Given the increase of reconciliation processes initiated amid ongoing violence, this study focuses on community reconciliation and its relation to structural transformation, or social reconstruction through reforming unjust institutions and practices that facilitate protracted violent conflict. Drawing lessons from the Caribbean coast of Colombia, mixed-methods analyses include 8 in-depth interviews and 184 surveys. Four key dimensions of reconciliation – truth, justice, mercy and peace – are examined. In the interviews, participants prioritise reconstructing the truth and bringing perpetrators to justice as essential aspects of reconciliation. Notions of mercy and forgiveness are less apparent. For the participants, sustainable peace is dependent on structural transformation to improve livelihoods. These data, however, do not indicate how this understanding of reconciliation may relate to individual participation in reconciliation processes. Complementing the qualitative data, quantitative analyses identify some broad patterns that relate to participation in reconciliation events. Compared to those who did not participate, individuals who engaged in reconciliation initiatives report higher levels of personal experience with violence, live alongside demobilised paramilitaries, are more engaged in civic life and express greater preference for structural transformation. The paper concludes with policy implications that integrate reconciliation and structural transformation to deepen efforts to rebuild the social fabric amid violence.


Reconciliation, structural transformation, civic engagement, political conflict, Colombia

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