IPJ Awarded Grant to Launch West African Human Rights Training Initiative

Before joining the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) at the University of San Diego, Senior Program Officer Dustin Sharp investigated and reported on human rights violations throughout West Africa. He documented problems ranging from police torture and excessive use of force, to abuses committed by rebel groups and violent pro-government militias. He traveled through conflict zones and interviewed victims with bullets still lodged in their bodies. Sharp will soon return to West Africa - this time to assist local human rights organizations in conducting their own investigations.

Sharp was recently awarded a $100,000 grant by the Open Society Initiative for West Africa to launch the West African Human Rights Training Initiative, a regional partnership between the IPJ and leading human rights organizations in Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The two-year program comes in response to years of civil war and civil unrest, fuelled by corruption, poor governance, and lack of accountability. With conflicts marked by “blood diamonds,” child soldiers, and widespread sexual violence, the human rights fallout for many West Africans has been devastating.

“Full-blown war has ended, but the current situation throughout the region remains fragile,” said Sharp.  “Now is the time for the international community to help build peace, and universities have an important role to play.”

The training initiative is designed to strengthen the ability of local human rights organizations to systematically document abuses that are occurring, and to use that information to pressure their governments for reform and accountability. Initial training cycles are scheduled to begin in Sierra Leone and Guinea in the coming months.

“Historically, a lack of accountability on the part of governments in the region has been a critical destabilizing factor,” said Sharp. “In the post-conflict context, what we need is to put a system in place that allows community actors to press for change, and this initiative will provide some of the tools and training required. Ultimately, it’s going to be this type of citizen-led push that will be central to promoting the consolidation of a just and lasting peace in the region.”

For more information on the West African Human Rights Training Initiative, go to

About the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice

The Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice is beginning its ninth year of its mission to foster peace, cultivate justice, and create a safer world.  In 1998, Joan Kroc gave the University of San Diego $25 million to build the Institute and establish the conflict resolution and peacebuilding program with the request that this be a place “to make peace, not just talk about it.”  Early in 2003, Kroc gave $5 million for a Distinguished Lecture Series, which has created opportunities for heads of state, top United Nations officials and leaders of international non-government organizations to address the students and San Diego community at large.  In 2003, Kroc gave the university an additional $10 million for the Institute and its work and $40 million for the creation of the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies.   The IPJ is one of two institutes working under the auspices of the School of Peace Studies - the other being the Trans-Border Institute, which is focused on challenges and opportunities in this border region.     


About the University of San Diego

The University of San Diego sets the standard for an engaged, contemporary Catholic university where innovative Changemakers confront humanity’s urgent challenges. With more than 8,000 students from 75 countries and 44 states, USD is the youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the United States. USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education. USD recently concluded our successful $317M Leading Change: The Campaign for USD, which represented the most ambitious fundraising effort in the history of the university. In September 2016, USD introduced Envisioning 2024, a strategic plan that capitalizes on the university’s recent progress and aligns new strategic goals with current strengths to help shape a vision for the future as the university looks ahead to its 75th anniversary in the year 2024.


Patrick Riedling
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