Arria-formula Meeting on “Ensuring Access to Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Conflict, Post-Conflict, and Humanitarian Settings”
Tomorrow (25 March) at 10 am in the ECOSOC chamber, Mexico will organise an Arria-formula meeting on “ensuring access to mental health and psychosocial support in conflict, post-conflict, and humanitarian settings”. The expected briefers are Dévora Kestel, Director of the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Department at the World Health Organization (WHO); Micaela Serafini, Health Director of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC); Norman Sartorius, President of the Association for the Improvement of Mental Health Programmes; and Pastora Mira García, a human rights defender from Colombia. In addition to Council members, other member states are invited to make brief statements during the meeting, which will be broadcast on UN TV.
According to a concept note prepared by Mexico, the Council plays an essential role in ensuring access to mental health and psychosocial support services in situations of armed conflict and humanitarian response. Accordingly, the meeting will focus on “ways in which [mental health and psychosocial support] should be both an element of humanitarian programming and a core component of preventive and responsive strategies in the UN system and [by] humanitarian actors in areas affected by conflict and humanitarian settings”.
The meeting will provide an opportunity to review existing commitments and strategies, such as the 2007 Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support in Emergency Settings. It also intends to highlight the importance of contextually sensitive programmes that can provide mental health and psychosocial support services to help victims and survivors overcome negative mental health consequences.
The concept note refers to research which demonstrates that one in five people who have experienced war or other conflict will develop mental illness and that the prevalence of common mental disorders is expected to double during humanitarian crises. It also says that the mental health needs of those affected by emergencies are largely unmet and neglected, and that these risks are heightened for vulnerable persons, including children and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence. It further notes the importance of an age-sensitive and gender-transformative approach to addressing the mental health and psychosocial needs of populations affected by conflict.
Several guiding questions for the meeting are outlined in the concept note, including:
- How can the UN system integrate age-sensitive and gender-transformative mental health and psychosocial services in inter-agency coordination response mechanisms?
- What are some of the best practices regarding the implementation of programmes that ensure access to mental health and psychosocial services in humanitarian response plans?
- How can member states support efforts to coordinate existing activities and programmes to ensure that the provision of mental health and psychosocial services is accessible to all in conflict, post-conflict, and humanitarian settings?
- How can the Security Council ensure that access to mental health and psychosocial services becomes an essential component in all its mandated protection tasks?
In her briefing, Kestel is expected to describe the WHO’s work regarding mental health and psychosocial services and may address the situation in Ukraine from this perspective. Mira García is likely to outline her personal experience in surviving traumatic events, while Serafini might mention the challenges that the ICRC faces on the ground in relation to the provision of mental health and psychosocial services. Sartorius is expected to discuss the evidence base concerning the importance of mental health and psychosocial services in conflict, post-conflict, and humanitarian settings.
In recent years, several Council members have highlighted the importance of mental health and psychosocial services, both in their statements at Council meetings and through language included in Council products. Resolution 2601 of 29 October 2021 on the protection of education in armed conflict, for example, underscores the deleterious effects of humanitarian emergencies and displacement caused by armed conflict on the mental health and psychosocial wellbeing of children. In this regard, the resolution encourages member states and donors to integrate mental health and psychosocial services in humanitarian responses. This language was proposed by Mexico with the support of several other Council members. Similarly, resolution 2396 of 21 December 2017 recognises the importance of a whole-of-government approach to reintegration and rehabilitation of children associated with foreign terrorist fighters, including through psychosocial support. Council members have also emphasised the importance of psychosocial support to children in reintegration processes in their statements at relevant meetings on children and armed conflict.
Resolution 2625 of 15 March, which renewed the mandate of the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), also included text regarding mental health and psychosocial services. The relevant paragraph directs UNMISS to facilitate access to organisations that provide services and support to survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, including psychosocial and mental health services. This language was added by the US, the penholder on South Sudan, with input from Ireland.