The European Forum for Restorative Justice has been awarded a project by the European Commission on ‘Building social support for restorative justice’, which started on the 1st of December 2007 and will end on the 30th of March 2010. The European Forum for Restorative Justice as the promoter of this project is collaborating with several partners with extensive experience in the field like the School for Mass Communication Research, and the Leuven Institute of Criminology from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium), Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology (Austria), Restorative Justice Consortium (UK), National Mediation Service (Norway), Albanian Foundation for Conflict Resolution and Radio La Benevolencija (the Netherlands).
The literature on restorative justice has neglected public opinion and attitude with regard to this paradigm, despite the importance of social support and participation in restorative justice. The concept of restorative justice remains still an unfamiliar one for many people. Research reveals that when people know about it, they strongly support the idea and practice. If we want restorative justice to belong to the people as it should, we must start building on tendencies for more democratic participation within societies and working together with the media, civil society organisations and citizens.
The project “Building Social Support for Restorative Justice” started precisely due to above concerns. Throughout the project, the European Forum tries to investigate possible ways that can lead restorative justice to reach more active support in society. The concept of social support is itself a fuzzy one, but for the purpose of this project it will be translated into three main categories, reflected in the following questions:
- how can interaction and cooperation with the media be set up in order to inform and educate the public about restorative justice?
- how can cooperation be developed with civil society organisations in order to inform and educate the public and to create broad support for restorative justice?
- how can we increase the involvement of individual citizens in the functioning of local restorative justice programmes?
The methodology of the project will consist in analysing the above questions against a theoretical background, identifying good practices and promising examples which have as an objective building social support for restorative justice through several study visits, and in the end formulating practical recommendations in the form of a toolkit and a scientific report.
Christa Pelikan, a distinguished senior researcher in the Institute for the Sociology of Law and Criminology (Vienna) and partner of our project, worked on the sociological basis for the project, which consists of outlining sociological background theories and theses that are of relevance for the theme of developing social support. Several workshops have already been organised in the framework of the 2008 conference of the European Forum for Restorative Justice in Verona. The workshops dealt with issues of how to cooperate with the media, with community, schools, sport organisations, etc. in restorative justice. Study visits to gather best practices have been conducted in Lisbon, Oslo, Amsterdam and at several key organisations in the field.
A steering group, consisting of representatives of the partner organisations (Christa Pelikan, Siri Kemény, Ivo Aertsen, Gro Jorgenson, Steven Eggermont, Anneke van Hoek, Rasim Gjoka and Michael Kilchling), supported and evaluated the work of the staff members, and met four times during the whole project. The first steering group meeting took place in Leuven, on 18-20 June 2008. This meeting paved the way for the rest of the project because it helped the experts to discuss on the working definitions, on the rest of the project activities and on new ideas. The second steering group meeting took place in Leuven on 12-13 November 2008, and the third meeting took place in Tirana on 26-28 March. Pictures of the steering group meetings and some study visits can be found here.
An international seminar took place in Leuven on 3-5 June 2009, where the main three themes of the project were dealt extensively through plenary sessions and workshops. The participants in the seminar were journalists, restorative justice practitioners, students, researchers, policy makers, civil society representatives and government representatives from all over Europe. The detailed programme of the seminar and the list of participants can be found here, complete series of pictures of the seminar activities can be found here and the report of the seminar can be found here. Download the Toolkit on how to work with the media and the whole scientific report on the project by clicking the links.
With financial support of the
European Commission – Directorate-General Justice, Freedom and Security