By: Ereshnee Naidu-Silverman, Senior Advisor with the Coalition’s Global Initiative for Justice, Truth, and Reconciliation
“Transitional justice needs to be about the people, not satisfying an international need” – Sri Lanka needs assessment participant
In late November 2015, the Coalition – in partnership with
two member Sites, The Institute of Social Development and Herstories, as well as our Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR) partners – undertook a needs assessment in Sri Lanka. The consultative mission aimed to identify local communities’ needs related to truth, justice and reconciliation and to understand ways in which we could support local civil society organizations as the country prepares to address its history of violence and gross human rights violations. During our time in-country, we heard families of the disappeared plead for truth; we gained insight into the marginalization that communities in the North experience; and we identified the types of local support necessary for ordinary citizens to begin to come to terms with the past. This project, along with similar ones in Syria, South Sudan, the Middle East and North Africa, is one of several high impact initiatives the Coalition’s GIJTR is currently undertaking.
Using holistic, integrated and multidisciplinary approaches to address issues of truth, justice and reconciliation, the GIJTR – led by the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience – creates context-specific program models in order to meet the multiple needs and goals of states, civil society organizations, local communities and victims in post-conflict societies. Given the diversity of experience and skills within the GIJTR and among our own global network of members, the program offers post-conflict countries and countries emerging from repressive regimes a unique opportunity to address transitional justice needs in a timely manner, while prioritizing the involvement and capacity-building of local communities.
Since its inception, the GIJTR has engaged program participants in eleven countries. By the end of 2016, through its workshops, consultative meetings and seminars, the Consortium will have involved more than 100 local civil society organizations in its innovative programs. In its Syria: Survivors of Human Rights Violations Fund project, for example, Syrian civil society organizations are, through a roundtable on reparations, identifying ideas for a future reparations framework as well as ways in which donors can offer support services for Syrian survivors of the conflict. While discussions during conflicts often focus on perpetrators, particularly on questions of accountability and prosecutions, this project in Syria places victims and their needs at the forefront as another round of peace talks begin. Similarly, the South Sudan Human Rights Documentation Initiative takes a holistic and integrated approach to addressing survivors’ and local civil society’s needs more broadly by focusing on psycho-social support for survivors of the conflict in South Sudan, implementing projects that rebuild trust within communities and capacitating local actors to support documentation efforts on the ground.
By sharing ground-breaking models, emphasizing peer learning, and placing local communities at the center of our projects, the GIJTR approach seeks to build a dynamic and engaged transitional justice community of local populations, transitional justice practitioners and policy makers that support and promote the GIJTR’s and the Coalition’s core values and vision of dignity, respect, inclusion, and transparency.