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Trauma, development and peacebuilding:
Towards an integrated psychosocial approach


In late 2007 INCORE began an exciting new project funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada focussed on trauma, development and peacebuilding. In September 2008, the project brought together practitioners and theoreticians from around the world working with what can broadly be called psychosocial interventions, or collective attempts to deal with trauma following political conflict, at a roundtable conference in Delhi, India. In doing so, the project sought to find new ways to conceptualise trauma within the development and peacebuilding context so as to maximise its utility as a practical concept. The outputs from the project were six theoretical/regional overviews from various experts in the psychosocial field; a conference report; and a database which provides the beginnings of a global scan of various psychosocial programmes that attempt to deal with the impact of violent political conflict. The project was coordinated by Dr. Brandon Hamber, Director of INCORE and he was assisted by Dr. Mary Alice C. Clancy

Image of Conference Organisers
Dr Mary Alice Clancy (INCORE), Dr Navsharan Singh (IDRC), Dr Brandon Hamber (INCORE), Jyoti Malik (IDRC), Delhi, India, September 2008

Over the last decade an emerging field has begun to develop that questions the development and conceptualisation of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder arguing that it is a socially created phenomenon with social, political and economic ends. Others also question the role and value of dominant medicalised approaches to dealing with trauma in conflict zones. One alternative way to think about trauma following political violence is within a so-called psychosocial framework. 

The psychosocial framework stresses the importance of thinking about political trauma from both the psychological and social perspectives.  The term psychosocial, according to Inger Agger, “attempts to express the recognition that there is always a close, ongoing circular interaction between an individual’s psychological state and his or her social environment”.  In essence, the psychosocial approach demands that we think about how social conditions relate to mental health.  In terms of political violence this means we have to think about the social context of violence and not only its individual consequences, as well as how the social and political context influences individuals.  Such an approach would have a direct synergy with development and peacebuilding work.

There are areas where this is beginning to happen. Some work has been done to produce a Conceptual Framework which maps the field of psychosocial intervention in complex emergencies, e.g. the work of the Psychosocial Working Group and projects around the globe have tried to develop psychosocial interventions that seriously take context into account. Psychosocial-based training manuals for aid workers have also been developed.

That said, although individuals and some research groups have begun to question how the trauma concept is being used in the peacebuilding and development field, and psychosocial interventions are progressing, a core text or a consolidation of theory and best practice built on these so-called alternative perspectives on trauma and the industry that surrounds it is not available.   In short, a significant challenge to dominant more medicalised approach to dealing with trauma is not available, as well as a consolidated approach to trauma that moves beyond the individual and also starts to recognise the collective dimensions of trauma.

Project Outline – Summary
Project Outline – Full


The first phase of the project brought together a 22 experts working on psychosocial approaches to trauma, peacebuilding and development from around the world at a roundtable conference which was held in Delhi, India from 9-11 September 2008. Through the presentation of theoretical and regional overviews, and individual case studies, the roundtable sought to analyse, critique, and disaggregate different approaches to trauma globally considering its impact on peacebuilding and development processes in societies coming out of conflict.

Conference Participant
Conference Participants in Delhi, India, September 2008



In addition to the conference and its associated outputs, a database (environmental scan) of organisations working in the area of psychosocial work and working directly with what could be termed collective interventions to deal with trauma was produced.  This is a work in progress and suggestions are welcome.

Searchable database of Psychosocial Projects

Future plans

The project was envisaged as a first step to a larger initiative.  Based on feedback from the Delhi Conference in September 2009 a new proposal for a larger project is now underway. It is envisioned that the next stage of the project will commence in March 2009.

Contact Information

Project co-ordinator Dr Brandon Hamber

Research associate Dr Mary Alice Clancy

For more information contact b.hamber@ulster.ac.uk

Disclaimer: © INCORE 2010 Last Updated on Friday, 19-Mar-2010 15:50
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