Participants of ICTJ’s Intensive Course in Barcelona Reflect: “An Incredible Experience of Learning and Sharing”


For seven years, ICTJ has partnered with the Barcelona International Peace Resource Center to provide an intensive course on truth commissions for practitioners and policymakers from around the world. The course aims to provide participants with practical knowledge that they could bring back and apply in their home countries.

In 2015, the course focused on the relationship between truth commissions and the public sphere.

“Now more than ever, whether it’s politicians or NGOs, it’s all about communications; communications is key,” said Seif Soudani, Deputy Communications Director of Tunisia’s Truth and Dignity Commission (TDC). “This course will help us establish a comprehensive strategy overall that we will practically use once back home.”

Through the course, those with little experience with truth-seeking, such as journalists and lawyers, were introduced to the work of truth commissions, while more experienced participants were able to increase their technical knowledge.

“I think I have learned a lot, and I can share this information with my colleagues and, if the opportunity is granted, with the government, about how this process should be set up,” said Father Veeresan Yogeswaran, a Jesuit priest and attorney from Sri Lanka. “How to initiate a truth commission, understanding its objectives, the selection processes, and how it could be implemented in seeking truth, justice, and accountability.”

A role-playing exercise in which participants took part in a simulated truth commission was very beneficial for those involved, as it allowed them to experience roles different from their real-life vocations.

A new, participant-led sharing session was also particularly useful, as participants were able to learn and benefit from each other’s personal experiences.

“I think what will really stay with me is the stories that other people have shared, in terms of their own struggle to get justice for people in their own country,” said Brian Obara, a lawyer and journalist from Kenya.

Participants in the 2015 course represented a diverse set of countries, including Argentina, Kenya, Nepal, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tunisia, the United States, and Zimbabwe, among others, and included two commissioners from Nepal’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

The intensive course will continue next year with an expanded curriculum representing a broad set of transitional justice measures.

PHOTO: Participants at ICTJ's intensive course on truth commissions in Barcelona, Spain in September 2015. (ICTJ)