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Restorative Justice and Restorative Approaches: The UN and UNESCO Presented by Lucio Sia

During the 10th United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, the Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice: Meeting the Challenges of the Twenty-first Century (2000) advocated the development of restorative justice policies, procedures and programmes that are respectful of the rights, needs and interests of victims, offenders, communities and all of the parties.

In August 2002, the UN Economic and Social Council adopted a

resolution calling upon Member States implementing restorative justice programmes to draw on a set of Basic Principles on the Use of Restorative Justice Progrmmes in Criminal Matters. In 2005, the declaration of the Eleventh UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders (2005) urged Member States, for very practical reasons, to recognize the importance of further developing restorative justice policies, procedures and programmes that include alternatives to prosecution.

UNESCOs Asia Pacific Network for International Education and Values Education (APNIEVE) has been active in RJ processes in the classroom, particularly in Australian Schools, through the Victorian Association for Restorative Justice and the Association of School Councils in Victoria. The UNESCO Office in Brasilia promotes the use of RJ processes for youth in Brazil. The UNESCO Chair and Institute of Comparative Human Rights in the University of Connecticut, in its human rights education, promotes the understanding of the processes and relevance of restorative justice. UNESCO's Associated Schools Project Network (ASPnet) supports and encourages innovative programmes such as restorative practice projects in different schools worldwide.

The UN Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes[1] mentions some features of RJ programmes: A flexible and variable approach which can be adapted to the circumstances, legal tradition, principles and underlying philosophies of established national criminal justice systems; A response to crime which is particularly suitable for situations where juvenile offenders are involved and in which an important objective of the intervention is to teach the offenders some new values and skills; A response that recognizes the role of the community as a prime site of preventing and responding to crime and social disorder.
[1] Handbook on Restorative Justice Programmes: Criminal Justice Handbook Series, UN, New York, 2006

The Handbook also delineates underlying assumptions of restorative justice programmes: That the response to crime should repair as much as possible the harm suffered by the victim; That offenders should be brought to understand that their behavior is not acceptable and that it had some real consequences for the victim and community; That offenders can and should accept responsibility for their action That victims should have an opportunity to express their needs and to participate in determining the best way for the offender to make reparation That the community has a responsibility to contribute to this process.

Many terms to describe RJ movement

Communitarian justice Making amends Positive justice Relational justice Reparative justice Restorative justice

Key features of RJ

Focuses not only on the offender and the offence Also focuses on:
Peacemaking Dispute resolution Rebuilding relationships Supporting the victim, the offender and interests of community

Helpful for:
Identifying causes of crime Developing crime prevention strategies

Conceptions of RJ

Encounter
Reparative Transformative

Questions raised about RJ

Is there a role for punishment in restorative justice?


Are victim support services and offender reintegration programmes restorative justice? What happens if a victim or offender is not willing or able to participate in a restorative process? Can there be restorative justice in an unjust world?

Restorative Approaches and Restorative Justice Across Cultures

Australia and Canada: indigenous informal participation in sentencing procedures. Many of them are informal. Sentencing circles (Canada) Eastern Nigeria and many parts of West Africa: the age grade systems encourage reconciliation within communities through peer group interventions. In Uganda, the local council courts have the power to grant remedies such as compensation, restitution, reconciliation or apology, as well as more coercive measures. In the Philippines, the Barangay justice system consists of a locally elected Barangay captain and a peacekeeping committee hearing cases involving conflicts between residents. There is a mediation session that is facilitated by the captain or another member of the committee. Agreements reached through this process are legally binding and are recognized by the courts.

In the Czech Republic, the Probation and Mediation Service is involved in pre-trial and court proceedings in an attempt to mediate effective and pro-social resolutions to crime-related conflicts New Zealand : A Community and family group conferencing. This model is now also widely used in modified form as a police initiated diversion approach in South Australia, South Africa, Ireland, Lesotho, as well as in U.S. cities in Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Montana. Zwelethemba (South Africa). Peacemaking committees

Restorative practices in schools

Restorative approaches include peer mediation, circles (peacemaking circles) and community conferencing.
In Canada, the Society for Safe and Caring Schools and Communities (SSCSC) has special programmes and projects. In Brazil, there are a number of youth-centered mediation and conferencing projects throughout that incorporate the philosophy and principles of restorative justice. The UNESCO office in Brasilia is collaborating actively on restorative justice programmes in the country, for instance, the Youth Justice System in Porto Alegre In England and Wales, Youth Offenders Panels operate.

Building on customary justice practices

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, due to the absence of courts, most people consult their chiefs and elders for settlements of disputes including serious criminal matters.
In Bangladesh, a traditional dispute resolution mechanism at the village level (salish) involving village headmen or elders, actively engage the offender and the victim in settling the dispute, with the goal of reaching a mutually agreed solution.