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World Day of Social Justice

Restorative Justice – A Feasible Pathway to Social Justice

Today, on 20th February, we celebrate World Social Justice Day, which is an opportunity to highlight the importance of social security, fair work, and good living standards across the world. Since the annual celebration was declared by the UN General Assembly in 2007, there has been a growing interest in social justice, sparking discussions about how it can be promoted on local, national and international levels. 


What exactly does social justice entail? 

Social justice embodies a broad belief in fairness across society, in terms of wealth and power distribution, opportunities, wellbeing services and privileges. The issues it tackles address intersections of oppression and inequity, from systemic racism and power abuse to climate change. Social justice means that human rights are not just respected and protected, but actively promoted. 

Restorative justice (RJ) and social justice represent two distinct yet interconnected approaches. Both share fundamental similarities, aiming to address systemic inequalities, redistribute power and foster healing through participation within communities. Recognising the similarities between these approaches can help us work towards creating more just and compassionate societies where all individuals can thrive by being active members of the societies they live in. 

Restorative Justice & Social Justice 

Restorative justice encompasses along with its overarching ethos a more direct practical side within the criminal justice system but also the community. On the other hand, social justice is more theoretical in its approach, as a wider view of our world and the way societies should exist. It adopts a broader perspective to consider the community as a cohesive whole.

Addressing power imbalances can take many forms. RJ and social justice are both concerned with challenging and reshaping power structures, operating on the premise that a fair society necessitates a more equal distribution of power so that all members can participate fully and freely. At RJ4All, we advance a vision of a world guided by RJ values of power-sharing, fairness and equality, by providing free services addressing power abuse, poverty, harm and community tensions in a holistic way.

How can they work together? 

Restorative practices and social work are both solution-based processes. This means that rather than focusing exclusively on the problems at hand, they concentrate on paths to healing and reconciliation. Restorative justice can be used to purposefully address social justice issues, offering an avenue through which the community can re-establish its role in criminal justice. 

At their core, both RJ and social justice aim to challenge power imbalances, rectify harm, and promote inclusivity and fairness. Their shared focus on creating a fair and equal society suggests that the two can mutually reinforce each other, serving as both theoretical concepts and practical tools for societal transformation. 

The two approaches also complement each other by amplifying the voices of marginalised groups, contributing towards more equal power redistribution. This involves ensuring that marginalised groups have a voice, are represented, and can contribute to decisions  that impact them. Initiatives like RJ4All’s

Speak Up forums provide a platform for local voices to engage with key decision-makers, including representatives of Southwark Council, the Mayor’s office and central government. These events help foster dialogue and drive community-driven change, which is at the heart of both RJ and social justice.  Restorative justice, as commonly perceived, tends to focus solely on managing individual cases and resolving conflicts after they occur. However, RJ4All takes a broader view, seeing restorative justice as a systemic, community-driven approach. Rather than simply addressing individual actions, RJ4All seeks to understand and address the wider impacts of harm and injustice within communities. By fostering dialogue, empathy, and reconciliation, RJ4All aims to prevent escalations and restore equilibrium to the imbalances caused by systemic injustice.


To Wrap Up

On 20th February each year, we celebrate World Social Justice Day and the impacts that are coming with its increased presence in political discourse around the world. Social justice is a broad term: rather than tackling it as a whole, it may be best achieved by specific projects in specific contexts. As reflected by RJ4All’s work in SE16 London, meaningful change often begins with grassroots community efforts, emphasising the role of local interventions in advancing the broader cause of social equality.

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