COST Action A21: Restorative Justice Developments in Europe

COST Action A21 started its work in November 2002 and concluded in November 2006 with a final conference. More than 70 researchers from 21 COST Member States had been actively involved in the Action. The main work has been done within four Working Groups, which have met on a regular basis during four years. Moreover, several workshops were organised on specific themes. Several books and other publications have been prepared, and short-term scientific missions have been supported.

The main objective of Action A21 was to enhance and to deepen knowledge on theoretical and practical aspects of restorative justice in Europe, with a view to supporting implementation strategies in a scientifically sound way.
In order to reach this general objective, a network of researchers had been created to:
1) exchange and discuss research needs, methods and results;
2) co-ordinate research projects in the respective countries as far as possible and desirable;
3) stimulate or support further (common) research projects.
The expected benefits were situated on different levels:

1. Scientific benefits:
Developing an analysis of practices, research, legislation and policy enhances the knowledge on what restorative justice is (not), how it can be evaluated and what the possible benefits and disadvantages are. The theoretical discussion on the concepts, as well as ways to evaluate good practice can be developed. Also, researchers can get a better view on what topics with regard to restorative justice theory and practice have to be studied more in depth. Restorative justice is a relatively new field and thus new practices and domains within which to implement restorative practices are still to be discovered.

2. Policy benefits:
Getting an overview of different policies with regard to restorative justice in the various countries leads to a better understanding for policy makers on what the possibilities are and what works best. Having a look at different legislative initiatives can broaden the view on what legislation is possible, as well as on the effects on actual practices. EU policy making can be better informed about lacunas and how to accommodate these.

3. Practice benefits:
An overview of best practices can guide practitioners in developing their own practice. They can learn from other solutions thus working out what could work best for their own programme. Working together with different agencies can be difficult and it is always good to know what solutions can be found to enhance the co-operation. Thus, referrals as well as follow-up of the restorative processes and outcomes are enhanced.

4. Benefits for specific training initiatives:
An increasing number of universities and European organisations (e.g. ERA, European Police College) are setting up training sessions for their students or target groups. These initiatives will also benefit from the results from this research project.

21 countries were represented in the Action: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

For each of the domains a Working Group has been established and a co-ordinator chosen. The participants in the Working Groups were researchers from the countries that have signed the Memorandum of Understanding of the Action. The Working Groups met twice or three times a year in order to exchange and analyse the information collected, to discuss methodologies and to develop or set up further (theoretical) research. In-between the meetings, members undertake preparatory work.

The co-ordinators of the Working Groups were:
• Working Group 1 (Evaluative Research): Ida Hydle ([email protected])
• Working Group 2 (Policy Oriented Research): Michael Kilchling ([email protected])
• Working Group 3 (Theoretical Research): Rob Mackay ([email protected])
• Working Group 4 (Restorative Justice, Violent State Conflicts and Mass Victimization): Jana Arsovska ([email protected])

Following workshops and conferences were organised in the framework of COST Action A21:
• 4-5 November 2004, Leuven (Belgium): The Institutionalisation of Restorative Justice in a Changing Society. Please click here to open the scientific report of this workshop.
• 26 October 2005, Maastricht (the Netherlands): Structuring the Landscape of Restorative Justice Theories. Please click here to open the scientific report of this workshop.
• 5 March 2006, Tel Aviv (Israel): Contact Hypothesis (Restorative justice and violent international conflicts).
• 22-24 November 2006, Final Conference in Warsaw (Poland): Restorative Justice Research in Europe: Outcomes and Challenges.

Following books have been published in the framework of COST Action A21:
• I. Aertsen, T. Daems and L. Robert (eds.) (2006), Institutionalising Restorative Justice, Willan Publishing, 336pp.
• Aertsen, I., Arsovska, J., Rohne, H.-C., Valiñas, M. and Vanspauwen, K. (eds.), Restoring justice after large-scale violent conflicts: Kosovo, DR Congo and the Israeli-Palestinian case, Cullompton, Willan Publishing, 2008.
• Mackay, R., Bošnjak, M., Deklerck, J., Pelikan, C., van Stokkom, B. and Wright, M. (eds.), Images of Restorative Justice Theory, Frankfurt am Main, Verlag für Polizeiwissenschaft, 2007
• Miers, D. and Aertsen, I. (eds.), Regulating Restorative Justice. A comparative study of legislative provision in European countries, Frankfurt am Main, Verlag für Polizeiwissenschaft, 2012.
• Vanfraechem, I., Aertsen, I. and Willemsens, J. (eds.), Restorative Justice Realities. Empirical research in a European context, The Hague, Eleven International Publishing, 2010.
• Brian Williams Memorial Volume on the theme of Social Justice, British Journal of Community Justice, Vol. 6, Issue 2, 2008 (Special Issue with 10 contributions offered by the COST Action Working Group on Evaluative Research).

Documents for downloading:
Memorandum of Understanding + Technical Annex of COST Action A21
Progress Report 1
Progress Report 2