||South African Peace Process, 1991-2003||Its relation to a Culture of Peace for the 21st Century|
As described in the UNESCO monograph on the Culture of Peace, the South African people chose peace, engaging in an unprecedented process, which began with the signing of the National Peace Accord in September 1991 and extended through elections in April 1994 and the establishment of a government of national unity under the leadership of Nelson Mandela. A detailed description of the National Peace Accord is available here.
The Peace Accord was signed by parties that had been locked in combat for a generation: the white majority government and National Party on the one side, and the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party, on the other. It engaged the entire country in the search for nonviolent conflict management in a process without any precedent on a national level. Their experience proves that a revolution can be carried out through nonviolent means.
* Code of conduct for political parties and organizations: This committed them to principles of democratic tolerance, open communication, co-operation with law enforcement officers, and the refraining from violence or threats of violence.
* Commission of Inquiry regarding the prevention of Violence. This Commission which became known by the name of its chairman, the respected judge Richard Goldstone, was empowered to investigate the causes of violence and propose steps to prevent further violence. Its impartiality and its effectiveness were essential to giving people the feeling that the peace process was accompanied by justice.
* The National Peace Committee. This committee, which was charged to supervise the implementation of the Accord, was composed of one representative and one alternate from each signatory to the Accord.
* National Peace Secretariat. A broad set of regional and local peace committees were established throughout the country, uniting representatives from political organizations, trade unions, business, churches, police and security forces to resolve disputes at local and regional levels. This was the part of the Accord which directly engaged people on a grass roots level throughout the country.
The work of the regional and local peace committees was at the heart of the Accord. It directly engaged people in conflict management on a grass roots level throughout the country. At their peak, there were 11 regional committees and over one hundred local peace committees, with an annual budget of almost $12 million which enabled the hiring of full time staff for regional offices.
As described in the detailed source, "the peace committees comprised as complete a cross-section of the community as possible -- stakeholders who had "never faced each other across the negotiating table before" came together to attempt to resolve disputes. They provided neutral territory on which opposing parties could meet. In violence-ridden areas, it often took months of negotiation just to bring these stakeholders to the table. Once they began talking, facilitators attempted to help them identify the key issues underlying the conflict and then to find common ground. A structured approach and adherence to meeting procedures was a key factor in managing these discussions and keeping them on track. All the inputs were recorded in writing. Solutions were then sought and the resources required were identified. Once one problem was resolved or violence avoided, the peace committees continued to maintain their presence and role so as to be available for the next issue. They also built an understanding of some ground rules for political action which played an important role in the 1994 elections when Nelson Mandela was elected President."
As described in the Foreword by Nobel Peace Laureate Desmond Tutu who was its chairman, the TRC played a major role in establishing a peaceful transition to democracy: "We are also deeply grateful to the thousands of South Africans who came to the Commission to tell us their stories. They have won our country the admiration of the world: wherever one goes, South Africa’s peaceful transition to democracy, culminating in the Truth and Reconciliation process, is spoken of almost in reverent tones, as a phenomenon that is unique in the annals of history, one to be commended as a new way of living for humankind. Other countries have had truth commissions, and many more are following our example, but ours is regarded as the most ambitious, a kind of benchmark against which the rest are measured."
The South African experience serves as a model to revolutionary movements for the 21st Century, as Tutu remarks: "When we look around us at some of the conflict areas of the world, it becomes increasingly clear that there is not much of a future for them without forgiveness, without reconciliation. God has blessed us richly so that we might be a blessing to others. Quite improbably, we as South Africans have become a beacon of hope to others locked in deadly conflict that peace, that a just resolution, is possible. If it could happen in South Africa, then it can certainly happen anywhere else."