Recent developments in transitional justice and post-conflict transformation have seen memorialisation being given greater recognition as an important method for dealing with violent pasts. Though practiced for centuries, the explicit connection between memorialisation, transformation and impunity reduction is only now attracting sustained attention. It is also our belief that an integrated approach is needed for dealing with the past and conventional mechanisms such as tribunals or truth commissions will not be sufficient to ensure transformation after violence by themselves.
Though there has been a surge in popularity, the establishment of normative frameworks and sustained discussion regarding the benefits and potential down-falls of memorialisation has been overlooked. Impunity Watch’s Memorialisation programme was designed to examine the role of memorialisation after violence as a means of tackling impunity. The main objective of the project is to strengthen policymaking on memorialisation through enhancing understanding of the needs, expectations and experiences of communities affected by violence.
We conducted comparative research on memorialisation in Burundi, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, Guatemala and South Africa, examining the dilemmas, pitfalls and potential of memorialisation after violence. Researchers examined case studies of memory initiatives to provide insight into key issues concerning the interconnection between memorialisation, cultures of silence and impunity. With the support of local partner organisations in each country, research reports for the five countries were produced. The research process aimed to engage a variety of stakeholders to stimulate critical reflection on the positive and negative aspects of memorialisation as an impunity reduction process. On the basis of these reports, Impunity Watch produced a comparative analysis of the case studies to illustrate a broad scope of memorialization practice.
We have also conducted extensive capacity building work on the topic of memorialisation in Guatemala. In 2011, the book "Porque queríamos salir de tanta pobreza" was published which included the testimonies of victims in Guatemala. This book functions as a small memorial to the victims of the conflict and was used as a tool to create community awareness. Following on the success of this project, we have been supporting Paz y Esperanza in Peru with a similar project to create a memorial book to the victims in Ayacucho in Peru.
In addition to our research and capacity building work, we organised an International Memory Exchange in Cambodia. Together with civil society representatives, researchers, practitioners and policy makers we examined the comparative findings and finalised a policy brief “Guiding Principles of Memorialisation” aimed at policy makers, donors and practitioners. These Guiding Principles formed the basis for a number of international and regional exchange and policy meetings, and the production of practical materials to assist grassroots actors. In Thailand in 2014, we held an Asia Exchange on “Memorialisation as an Alternative or Complementary TJ Measure”. Victim groups and representatives from Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste explored how memorialization can be used as a complementary TJ process and developed strategies.
More information on our memorialisation research can be found here: