Founded in 1989 and registered as a Section 21 company in 1990, the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation is an independent, non-profit organisation. It engages in research, community interventions, policy formation, service delivery, education and training.
For three decades CSVR has worked to understand violence, heal its effects, reconcile communities and build sustainable peace in South Africa, the continent and elsewhere in the world.
In particular, CSVR undertakes targeted research and advocacy in partnership with civil society and affected communities in order to hold state, continental and global institutions accountable.
A multidisciplinary institute, CSVR's expertise and skill set offer a comprehensive and integrated service.
CSVR provides technical support and works with individuals and communities, to focus on the wide range and forms of violence and conflict, including collective and interpersonal, political and criminal, and state and social violence. CSVR provides mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and other interventions to address and prevent violence and human rights violations.
CSVR's work is rooted in an analysis of the shifting forms of conflict and violence within societies enduring a transition to democracy.
Vision and Mission
CSVR's vision is peaceful, equal and violence-free societies.
Our mission is to promote sustainable peace at community, national, regional and global levels by understanding, preventing and addressing the effects of violence and inequality.
CSVR's values are used to guide all decision-making processes – who we work with, where we work, how we do our work. These shared values provide a common frame of reference for the staff, partners and stakeholders, and encourage cohesion. The following core values will serve as the foundation for CSVR's strategy for 2020–2024:
- Promote equity and equality
- Uphold good governance and accountability
- Recognise the value of the diverse lived experiences of communities
- Invest in knowledge and learning
- Respect for human rights and dignity
CSVR's achievements in the last 30 years create the foundations on which we will build in the next five. We are proud to have built a reputation for challenging exclusive forms of identity and promoting inclusive policy development. We have made powerful contributions in various partnerships at various levels, and our standing as a South-based organisation with strong regional links gives us the credibility to engage in global debates that challenge global inequalities. We have developed a unique niche working at all levels from the personal to communal, national and global, and our strength comes from the fact that while engaging with those in power in our work, we remain connected to those affected by violence, torture and conflict.
CSVR has been critical in advancing impactful peacebuilding and transitional justice in Africa. In particular, CSVR:
- Developed the African Transitional Justice Hub, an online platform for building knowledge and communities of practice on transitional justice in Africa.
- Engaged in transitional justice processes in South Africa, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mali, The Gambia and South Sudan, and has for the past 10 years provided technical support to the African Union policy-making organs for the development of continental policies on transitional justice for victims including the African Union Transitional Justice Policy (AUTJP) and the African Commission on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR) Study on Transitional Justice and Human and People's Rights in Africa. To date, these two soft law instruments have been adopted and CSVR is currently leading their continent-wide implementation and popularisation.
- Hosts the Annual African Transitional Justice Forum together with the African Union Commission, bringing together key individuals to share experiences and shape practice on transitional justice.
- Jointly established the African Transitional Justice Research Network (ATJRN), a network of 1,200 people, which produces bulletins and hosts workshops on transitional justice.
- Founded and manages the International Journal of Transitional Justice, the only regular accredited publication on transitional justice, published in partnership with Boston University's Centre for Human Rights and International Justice and the Oxford University Press.
- Participates as the only African partner in the Global Initiative for Justice, Truth and Reconciliation (GIJTR). CSVR brings African experiences and approaches to transitional justice to the consortium, which undertakes rapid response and holistic transitional justice projects in countries emerging from violent conflict (including South Sudan, Middle East and North Africa [MENA] region, Guinea, The Gambia and Sri Lanka).
- Works with the South African Coalition for Transitional Justice, as a founding member, to secure the rights of victims of apartheid-era violations, promote accountability for those violations and seek reparations for victims.
CSVR is one of only a few specialist organisations providing therapy and counselling to victims of torture, forced migration and violent crime, and as such has been critical in strengthening evidence-based MHPSS interventions. CSVR:
- Established networks and partnerships with relevant communities, service providers and government departments and conducts research, supports social mobilisation and provides training on the complex issues arising from violence and torture.
- Provides group work to refugee children.
- Is the only mental health-implementing partner with United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in South Africa.
- Beyond South Africa's borders, provides MHPSS technical support and training in various countries (including The Gambia, South Sudan and Guinea to date) and has built the capacity of local institutions to provide emotional containment to survivors.
CSVR established and coordinates the Pan African Reparations Initiative (PARI), supporting a network of 50 organisations that provide reparations, rehabilitation and MHPSS services to victims of torture and other gross human rights violations in Africa. PARI convenes on an annual basis, and supported the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights (ACHPR) in developing the general comment on redress for torture in Africa. It is developing guidelines for effective and practical implementation of the general comment.
CSVR integrates its gender expertise into its interventions and advocacy work across various forums. CSVR:
- Serves as the civil society organisation representative on the South African Interim Steering Committee on Gender-Based Violence and Femicide. This committee sits within the Office of the Presidency.
- Works in close collaboration with nongovernmental organisation coalitions and networks to address violence against women.
- Published Violence against Women in South Africa: A Country in Crisis, a research report that is being used in the review of the National Action Plan on Gender-Based Violence. The high-profile study influenced public discourse and sparked the political recognition of violence against women as a nationwide crisis.
CSVR drives a number of initiatives addressing the issue of urban violence. To this end, CSVR:
- Conducted a study of a South African public employment programme, the Community Work Programme, in advancing violence prevention.
- Established a partnership with the South African Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) on a violence and crime prevention intervention.
- Facilitated by the COGTA partnership, formed capacity-strengthening partnerships with community change agents, victims and at-risk groups in four communities across Gauteng (Marikana, Ekangala, Inner City and Kagiso). The community change agents are now working to address authority-based urban violence and to actively raise their community's concerns with local authorities on how to best tackle urban violence.
- Through participation in the Global Alliance Initiative on Urban Violence, CSVR supports a network of organisations advancing the integration of psychosocial approaches in the prevention of urban violence. The Global Alliance is currently composed of organisations from four countries (Philippines, Liberia, Denmark and South Africa).
Funding and Affiliation
CSVR receives no financial support from the South African government. CSVR is largely dependent on donations from foreign governments, foundations and nongovernmental organisations. Limited resources are also provided by the South African corporate sector, as well as through consultancy and contract fees earned through our work. CSVR's supporters have included the following (this partial list is in alphabetical order and does not indicate the substantial differences in financial contributions):
Anglo American Chairman's Fund
Australian High Commission (AUS Aid)
Bread for the World
British High Commission
Charles Stewart Mott Foundation
Conflict and Governance Facility (CAGE)
Embassy of Finland
Foundation for Human Rights
Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA)
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen, German Federal Foreign Office
International Development Research Centre
Olof Palme International Center
Open Society Foundation for South Africa
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa
Oxfam Great Britain
Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims
Rockefeller Brothers Foundation
Royal Danish Embassy
Southern Africa Trust
Standard Bank of South Africa Limited
Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
United Nations Volunteers Funds for Victims of Torture – United Nations Office for the Commissioner of Human Right (UNVFVT)
United States Institute of Peace
CSVR has received funding to do specific projects in partnership with the South African government involving the following departments:
Department of Education (Northern Cape)
Department of Education (Gauteng)
Department of Community Safety (Gauteng)
Department of Health (Gauteng)
Department of Social Development (Gauteng)
Department of Welfare (Gauteng)
Department of Women
Department of Safety and Security
Gauteng Legislature Committee of Public Safety
South African Police Services – Crime Prevention Division
Umsobomvo Youth Fund