Monday, May 2, 2022

Youth, Peace and Security: Psychosocial Support and Societal Transformation

"Youth, Peace and Security:  Psychosocial Support and Societal Transformation" published by Brandon Hamber; Denis Martinez; Marlies Stappers; David Taylor; and Thomas Unger is now available online.

This paper explores the key issue of mental health and psycho-social services (MHPSS), from a youth-specific perspective. Drawing on the assertions and recommendations of the YPS Progress Study, and coupled with the increasing attention to MHPSS within the sustaining peace agenda, this policy brief pays special attention to the role of youth-specific psycho-social services as a vital dimension of transformative youth resilience, essential to both addressing the consequences and prevention of violent conflict.

This is a report commissioned by Interpeace for their Outside the Box: Amplifying youth voices and views on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) policy and practice series.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Leaving in Four Parts

Part I

In a thousand invisible places
A charcoal sketch follows me
I am welded onto
A black and white
Willow tree
And obvious
I see me
Through the eyes of a black woman
Ambling a Joburg street
A white child on her back
Passing electric fences
Caring for them all
She collects the Indian Ocean
In a Coke bottle
It wakes me
Splashes over me
Squeezes me into glass

Part II

In a thousand invisible places
The streets preoccupy me
Jacaranda trees are me
Expanding with me
From the top outwards
The purple shade is me
A beast beats
Inside me
Jests with me
Taunts me
I’m not a Gnu
I’m a fucking Wildebeest
You tell me
Powerful on the plains
But with puny legs
Prancing on powder
Vanishing into a mineshaft
With the speed of a mamba

Part III

In a thousand invisible places
The Durban whaling station follows me
The blubber is me
Moving through me
Pink foam echoing secrets about me
Silencing the beeps
An electronic fish-finder
Radiates me
The lines of Indian fisherman
Ensnare me
Humour me
Undercurrents are me
Knots and spark plugs
Weigh down on me
Nothing will bite
Drifting bait
A powerboat is needed these days
Time won’t wait

Part IV

In a thousand invisible places
You beckon me
I am not me
Neither hard
Nor kind
Neither organic
Or designed
Reimagining all of me
I’m running now
Hightailing it
Leaving the big sky
That protects me
In another world
I won’t have to kowtow
I jump the doorway
Landing securely
On clay

Published by Brandon Hamber, Botsotso Magazine, 24 March 2022

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

It’s official: The planning system in Northern Ireland is broken (in so many ways)

You would think that in a small place like Northern Ireland prioritising the environment would be a critical government concern, but seemingly it is the opposite.

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) review of planning in Northern Irelandpublished this month is damning, to say the very least. The PAC was “alarmed” and “appalled” by the planning system. It is failing in its role to protect the environment, be an economic driver or deliver places that people want to live and work in.

The review vindicates the views and experiences of all the campaigners who have raised problems with the system over the years. The report notes that the planning system in Northern Ireland is not working, suffering from entrenched problems.
Prehen Woodland, Brandon Hamber

Like my father-in-law George McLaughlin, some have been trying to get these issues recognised for decades, particularly in relation to the Prehen Ancient Woodland. Finally, some acknowledgement.

Some specific findings include:
  • the planning system lacks transparency and public trust; 
  • the PAC was “alarmed by the volume of concerns around transparency” the PAC was “appalled by the performance statistics” there is a lack of accountability for poor performance;
  • the PAC was “alarmed by the Department’s misunderstanding of accountability”;
  • the planning system is one of the worst examples of silo-working within the public sector;
  • the Department’s leadership of the planning system has been weak;
  • members of the public feel excluded and often believe they have no choice but to launch legal proceedings; 
  • the planning committees appear “to take an interest” in particular developments; 
  • the PAC was “alarmed to hear that lobbying is happening, even though it shouldn’t be”. 
The PAC recommends that a Commission is established to undertake a fundamental review to ascertain the long-term and strategic changes that are needed to make the system fit for purpose.

Let’s hope this Commission is established, and proper planning can be put in place that protects the environment. The current dysfunctional bureaucracy with its unaccountable and untransparent governance that routinely supports destructive (lobbied-for) development must go.

Well done the 60-strong group, the Gathering, who have shone a light on this failed system.

Published by Brandon Hamber, Slugger O’Toole, 5 April 2022. Also on Medium.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Voices from the Margins: Young men and post-conflict masculinities in Northern Ireland

Brandon Hamber and Conor Murray have published "Voices from the Margins: Young men and post-conflict masculinities in Northern Ireland".

