As the Nation Gears for a Difficult Conversation on the Past
The Code of Inclusion: Guiding Principles on Inclusive Public Consultation and Participation in Transitional Justice Processes in Zimbabwe
Today we introduce the Code of Inclusion
The Code of Inclusion is an answer to the questions that we have been grappling with for the past 5 years as a working group, but maybe for much longer for victims of past violence.
Upon the establishment of the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC), 36 organisations met on 7 March 2018 at the ‘NPRC Whats Next Conference’ and asked some critical questions about the upcoming work of the NPRC.
– Will the NPRC be able to overcome a legacy of failed commissions in Zimbabwe? (Read full blog on this question here) – Will the NPRC include everyone in the work of healing and reconciliation? – Will the government allow them to do what must be done in the way that it must be done? – Will survivors of past violence have a say in the work of the NPRC? Will that say influence the process? – Will the people interacting with the NPRC be safe and free to say the whole truth? – And then what?
Instead of inspiring despair, these questions got the stakeholders talking and shifting the questions from ‘Will…?’ to ‘How…?’ This shift reflected the stakeholders desire to get the Commission to work and for its work to succeed.
Stakeholders knew the task would not be easy and made a commitment to take proactive measures to assist the NPRC tackle the burdens of a failed legacy head on. Those conversations became the Code of Inclusion. These are more than principles, but rather a demand for inclusion by many stakeholders across the country and in the diaspora.
In July 2018, the conversation went to the diaspora, where Zimbabweans away from home deliberated on the question of inclusion. At a workshop convened by the Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum in Johannesburg, the lessons from past commissions were considered. Challenges of access were discussed. Recommendations were incorporated into the first draft of the Code.
A group of specialized trauma healers stepped forward to review the principles in the light of the trauma that has characterized Zimbabwe. Their question seemed simple, but it was not – ‘How can survivors feel safe to tell? What are the conditions? Many suggestions were made and incorporated into the Code.
A year later, since the first consultation meeting, what we have is a simple code. A careful distillation of over two decades work with survivors of past violence; experiences of over 100 organisations that everyday hold public consultations with the most marginalized; the experience of the NTJWG Secretariat in reaching out to over 3000 families in Zimbabwe and the diaspora; the lessons from past consultations that included Parliament and civil society in policy making; deep reflections with people at the receiving end of violence, and an extensive study of processes beyond our borders. All reduced to 17 concise, clear, simple and easy to understand principles for anyone who is serious about an inclusive transitional justice process.
We have no intention of being prescriptive, but we have confidence that these are good areas for the NPRC, or any other commission to invest in before they begin their public consultations.
We share the code as our humble contribution to make the upcoming conversations on our past better than those of past commissions that did not invest in learning about inclusive participation, and never thought it necessary to report back.
Inclusive public participation is one means of decreasing tension and conflict over public policy decisions. It is not a stumbling block to healing, but an opportunity to initiate an often difficult and emotive conversation.