Accepted paper:

Bridging Local and International Justice through Dialogue: Evidence from Cote d'Ivoire


Marika Tsolakis (UCL Institute of Education )

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores local dialogue spaces in Côte d’Ivoire and reveals how top-down justice can potentially facilitate local justice in post-conflict settings. The concept of dialogue as a tool for justice is critically examined and a framework of holistic humanising dialogue is proposed.

Paper long abstract:

Cote d'Ivoire, whose once-president Laurent Gbagbo is the first former head of state to stand trial at the ICC, provides critical insights into the interactions of both international and local justice in peacebuilding processes. While international interventions in Côte d'Ivoire have garnered attention, the Ivoirian political sphere has also been closely tied to 'street discussion spaces' (éspaces de discussion de rue), urban networks of community-level sites that both diffused political messages and incited actions. This paper draws from a 2014 qualitative study on dialogue in street discussion spaces, including 30 participant interviews and over 118 observation hours in 40 different spaces that draw out opinions on dialogue, justice and peace from both sides of the Ivoirian political divide. Findings show that street discussion spaces engaged in peacebuilding activities through 1) creating associations to enact local development projects 2) employing and reinventing 'traditional' strategies of conflict resolution and 3) providing alternative spaces for learning and intergenerational interaction. However participants did not necessarily view their actions as contributing to peace or justice and felt that ICC judgement and public forgiveness by key politicians constituted the sole pathway to enduring peace. Drawing from Paulo Freire, Martin Buber and African humanism, the paper argues that 'local' peacebuilding and justice mechanisms that rely on community-based dialogue must not overlook the importance of 'top down' justice for local actors. A concept of humanising dialogue provides a framework that can link local dialogue and understanding with national and international justice processes.

panel P066
Sentiments of Justice in Africa: Contestations at the Intersection of Rural and Urban Imaginations