Psychosocial Support and Dialogue in the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon

Author/s:
Marie-Adele Salem, Alessandra Rossi Ghiglione, Oussama Safa

Year:
2018

Language:
English

Publication Type:
Reports
(
External
)

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Description: 

This publication looked at the relation between psychosocial support, conflict mediation and cultural activities in the context of the Syrian crisis. Developed in collaboration between the IOM Mental Health, Psychosocial Response and Intercultural Communication Section and the Scuola Sant’Anna in Pisa, and funded by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation it contains two editions of the IOM-Lebanese University Master programme in Psychosocial Support and Dialogue and consists of a critical analysis of the fieldwork and research carried out by the students of the master’s programme for the purpose of their final dissertations. 

Following the conflicts taking place in the Syrian Arab Republic since 2011, the affected population, whether displaced or not, is in need of psychosocial support interventions that take into consideration the contextual specificities. This chapter gives an overview of the wounds that the Syrian community is suffering from, as identified and analysed by 21 of the master’s students (18 of which are Syrian and 4 are Lebanese), who took part in the two editions of the Psychosocial Support and Dialogue Professional Executive Master’s course that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Lebanese University organized in 2014 and 2015 in Beirut. The papers describe as well the bridges that the students were aspiring to rebuild or strengthen throughout their studies or interventions based on the main psychosocial and dialogue concepts and approaches that they acquired during the master’s course. In the last part of this chapter, the author elaborates additional recommendations to be considered while planning for future psychosocial interventions in the Syrian Arab Republic. Keywords: displacement, contextual specificities, wounds, bridges, psychosocial and dialogue concepts and approachesFollowing a series of consultative workshops held in Damascus in 2012, the International Organization for Migration began to implement its psychosocial support activities in the Syrian Arab Republic with a programme focused on capacity-building and support of national psychosocial practitioners and humanitarian responders, who were often operating without the necessary capacity.

The programme, funded by the Italian Cooperation, envisaged different training paths for psychosocial professionals in the Syrian Arab Republic. Among these was a one-year Executive Master’s programme in Psychosocial Support and Dialogue, designed in collaboration with the Lebanese University.

The course was organized in three pedagogical pillars:
(a) Concepts and practices of psychosocial support in conflict situations;
(b) Historical roots of the Syrian conflict, principles and practices of conflict mediation, transformation and dialogue; and
(c) Use of culture and cultural activities in both psychosocial and conflict mediation processes.

Over 40 students submitted reports of their guided fieldwork, which were analysed by a group of experts appointed by the Sant’Anna School of Advanced Studies in Pisa. In each chapter of this resulting publication, the three authors elaborate a critical review of the theses, aiming to assess the effectiveness and challenges characterizing the different approaches described with specific reference to the geographical and social contexts of the Syrian Arab Republic and Lebanon. The findings of the three chapters will allow practitioners and scholars working in relevant fields to benefit from the critical analysis built by the expert authors, while adding value to the information and data collected through the master’s students’ fieldwork in areas that continue to be of difficult access for researchers.

Editors: Andrea de Guttry, Chiary Macchi, and Guglielmo Schininà
 
Content: 
 
Chapter 1 -  Psychosocial support and dialogue in Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic: Psychosocial support approaches in crisis-affected countries (Keywords: displacement, contextual specificities, wounds, bridges, psychosocial and dialogue concepts and approaches)

Following the conflicts taking place in the Syrian Arab Republic since 2011, the affected population, whether displaced or not, is in need of psychosocial support interventions that take into consideration the contextual specificities. This chapter gives an overview of the wounds that the Syrian community is suffering from, as identified and analysed by 21 of the master’s students (18 of which are Syrian and 4 are Lebanese), who took part in the two editions of the Psychosocial Support and Dialogue Professional Executive Master’s course that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Lebanese University organized in 2014 and 2015 in Beirut. The papers describe as well the bridges that the students were aspiring to rebuild or strengthen throughout their studies or interventions based on the main psychosocial and dialogue concepts and approaches that they acquired during the master’s course. In the last part of this chapter, the author elaborates additional recommendations to be considered while planning for future psychosocial interventions in the Syrian Arab Republic.​

Chapter 2 - Psychosocial support and dialogue in Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic: The role of art-based interventions  (Keywords: art, psychosocial support, health promotion, social theatre, creative communication, social communication, needs assessment, emotional projection, diversity acceptance, intercultural dialogue, community-based approach, Syrian Arab Republic, refugees, war, conflict)

The role of art-based interventions within psychosocial support programmes is rooted in the ancient connection between art and health. During the last century, contributions coming from psychology, anthropology and education have highlighted the role of the symbolic dimension in shaping human experiences and the contribution that art, and particularly theatre, can give to individual and collective health and well-being. In the fields of therapy and health promotion, a number of theatre practices have been elaborated in the last decades, including those clustered under the umbrella definition of social theatre, whose aim is to improve relationships with a focus on differences, and promote mental health and physical well-being at individual and community levels. According to the overall social theatre theoretical and methodological approach, this chapter analyses those fieldworks reported by the students of the master’s degree programme, Psychosocial Support and Dialogue, which used art as a way to intervene with groups of children and women both among the Syrian refugees and their hosting communities in Lebanon. Activities included the use of narrative and visual art techniques from Drama Therapy, role playing and problem solving from Theatre of the Oppressed, games and relational exercises from social theatre.  

Chapter 3 - Psychosocial support and dialogue in Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic: Conflict mediation approaches (Keywords: Peacebuilding, truth and memory, mediation, healing, trauma, reconciliation, victimization, resilience, coping, empowerment, process, forgiveness, integrated approach, psychosocial support, theory of change, conflict management, conflict prevention, social change, conflict transformation, conflict resolution)

This chapter reviews a number of master’s thesis as part of the joint IOM–Lebanese University Executive Master’s programme, which combined psychosocial support with mediation. The chapter begins with a literature review of sources that connect peacebuilding and mediation practice with psychosocial support to establish what seems to be a natural link between both fields. It proceeds to review the theses that were submitted as part of the required fieldwork for graduation. The findings indicate a general understanding of the concepts shared in the Executive Master’s and a strong willingness by students to apply what they learned in their respective fields. While the quality of the theses varies across students and in geographical areas (Lebanon and the Syrian Arab Republic), there have been some serious attempts to utilize useful concepts and techniques in psychosocial support and mediation to generate acceptable and workable results. The programme of study has undoubtedly equipped students with a strong background to further test and apply the learned techniques.

Publisher: 
IOM