Political and Psychological Responses to Violence and Conflict
Submitting InstitutionCanterbury Christ Church University
Unit of AssessmentPolitics and International Studies
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Political Science, Sociology
Summary of the impact
This case study demonstrates how psychological and political science
research has been utilised to inform policy and practice responses to
violence and conflict. Work with the Forgiveness Project has utilised
social-psychological research to develop the Forgiveness Toolbox. This is
designed to assist key stakeholders, victims, perpetrators and civil
society organisations in dealing with the psychological consequences of
violence and conflict. The political consequences of violence and conflict
were addressed, for example, through our collaboration with the Friedrich
Ebert Stiftung in Bosnia, which resulted in new material for their work on
state and welfare reform.
The changing nature of violence and conflict in the post-Cold War period
requires new multidimensional and interdisciplinary approaches to resolve
these conflicts and create sustainable peace. The two key researchers for
this case study are Dr Masi Noor and Dr Soeren Keil. Noor has been
employed at CCCU from 2008, and Keil from 2011. There has,
however, been a longer history of conflict and security related research
at CCCU. For example, Dr David Bates (CCCU 2001 — present) and Professor
AJR Groom (CCCU 2006 — present), who are both members of the Conflict
and Security Research Group within the UoA, have worked on different
aspects of conflict and security.
Noor's research (see below 3d-f) has provided a firm
methodological basis in order to challenge orthodox strategies for group
reconciliation in post-conflict societies. His most notable achievement in
this field is the development and analysis of the concept of Competitive
Victimhood which has demonstrated how different groups in
inter-group conflict claim the label of `victims' (3d). He has evidenced
this phenomenon by examining groups that were involved in violence and
conflict in Chile, Northern Ireland, Croatia, Israel and Palestine,
amongst others (3e,f). This work has been recognised by the American
Psychological Association, which awarded Noor an Early Career
Award for Peace Psychology in 2010. Dr Keil's research has focused on the
relationship between state-building, democratization and transition in
post-conflict societies, with a special focus on Bosnia and
Herzegovina (3a). His main achievement is to show how important a
consensus on the nature of a state is in the process of state-building. He
has furthermore demonstrated how the lack of such a consensus can severely
influence strategies of democratization and state reconstruction (3b).
More recently his work has focused on looking at different policy areas in
post-conflict societies (3b-c). Thus, the work points out how the lack of
a consensus on the nature of a state can limit post-conflict
reconstruction. He has furthermore demonstrated the limits of ownership of
local elites in a political environment that is still divided and in which
tensions remain high. This work has been completed in collaboration with a
former employee of the OSCE.
The two academics involved in this impact case study have worked on
generating a multidisciplinary approach towards impact under the headline
of Political and Psychological Responses to Conflict. This is most
visible in the joint policy paper, which Keil and Noor co-authored
with Bates. The paper Understanding Violence and
Conflict: Interdisciplinary Lessons has brought their academic
experience together, and linked their intellectual findings to key
recommendations for policy makers. These recommendations have been
positively received by a number of leading policy makers, including think
tank representatives in Bosnia (Centre for Peace Building), an important
USAID project lead in Bosnia (Public International Law and Policy Group)
and a key legal adviser to the OSCE Mission in Bosnia.
References to the research
a) Keil, S. (2013) Multinational federalism in Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Ashgate: Farnham. The main finding of this book is that Bosnia and
Herzegovina represents a new model of federalism and federation.
Federalism has been imposed by outsiders in the country, and it has become
an internationally administered federation. Political elites do not share
a consensus on the nature of the state, and therefore federalism itself
remains a contested concept amongst Bosnia's elites and peoples.
b) Keil, S. (2011) `Social policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina between
state-building, democratization and Europeanization' in: Stambolieva, M.
and Dehnert, S. (Eds) Welfare States in Transition,
Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung, Sofia. This chapter discusses the development of
social policy in post-war Bosnia. It concludes that social policy can be
seen as an example of the more general problems of the states, pointing
out particularly the contested nature of the state, the lack of progress
in state-building, and the questionable role of external actors in the
political system more widely.
