ALTERNATIVE – Developing alternative understandings of security and justice through restorative justice approaches in intercultural settings within democratic societies

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Promoter: KU Leuven

Funder: EU – 7th Framework programme (FP7), Security Theme

Partners: KU Leuven (Belgium), Norwegian Social Research (NOVA) (Norway), European Forum for Restorative Justice (Belgium), Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology (IRKS) (Austria), Foresee Research Group (Hungary), Victimology Society of Serbia (Serbia) and University of Ulster (UK).

Duration: 48 months (01/02/2012– 31/01/2016)

Project coordinator: Prof. Dr. Ivo Aertsen (Belgium)
Project manager: Inge Vanfraechem (Belgium)

General aims

The project aims to provide an alternative and deepened understanding based on empirical evidence of how to handle conflicts within intercultural contexts in democratic societies in order to set up security solutions for citizens and communities. In its methodology, it will combine theoretical research (on three large topics as (1) alternative epistemologies of justice and security, (2) conflict intervention in intercultural contexts and (3) existing methods of restorative justice and their relevance in intercultural conflicts) with action research carried out in four different countries with different types, levels and settings of conflicts (with local and migrant residents in social housing neighbourhood in Austria, with roma and non-roma inhabitants in a small town in Hungary, three different kinds of conflicts involving gangs, immigrants and different religious groups in the United Kingdom, and in conflicts between Serbs, Albanians, Muslims and Croats in Serbia).


The role of the European Forum in this project

The EFRJ is involved in most of the different work packages of the project, but mainly responsible for one work package of theoretical research on restorative justice and for dissemination.
Contact person: Edit Törzs

The research done by the EFRJ consists of two main areas:

  1. Studying existing RJ models and their potential application to conflicts in an intercultural context. This work aims at identifying and analysing existing RJ models, such as mediation, conferencing, peace circles and social mediation based on literature already exist and analysing their potential application to conflicts in an intercultural context.
  2. Analysing the relevance of RJ in intercultural settings and possible implications for EU policies . EU policies will be studied more into detail: with respect to security and justice, with respect to diversity and intercultural tensions, and with respect to RJ (and to bring them together in one perspective). Through a document analysis and literature study, the dealing with conflicts in an intercultural setting and the potential role of restorative justice will be analysed in order to estimate its potential impact.

In this project dissemination activities are considered as part of the research, not only as publication of results at the end of the project. Therefore ongoing dissemination activities will help the research and the feedback from the partners, professionals and citizens involved in the action research.

One tool for this will be film making in which local researchers at action research venues and citizens affected in intercultural conflicts will be actively involved. The film will be assembled in different layers to be used for different purposes, for example for trainings, national and European awareness, project communication, documentary etc.

As part of the dissemination, the EFRJ in cooperation with national partners will organise four regional workshops for sharing the experiences gained during local project activities and action research. Different kinds of written and online publication, as well as a project website will also help to share experiences gained during this four years work.