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Guidance Note of the Secretary General on Transitional Justice: A Strategic Tool for People, Prevention and Peace


11 October 2023


Transitional justice


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.

Relatives of disappeared in Uruguay. © EPA Photo
Relatives of disappeared in Uruguay. © EPA Photo

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:

  1. Normative (basing assistance on and promoting compliance with international norms and standards);
  2. Strategic (encouraging innovative solutions tailored to the context, fit for purpose, with a holistic and long-term perspective, and coordinated with other reform process);
  3. Inclusive (empowering victims, involving the marginalized, adopting a transgenerational and child-sensitive lens, and fostering community ownership);
  4. 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
  5. 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.

The Guidance Note was launched on 11 October 2023 with a high-level inter-agency panel event at UNHQ in New York. Under-Secretary-General for Policy Guy Ryder read a statement on behalf of the Secretary-General. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk’s speech introduced the Guidance Note and its innovative aspects. The following video was played to showcase grassroots voices and the importance of justice.

Issued By:

United Nations Secretary General