Report to BOD, IAAP

Division 11, Political Psychology Report.

By Di Bretherton, President.


August 2004, Beijing.


The Division of Political Psychology made a strong contribution to the Conference program in Singapore in 2002 and we would like particularly to thank Elizabeth Nair for her help, advice and assistance. The Division met in Singapore and confirmed the Office Bearers.


While we strongly support the use of the website to help manage the Conference there were some problems with its administration and maintenance that made it difficult to register changes and additions in the lead up to the Conference.  This became very important after 9/11 when concern to respond to the issue of terrorism became salient. 

The Division was able to respond by offering a pre-conference workshop, led by Di Bretherton and Mike Wessells, which was well attended, highly evaluated and contributed to IAAP funds. We would like to thank Lyn Chua for her help in administering this workshop.  However, two important suggestions for addresses (by Jose Prieto and Mike Wessells) on terrorism were submitted to the website but omitted from the program. Mike Wessells excellent talk was slotted in at the last moment, but did not receive the formal recognition and publicity it deserved. The talk by Jose Prieto, to everyone’s loss, was not scheduled.


During the past decade there has been an association between the Division of Political Psychology of the IAAP and the Committee for the Psychological Study of Peace (CPSP) of the International Union of Psychological Science (IUPsS). The parent bodies rotate meetings every second year and in the intervening years the CPSP holds a much smaller Symposium on the contributions of psychology to social process such as reconstruction after conflict, reconciliation and peace building. This is a highly productive association in that it allows for continuity, enabling an annual meeting for at least some members.  Between these meetings people can keep in contact through the CPSP list serve, which is maintained by Takehiko Ito in Japan, and the IAAP Board members’ list serve. Meetings through related associations such as Division 48 of the American Psychological Association reinforce these links.


As acknowledged by debates on the IAAP list serve it is challenging to maintain a truly global focus. Academics from well-funded universities in more affluent countries have greater opportunity to attend international gatherings, than do those from poorer countries.  Hence the practice of holding conferences and symposia in different countries is, among other things, a means of bringing international psychology to psychologists in different parts of the world by turn.


In this sense one of the key contributions to better global understanding and the reduction of armed conflict and political violence, was in my view the fact that holding ICAP in Singapore allowed a contingent of Indonesian psychologists to attend. Indonesia is the world’s most populous Muslim country and is making a substantial effort to build conflict resolution programs, but in the past Indonesian psychologists have been under-represented in IAAP and IUPsS conferences by economic considerations.


Since this meeting in Singapore the Centre of which I am the Director, the International Conflict Resolution Centre (ICRC), has been able to build on the contact that was made in Singapore. Indonesia is Australia’s closest neighbour but in the past we have not had many exchanges psychology staff and students.  In 2003 the ICRC obtained funding from the Australian Government to bring a delegation of Indonesian psychologists to attend the University of Melbourne’s 150th Anniversary Flagship Conference on “International Perspectives on Peace and Reconciliation and study conflict resolution with other delegates from the Asia Pacific Region. Hamdi Muluk visited us for 3 months from the University of Indonesia’s Psychology Department and this year Yayah Khisbiyah has a scholarship for a three year PhD program in Psychology at the University of Melbourne. The Division’s ICAP program for 2006 includes an invited symposium on Peace Psychology in Indonesia, to be chaired by Hamdi Muluk and the ICRC has undertaken to assist the Indonesians in their efforts to raise the money to come to Athens.


I am sorry that family pressures have led to the need for me to resign as President of the Division. Klaus Boehnke will take over this role. He has already been added to the IAAP list serve and will attend the Board meetings in Beijing. He will also, of course, give the Presidential Address in Athens and this will need to be noted as a program change. The invited speakers are Mike Wessells (USA) who will speak on Post-Conflict Reconstruction for Peace: Contributions of Western and Indigenous Psychologies and Cheryl de la Rey (South Africa). The second invited symposium, to be convened by Amanda Allan (Australia), is on the topic of the Psychosocial Care of Humanitarian Aid Workers.


Form my experience as a member and office bearer I would make three recommendations:

1)     It is important to support and further develop the association between the Division of Political Psychology of the IAAP and the Committee for the Psychological Study of Peace of the IUPsS. While the academic fit is not without some rough edges at a pragmatic level the association enables annual face-to-face meetings and provides continuity. Inclusion of psychologists for poorer areas and conflict zones and long-term relationship building.

2)     It is important to support and further develop systems that enhance electronic communication between meetings eg the IAAP list serve for Board members and the CPSP list serve to help keep contact between face-to-face meetings.

3)     It may be more useful to employ mentoring strategies, which reach out to and guide new members (such as the building of Indonesian participation described above) rather than holding recruiting drives to increase membership.


In conclusion I would like to thank Jose Prieto for his understanding, support, advice and guidance.