Reparations, Aid, and Development

Providing aid for reparations is one way that international development agencies can help countries rectify a dark past and ease the suffering of victims of the kind described above. Reparations have the potential to directly impact on and improve ‘lives and societies’ in the Solomon Islands—a shared goal of transitional justice and development (Lenzen 2009: 77). To the extent that reparations can contribute to healing, peaceful coexistence, social reconstruction, and reconciliation after conflict, this should interest development actors. These may be understood as development outcomes per se or at least enablers, or preconditions, for development. This potential for positive impact might, in turn, motivate development agencies to provide aid for reparations, in the right circumstances.

Roht-Arriaza and Orlovsky point to potential synergies between reparations and development. They explain how reparations, ‘from an individual victim’s perspective, may be a necessary step towards creating a sense of recognition as a citizen with equal rights and fostering a certain level of civic trust in the government’ (Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky 2009: 173). They go on to explain that ‘[t]hese, in turn, are preconditions for the (re)emer- gence of victims and survivors as actors with the initiative, motivation, and belief in the future that drive sustainable economic activity’ (Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky 2009: 173). This perspective links reparation with the ‘core business’ of aid agencies: sustainable economic development, the creation of a rights culture, and fostering civic trust, social inclusion, and participatory development.

Reparations programs can be designed and implemented so as to maximise their contribution to achieving positive development outcomes. For example, a reparations program that incorporates housing restitution (as recommended for the proposed reparations program for the Solomon Islands) may have a flow on effect enabling access to education and so improved education outcomes. This assertion is based on evidence indicating a positive correlation between access to housing and school attendance.

Another example might be access to psychological care to enable coping and healing among victims (again the proposed reparations program for the Solomon Islands envisions this). This counselling might then in turn empower victims to move forward through the creation of the conditions for people to develop their full range of capabilities. This aligns with Sen’s conception of development ‘as a process of expanding the real freedoms that people enjoy’ (Sen 1999: 3). Compensating for lost opportunities, including employment and education, can similarly create the conditions for people to develop their full range of capabilities. Likewise, enabling access to medical services to repair harm suffered in the context of conflict and violence can have this effect. In this way, through reparations aid, development agencies can support reparations to contribute to achieving positive development outcomes.

Moreover, globally to date, the majority of reparations efforts have been limited to civil and political rights violations, leaving economic, social, and cultural rights abuses mostly unrepaired (Viaene 2009: 7). Yet if a reparations program covers a broader range of rights violations, there may be increased opportunities for development benefits. Using education as an example, if the denial of the right to education is addressed through a reparations program, then this simultaneously fosters achieving positive development outcomes—in this case, education and, through it, income-generating capacity and employment opportunities. In this vein, Alexander has similarly identified the potential for reparations to impact on poverty reduction where reparations repair economic and social rights violations and also address the economic and social consequences of grave beaches of human rights (Alexander 2003: 3).

At the same time, reparation measures and development projects should not be conflated; reparations should not replace long-term development strategies or vice versa. While reparations that involve the provision of goods or services may overlap with development projects, the proper purpose of reparation is to target and repair specific victims of grave human rights breaches, although in practice, it may be hard to distinguish, or draw a line between the two (Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky 2009: 207). This distinction can be made most clearly when we recall that reparative justice is principally about putting the victim back to where they were before the violation/breach, insofar as is possible, so this could still be a situation of poverty. Reparation is not, in principle, about making people richer or societies more developed. Further, victims should recognise the reparative act as atonement for wrong, whereas development is certainly not tied to any specific harmful act or wrongdoing. Developing countries facing severe financial constraints and many competing and urgent needs from across society will, however, be limited in what reparations can be provided to large numbers of victims (De Greiff 2006c: 456). In these contexts, what may be most fitting for a reparations program is what Falk aptly describes as a ‘needs-based conception of reparations’ that aims ‘to enable those who have been disabled, or who find themselves in acutely vulnerable circumstances, to be given the means by which to restore a modicum of dignity into their lives’ (Falk 2006: 492).

In support of development aid for reparations, Segovia argues that it is widely accepted that for ‘humanitarian reasons and those of solidarity,’ the international community should contribute to financing reparations where developing countries are unable to bear the full cost (Segovia 2006a:

658-659). Yet, when foreign aid donors fund reparations, questions as to the appropriate role for external actors in supporting reparations arise. Roht- Arriaza and Orlovsky describe the ‘essential “character” of reparations’ as being ‘an act done as, and that individuals in the community recognize as, atonement for past harms’ (Roht-Arriaza & Orlovsky 2009). Where foreign aid donors assume the total (or a very large) funding burden, the atoning quality is largely removed. Segovia similarly suggests that perhaps foreign aid donor contributions for reparations have been limited in part due to a belief that financing reparations is in and of itself ‘an act of reparation’ and so ‘the responsibility for financing is mainly a duty of the State and the society in transition’ (Segovia 2006a: 659) and so a ‘local initiative’ (OHCHR 2006: 39). As money is fungible, aid donors supporting other development projects in a country will still free up local funds for reparations, and so aid can still positively impact on possibilities for reparative justice.

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