the state’s legitimacy. Institutions are rendered incapable of providing security; social trust among its citizenry diminishes; and non-state actors step in to ﬁll the vacuum of power. Following conﬂict, the state needs to re-establish itself as the legitimate arbiter of processes aimed at bringing former rebel collaborators to justice. Unless it carefully considers subnational variation in the drivers of forgiveness and reconciliation with rebel collaborators, the state may generate new grievances among some communities, increasing the chances of rebel recidivism or the outbreak of new conﬂict.
This project develops and tests a novel framework integrating political science theories of legitimacy with psychological theories of forgiveness, feelings of (in)justice and desire for revenge. To test this framework, we conduct in-depth interviews, hold focus groups and implement three large-scale surveys with embedded experiments (N=3,600) in Iraq, a country that has endured a series of civil conﬂicts culminating in the recent confrontation with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). This project employs innovative tools to identify both the subnational drivers of violent resentment towards the state and the drivers of reconciliation. It provides policymakers with the information necessary to design successful strategies for reconciliation, re-establishment of state legitimacy, and lasting peace. The ﬁndings of this project will have lasting impacts in Iraq and beyond. Collaboration with local Iraqi institutions will create lasting international linkages between the project team and Iraqi researchers, policymakers and development practitioners.