Our Concept of Reconciliation

The theory and practice of reconciliation spans many disciplines, including philosophy, social theory, theology, law, history and psychology, and draws on all major traditions of thought. While discussions often emphasize overcoming conflict, especially through legal, political or diplomatic means, reconciliation encompasses a broader field than conflict resolution alone. It extends to the establishment of peace, justice, fairness, healing and forgiveness, the overcoming of personal enmities, the recovery of cultural identities, the fostering of productive relationships within and between communities, and the role of cultural, religious and other factors.

In Australia, reconciliation is primarily understood to address relations between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. Global Reconciliation supports Reconciliation Australia in its efforts and applies the fundamental principles of reconciliation to relations between people around the world.

Work towards reconciliation takes place at the levels of both civil society and the legal and political institutions. The two are complementary and interdependent, because institutional change only becomes possible when preconditions are satisfied at the community level, while conversely, to ensure enduring outcomes community change must ultimately rely on a secure and fair political framework.

Communication and dialogue across the differences of culture, politics, religion and race can contribute to the building of a social infrastructure for peace and enrich everyday practices in health, education, business, the arts, sport and many other areas of human activity. It can support a wide variety of outcomes, such as enhancement of human rights, social justice, coexistence and conflict resolution. It can also help foster a social learning process, drawing on global wisdom and experience.

It is recognised that in many settings the history of reconciliation has been marked as much by failures as by successes. We accept that communication is inherently unpredictable, ambiguous and fragile and that as a result, reconciliation can never be fully realised as a final state or outcome. Reconciliation is a process. It can contribute to consolidating peace, breaking a cycle of violence, restoring justice at personal and social levels, bringing about personal healing, reparation for past injustices and building non-violent relationships between individuals and communities. In every given case, which objectives are relevant and which practices are likely to be effective will depend on local conditions and people. There are many pathways to reconciliation and tested collaborative models that can inform and build our shared capacity for reconciliation.

Our work at Global Reconciliation acknowledges these complexities to explore new possibilities for reaching greater global understanding and open dialogue across difference.