First of the series of knowledge exchange webinars on mental health and peacebuilding process
Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Teesside University International Business School
Decades of armed conflict in Northeast Nigeria has left over 2 million of people displaced and seeking refuge in camps across the country. Consequently, a team of academic researchers and industry practitioners have collaborated to explore arts-based approach to the development of livelihood recovery for internally displaced persons (IDPs). The project funded by the Arts and Humanities research Council (AHRC) had its first in the series of six (6) monthly knowledge exchange webinars which took place on 18th May 2022. The theme of the discussion was “the intersection between Conflict, Mental Health and Peace Building”. The aim of the webinar was to develop a deeper understanding of previous experiences where art-based approaches were used to explore triggers of conflict, sustainable and inclusive ways to tackle such conflicts. Three expert panellists led the conversation anchored by the project lead Assoc. Prof. Ambi Ambituuni. These include Professor Prathivadi Anand Head of Department of Peace Studies and International Development and a specialist in environmental economics and public policy; Professor Ananda Breed a professor in Theatre and Professor Tim Prentki who’s the world’s first Professor of Theatre for Development.
Professor Anand steered the conversation and emphasised on how to pursue sustainability objectives in the midst of conflict. He averred that creating overlapping institutions and broadening civic spaces for more dialogue can address issues of legitimacy around common resources management to sustainably manage conflict triggers. Professor Ananda submitted that entertainment plays a significant role in fostering new relationships; as by merely observing what people do, behaviours are shaped. Also, bringing arts into peacebuilding process helps in improving mental health problems that accompany most conflict situations such as displacement. Bringing us to the idea of relational empathy which can be used in solving diverse social problems such as conflict and livelihood challenges. Prof. Ananda added that language use and the framing of issues such as the use of proverbs can promote peace building efforts.
Professor Prentki, summed up by drawing from Nussbaum’s work on gender and the dignity that comes with free citizenship and stated that one of her ten essential elements for a good human life-the role of play and the ability to play to laugh and enjoy recreational activities is important in this context. Promoting play and recreation helps in ‘healing the wounds’ of conflict. Such environment of play can promote inclusion of all groups to ensure all voices are heard in a development setting. The webinar lasted one hour and had over 50 people in attendance across different countries.