Public Health, Mental Health, and Mass Atrocity Prevention Project Workshop

On June 9-10, the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) partnered with the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights to organize a Public Health, Mental Health and Mass Atrocity Prevention Project Workshop, with the support of White & Case LLP. The two-day workshop brought together 21 professionals and academics who represented the fields of public and mental health, atrocity prevention, human rights and international law, criminal justice, and more. The experts were joined by the four-person team who will guide the development and publication of the edited academic volume that will serve as the initiative’s primary outcome.

The workshop’s attendees participated in a series of plenary and breakout sessions held over the course of the event that would inform the contents and format of the edited volume. The plenary sessions, two on the first day and one on the second, functioned as an opportunity for the group to work collaboratively to refine the overarching concept of the future academic volume, while also focusing on more granular considerations, such as working definitions and concepts that will be shared by all contributing authors. The second and third plenary sessions, for their part, also allowed for the work accomplished during the breakout sessions to be shared with the larger group.

Complementing the plenary sessions, breakout sessions were organized that grouped participants in accordance with the volume’s planned thematic axes. The first group focused on the way that mass atrocities are framed, or can be reframed, as public health issues, as well as the ways that the concepts of public health, mental health, and mass violence interact at the macro level. The second group consisted of contributors addressing topics related to the physical, mental, and emotional impact that mass violence has on victims. This theme also includes examinations of the manner in which strategies for justice, reconciliation, and rehabilitation function within public health and atrocity prevention frameworks.

The third thematic breakout group considered topics related to group identity and interpersonal community relationships. This working group incorporates a significant focus on war-affected populations, survivors of genocide, non-state armed groups, and youth. The fourth and final group assembled around the theme of mental health workers and supporting mental and public health work in conflict or post-conflict settings. This involves addressing the various models and interventions employed, as well as documentation and data collection, to prevent harm and to improve responses to healthcare workers and others, including law enforcement personnel, who are on the frontlines of atrocity prevention.

During the final plenary session that concluded the workshop, editors and participants summarized the progress that had been made over the previous two days and began planning for the next steps of initiative. Over the coming months, contributing participants will look to incorporate the insights and revisions provided by the workshop into their abstracts and working papers. Beyond work on the edited volume, the workshop group also identified several supplemental materials that could be developed for non-academic audiences, such as a video series.