Truth-Seeking and the Challenge of Sustainable Peace


ICTJ hosted its third Intensive Course, Truth-seeking and the Challenge of Sustainable Peace, on September 26–30, 2011 in the historic Castell de Montjuïc in Barcelona, Spain. The castle, formerly a military detention center housing political prisoners, is being transformed into a civic space dedicated to preserving the memory of past conflict and facilitating dialogue on peacebuilding initiatives. The course was run in conjunction with the Barcelona International Peace Resource Center (BIPRC), an initiative of the City of Barcelona which conducts training in peacebuilding and conflict management.

Led by Eduardo Gonzalez, director of ICTJ’s Truth and Memory Program, and Caitlin Reiger, director of ICTJ’s International Policy Relations, the course featured expertise in truth-seeking, rule of law, and peacebuilding from a number of country contexts in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Based on concrete field experience, the participants discussed the relationship between truth-seeking and peace in societies that have experienced or are still experiencing armed conflict.

The course provided activists, funders and mediators with practical tools to know when to examine the possibility of a truth commission in a peacebuilding setting, how to contribute to a constructive mandate, and how to assess its impact. A diverse range of contexts in which truth-seeking initiatives were either underway or being considered by actors on the ground were represented, including Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Iraq, Nepal, Northern Ireland, Cambodia, Kenya, Thailand, Israel, Georgia, and the Balkans.

Lectures, discussion, and a very intense simulation exercise provoked a rich debate on the potentials and limitations of truth-seeking in countries in transition. A participant noted: “I have been to many trainings, but this was by far the best,” and many participants requested for the course to be replicated in their countries.

Vibrant Barcelona provided an incredible setting for the discussions: the participants walked through streets marked by the memory of war and dictatorship. At some point, all participants joined for a teach-in in the historic Sant Jaume Square to discuss how Spain itself is slowly grappling with the urgency of facing its painful past.

“Just like some of the countries you come from, we are still dealing with fear and trauma” said one of the Spanish participants. “Hopefully, truth and history will heal us.”

Learn more about ICTJ's ongoing work on Truth and Memory.