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What is Truth and Reconciliation?
The truth and reconciliation concept, used extensively in Africa and Latin America, has developed into an effective global strategy for dealing with war crimes and other human rights abuses.
The approach is one of "restorative justice," which differs from the customary adversarial and retributive justice. The truth and reconciliation process seeks to heal relations between opposing sides by uncovering all pertinent facts, distinguishing truth from lies, and allowing for acknowledgement, appropriate public mourning, forgiveness and healing.
Although in most cases truth commissions are sponsored by governments, the focus often is on giving victims, witnesses and even perpetrators a chance to publicly tell their stories without fear of prosecution.
The first truth commission was formed in Uganda in 1974. The most famous is the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. More than thirty nations, including Peru, Ghana, East Timor and Sierra Leone, have utilized the truth commission model during the past three decades.
With an initial $4 million grant from the Ford Foundation, one of the chief architects of South Africa's truth commission founded the International Center for Transitional Justice in 2001 to advise other nations employing the process.
Truth and reconciliation promotes the belief that confronting and reckoning with the past is necessary for successful transitions from conflict, resentment and tension to peace and connectedness. In advising the first project of its kind in the United States, the ICTJ is helping Greensboro tailor the process - as all who use it must - to its unique circumstances, history and needs.
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