Imagine you had the opportunity to present your work to dozens of Nobel Peace Prize recipients alongside world leaders such as The Dalai Lama, Muhammad Yunus and F.W. De Klerk. What would you say?
Last month, Jennifer Llewellyn, professor in Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law and director of the Nova Scotia Restorative Justice Community University Research Alliance (NSRJ-CURA), was asked to speak at the 13th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Warsaw.
“It provides a gathering point each year for the laureates to come together and to continue to lift up to the world the significance of peace work,” says Prof. Llewellyn. “The sponsors of the summit decided that they wanted to bring in some scholars who work in peace building to compliment the summit’s activity with ongoing research.”
A different approach to peace building
Prof. Llewellyn is an internationally renowned leader in restorative justice, expertise she applied to the summit’s broader theme of peace building.
“A restorative approach to peace building helps us think about peace building more holistically and more connectedly… [to] look at the relationships between justice, peace and development,” she explains.
“We need to look backwards less and focus on blame less. We need to look forward, focusing on responsibility and focusing on solutions. With restorative justice, people look at how to make a situation better, rather than evening out the scales with payback for what happened in the past.”
Restorative justice isn’t about ignoring responsibility for what took place. Instead, it’s about considering the harms to people and their relationships, and what needs to be done to address those harms and rehabilitate those relationships. It’s an approach that’s become increasingly common in justice institutions not just internationally, but here at home.
“Nova Scotia has one of the world’s most comprehensive and leading restorative justice programs for young people, and has for about the last dozen or so years,” says Prof. Llewellyn, noting also Dalhousie’s own Restorative Justice Pilot Project in partnership with Halifax Regional Police and the Nova Scotia Department of Justice.
“Encouraging responsibility is central,” Professor Llewellyn explains. “The program has a very high compliance rate and the reason for that is that the offender is involved in making the plan. They understand that they have a responsibility to respond to and make better the consequences of their actions.”
Taking the summit home
When asked about her experience at the summit, Prof. Llewellyn prefers not to focus on the individual stories.
“We shouldn’t think that there are only a handful of heroes who can do what the laureates at the summit did,” she says, explaining that the path to peace is, ultimately, paved with many small opportunities to make a difference.
“Why I think it’s most valuable to lift up these Nobel laureates is not because they’re particularly unique and special, but actually because they’re not. They show us the capacity we all have to make a conscious choice to work collaboratively and to work in positive connections with others to make a difference.”
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