IHJR in Brief
The Institute for Historical Justice and Reconciliation (IHJR) is a non-governmental organization seated in The Hague, the World Capital of International Justice. IHJR is uniquely positioned at the crossroads of academia and advocacy. Since its inception in 2004, IHJR has been committed to promoting reconciliation, tolerance, and understanding in historically divided societies. To this end, IHJR uses the innovative and effective methodology of shared narratives to engage key local stakeholders in dealing with their past. The organization consists of a devoted group of full-time staff and interns who work passionately to further the Institute’s mission.
IHJR is overseen by an international Executive Committee and an Advisory Board. Two internationally renowned judges chair these two bodies: Justice Richard J. Goldstone and Judge Hisashi Owada, President of the International Court of Justice.
Many ethnic and nationalist conflicts today are rooted in unresolved historical disputes and injustices. These events are frequently misunderstood and manipulated to serve partisan political ends, often serving public propaganda to fuel prejudice, hatred and destructive nationalist sentiments. The IHJR believes that in confronting and overcoming these distortions of historical reality, reconciliation, tolerance and understanding of “the other” can contribute toward laying the groundwork for stable peace.
The IHJR seeks to promote reconciliation, tolerance and understanding in divided societies by dispelling public myths of disputed historical legacies. To this end, the IHJR engages respected scholars and public opinion leaders from opposing sides of a conflict to work together to create and disseminate shared narratives that provide reliable facts and commentary as a basis for public debate and discussion. Through these collaborative efforts, the IHJR also seeks to develop networks of engaged citizens from academia, civil society and the media, that work together to confront and avert the misuse of disputed historical legacies.
Identifying historical legacies and impact on the present
The projects are framed around a multi-year, three-phase process, which can be adapted to the specific needs and conditions. Initially, the IHJR seeks to identify key individuals on both sides of the conflict and engage them in working group discussions, and, afterward, to work with them to bring the information to broad public attention. The three phase process involves the following:
Phase One: Negotiating Histories
The IHJR funds and organizes working groups of six to ten historians and scholars from both sides of a conflict as well as independent experts. These working groups conduct research and meet periodically with the express purpose of creating shared narratives that can be endorsed by the parties on both sides of a conflict. When it is not possible to agree on a joint narrative, the working groups will seek to create “parallel histories” whose content can be publicly endorsed by both sides. The IHJR raises funding to conduct research, to convene the working group members, and to publish and disseminate the results. This phase of the project will generally take place during three years.
Phase Two: Engaging the Public
The IHJR engages educators, public opinion leaders, and media representatives in promoting public awareness and discussion of the shared narratives. This process will include the production and dissemination of educational materials for schools, the dissemination of information to the media, and the engagement of community leaders in public discussions.
Phase Three: Regional Networks
The IHJR seeks to create continuing networks of scholars, educators and public opinion leaders to provide capacity for countering the manipulation of historical myths and unresolved legacies.
For each project a strategy including a timeline, benchmarks and outcomes are designed together with the project partners. Outcomes can include, for example, publications, historical commissions, public forums, or other “products” or activities that contribute to reconciliation processes in the region. It is anticipated that occasionally a project may be interrupted or postponed because of political or social instability in the particular region. The selection process will involve a degree of risk management by choosing a balance among secure and less secure projects.
The IHJR serves as a neutral intermediary in this process, seeks funding to support the projects and provides oversight of the projects, as well as guidance and context for the broader public discussions.