Why an integrated approach to MHPSS, peacebuilding and livelihood development is urgently needed
Conflict and violence have enormous and disruptive impacts on people’s mental health and psychosocial well-being, which then impacts a community’s level of social cohesion, livelihoods and social contracts. The WHO estimates that one in five people living in conflict-affected settings will develop a mental disorder. Many others will suffer from less acute, but everyday stresses as a consequence of family separation, inability to sustain livelihoods and physical displacement.
Breaking the silos to address multidimensional needs
The needs of people in conflict-affected and fragile contexts do not fit neatly into the silos of ‘mental health’, ‘peacebuilding’ and ‘livelihoods’, but all too often the needs related to these areas are interconnected. Scaled-up programming that integrates mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) with peacebuilding and livelihood creation has the potential to enable millions of people who live in conflict to survive and ultimately thrive. Recent research carried out in Rwanda, shows that strengthening mental health and livelihood skills at the same time, rather than separately, can reduce depression among affected people by 64% and anxiety by 60%.
peacebuilding and livelihoods work:
A 64% reduction in depression, 60% reduction in anxiety, and 67% reduction in trauma symptoms among those affected by mental health issues.
A 71% positive change in ‘forgiveness in practice’ and moderate effect in one’s trust in other groups, particularly among women, including a 29% increase in compensation for property destruction.
A 40% decrease in extreme poverty among those who participated in both sociotherapy and collaborative livelihoods activities.
Interpeace’s seventh Peacebuilding in Practice paper, Mind the Peace, presents a guidance framework for practitioners to integrate MHPSS, peacebuilding and livelihood programming. It provides practical principles and guidance for programme implementers, researchers and donors who want to operationalise and support more integrated approaches to MHPSS, peacebuilding and livelihood development. The report draws on journals, books, mapping reports, international and organisation-specific guidance documents, evaluations and programme experience. It also benefits from local, regional and international policy and research processes; and a number of country-based case studies.
Mind the Peace establishes the rationale for a paradigm shift in integrated programming across these three areas in order to effectively address the multidimensional needs of communities affected by conflict. It offers 12 options for integrated programming to assist practitioners across the three fields in collectively designing context-specific strategies to enhance individual, collective and societal resilience for peace:
- Integration requires a Track 6 approach that links individual, family, community and eventually institutional change to create a sustainable infrastructure for long-term transformation.
- Integration goes beyond international-support – it requires the integration of ‘structured’/’evidence based’ and ‘traditional’ practices at local and national levels, as well as more embedded and nationally owned approaches to integration.
- Developing strategies to advance integrated programming must begin with identifying the needs and existing capacities in a given context and clarifying what approaches and practices from the three sectors can be combined to catalyse a common change.
- Integrated programming requires practitioners from the three sectors to collaborate in design, development of tools, implementation, evaluation and learning.
Key lessons from case studies in Cyprus, Kenya, Rwanda and Ukraine
Between 9 and 23 March 2022, Interpeace ran four case study consultations for this report. The team selected four distinct and diverse contexts that had different situations of conflict, different geographical contexts, and had an integrated MHPSS to different degrees in peacebuilding processes: Cyprus, Kenya, Rwanda and Ukraine. These consultations enabled the team to pilot its integrated programming options as a tool for enabling collaborative design. Each context generated a distinct set of reflections on integrated programming and ideas for future work, but four overarching lessons emerged:
- Livelihoods are an essential dimension of integrated programming, regardless of the state of conflict.
- In contexts of acute crisis, such as Ukraine, integrated programming may or may not be a priority, but strategies that are sensitive to mental health, peacebuilding and livelihood needs remain fundamentally important.
- When designing context-appropriate integrated programming, it is critical to map endogenous and exogenous actors and approaches.
- Gender equality and youth empowerment are priority areas for integrated programming.
These lessons have been integrated into the Framework’s principles, approaches and guidelines.
Adopting an integrated approach to ensure sustainable change
Integrating approaches across these three fields offers an opportunity to strengthen the support that external actors provide to individuals, families, communities and societies affected by and emerging from conflict. Integration also contributes to the prevention of violence, by building the resilience of individuals and communities while transforming the environment around them and addressing exclusion and marginalisation. The potential for integration has never been so high. To make integration more tangible:
- Donors can make integrated programming a priority and pilot new flexible financing models, potentially drawn from existing practice on the Humanitarian, Development and Peacebuilding Nexus to enable more adaptive, flexible and longer-term oriented integrated programming.
- Practitioners can take purposeful steps to connect across sectoral divides to collectively design and implement integrated approaches that utilizes the knowledge and skills of formal and informal actors and institutions.
- Donors and practitioners can create an enabling environment for joint research, collaborative tool development, transparent and adaptive learning as well as experience sharing to continue to enrich existing and future practice.
Mind the Peace was made possible thanks to the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.