The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) was established in 2000 in the aftermath of South Africa´s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The aim was to ensure that lessons learnt from South Africa´s transition from apartheid to freedom were taken into account in our young democracy. Today, IJR helps to build fair, democratic and inclusive societies in Africa through carefully selected engagements and interventions. It contributes to post-conflict stability, good governance and human security through programmes that promote political reconciliation and social and economic justice across Africa.
With its base and origin in South Africa, it continues to learn from the South African experience of transition and explores projects and partnerships that will deepen the efforts to build fairer, more inclusive and deeply democratic societies in this country, but also the rest of the continent. IJR’s work is increasingly relevant to other global post-conflict societies, and its 2017 – 2020 strategy builds on the organisation’s experience and strengths, to engage in a multifaceted way on issues of justice and reconciliation.
The IJR’s activities for 2017–2020 are guided by five priority themes, namely regional reconciliation; transitional and victim-centred justice and reconciliation; restoring human dignity and bottom-up reconciliation; racism, social cohesion and inclusion; and socio-economic justice, and two cross-cutting themes, namely youth and gender.
IJR has since its inception developed expertise in four key methodologies, which, if used in an integrated way, become central in driving successful change:
- Production of cutting-edge research and innovative analysis, generating new knowledge, insights, and resources, i.e., The South African Reconciliation Barometer and Transformation Audit.
- Hosting critical conversations and dialogues as drivers of transformation (i.e., watch IJR’s national conference on social cohesion and the dialogue, Challenging corrupt networks – the long shadow from Apartheid to state capture.
- Establishing networks for justice and reconciliation through training and capacity-building interventions.
- Communicating key messages to advocate for change, and encouraging people to sign up for its newsletter here and follow its social media platforms.
Even though the application of each methodology on its own has a positive impact, IJR’s approach for 2017 – 2020 is to ensure continuous integration of the methodologies to maximise the impact of its interventions.
This value chain approach will also strengthen internal collaboration and organisational efficiency. The IJR’s Theory of Change is closely aligned with the integrated methodology and is based on a bottom-up causal pathway to justice and reconciliation that builds on the prerequisite of community involvement, which, in turn, contributes to the empowerment of that community.
IJR’s Africa geographic focus for 2017 – 2020 is the Southern, East and Great Lakes sub-regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, and builds on partnerships established over the past decade. Opportunities from West and North Africa will be considered on a case-by-case basis, as will opportunities from elsewhere in the world. IJR is cautious not to overextend its capacity by attempting to cover a larger geographic footprint for its own sake, but rather intensify its influence on regional and continental policy processes. Concretely, IJR holds strong partnerships with organisations in Zimbabwe, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, Uganda and Kenya, and regularly interacts with SADC and the African Union.
IJR has already achieved much success, and its work is recognised accordingly. In 2008, IJR received the UNESCO Prize for Peace Education.
The South African Reconciliation Barometer was founded in 2002, and by 2003, IJR extended its reach to Angola, the DRC, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Zimbabwe. In 2004, IJR introduced the Transformation Audit, which measures economic transformation in South Africa, as well as the annual Ashley Kriel Memorial Lecture. In 2012, IJR became a core partner of the Afrobarometer network to further the research and understanding of socio-economic conditions that affect the public.
IJR has expanded its reach beyond Africa to the Republic of Korea, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine and Northern Ireland, and its thought-provoking team is committed to dismantling colonial legacies through Justice and Peacebuilding, Research and Policy, Sustained Dialogues, Communication, Advocacy and Strategy programmes.
IJR also hosts the Annual Reconciliation Awards to recognise individuals and organisations that contribute towards nation building in South Africa.
IJR’s networking and outreach partnerships include Afrobarometer, a pan-African, non-partisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in more than 35 countries in Africa; ACTIVATE! Change Drivers, a network of young leaders driving meaningful change in communities through various multi-sectoral initiatives in political, social and economic development across the country; the Anti-Racism Network of South Africa (ARNSA) and the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice (SACTJ).
Despite its success, IJR is also confronted with a number of challenges. These include limited reach nationally as it only works in a few locations outside of its base in Cape Town, its reliance on donor funding in a fast-changing funding environment, and as a small organisation with grand ideals, it does not always find the right balance between internal capacity development and using external contractors.
Reflecting on the future, realising African aspirations over the next decade will, amongst others, depend crucially on how political transitions are managed. As countries emerge from conflict or political oppression, the threefold challenge of political settlement, responsible institutionalisation, and equitable social transformation will continue to loom large. A golden thread running through these processes is the need to build or rebuild just relationships between erstwhile enemies, whether victims and perpetrators, beneficiaries and the marginalised, or simply competing groups within a particular territory.
The IJR focuses its contribution to this agenda on a limited number of key methodologies which require a careful balancing act between justice and reconciliation, as well as between negotiating a shared future and dealing with a difficult past. It remains convinced that the nexus between justice and reconciliation is as relevant as it has ever been.
This is the seventeenth NGO profile of my #NGOs4Africa Campaign.