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Justice-sensitive reform seeks to reshape institutions by addressing past operational practices that contributed to human rights violations (e.g., cultures of torture in police investigations) and holding individual perpetrators to account.

A justice-oriented paradigm is needed to ensure that institutions are responsive to the needs of all citizens (including women, children, and other vulnerable groups), and not just responsive to select or partisan interests. This responsiveness is a critical component for rebuilding trust, and lies at the heart of the social contract between the state and its citizens.

Just and well-functioning institutions contribute to the transformation of victims and survivors into rights-bearing citizens who are able to participate in society rather than suffer as victims of state oppression.

A justice-sensitive approach to reform focuses on the following four mutually-reinforcing objectives that also often serve as principles to guide how reforms are pursued. Institutional reform seeks to:

  • Build the institutional integrity of a society’s institutions to discourage abuses, and increase responsiveness and accountability to citizens.
  • Promote the legitimacy of a society’s institutions to overcome the population’s fear and lack of trust arising from a legacy of serious abuse.
  • Represent and empower all citizens, especially victims of oppression and violence, and other marginalised groups.
  • Enhance coherence with the other transitional justice pillars (i.e., truth-seeking, prosecutions, and reparations) to enhance the effectiveness of each component.