Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Humanitarian assistance-Psychological aspects, Humanitarian assistance-Social aspects, Conflict management, Crisis intervention (Mental health services), Conflict transformation, Psychosocial intervention, Psychosocial, Complex emergency, Peace, Mental health aid, Community development, Humanitarian aid, International social work, Conflict resolution


This theoretical study examines the psychosocial discourse in humanitarian aid. International humanitarian assistance through psychosocial interventions is now common in complex emergencies – the context that emerges from war and violent conflict that is unique to the contemporary era of globalization. Humanitarian assistance aims to meet the needs of war-affected communities, alleviate suffering, remove barriers to health and development, quell cycles of violence, work towards long-term benefits, and maintain the core principle of 'do no harm' at the center of its moral intentions. Lively ethical, medical and cultural debates have contributed to the development of a wide range of different approaches in psychosocial interventions while achieving the goals of humanitarian aid and maintaining its commitment to human health and development. Despite a lack of evidence to support its effectiveness, interventions based on the notion of logical positivism prevail in international psychosocial discourse and program implementation. Conflict transformation, a radical perspective with familiar practices, is introduced and discussed as an essential inclusion when considering or implementing psychosocial interventions. Key contributions of Conflict Transformation are: the perspective that conflicts are opportunities for change rather than examples of social regression; and the understanding that processes toward peaceful relationships are relational and person-centered. The thesis concludes with possible contributions to conflict transformation by social work, and the implications for international social work theory and practice.




iii, 86 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2009. Includes bibliographical references (p. 81-86)