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Conflict Resolution Institute

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Peacebuilding and Trauma Recovery: Integrated Strategies in Post-War Reconstruction

In February, the Conflict Resolution Institute hosted our annual conference, "Peacebuilding and Trauma Recovery: Integrated Strategies in Post-War Reconstruction," which proved to be one of our most significant achievements to date. This conference was co-hosted by CRI, The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, and the International Disaster Psychology Program of DU's Graduate School of Professional Psychology. The latter unit contributes faculty members Judy Fox and Janet Shriberg to our Conflict Resolution faculty roster.

This conference was held February 22-24, 2007, and brought together peacebuilding theorists and practitioners, psychologists, cultural anthropologists, and others engaged in the work of transitional justice, post-conflict healing, and peacebuilding. The conference achieved international visibility and drew marked acclaim from participants.

Scholars from around the world came to DU to discuss topics from peacebuilding in Rwanda and the Balkans, to reintegrating soldiers into society, to educating caregivers on the importance of addressing trauma through peacebuilding efforts. Almost 20 panels were held during the three-day conference, with keynote addresses by Dean Adjuzovic and John Paul Lederach (joint), Yael Danieli and Vamke Volkan.

The conference goal was to examine the important interface between peacebuilding and trauma recovery during post-war reconstruction. Though often working next to each other in the field, these two areas have had too little opportunity to compare notes, share wisdom, learn of each other's research, and plan for joint approaches. Those working in postwar reconstruction often have had to proceed with intervention ill-prepared in the knowledge and insights from critically related fields. Conference participants explored, through keynotes, panel discussions, topic-specific workshops and informal discussion, the research and practical applications of trauma recovery processes within the larger peacebuilding process. This conference allowed not only the presentation of the most current thinking in both fields, but through discussions and integrated panels and keynotes it took significant steps toward developing guidance for integrating work in these fields to best address the challenges of post-war communities. Conference outputs, still in progress, include the publication and distribution of proceedings, a website and network, and a committee tasked with developing a field guide for more informed practice. Several participants called for the creation of both a network and future integrative conferences.

In addition to this conference representing an opportunity to both bring the two fields up to date on each other's work over the last decade, it was also a chance to expand participation to a larger group and to include incoming, younger scholars and practitioners. In addition to professionals and scholars, graduate students from all three sponsoring programs (CRI, Disaster Psychology, and EMU's Justice and Peacebuilding), as well as those from International Studies, attended in significant numbers, and our conference staff included several hard-working student volunteers from these three programs. Two CRI students continue to assist in the preparation of the conference proceedings. Of note also was the participation of government agencies, such as the US Institute of Peace, and INGO's, such as Catholic Relief Services and WorldVision.

Students and participants alike found this conference to be a unique opportunity to explore the connection between achieving peace and addressing the psychological needs of populations in conflict areas. Participants left with a strong commitment to continue bringing the fields of conflict resolution and trauma recovery together.