The International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) currently registers 100,000 people as missing due to conflict; it acknowledges that number is only a fraction of the real total (ICRC 2018). The scale of the problem of the missing, and the damaging, long-lasting impact on families and communities, creates enormous challenges for societies rebuilding after conflict. There is growing evidence that the responses of international, state and nongovernment (NGO) actors have failed to effectively address these challenges. By narrowly interpreting ‘the missing’ as a human rights problem to be resolved through transitional justice (TJ) mechanisms or an inconvenient political problem to be resolved through bureaucratic control, these responses have overlooked local understandings of the missing.
Image: Photo from 2013 by Flickr user Vikalpa.