Paul van Zyl is the Co-Founder & CEO of Maiyet, a high-end fashion brand that sources highly specialized and refined craftwork from artisans in off-the-beaten path places around the world, from Nairobi, Kenya and Ahmedabad, India, to the mountains of Peru. Prior to founding Maiyet, Paul was known for pioneering new approaches to human rights protection; he has advised countries around the world on how to facilitate transitions to peace and democracy following periods of mass atrocity and human rights abuse.
From 1995‐1998, Paul, a South African, served as the Executive Secretary of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was charged with investigating Apartheid‐era crimes. He helped to establish the commission, develop its structure and modus operandi, and manage its operations.
Paul co‐founded the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ) in 2001 in response to a growing recognition that facing legacies of past abuse and injustice is crucial to protecting human rights around the world. Benefiting from Paul’s leadership as Program Director and Executive Vice President, the ICTJ quickly grew from a promising start‐ up to a leading global organization. The ICTJ has worked in over 35 countries to help communities and survivors overcome the consequences of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity by pursuing accountability, establishing the truth, building local capacity, and delivering reparations to victims.
Paul has been recognized for his work protecting human rights and promoting peace. He accepted a Skoll Award for Social Entrepreneurship in 2009 with Juan Méndez, the former ICTJ President, for their pioneering approach to social change through transitional justice. He received the 2009 Recent Graduate Award from NYU Law, which honors the professional achievements of an alumnus who graduated no more than 10 years ago. He was selected as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in 2008, as a TED Fellow in 2007, and as one of the “Top 15 lawyers under 40” by New York Lawyer Magazine in 2001. Paul was awarded the prestigious Alexander Prize by the School of Law at Santa Clara University. The prize recognizes lawyers who have used their legal careers to help alleviate injustice and inequity. In 2012, Paul was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Laws by Santa Clara University School of Law.
Paul is currently a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Council on Fragile States, and has served as an adviser to the Sundance Documentary Film Program. He has also worked as a researcher for the Goldstone Commission, as a department head at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation in Johannesburg, and as an associate at Davis Polk and Wardwell in New York.
In tandem with his other work, Paul serves as Director of New York University School of Law's Transitional Justice Program, and teaches law both in New York and Singapore. He obtained a BA and an LLB from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg and an LLM in International Law from the University of Leiden in the Netherlands. Following these studies, he was accepted into the prestigious Hauser Global Scholars Program at New York University School of Law, where he completed a LLM in Corporate Law.