Psychosocial Peacebuilding

Psychosocial Peacebuilding is based on the idea that in the aftermath of armed conflict dividing communities, individuals can become agents of change in support of a bottom-up approach to peacebuilding. Ipso has been involved in psychosocial peacebuilding in Afghanistan since 2013 and has published a Position Paper on the recent UNDP Guidance Note Integrating Mental Health and Psychosocial Support into Peacebuilding. Ipso specializes in Psychosocial Support Services which are based on the idea that human beings have an inherent need to lead a meaningful life. Meaning in this context is understood as a concept that is subjective and depends on personal, family and social values which are developed and adapted in the course of a lifetime. Instead of pathologizing clinical symptoms underlying intrapsychic or interpersonal conflicts, traumatic experiences, a disruptive social environment, or difficult life transitions, Ipso takes a salutogenic approach to psychosocial wellbeing. The symptoms are understood as reactions to psychosocial stressors which stem from an individual vulnerability and can be overcome if conceptualized in a meaningful way. This human potential for self-development cannot only be used to facilitate self-healing, it also plays an important role in a bottom-up peacebuilding process which involves change at the internal level (personal beliefs and attitudes) and at the interpersonal level (practices and behaviors within interpersonal relationships). The role of psychosocial support is to improve psychosocial competence required to peacefully negotiate social change. This includes a capacity for empathetic perspective-taking. Bottom-up approaches to peacebuilding in divided communities aiming at reconciliation require a process which creates mutual understanding of different paths that were taken in the past, of social values linked to them, of challenges that were faced, and on a recognition of suffering on all sides. There is, as others have pointed out, no peace without peace of mind. Acknowledgement of individual and collective suffering and traumatic experiences will allow for the integration of past experiences into the reality of personal and communal life and based on this, for the renegotiation of social values and the development of common goals. In May 2022, UNDP published the Guidance Note Integrating Mental Health and Psychosocial Support into Peacebuilding The Note is based on the theory of change that ‘integrating MHPSS into peacebuilding leads to improved well-being, which in turn enables people to resist violence and build agency, ultimately leading to sustainable peace’. Ipso takes the position that the full potential of an integration of MHPSS services into peacebuilding can only be accessed if the peacebuilding sector does not outsource the conceptualization of ‘inner/ internal/ intrapersonal peace’, ‘peace of mind’ etc. to the health sector. Peacebuilders need to define the gap that MHPSS interventions are meant to fill within their own conceptual frameworks of peace and conflict instead of a western pathogenic approach to mental health/ illness/ disorder. For more details see our Position Paper.