Transitional justice from above and below: exploring the potential glocalising role of non-governmental organisations through a Northern Ireland case study

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Fiona McGaughey
Rachel Rafferty
Amy Maguire


transitional justice, NGOs, United Nations, human rights, UN Human Rights Council, peace, Northern Ireland, treaty bodies


Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have the potential to play a unique local-to-global role – ‘glocalisation’ – as intermediaries to international human rights bodies. NGOs are also significant actors in transitional justice societies and have the potential to make a positive contribution by linking local and global dimensions of transitional justice. Moving beyond analysis of legal transitional justice responses through domestic and regional courts and the United Nations (UN) treaty body individual complaints, this article calls for consideration of the role NGOs can play in transitional justice when they connect to quasi-judicial and political UN human rights bodies through state reporting mechanisms. As the work of these bodies is quite reliant on NGO expertise, particularly local NGOs, the article examines Northern Ireland NGO engagement with UN state reporting mechanisms regarding transitional justice.
The article concludes that, while the distinction between the state-centric review at the UN level and grassroots activities at a local level is ultimately a false dichotomy, this divide seems to be operating in practice in the case of Northern Ireland. We make a distinction between rights-focused and reconciliation-focused NGOs and find that reconciliation-focused NGOs in particular are largely absent from international reporting frameworks. We argue that NGOs have the potential to play a unique local-to-global role, ‘glocalisation’, but this only works if local NGOs are enabled and encouraged to engage at a global level. Hence, we recommend that, where possible, local NGOs must be involved in both grassroots activities and international monitoring via the UN in order to exploit their glocalising potential.

Abstract 129 | NILQ 74.3.3 McGaughey et al Downloads 111