Why Do States Adopt Truth Commissions After Transition?

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Objectives: Why do states create a truth commission after political transition? This article answers this question by testing three key theories after surveying the existing literature: transnational advocacy networks, the balance of power between old and new elites, and diffusion theory. Methods: Cox proportional hazards models were used to explain the adoption of a truth commission. I used the Transitional Justice Database Project database on truth commissions in 71 countries that became democracies between 1980 and 2006. Result: Strong evidence supports transnational advocacy networks and diffusion explanations. First, active domestic and international advocacy is a key factor. Second, diffusion theory is supported, as establishing a truth commission in neighboring countries is a relevant factor. Transitional countries are most sensitive to truth commissions adopted in culturally similar countries. Conclusion: I found empirical evidence supporting the relevance of diffusion, domestic advocacy groups, and international actors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1485-1502
Number of pages18
JournalSocial Science Quarterly
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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