Transformative Justice for the Post-COVID Transition: Insights from Leaders of Transitional Countries

The COVID 19 crisis has opened a Pandora’s box of interconnected challenges that scholars, policy makers and practitioners of politics and international relations can no longer ignore. Health, climate change and economics are of course some of the most obvious. However, justice is perhaps the most overlooked, yet the most pertinent – and the most problematic if the gaps exposed by COVID globally are mismanaged.

The rigidly enforced home confinement around the globe during COVID 19 has cast an uncomfortable light on the full array of justice issues so long swept under the carpet. Besides the more visible political or legal justice issues, it is the less visible ones of socio-economic, cultural, ecological and even metaphysical justice that are pressing. There is the socio-economic injustice of what different people call ‘home’, and the unequal conditions they live in – from hovels to villas. There are cultural injustices within each country of how differences of race, gender, religion, caste, minority or indigenous status affect vulnerability and access to services. There is the ecological injustice of how disparities in the lived environment, and dispossession from native environments, exposes people differently to crises and affects their ability to respond. Finally, there is the metaphysical injustice of the universal yet variegated impact of the COVID virus, and the existential challenge humanity faces of finding meaning and purpose, and of taking responsibility. These are the interlinked dimensions of ‘transformative’ or ‘integral’ justice that the world’s governments will have to face. As the international community and governments address the multiple challenges of post-COVID recovery, if they fail to respond meaningfully to these distinct and interconnected dimensions of justice, these may explode violently. However, these justice challenges provide a real opportunity for the holistic transformation our societies urgently need.

So far, dealing with justice after a massive crisis was considered the task of post-conflict and post-authoritarian governments. Now it is the inescapable obligation of all countries worldwide, as COVID has pulled the carpet on the long-festering sores of injustice. We have to turn for expertise in how to do so to leaders in countries that have undergone crisis, and sought to grapple with justice issues amidst the panoply of other challenges they faced post-transition. This seminar series draws on expert decision makers who have combined high-level responsibility with scholarship and direct experience in crisis-affected countries. They will share with us the justice challenges, successes and setbacks, and outstanding gaps in transformative justice in their own countries, personal reflections from their own professional trajectories, and global insights to map the urgent agenda of transformative justice for a post-COVID world, where facing such crises may become the new norm.

This seminar series is co-hosted by the Enacting Global Transformation Initiative at the Centre for International Studies, DPIR, and the Oxford Transitional Justice Research, University of Oxford, in partnership with the World Future Council (

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