Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission is not a universal blueprint for post-conflict societies.
The archbishop made the comments to the BBC
But he said a possible truth process in Northern Ireland could still learn lessons from the commission's work.
The Nobel Peace Laureate was a leading figure in the fight against apartheid and he later chaired South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
He said people in NI could learn from "our successes and our failures".
Archbishop Tutu told the BBC's Sunday Sequence programme: "There are things that people might very well want to learn from our successes and from our failures, and seek something that is tailor made, ad hoc, for the particular situation, in this case Northern Ireland."
Archbishop Tutu was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his role in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
He became an internationally known figure around the time of the 1976 Soweto uprising.
In 1995, he was invited by President Mandela to chair South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which reported three years later.
Last year, former Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Mr Murphy travelled to South Africa to find out how it had handled its truth and reconciliation process.
The government has also been looking at other truth and reconciliation processes around the world.
It has been considering other ways of enabling people who lost loved ones during the Troubles in Northern Ireland or suffered trauma to tell their tale.
The British Government announced in May 2004 a consultation process on the best way to heal past wounds.
Last June, Chief Constable Hugh Orde suggested that a type of truth and reconciliation process may be needed to bring closure to the past.