1999 Michael Wessells, Past-Chair, Committee For The Psychological Study Of Peace
With the approval by the IUPsyS Executive Committee, the Committee for the Psychological Study of Peace (CPSP) restructured its membership, enabling Morton Deutsch and Toshio Iritani to rotate into the position of Senior Advisers. The current members of the Committee are:
Ruben Ardila (Colombia)
Klaus Boehnke (Germany)
Diane Bretherton (Australia)
Andrew Dawes (South Africa)
Janel Gauthier (Canada)
Takehiko Ito (Japan)
Ann Sanson (Australia)
Michael Wessells (U. S.)
Mike Wesssells’ term as Chair has concluded; Di Bretherton assumed responsibilities as Chair.
In the past year, the CPSP continued its important work on networking and facilitation of programmatic activities within various regions. Following the last IUPsyS General Assembly meeting, the CPSP brought to the Organizing Committee of the 2000 Congress in Stockholm a list of possible invited symposia on political and peace psychology. A number of the proposals were accepted, adding to the comprehensiveness of the Congress program. In addition, the CPSP developed a Santa Barbara project proposal for a “Global Initiative on Violence: Intervention and Prevention.” This proposal calls for the development of a network of regional centers, one on each continent, for analysis, intervention, and prevention on psychological issues of violence at all levels.
The CPSP focused its work this year on organizing two important meetings: the second workshop in southern Africa on youth and political violence, and the Sixth International Symposium on the Contributions of Psychology to Peace. Building on the highly successful workshop conducted at the University of the Witwatersrand in December, 1997, the CPSP organized a six-day, training-of-trainers workshop on “Youth and Political Violence in Southern Africa: Building Cultures of Peace”. This was conducted in July, 1999 as a satellite to the First Africa Congress of Psychology. This workshop brought together 20 practitioners and researchers from southern Africa for in-depth dialogue on holistic approaches to assisting violence-affected youth. In the context of analysis of particular programs, the workshop examined how to interconnect work on trauma healing, nonviolent conflict resolution, human rights, and peace education. By enhancing skills and building regional networks, it helped to build the capacity of service providers to work in a comprehensive, culturally grounded manner that improves the lives of Africa’s most precious resource–her children and youth.
The workshop received funding both from ISSC/UNESCO and from the American Psychological Foundation, with the majority of the funding used to cover travel costs by people living in difficult economic circumstances. To reduce site costs and enable immersion in the workshop, the event was conducted at the Vuleka Trust Centre outside Durban. The principal organizer was Andy Dawes of the University of Cape Town and the site organizer was Cosmas Desmond in Durban. This workshop not only strengthened the applied component of the First Regional Congress but also built on the psychosocial capacity of the region at an historic moment when there is great opportunity for positive change and for the construction of a post-apartheid psychology that addresses the needs of people living in very difficult circumstances. The workshop was evaluated very highly by participants.
The Committee has also assisted in organizing the Sixth International Symposium on the Contributions of Psychology to Peace, convened at the University of Costa Rica in July,1999 with Dr. Abelardo Brenes as site organizer. In honor of the U. N. General Assembly’s designation of the year 2000 as the International Year of a Culture of Peace, the symposium was “Contributions of Psychology to Cultures of Peace.” To build both regional and global networks on the psychology of peace and nonviolent conflict resolution, participants were approximately 45 psychologists from around the world, including people from seven Latin American countries. Scientific papers were presented on issues such as psychological aspects of nonviolence, building tolerance and solidarity, human rights, and education for peace. To bridge theory and practice, participants visited local projects on issues of violence and social justice for purposes of mutual learning, dialogue, and problem solving. Working in small groups, participants also outlined concept papers on what psychology has to contribute to various elements of cultures of peace, as defined by the UNESCO Culture of Peace Programme in Paris. These concept papers serve as input to the U. N. and NGO communities and will also serve as a basis for policy recommendations to various regional and global agencies addressing issues of violence and peace. They also provide a foundation for a special issue of Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology to be edited by Abelardo Brenes and Michael Wessells.
The new CPSP Chair has been working with UNESCO on the UNESCO Cultures of Peace Programme. She has already provided assistance to the IUPsyS Officers and the Committee on facilitating links between the Union and UNESCO on this important initiative.
It is the conviction of the Committee that, as evidenced in the recent horrors of Kosova, Sierra Leone, and other places, issues of violence and peace are of utmost importance for human well-being. A truly global psychology that builds on strong scientific foundations of dominant psychology but that also respects different cultures and learns from local peoples has much to contribute to the mitigation and prevention of destructive conflict.