Department of Conflict Resolution Studies Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Conflict Resolution Studies

First Advisor

Ismael Muvingi

Second Advisor

Toran Hansen

Third Advisor

Robin Cooper


dialogue, public participation, restorative justice, truth and reconciliation


Within the last 15 years, the first three Truth and Reconciliation Commissions (TRCs) in North America formed and completed their work. Patterned after similar efforts in South Africa, Latin America, and elsewhere, the TRCs in Greensboro, North Carolina; Maine; and Canada heard voluntarily-offered testimony from members of the general public and key parties to decades-long conflicts. The Commissions also evaluated responsibility for the conflicts and offered recommendations for change in their respective communities and countries, informed by the testimonies they received.

This qualitative methods multiple case study of the three Commissions’ recommendations involved archival research and data analysis of testimony to the Commissions, alongside the subsequent recommendations made by those Commissions and any further policy measures taken by host governments in Greensboro, Maine, and Canada.

The dissertation attempts to answer the research question: to what extent can truth and reconciliation commissions empower parties to long-running and wide-reaching conflicts to influence changes in their communities, states, or countries in ways courts cannot? Among the conclusions reached in this research is that TRCs integrated public testimony to a significant extent into their findings and recommendations, though the three governments in Greensboro, Maine, and Canada have implemented those recommendations with varying levels of commitment. This study can assist others tackling large-scale conflicts to consider how best to incorporate a truth and reconciliation commission into their efforts at healing and growth in their communities.