African boy making a cat's cradle

Background

IJR peacebuilding team

Over the last four years, the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) in South Africa has been leading a project aimed at narrowing the gap between the fields of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) and peacebuilding (PB). This project is centred on the premise that war, conflict and oppression have a significant but often under-acknowledged impact on human beings which in turn weakens the social fabric that governs relationships, the capacity for recovery and the opportunities for reconciliation. In the aftermath of conflict, the causes of conflict often remain and continue to foster mistrust and fear. The work of both MHPSS professionals as well as peacebuilders aims ultimately to restore the social fabric that binds and supports people within their communities as a way of disrupting cycles of violence and building sustainable peace. While each field has different ways of achieving its goals; there exist significant overlaps. However, the two fields work mostly in isolation from one another. This project seeks to develop new and innovative ways of integrating MHPSS and PB to develop sustainable long-term solutions.

If you’d like to know more about this project, please read ‘Making the case for psychosocial peacebuilding: A new model to strengthen social fabric:

READ MORE

About this project

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 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.

Find out more

Should you want to find out more about this work, feel free to email the project coordinator Ms Friederike Bubenzer (IJR) fbubenzer@ijr.org.za 

This page is intended to share information about and insights gained throughout this project.

The Coordination Team

Friederike Bubenzer is a peacebuilding practitioner from South Africa. She leads the project at the host organisation the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. She has worked with communities across Africa for over 12 years to develop inclusive and context-specific peacebuilding and reconciliation processes.

Prof Yvonne Sliep is a consultant on this project. She is critical community health specialist and Associate Professor of Psychology at UKZN. She has done extensive work in facilitating collective recovery within war-traumatised countries using Narrative Theatre to strengthen social fabric.

Dr Marian Tankink is a consultant on this project. Marian is a medical anthropologist and former community psychiatric nurse. Her specialisation is on the relationships between gender, violence, psychosocial wellbeing, mental health and reconciliation and peacebuilding in (post)conflict areas and among refugees. For five years, she was Editor in Chief of ‘Intervention, Journal of Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict Affected Areas’, an international peer reviewed multidisciplinary journal.

Publications

blog3

2015 Conference Report

Healing Communities, Transforming Society Exploring the interconnectdeness between psychosocial needs, practice and peacebuilding

Download here

blog 22017 Mapping Study

Healing communities, transforming society Mental health, psychosocial support and peacebuilding

Download here

2017 Literature Review

Achieving Sustainable Peace through an Integrated Approach to Peacebuilding and Mental Health and Psychosocial Support: A review of current theory and practice

Download here

Intervention Journal

Special Issue Intervention Peacebuilding and Psychosocial work

Download here