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Bridget Marchesi is Driven to Hold Governments Accountable for Human Rights Abuses

March 23, 2017

Bridget Marchesi

Bridget Marchesi
Bridget Marchesi

In 2012, Bridget Marchesi joined the NSF-supported Transitional Justice Research Collaborative (TJRC) led by University of Minnesota Professor Emerita Kathryn Sikkink (Harvard Kennedy School) and Leigh Payne (Oxford University). The still active collaborative has created the world’s most comprehensive, publicly available transitional justice database. Marchesi and collaborators are using the data to learn about the adoption, spread and impact of processes like human rights prosecutions, truth commissions and reparations on human rights, democracy and peace.

In 2014, Marchesi was invited to Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy (Carr) to work as a Research Fellow on a year-long, multi-stage evaluation of the Colombian government’s implementation of Ley 1448/2011, commonly known as the Victims and Land Restitution Law. The Victims’ Law is a legal framework which promises comprehensive reparations to victims of the decades long armed-conflict in Colombia. The Victims’ Law, which closely follows the international guidelines set forth in the UN’s Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and Reparations for Victims, is set to provide a variety of material and symbolic benefits and services to over 8 million registered war-victims. Many believe that Colombia’s victim-centered approach to peace will serve as a global model in the years to come. Marchesi, along with co-researchers from Carr and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI), used a multi-method, multi-level approach to evaluate the effectiveness of the Victims’ Law on a variety of health, security, democracy, human rights and peace-related outcomes.

Marchesi’s dissertation research continues to explore explanations for the adoption and spread of restorative justice mechanisms, such as reparations and truth commissions, and evaluate their impacts on state, group and individual-level human rights and peace-related outcomes. Building from the TJRC and Harvard projects, Marchesi has continued using a multi-method, multi-level approach to clarify explanations for restorative justice diffusion and test if, when and how these mechanisms work to bring about change.

One of the most exciting aspects of Marchesi’s research is her ongoing fieldwork in Colombia. Marchesi is conducting an NSF-supported experimental field survey in the northwestern Departments of Antioquia and Choco. The survey aims to assess what citizens think about rights and remedies and the transformative potential of different types of justice. Using records from the National Center for Historical Memory, Marchesi created animated vignettes that tell the story of a former combatant facing justice for his involvement in a massacre. Respondents are randomly assigned retributive or restorative justice interventions, which complete the story of what happens to the perpetrator. Then, respondents are asked questions that identify and measure social cohesion, reconciliation and peace outcomes such as willingness for political integration or readiness to resolve conflict using non-violent means. Marchesi expects the project to contribute to current policy debates in Colombia about how to achieve sustainable peace. Her broader goal is to contribute to ongoing academic and policy debates about why there are so many contradictory findings about how, why and when different kinds of justice “work” and for whom.

Marchesi’s dissertation research is supported by the University of Minnesota’s Interdisciplinary Doctoral Fellowship and various grants from the Human Rights Program and the Department of Political Science; fellowships from Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and Harvard Humanitarian Initiative; the Charles Koch Foundation’s Dissertation Grant; and the National Science Foundation’s Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant. Contact: Bridget Marchesi