HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, October 11, 2021

International Assistance after Conflict: Health, Transitional Justice and Opportunity Costs

Geoffrey Swenson (University of London), Johannes Kniess, International Assistance after Conflict: Health, Transitional Justice and Opportunity Costs, Third World Q. (2021):

After violent conflicts, international actors face difficult choices about whether and how to provide assistance. These decisions can have immense consequences. As aid always occurs under conditions of scarcity, theoretical reflection is crucial to reveal the opportunity costs and potential tensions between alternative courses of action. Yet there has been relatively little scholarly reflection on what should constitute priorities for post-conflict assistance and why. This paper advances this debate by comparing two very different areas of assistance that both embody compelling values and goals: public health and transitional justice. It argues that aid for public health deserves greater attention based on powerful normative considerations and its impressive empirical record. It also suggests the need to examine not only clearly underperforming areas, but also tough cases. Transitional justice, despite its strong normative foundations, faces challenges and limitations that justify reform and a reconsideration of the emphasis commonly placed on it. Our intention is not to suggest that long-standing commitments ought to be abandoned or that all aid should be allocated to health. Rather, by scrutinising the priorities of international assistance, we hope to start a general discussion about how the international community can best help societies heal after conflict.

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