Is Timing Everything? Civil Society and Gender Outcomes in Truth Commissions

Hastings, Tara Twibell, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Walsh, Denise, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Rubenstein, Jennifer, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

Truth commissions represent an opportunity to address gender, to produce reports that illuminate disadvantageous gender dynamics and to make recommendations to address the multitude of ways in which women may be marginalized. What makes commissions responsive to issues of gender? Many of the explanations found in the literature do not account for the puzzling outcomes seen in the cases of the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (SLTRC) and the Timor-Leste Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR). Despite circumstances that would lead one to expect the opposite outcome, a comparison of the reports shows the SLTRC produced a report that more comprehensively incorporated gender and developed more robust genderrelated recommendations. The CAVR did not undertake gendered analysis to the same degree, and its resulting recommendations were more limited. To investigate this puzzling outcome and the question of what makes commissions responsive to the issue of gender this paper tests the hypothesis that a high level of engagement of gender focused civil society organizations with a truth commission at two key points in time, the creation and preparatory period and during the analysis and writing of the report, will result in more comprehensive reporting and recommendations than would occur in the absence of such engagement or with limited engagement. This hypothesis is tested through a cross-case analysis of the CAVR and SLTRC. The results of this comparative analysis show that this hypothesis does not explain the different outcomes in these cases. Instead an alternative hypothesis emerges; this examination points to international actors and progressive international commissioners having an impact in these cases.

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MA (Master of Arts)
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