The report points to the gap (noted in the YPS Progress Study’s recommendations) on masculinity and masculine identities as part of the gendered approach to implementing the YPS agenda. This policy brief focuses attention on supporting the development of alternative and positive masculine identities. While the paper draws on lived experiences in Northern Ireland, it derives lessons and recommendations, captures stories, and offers a narrative with wider relevance for other contexts.

This is a report commissioned by Interpeace for their Outside the Box: Amplifying youth voices and views on Youth, Peace and Security (YPS) policy and practice series

Thursday, March 24, 2022

A Jozi Love Letter

“Johannesburg Central At Sunrise” by Paul Saad under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

This city welcomes

Streets watch and wait
New arrivals take the bait
Gilded perdition
Jostling for position
With the skollies
And the recalcitrant
Unemployment rate

This city shines

Off the bonnet of a Beemer
Money creates and stymies
For the sheltered
Rejecting and accepting
Glittering fearful hope
Always space for one more
On the tightrope

This city jives

Buildings boom and sway
Heavy with prospect
Affluence and gunshots
Twinkling and twisted
Affectionate tepid nights
Rhythmic jazz
Wistful in the neon-light

My city of gold

I love you, I do

Published by Brandon Hamber, Botsotso Magazine, 24 March 2022

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

War in Ukraine: Drifting toward a tipping point

I’ve refrained from commenting on Ukraine on Facebook until now. There are enough brilliant experts on and in the region, not to mention lots of mainly male armchair generals and experts (and few male and female politicians in Northern Ireland) getting very excited on social media about tanks and guns they will never have to hold. So who needs more commentary, huh? So, I have a quick thought on conflict in general, which I have spent a fair bit of my life studying, teaching, and practically engaging with.

“Map of Ukraine political simple city Kiew
Sven Teschke  CC BY-SA 3.0.
The current moment shows all the hallmarks of conflict escalation drifting toward a tipping point. I know it is not rocket science, but all conflicts have them (often multiple times) and it is vital as there comes a moment in conflicts where it becomes impossible in the short term to roll back. People think they know when this point is (because it is not rocket science!), but many protracted wars have shown most fail to spot it or an unanticipated event happens and things tip, creating an even worse catastrophe than the present.

We see classic escalation features: increasing attacks on civilians (by the Russians); constant reference to historical contexts and narratives; arms build-up by multiple players; hardening rhetoric; polarization spouted by the public, not just politicians; the public (outside the country) talking “bravely” of war and why it is needed; the silencing of anyone who utters the word peace or compromise, belittling such approaches (often using the language of masculinity); multiple alliances that are material and historical; rapid shifts in alliances (not just in the region but elsewhere, for you conflict nerds Russia changing position recently on Yemen, for example); everyone over-estimating their war capabilities and miscalculating those of their enemy on all sides; and emotions being praised before reason in the media and by us all.

I do not know where this will go, but routes to de-escalation must be found urgently. I wish I had a magic bullet for this but don’t. However, it is crucial to think about routes to de-escalation as much as we are thinking about other issues like defence. This is hard when seeing the breaching of international law and human rights violations by Russia; it’s emotive. However, this is where we are right now…drifting fast…just an observation.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Challenges of Intergenerational Healing after Mass Atrocity

We have just a new piece published in Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal

Hamber, Brandon and Palmary, Ingrid (2021). A Dance of Shadows and Fires: Conceptual and Practical Challenges of Intergenerational Healing after Mass Atrocity. Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal, 15 (3), 100-120 [Download].


The legacy of mass atrocity – including colonialism, slavery or specific manifestations such as apartheid – continue long after their demise. Applying a temporal inter-generational lens adds complications. We argue that mass atrocity creates for subsequent generations a deep psychological rupture akin to witnessing past atrocities. This creates a moral liability in the present. Healing is a process dependent on the authenticity (evident in discourse and action) with which we address contemporary problems. A further overriding task is to open social and political space for divergent voices. Acknowledgement of mass atrocity requires more than one-off events or institutional responses (the grand apology, the truth commission). Rather acknowledgement has to become a lived social, cultural and political reality. Without this acknowledgement, healing, either collectively or individually, is stymied. Healing after mass atrocity is as much about political action (addressing inequalities and racism) as an act of re-imaging created through constant and contested re-writing.