Healing Communities, Transforming Society
Exploring the interconnectdeness between psychosocial needs, practice and peacebuilding
War and conflict weaken the social fabric that governs relationships and the capacity for recovery. In the aftermath, the causes of interpersonal conflict might still exist, and may even have worsened as a result of violence during the conflict. The ability of individuals and societies to cope with such extraordinarily painful experiences and with the developed distrust and fear is often impressive but also limited, and the breakdown of coping strategies is often related to psychosocial trauma. Due to the conflict, the natural ties, rules and bonds between people and within communities that strengthen coping and resilience, are often destroyed. Restoring the social fabric that binds and supports people within their own communities is essential for those who have experienced serious traumatic events and recreating the feeling of connectedness to other people is essential for building sustainable peace.
In order to assist conflict affected societies to come to terms with past legacies of large scale human rights violations, a range of processes and mechanisms have been developed by academics and practitioners from a variety of disciplines. As each post conflict context is unique, the mechanisms used to restore the social and political fibre of society needs to be context specific and adapted to the needs of each particular society.
Given that conflict tends to adversely affect people’s mental health, and that high levels of poor mental health affect the ability of individuals, communities and societies to function peacefully and effectively during and after conflict, we contend that post conflict justice and reconciliation mechanisms must necessarily integrate MHPSS structures into their toolkits and ways of thinking and vise versa.
In 2015 an International conference was jointly organised by the South African Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) and the Netherlands-based War Trauma Foundation (WTF) titled ‘Healing communities, transforming society: Exploring the interconnectedness between psychosocial needs, practice and peacebuilding’, aimed at assessing whether and how the fields of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and peacebuilding (PB) are, or should be, integrated. The conference built on the March 2014 Special Section of the journal Intervention guest edited by Brandon Hamber and Elizabeth Gallagher titled ‘Peacebuilding and psychosocial work’. Taking up the findings in the Special Section as well as the recommendations that emerged from the conference , IJR and WTF have since conducted a systematic literature review (forthcoming) and a mapping exercise of global practice while also reaching out and building, throughout this period, relationships with academics and practitioners working in both fields and who are interested in narrowing the gap. Findings from these processes provide rich evidence that by and large, MHPSS and PB practitioners operating in post-conflict contexts acknowledge that an integrated approach is needed in order to interrupt cycles of violence, prevent trauma-informed responses and achieve sustainable peace, while also enhancing MHPSS in affected communities
Should you want to find out more about this work, feel free to email the project coordinator Ms Friederike Bubenzer (IJR) email@example.com
This page is intended to share information about and insights gained throughout this project.