How justice relates to conflict resolution and peace has become intensively debated by both scholars and practitioners. Is there a conflict or tension between justice and peace and, if so, when? Which of the two values should be prioritized, if and when both cannot be pursued or achieved? Although commonly phrased the "peace vs. justice" question, it encompasses in fact a range of approaches some of which do not regard the two values as being in conflict. Thus "peace vs. justice" has become an umbrella term for a debate with many different answers: to seek peace with justice (no peace without justice), peace first and justice later (justice follows from peace), justice first and peace later (peace follows from justice), and so on.
This paper (to be published in Sage's upcoming Handbook on Conflict
Resolution) engages with the peace vs. justice debate, particularly as found in the research literature to date, and relates it to conflict resolution in particular. In so doing, the aim is to take the debate further in several ways. Its framing of the key problem as being one monolithic value standing against the other is often misleading and simplistic. In many situations, particularly in a longer-term perspective, the issue is not whether peace or justice is to be chosen or prioritized for both are clearly needed in some sense for conflict resolution and a durable settlement. The core questions are instead: What kind of justice and what kind of peace should be promoted (what steps should be taken)? How are the pursuits of these two values (the steps) best timed, sequenced and combined over time - that is, what kind of justice is to (can) be furthered in what stage of the process of conflict resolution and peace-building?
The work on addressing these questions is started in this paper, with the development of some founding arguments. One is that the pursuit of justice does not categorically either undermine or promote peace. It can do, and does, both. We need to examine specific contexts in order to get clearer on how they affect each other. In other words, it depends largely on the contextual details. Overall, the two values are not quite as contradictory as they are often portrayed to be.