Truth is the First Step Towards Peace


Today, in our troubled times marked by ongoing conflicts, incredible violence and increasing hostility, it is imperative that we stand united in the struggle against impunity. Our attention and effort must be directed to do what we can in defense and remedy of those targeted by brutal violence from Syria to Central African Republic, from Pakistan to Turkey and beyond.

As we search for ways to halt the violence and foster lasting peace in societies grappling with a legacy of massive human rights abuse, there is arguably no more important day to reflect upon the importance of the struggle for truth and justice than today, March 24. Thus, we take a moment to mark the International Day for the Right to the Truth concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims.

The pursuit of justice can take many forms, and truth telling is an essential one. In 2010, the United Nations established March 24 as a day to honor the memory of victims of gross and systematic human rights violations and their right to truth and justice. If peace is to have any chance of prevailing in times of escalating conflict, it is more necessary than ever to uphold this fundamental right.

Truth telling is essential to achieve long-lasting peace and social change. It helps reduce tensions between opposing parties by revealing and validating the experiences of different groups. To build a dignified and inclusive future, it is necessary to overcome divisive sectoral narratives by establishing an objective account of the violent past.

In many post-conflict settings, efforts to establish a reliable account of what happened during conflict have taken the form of a truth commission. Truth commissions are temporary, official inquiries established to determine the facts, causes, and consequences of past human rights violations. Victims are at the heart of such truth-seeking processes, because oftentimes their voices have been silenced or ignored for years.

Since 1983, more than 30 truth commissions have been established around the world to investigate past human rights abuses committed during periods of conflict or repression. In 2013, ICTJ and the Kofi Annan Foundation joined efforts to reexamine assumptions about how truth commissions may be established and what makes them operate effectively as a tool to strengthen peace processes.

This project has produced several outcomes, including the publication "Challenging the Conventional: Can Truth Commissions Strengthen Peace Processes?” and thoughtful discussions in Geneva, New York, and Bogotá, among other places.

Today, as part of this sustained effort and our firm commitment to building peace on the foundation of truth, we are launching a multimedia presentation based on the reflections we have developed throughout this 3-year project. We invite you to learn – in English, Spanish and Arabic – from Guatemala, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Nepal on how truth seeking can serve as a catalyzer for peace.

Join us in challenging the conventional to find new ways to contribute towards building accountable and dignified societies.

Go to Multimedia Presentation

PHOTO: A young girl runs past pro-peace graffiti written during the post-election violence of the previous election in 2007 and a poster of presidential candidate Raila Odinga, center-right, in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya, 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)