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Commonwealth to convene reconciliation roundtable

29 April 2013
‘The inclusivity of the Commonwealth gives us a distinct advantage when understanding how to progress from conflict to truth, justice, accountability and reconciliation’ – Sharma

Several nations that have had to deal with the challenging task of garnering lasting peace after conflict will share their experiences this week as the Commonwealth Secretariat convenes a high-level roundtable on post-conflict reconciliation at Marlborough House in London.

Running from 1 to 3 May, the roundtable will enable participants to understand mechanisms for transitional justice – the range of approaches that states may use to address past human rights violations, including both judicial and non-judicial means. They will share experiences on the processes for post-conflict reconciliation that have been used in Commonwealth countries. Participants will be able to build on these experiences as a basis for good practice and nation-building in other post-conflict settings.

Roundtable participants will include senior government officials, subject experts, and representatives of national human rights institutions and civil society organisations. The countries being represented are: Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda and United Kingdom (Northern Ireland). All these countries have had to deal with post-conflict reconciliation.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma said: “Justice and reconciliation are central to our work of advancing human rights, democratic societies, gender equality, the rule of law and a political culture that promotes transparency and accountability. These defining Commonwealth priorities are set out with renewed clarity in the Charter of the Commonwealth recently adopted by the Heads of Government of our member states.”

Lord Alderdice, former Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly and member of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding, and Dr Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and the Guarantees of Non-Recurrence will share their experience and specialist knowledge of what works.

The roundtable carries forward recommendations from Civil Paths to Peace, the 2007 report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding, chaired by Nobel Laureate Professor Amartya Sen, seeing the need for practical and positive responses to conflict to be rooted in the Commonwealth’s agreed values and principles.

Experts will lead discussions on the role of truth commissions, memorialisation, criminal prosecutions and restorative justice – focusing on the needs of the victims and the offenders and the involved community rather than mere punishment of the offender – as mechanisms of transitional justice. Discussion will also focus on the role of national human rights institutions and civil society in national reconciliation processes. The discussions will also dwell on the role of women and children in post-conflict reconciliation.