Guidance Note of the Secretary General on Transitional Justice: A Strategic Tool for People, Prevention and Peace
11 October 2023
The United Nations Secretary General adopted his Guidance Note on Transitional Justice: A Strategic Tool for People, Prevention and Peace in June 2023. The new Guidance Note is a result of a cross-pillar project under the auspices of Executive Office of the Secretary General and co-leadership of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It followed an extensive consultative process with all relevant United Nations entities and offices.
The Guidance Note promotes transitional justice as a pragmatic human rights-based policy tool at the disposal of national stakeholders that is relevant to enhancing peace and security, human rights and accountability, and sustainable development. It aims to achieve greater innovation in the design and implementation of the Organization’s transitional justice work and support to national stakeholders and to contribute to tangible and transformational impact for people and communities.
The Guidance Note sets out key features of the United Nations approach to transitional justice:
Normative (basing assistance on and promoting compliance with international norms and standards);
Strategic (encouraging innovative solutions tailored to the context, fit for purpose, with a holistic and long-term perspective, and coordinated with other reform process);
Inclusive (empowering victims, involving the marginalized, adopting a transgenerational and child-sensitive lens, and fostering community ownership);
Gender-responsive (adopting and consistently advocating for a gender-responsive approach, including by promoting women’s leadership and addressing the gendered dimension of root causes of violations); and
Transformative (supporting a transformative project that seeks to address structural causes and contributors to conflict and violations and make a tangible difference in people’s lives).
Grounded on these key features, the Guidance Note includes recommendations to operationalize the United Nations support to transitional justice, namely to adjust institutional understanding and positioning of transitional justice; to become more innovative in the design and implementation of transitional justice work; and to reinvigorate the victim and people-centeredness of transitional justice, seeking to make an early, tangible and transformational impact for people and communities.
The United Nations promotes a holistic approach to transitional justice, understanding the key elements of comprehensive transitional justice processes (truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence) as interrelated. Broad and meaningful consultations throughout the process are critical in informing coherent policies on how the rights and aspirations of people can be satisfied.
“Advancing the Criminal Justice Pillar of Transitional Justice in Challenging Contexts: Preconditions for successful criminal justice” by Prof. Cath Collins (forthcoming)
“Transitional justice in contexts where terrorism and counterterrorism is part of the discourse” by Dr. Anne Charbord (forthcoming)
“Reparations as a catalytic power to change victims’ and survivors’ lives: Perspectives and contributions from the grassroots level” by Impunity Watch and INOVAS, available in English, French, Arabic and Spanish.