Excerpt: The Four Truths (from Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report)


The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a court-like restorative justice body assembled in South Africa after the abolition of apartheid in the 1990s. Witnesses who were identified as victims of gross human rights violations were invited to give statements about their experiences, and some were selected for public hearings. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from both civil and criminal prosecution.

The TRC created a framework for understanding truth and the multiplicity of understanding. They created a four-tiered understanding of truth:

  • Forensic Truth
  • Personal Truth
  • Social Truth
  • Reconciliatory Truth

What you’ll find

In their final report, the commission outlined how these four truths interact. This excerpt from the TRC Report – Four Truths captures that portion of the report. Read the full report available at justice.gov.za.

Write a Review

  1. This document is fascinating. It examines how, when trying to consider and include multiple perspectives in order to get to the “truth” of an issue, there can actually be several valid “truths”. Perhaps making this document part of a “Four Truths Toolkit” with worksheets and NPS examples that shows how these concepts can be applied to natural and cultural resources would be even more helpful.


  2. I agree with Barbara that having NPS examples and context will be helpful. I was not familiar with the four truths when they were included in the foundations document and this article led to my understanding of them. If you are looking to learn about the four truths, this article is a great start.


  3. An amazing story of suffering and conflict and healing and forgiveness took place with the Truth and Reconciliation in South Africa. This excerpt, though short, gives the reader enough of an idea of how the commission proceeded to do this work to be valuable. This really gets to the hard of any communication and relationships you will ever have with other humans. It gets to the heart of the idea of all humans being worthy and to be treated with dignity. The best part for me, was that it is all based on how we all perceive different truths. In order to come together again, the country had to examine all of the different truths and let all be heard. Then they had to reconcile those truths. It makes me wonder how many places this kind of process might help out in today’s world.


  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this document and it applies to almost everything we do. For example, as I step into a new leadership role, this is a good article to keep in mind. In any given situation, there may not be only one “truth” but several valid “truths” and they each need to be acknowledged. When working with people, a leader needs to be diligent at finding all of the truths.


Arrow pointing upwards. Click this icon to go back to the top of the page.