IOS Longtermism Platform Member Spotlight: Rianka Rijnhout on conflict-resolution focused on the future

Rianka Rijnhout has been appointed Full Professor of Institutions, Conflict Resolution and Private Law at Utrecht University, working to combine her legal research with interdisciplinary research and empirical-legal research.

What does 'longtermism' mean to you?

"I don't actually use the word Longtermism, because that is a term that is actually unknown in the legal domain.

In the legal domain, it is much more common to talk about durable solutions or intergenerational obligations or rights. In my research, I focus particularly on durable solutions to arising conflicts, i.e. conflict resolution focused on the future. I myself am particularly interested in compensation for harm in this part of the world.

What we see is that when something goes wrong the law sets in motion all kinds of processes to provide compensation, but what we also see is that the law often does not respond to what people really need to recover (think: apologies, information, livelihood security) and that the process of legal compensation can be burdensome for victims. We now see some concrete examples in the media where the legal approach to compensation results in escalation of conflicts: mining damage, social benefit affair, etc.. Alternatives are suggested that would be better for victims, but these lack a theoretical basis, so that ad hoc solutions reign supreme.

In my opinion, things should be different: sustainable conflict resolution focused on the future should be embedded in current law, have a theoretical basis and (above all) be in line with what individuals expect and need to recover. That composition represents what I call meaningful compensation."

Stay tuned for more spotlights on the core members of the Longtermism & Institutional Change platform and how this idea shapes their perspectives and research endeavours.