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Truth Telling and Peacebuilding: The Role of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Fostering a Human Rights Culture
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Truth Telling and Peacebuilding: The Role of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Fostering a Human Rights Culture 1 Tristan Anne Borer Connecticut College Introduction “How successful was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?” Antjie Krog, in her journalist’s memoir Country of My Skull, claims that this is the question she is most often asked. More specifically, she notes, “the biggest question is whether or not the TRC process achieved reconciliation” (Krog 1998). I would argue that, while it has become the predominant way that scholars and practitioners have to date evaluated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (hereafter, the TRC), this simple question—did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission produce reconciliation in South Africa?—is not perhaps the best way to really understand this institution’s long-term contributions. Indeed, a better question may be: has the TRC contributed to lasting peace in South Africa, and, if so, how? The underlying hypotheses of the larger RIREC project, of which the focus of this paper is but one small part, 2 are threefold: first, that the TRC is most likely to contribute to long-term reconciliation and sustainable peace through the implementation of its recommendations and not 1 Paper presented at the International Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hawaii, 2005. DRAFT: NOT FOR CITATION WITHOUT PERMISSION. 2 From 2000-2003 I was the co-director of a three-year collaborative Research Initiative on the Resolution of Ethnic Conflict (RIREC) at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. TheRIREC initiative examined the problems and challenges that develop after a peace accord has been reached betweenconflicting parties, but before the agreement has been fully implemented. It focused on post-accord peacebuildingand the difficult but pressing questions of how to create a sustainable just peace after a period of protracted conflict.The RIREC project identified and integrated the study of three key dimensions of the post-accord landscape: post-accord violence, the role of young people in violent conflict and peacebuilding, and truth-telling and peacebuilding.A research cluster was developed for each dimension and brought together a team of interdisciplinary internationalscholars and practitioners for a series of workshops and an international conference at the University of Notre Damein September 2003, on the theme of “Peacebuilding after Peace Accords.” Each research cluster resulted in an editedbook, all forthcoming in the summer of 2005: Tristan Anne Borer, ed., Telling the Truths: Truth telling andPeacebuilding in Post-Conflict Societies; John Darby, ed.,Violence and Reconstruction; and Siobhán McEvoy-Levy, ed., Troublemakers and Peacemakers: Youth and Post-Accord Peacebuilding.

Authors: Borer, Tristan.
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1
Truth Telling and Peacebuilding:
The Role of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission
in Fostering a Human Rights Culture
1
Tristan Anne Borer
Connecticut College
Introduction
“How successful was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?” Antjie Krog, in her
journalist’s memoir Country of My Skull, claims that this is the question she is most often asked.
More specifically, she notes, “the biggest question is whether or not the TRC process achieved
reconciliation” (Krog 1998). I would argue that, while it has become the predominant way that
scholars and practitioners have to date evaluated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
(hereafter, the TRC), this simple question—did the Truth and Reconciliation Commission
produce reconciliation in South Africa?—is not perhaps the best way to really understand this
institution’s long-term contributions. Indeed, a better question may be: has the TRC contributed
to lasting peace in South Africa, and, if so, how?
The underlying hypotheses of the larger RIREC project, of which the focus of this paper
is but one small part,
2
are threefold: first, that the TRC is most likely to contribute to long-term
reconciliation and sustainable peace through the implementation of its recommendations and not
1
Paper presented at the International Studies Association Annual Meeting, Hawaii, 2005. DRAFT: NOT FOR
CITATION WITHOUT PERMISSION.
2
From 2000-2003 I was the co-director of a three-year collaborative Research Initiative on the Resolution of Ethnic
Conflict (RIREC) at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. The
RIREC initiative examined the problems and challenges that develop after a peace accord has been reached between
conflicting parties, but before the agreement has been fully implemented. It focused on post-accord peacebuilding
and the difficult but pressing questions of how to create a sustainable just peace after a period of protracted conflict.
The RIREC project identified and integrated the study of three key dimensions of the post-accord landscape: post-
accord violence, the role of young people in violent conflict and peacebuilding, and truth-telling and peacebuilding.
A research cluster was developed for each dimension and brought together a team of interdisciplinary international
scholars and practitioners for a series of workshops and an international conference at the University of Notre Dame
in September 2003, on the theme of “Peacebuilding after Peace Accords.” Each research cluster resulted in an edited
book, all forthcoming in the summer of 2005: Tristan Anne Borer, ed., Telling the Truths: Truth telling and
Peacebuilding in Post-Conflict Societies
; John Darby, ed.,Violence and Reconstruction; and Siobhán McEvoy-
Levy, ed., Troublemakers and Peacemakers: Youth and Post-Accord Peacebuilding.


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