The International Coalition of Sites of Conscience guides members in gold-standard documentation of past human rights atrocities and struggles for justice, and in applying history’s lessons to nurture civil society and prevent those abuses from recurring. In post-conflict and conflict regions, Sites of Conscience are trusted organizations and spaces that address the needs of communities in transition. The Coalition hallmark – bridging judicial and non-judicial processes, including truth-telling, community reconciliation and memorialization – seeks to promote just and sustainable peace in countries in transition by engaging local civil society organizations, survivors and governments in a participatory and inclusive manner.
The Coalition’s transitional justice work began almost ten years ago when members from post-conflict countries in Africa and Asia realized the need for local-level truth, justice and reconciliation efforts to support transitional justice processes. Through memory and memorialization programs, the Coalition began to respond to local needs, filling the gaps left by the limited timeframes and scope of formal transitional justice and judicial mechanisms.
The Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR) – a flagship program of the Coalition – is a Consortium of nine organizations that together serve as a new mechanism to respond in a multi-disciplinary and integrated manner to the transitional justice needs of societies emerging from conflict or periods of authoritarian rule, or that are currently in conflict. The partners, selected and led by the Coalition for their geographic diversity as well as a wide range of expertise, respond to transitional justice needs as a Consortium in a holistic way. The Coalition formulated the Consortium mandate as a direct outgrowth of the needs and gaps identified by respective communities with which we work. These local priorities were communicated to the Coalition in the context of the deep ties and broad trust we have earned among local individuals and organizations. In the four years since the launch of the initiative, the Coalition and the Consortium have worked in 17 countries, fostered 71 grassroots projects and engaged 373 local civil society organizations in building capacities and laying the groundwork for community-wide participation in both formal and community-based transitional justice processes. To see a list of the partners, click here.
By sharing ground-breaking models, emphasizing peer learning, and placing local communities at the center of their projects, GIJTR builds a transitional justice community of local populations, practitioners and policy makers that support the Coalition’s core values of dignity, respect, inclusion and transparency. Examples of recent and ongoing GIJTR programs include:
Global Reparations Summit
Reparations typically receive limited attention in broader transitional justice processes, despite their considerable importance to victims of conflict. The diminished attention is evident in international and domestic policies and legal frameworks and practices.
Ten years after the adoption of the UN Basic Principles, there has yet to be a comprehensive review of the application and effects of this Resolution. Moreover, there is no information available on whether states have taken specific steps to implement the UN Basic Principles, as there is no reporting obligation under the Resolution.
Given this limited understanding of the impact and implementation of the UN Basic Principles, a Global Reparations Summit was convened by the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation in March 2018 in Belgrade, Serbia to bring together stakeholders in reparation schemes around the world to discuss challenges and identify opportunities to improve the implementation of reparations programs. For more information, please visit the Summit’s website at: https://www.globalreparations.com.
Middle East and North Africa Transitional Justice Academy
Consortium partners in collaboration with regional transitional justice experts Al Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center, or KADEM (https://www.kawakibi.org/), is supporting activists, practitioners, academics and non-traditional actors from countries including Tunisia, Morocco, Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria through capacity building and exchange workshops. The MENA Transitional Justice Academy provides participants with training, financial support and opportunities to develop and launch truth, justice and reconciliation projects in their home communities with a focus on local needs.
South Sudan Human Rights Documentation Initiative
The South Sudan HRDI utilizes a range of transitional justice tools to enhance capacity at the local level. Central to its operation is supporting South Sudanese civil society in determining how to hold perpetrators accountable, how to ensure justice for victims of the conflict, and how to rebuild a culture of human rights and democracy.
Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Sri Lanka: Coming to Terms with the Past
This project addresses the reconciliation and accountability needs of Sri Lanka, with a particular focus on missing persons, through local and high-level consultations and participatory needs assessments, capacity building workshops and funding to provide targeted technical assistance to civil society organizations (CSOs) in transitional justice policy and practice. Partners work closely with CSOs to facilitate communication between local communities and the government of Sri Lanka as it embarks on its transitional justice process. In supporting a locally-led and sustainable approach to transitional justice in Sri Lanka, partners will continue to undertake activities to complement and support government transitional justice activities.
Syrian Survivors of Torture Initiative
GIJTR partners undertook an assessment to better understand the needs of Syrian survivors of torture with regards to service provision as well as provided recommendations for donors looking to support Syrian survivors of torture. Partners also developed a reparations framework to ensure that survivors’ needs and the issue of reparations continues to be at the forefront of discussions as peace talks continue.
Violence Prevention through Dialogue, Memorialization and Education in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire
GIJTR has developed initiatives confronting atrocity prevention through the lens of memory, shaped by first-hand experience in a range of global post-conflict settings. The Consortium is currently working in Guinea and Cote d’Ivoire to increase the participation and ability of local communities to use memory, dialogue and peace education to actively address identity-based violence fault lines and contribute to conflict prevention. It connects grassroots organizations with a network of civil society actors operating globally to contend with past atrocity and foster atrocity prevention. The Consortium is partnering with respected organizations to conduct consultative meetings and training workshops with survivors, educators and civil society representatives so that they are able to identify early warnings and contribute to conflict prevention through non-violent means. Partners will also create a toolkit containing training material and model programs that enrich global knowledge on atrocity prevention in the transitional justice context. The toolkit will document the experiences in each country and serve as a resource for practitioners, policy-makers and donors working in these areas, enhancing understanding of optimal measures to equip survivors of violence in post-conflict communities with the necessary knowledge and skills to become leaders moving communities toward non-recurrence.
Building a Learning Community: Sharing Models and Lessons Learned
Reflecting GIJTR’s emphasis on learning and evaluation, this publication – proposed as the first in a series – highlights new and innovative approaches in the transitional justice field, as well as examines the impact of the GIJTR’s role in achieving goals of capacity-building, advocacy and program development that are context-specific, multidisciplinary and sustainable. To read the toolkit, published in December 2017, click here.
Human Rights Documentation Toolkit
Developed in partnership with the Public International Law & Policy Group, the Human Rights Documentation Toolkit is a multidisciplinary, interactive online portal providing human rights documenters with resources and tools, broadly accepted practices and ongoing support from other documentation experts. To prepare the toolkit, Coalition members contributed their diverse experiences in collecting, storing and creating public programming around documentation of human rights violations as part of community awareness-raising, truth-telling and victim recognition initiatives. The online toolkit features strategies and tools to address the challenges that documenters face. The Coalition was part of a group of ten organizations that collaborated to develop the Human Rights Documentation Toolkit.
Body Mapping Toolkit
Body Mapping is a technique in which one tells a story through a life-sized drawing of her or his body. Body-mapping and similar community-based programs help bring relief to victims by providing them with platforms to share their experiences, acknowledge those of others, and build empathy among a diverse and often-divided group of survivors. Art methodologies provide an alternate language for survivors to capture the trauma of their experiences and creatively engage with the past while envisioning a new future.
Shirley Gunn, Director of the Human Rights Media Centre, authored this toolkit, “Body Mapping for Advocacy” with the support of GIJTR. Gunn, the Director of the Human Rights Media Centre – a member of the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience in South Africa that advances human rights through the collection and dissemination of victims’ narratives – has facilitated body mapping workshops with survivors of conflict in Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Cote D’Ivoire and Guinea over the past seven years. The toolkit is available here.