c) Perry, V. and Keil, S. (2013) `The OSCE Mission in Bosnia and
Herzegovina: Testing the Limits of Ownership' in: Nationalities Papers,
41 (3), 371-394. The main finding of this article can be summarised by the
fact that it demonstrates the limits of ownership in a post-conflict
society. By focusing on the role of the OSCE in education policy, the
authors show how local elites have permanently failed to implement
recommended guidelines and have not been able to fulfil their
international obligations. This is explained by a lack of imposition
powers for the OSCE and a general lack of consensus on the nature of the
state in Bosnia amongst political elites.
d) Noor, M., Shnabel, N., Halabi, S. and Nadler, A. (2012) `When
suffering begets suffering: the psychology of competitive victimhood
between adversarial groups in violent conflicts' in: Personality and
Social Psychology Review, 16 (4), 351-374. This paper integrates
several novel and traditional theoretical models, including Intergroup
Competitive Victimhood, Need-Based Reconciliation Model, and Common
Ingroup Identity Model. In doing so, the authors identify competition over
victimhood as an antecedent to the different psychological needs for
reconciliation within the conflicting parties. This paper also identifies
strategies to overcome the need for competitive victimhood by inducing the
parties with a common ingroup identity which reminds both groups of their
common suffering (e.g. loss of loved ones). The paper backs up its
theoretical assertions by referring to published and unpublished empirical
works derived from multiple disciplines (e.g. psychology, politics,
international relations, history, sociology).
e) Noor, M., Brown, R. J., Gonzalez, R., Manzi, J. and Lewis, C. A.
(2008) `On positive psychological outcomes: what helps groups with a
history of conflict to forgive and reconcile with each other?' in:
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34 (6), 819-832. This
paper deals with factors that may facilitate or inhibit intergroup
forgiveness and reconciliation. Study 1 validates a host of predictors,
ranging from identity and intergroup emotions to competitive victimhood,
in the context of post-Pinochet Chile. Study 2 replicates and extends the
findings from Study 1 in the context of the Northern Irish conflict.
Finally, Study 3, conducted in Northern Ireland, sheds light on the
relationship between forgiveness and reconciliation. It was revealed that
over time forgiveness was a potent predictor of reconciliation, though
some support was also found for circular pathway.
f) Noor, M., Brown, R. J. and Prentice, G. (2008) `Precursors and
mediators of intergroup reconciliation in Northern Ireland: A new model'
in: British Journal of Social Psychology, 47 (3), 481-495. This
paper examines the structural interrelationships between the key variables
involved in fostering and inhibiting reconciliation between conflicting
parties. A model that specified competitive victimhood as a major negative
antecedent of reconciliation orientation and a positive antecedent of
justification of past violence, whereby trust and strength of
identification with one's own group served as potent mediators of the
above relationships, was empirically validated between the Protestant and
Catholic communities in Northern Ireland.
A key indication of the quality of research in this area is evident
through the support it has received from external funders.
Noor has been the Principal Investigator on a British Academy
project on `Overcoming Competitive Victimhood to foster intergroup
forgiveness and Reconciliation Attitudes in Post-Pinochet Chile'. Period
of Grant: 2008-2010. Value of Grant: £5,872.
Noor has also been recognised for his research by the American
Psychological Association through the Early Career Award in 2010 for Peace
Quality of Research
• Peer review: All journal articles have gone through the process
of peer review. The target journals are themselves of international
standard, and hence have highly competitive entry criteria.
• Funding: Research for this case study has received funding from
the British Academy.
• Academic scrutiny: A number of academic papers cited above have
previously been presented at leading national and international
conferences, involving practitioners and academics. Keil's
publications have been reviewed and assessed by leading academics in the
field before publication and have been published as part of major research
Prizes: Noor's contribution to peace psychology has been
recognised by the American Psychological Association with the Early Career
Award in 2010.
Details of the impact
The research outlined above has impacted on (1) Practitioners and
Professional Services and (2) on Public Policy, Law and Services,
specifically the work of NGOs (The Forgiveness Project, Centre for Peace
Building in Bosnia) and civil society partner organisations (such as the
Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bosnia and the Public International Law and
Policy Group (PILPG).
Noor's research, which he has developed in collaboration with
victim and perpetrator groups, has been the basis for his engagement with
the NGO The Forgiveness Project. He has been working with the
Forgiveness Project since 2008. This work has led to the development and
application of the Forgiveness Toolbox (http://www.theforgivenesstoolbox.com/about/).
The Forgiveness Project works with victim and perpetrator groups of
conflicts across the world. Their main aim is `to provide tools that
facilitate conflict resolution and promote behavioural change' (http://theforgivenessproject.com/).
