Skoll Foundation


International Center for Transitional Justice

Skoll Awardee(s):
Award Year: 2009
Issue Area(s) Addressed: Peace and Human Rights

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“We seek to prevent mass atrocity by empowering change agents to develop sophisticated strategies to reckon with past abuse and build sustainable peace.”

Sub-Issues: International Justice; Peace Countries emerging from conflict often return to conflict within five years, fueled by conflict-induced grievances—the anger and insecurity that take root in communities exposed to mass atrocity.

The Skoll Awardees: Juan Méndez and Paul van Zyl both brought experience with the legacy of human rights abuses to their work at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ). Paul, a native of Apartheid-era South Africa, had led campaigns and advocated for the rights of all South Africans, including mothers whose children had disappeared. He had helped establish the first Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate Apartheid-era crimes and co-founded ICTJ in 2001.   Juan came of age in Argentina during a time of societal upheaval and was arrested, beaten and tortured multiple times as a result of his legal and advocacy work. He spent 15 years at Human Rights Watch before joining ICTJ as president in 2004. ICTJ has pioneered a new approach to human rights by bringing transitional justice specialists and regional experts together to share knowledge, offer advice, and build local capacity. By working to address the root causes of conflict at the local level, ICTJ helps to increase the value and sustainability of peacebuilding activities. At the time of the Award, ICTJ had helped to create transitional justice systems in more than 35 countries, trained more than 450 transitional justice practitioners, and provided technical assistance to truth commissions in six countries. Its contributions to the UN’s Rule of Law Tools for Post-Conflict States and its Handbook on Reparations were influential in defining best practices for the design of conflict recovery programs. Both Juan and Paul have since left the organization, succeeded in 2010 by David Tolbert, a former United Nations and International Criminal Court official.

Impact since joining the portfolio in 2009:

  • Cumulative number of countries assisted has reached 50. Evidence of influence on policies of the World Bank and other major international actors.
  • Currently advising Colombian authorities to assure that tribunals and prosecutors are able to secure justice for victims of the Western Hemisphere’s longest civil war, and working with civil society organizations on a possible future truth commission.
  • Work with Tunisia’s Ministry of Human Rights and Transitional Justice to develop a legal framework for efforts to prosecute crimes from the deposed Ben Ali regime, and with government and civil society to determine the needs and structure for truth seeking and reparations.
  • Leading the field in understanding how children and youth can participate in transitional justice processes.

© 2015 Skoll Foundation.