Examining the ‘age of apology’: Insights from the Political Apology database

Marieke Zoodsma, Juliette Schaafsma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


It is often assumed that we are currently living in an ‘age of apology’, whereby countries increasingly seek to redress human rights violations by offering apologies. Although much has been written about why this may occur, the phenomenon itself has never been examined through a large-scale review of the apologies that have been offered. To fill this gap, we created a database of political apologies that have been offered for human rights violations across the world. We found 329 political apologies offered by 74 countries, and cross-nationally mapped and compared these apologies. Our data reveal that apologies have increasingly been offered since the end of the Cold War, and that this trend has accelerated in the last 20 years. They have been offered across the globe, be it that they seem to have been embraced by consolidated liberal democracies and by countries transitioning to liberal democracies in particular. Most apologies have been offered for human rights violations that were related to or took place in the context of a (civil) war, but there appears to be some selectivity as to the specific human rights violations that countries actually mention in the apologies. On average, it takes more than a generation before political apologies are offered.
Original languageEnglish
Article number00223433211024696
Pages (from-to)436–448
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Peace Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Cross-national
  • Database
  • Human rights
  • Political apologies


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