The focus of the Toolbox is to develop `skills [that] aim to enable
individuals and groups to re-gain their diminished sense of agency
following victimhood experiences.' In terms of reach, this
Toolbox is publicly available on the internet and can therefore be
utilised by NGOs, groups and individuals in a range of global contexts.It
utilises the experiences of victims and perpetrators, who have worked with
Noor and the Forgiveness Project. The significance
of this work can be seen in terms of how it has filled a demonstrable gap
in the necessary practical resources available for those working on the
ground, in the field of dealing with the effects of conflict, specifically
at the psychological level.
The impact has occurred through the process of developing the Toolbox.
From the start there has been a strong input from practitioners (The
Forgiveness Project), focusing on enhancing and improving effective
practice. Noor's research had to respond directly to practitioner
needs. Furthermore, victims and perpetrators of violence and conflict were
involved at key stages of the design process, and challenged many of the
assumptions of the research itself. Thus, participants have engaged with
different concepts of victimhood, as can be seen by one participant's
testimony: `I can't look at myself as a victim — it diminishes me as a
Before going `live' in July 2013, we put mechanisms in place to monitor
downloads and access to the Toolbox, along with practitioners' narrative
pertaining to its use. While Noor's work focuses on the
psychological responses to violence and conflict, Keil's work is
on institutional design in post-conflict societies. These approaches have
recently been united in a policy paper, which has been distributed to
Keil was commissioned to write a report by the Friedrich Ebert
Stiftung, and this has since been published by their office in Bosnia and
Herzegovina (in 2011), and has been used to confirm their policy of
supporting specific state reforms (http://www.fes.ba/publikacije/2012/Welfare/soren.pdf).
As part of the Foundation's work in Bosnia, they have identified economic
stagnation and social instability as key reasons for the on-going
political crisis in the country (www.fes.ba). It can be demonstrated that
Keil's work has enabled the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung to continue
its focus on certain reform initiatives and provided wider information for
key stakeholders such as young people, trade unionists and social
democratic party members. For another research paper, Keil worked
collaboratively on research with a practitioner and former employee of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). He has also
worked with the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Bosnia, for which Keil
co-authored a paper on the territorial dimension of the Croat question in
Bosnia. This paper has been used to inform policy debates in the country
in 2013. In terms of reach, therefore this work has
specifically focused on certain societal actors in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
While enabling further public debate on fundamental issues of
state-building and social policy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, this impact is
also significant, because it enables the Friedrich Ebert
Stiftung (and other key actors in Bosnia) to apply intellectual knowledge
in their practical work.
- Work with NGOs such as The Forgiveness Project, and The
Parenting Circle can be viewed at www.theforgivenessproject.org.uk,
see also the homepage of the Forgiveness Tool Kit:
- Work with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bosnia and Herzegovina. For
example, see Keil's contribution on their website: http://www.fes.ba
Soeren Keil's Email exchange the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bosnia.
- On-going email exchanges and academic consultations with Dr Valery
Perry, the Chair of Party of the International Law and Policy Group in
Bosnia (a USAID financed organisation to support civil society
- Email exchanges with Founder and Director of the Forgiveness Project.
Informing public debate: Research specifically dealing with the
psychological responses to violence and conflict has featured in Times
Higher Education article (4th June 2009) and as part of BBC
Radio 4's `Thinking Allowed' broadcast (19th January 2011).
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Website of the Forgiveness Toolbox: http://www.theforgivenesstoolbox.com/about/
- Keil's Report for the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung in Bosnia, http://www.fes.ba/publikacije/2012/Welfare/soren.pdf
- Policy Paper on Understanding Violence and Conflict available via the
Website of the Centre for Peace Building in Bosnia: http://www.mreza-mira.net/wp-content/uploads/Policy-Paper-Keil-Bates-Noor.pdf
- Email correspondence with the Founder and Director of the Forgiveness
(contact I.D. 1)
- Email correspondence with the Chair of the Public International Law
and Policy Group in Bosnia and Herzegovina, http://publicinternationallawandpolicygroup.org/
(contact I.D. 2)
- Formal written testimony from the Founder and Director of the
Forgiveness Project (contact I.D. 1)
Formal written testimony from a Project Officer of the Friedrich Ebert
Stiftung in Bosnia and Herzegovina, www.fes.ba
(contact I.D. 4)