Civil society transitional justice working group validates strategic planFeb 29, 2016
On 25 February 2016, several civil society organisations of the recently formed Transitional Justice Working Group met to discuss a strategic plan for civil society engagement in the transitional justice process. The strategic plan was prepared by a core team of six organizations, with significant input from other organisations generated during a strategy development workshop held on 17 and 18 February 2016. The validation meeting was organised by the core team with support from UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law project in partnership with the Public International Law and Policy Group of the SUCCESS Consortium.
The Transitional Justice Working Group aims to coordinate civil society organisations working on transitional justice in South Sudan so that they can play a crucial role to represent citizens’ voices, act as a platform to support the peace agreement, and provide interface between transitional justice stakeholders and the official transitional justice processes in South Sudan.
The core working group team includes representatives from Human Rights Development Organization (HURIDO), Dialogue and Research Initiative (DRI), Foundation for Democracy and Accountable Governance (FODAG), South Sudan Law Society (SSLS), South Sudan Women Empowerment Network (SSWEN) and Assistance Mission for Africa (AMA). Over the course of several weeks, this team has been working on a comprehensive strategic plan, which contains guidelines on stakeholder engagement, sequencing and priorities, as well as concrete actions for coordinating civil society engagement in the transitional justice process.
Opening the workshop, HURIDO Acting Executive Director, and the coordinator of the TJWG, Amanya Joseph framed transitional justice as “a noble process that not only involves organisations, but also individuals.” He continued to explain that “transitional justice is not owned by institutions, but by the people,” and stressed the importance of increasing the understanding of transitional justice to be more than just prosecutions. He also pointed out that “in South Sudan, we have very rich cultures that include customary reconciliation mechanisms that can play a central role.” Mr. Joseph concluded by calling on his colleagues to “be committed, show a spirit of nationalism and work together. The Transitional Justice Working Group is a way to help us commit to the transitional justice process. Remember that we are not defined by our tribes, but by the love we have for this country.”
Addressing the participants on behalf of UNDP, Chief Technical Advisor to the Ministry of Justice and Judiciary of South Sudan Rowland Cole underlined that “a transition from a culture of war and destruction to a culture of peace and prosperity will require many things, including owning up to past wrongs, remembering those who were lost, compensating losses, holding perpetrators accountable, making guarantees that the violence will not happen again and unveiling a commonly accepted truth of the past. It will also include restoring broken relationships as well as building a resilient and diversified economy. In the immediate future, it will require a cessation of hostilities and a firm political will. Transitional justice is always an imperfect process and never a set of events. By supporting the development of a strategy for this working group, it is our fervent hope that it will enable you to lead civil society in this process. UNDP remains a steadfast partner of the Transitional Justice Working Group.”
“The strategy will need to be reviewed periodically to ensure that our goals and objectives remain relevant to the developments in the transitional justice process,” explained SSWEN Executive Director Paleki Obur, a member of the TJWG core team.
“This country has a history of human rights abuses and people do not know where to go to seek justice. People need to know their rights and be able to speak up, but what are the venues, what are the protection mechanisms?” said Sam Lony, Team Leader of Clip-Poverty organization.
“We have to check our laws and advocate in our assemblies for acceptance of human rights and gender norms. At the moment nobody listen to us, to women. Our voices are just noise to them”, expressed Angelina Daniel from End Impunity Organization.
The elements of the strategy were accepted during the validation workshop. The core group will now finalise the strategic plan and present it to the public during a launch.