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APA Passes Resolution Against Genocide

The APA Council of Representatives adopted as APA policy a Resolution Against Genocide which was co-sponsored by the Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP) and the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA), who developed it in response to the ongoing humanitarian and political crises in the Darfur region of the Sudan.

by Psychology International Staff

The APA Council of Representatives adopted as APA policy a Resolution Against Genocide. The resolution was co-sponsored by the Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP) and the Committee on Ethnic Minority Affairs (CEMA), who developed it in response to the ongoing humanitarian and political crises in the Darfur region of the Sudan.  At the time the resolution was written approximately 400,000 people had been killed, countless women and children raped, and over 2.5 million people displaced, and the US Congress and the President declared the violence in Darfur to be “genocide.” 

APA has a history of advocating for victims of violence nationally through the US Congress and internationally through our representation at the United Nations.  This resolution joins APA’s other resolutions on such issues as violence against women, racism, and religious intolerance, to specifically address genocide.  As researchers, practitioners, and educators, and advisors, psychologists can raise awareness about the psychological causes and consequences of genocide, as well as the role psychologists can play in promoting justice and peace-making.

Although the global community is committed to preventing the many atrocities committed across human history from occurring, it has not been able to eradicate genocide. Along with other social scientists who have sought to study and address this issue, psychologists are in a distinct position to enhance the world’s understanding of the factors that contribute to and help prevent mass violence and genocide.  The resolution is one tool for psychologists.

How to Use the Resolution
There are many ways in which psychologists can use this resolution to effectively combat genocide. Psychological science provides knowledge that can help mitigate the severe effects of genocide and inform efforts in genocide prevention. The causes and consequences of genocide have also been a focus of psychological study. Genocide can be situated in psychological theories and studies of violence, trauma, prejudice, discrimination, racism, (forced) migration, and xenophobia. Genocide is also best understood within its cultural context of intersecting identities, including the targets and perpetrators’ race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ability status, and socio-economic status. 

Psychologists can also help to elucidate the mental health impact of genocide including but not limited to depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. They also have a unique research based perspective on the cognitions and behaviors of genocide targets and perpetrators. General psychological theories help the public understand how mere observation of genocide without action can affect groups and populations (the “bystander effect”). 

This resolution fills a unique void for governments and members of the general public by providing a psychological context for understanding the causes, effects, and potential solutions to the crises associated with genocide.  While other fields such as political science, economics, and sociology can shed light on the experience of genocide, psychology is uniquely able to connect the experience of genocide from the perspective of perpetrators, victims, and by-standers.  This additional knowledge base is key to completing full assessment of crisis areas where genocides are in process, as well as in regions that are living in the aftermath of genocide. 

The resolution can be useful as a quick summary sheet for psychologists providing consultation to humanitarian organizations and governments that are seeking to comprehend and respond to genocide. Finally this resolution can be used in the training of future psychologists in courses such as Trauma and Violence; Abnormal Psychology; Culture and Psychology; Clinical Psychology; International Psychology; Psychology of Gender; and Peace Psychology. To access the full text of the resolution, please visit this Web page.