The Advocates for Human Rights and Liberia Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) made history when they established the first-ever truth commission to make a systematic effort outside of a subject country. Through the use of volunteers, the initiative systematically engaged the Liberian diaspora population in all aspects of the truth commission process.
Liberians in the sub-region and those resettled in the United States and United Kingdom were involved throughout the truth seeking process, from providing education and outreach, to taking statements, to holding public hearings.
The Advocates and the TRC established the Diaspora Project Advisory Committee, comprised of Liberians from across the United States to advise and guide the process. The Advocates also partnered with Liberian communtiy organizations in the United States, United Kingdom, and Ghana to create a process that would be as accessible as possible for Liberians in the diaspora.
Statement-taking sites includes Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Minnesota; Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Washington, D.C.; New York City, New York; Providence, Rhode Island; Boston, Massachusettes; and the United Kingdom. The TRC also asked The Advocates to assist with statement-taking in the West African sub-region, specifically the Buduburam refugee settlement near Accra, Ghana. More then 20 of The Advocates' volunteers traveled to document the statements of refugees in Ghana. TRC Diaspora Project volunteers worked alongside TRC staff and Liberian refugees who had been trained as statement-takers.
The Advocates worked with the TRC and Hamline University in Saint Paul, Minnesota to host the first ever public hearings of a national truth commission in the diaspora in June 2008.
As a result, The Advocates documented TRC statements from more than 1600 Liberians in the diaspora and recorded testimony from more than 20 witnesses at public hearings.
The project was also one of the first truth commissions to systematically engage pro bono volunteers—more than 600—as statement takers, researchers, outreach workers, and to support witnesses. Pro bono volunteers included law firms, law school clinics, and other community organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) willing to work on a voluntary basis, receiving no funding from either the TRC or The Advocates. Ultimately, the project included statement taking sites in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, Washington, DC, New York, Newark, Providence/Boston, and the United Kingdom.
Volunteers were extensively trained. The full volunteer statement taker training manual and video archives of the volunteer training program are available by clicking here. All volunteers statement-takers, and any volunteer dealing with confidential data, signed volunteer agreement available for download here.
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