Center for International Stabilization & Recovery

CISR envisions a world where people can build peaceful and prosperous futures free from the repercussions of conflict and disaster.

We help communities affected by conflict and trauma through innovative and reliable research, training, information exchange, and direct services such as:

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Posts tagged "Cameron Macauley"

CISR raises peer-support awareness in USCRI panel on Syrian refugee crisis 

On Friday, May 23, CISR Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist Cameron Macauley participated in a concluding panel for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI)’s annual National Network Conference. The panel, from 10:45 a.m. to 12:15 p.m., featured presentations from three experts on Syrian refugees: Macauley; Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees’ (UNHCR) Senior Advisor for Government Relations and External Affairs Jana Mason; and National Geographic journalist and activist Aziz Abu Sarah (also a director at the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy, and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University). USCRI president Lavinia Limon facilitated the panel, which consisted of presentations and a 20-minute Q&A. Before introducing the panelists, Limon spoke of her visit to a camp in Jordan, stating, “I came away absolutely incensed at the terrible things these people had gone through and incensed at the national response. We’re living through a period where horror is happening … all while we’re at a conference.”

As the initial speaker, Mason provided an in-depth overview of the refugee situation in Syria to date. According to Mason, there are currently 2.8 million registered Syrian refugees, and UNHCR is prepared for 4 million before the end of the year. There is no end in sight to the conflict, and thus no foreseeable drop in refugee flow. In addition to these registered numbers, there are 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), totaling more than 9 million persons of concern. As a result, Syrian refugees and IDPs are UNHCR’s largest population of concern globally. UNHCR relief agencies and partners are forced to do vulnerability assessments when providing services. “You can only imagine how difficult it is making a vulnerability assessment when everybody is vulnerable,” Mason lamented. She also iterated several times that “this is a children’s refugee crisis.” Mason concluded, “we need development assistance now—not waiting until the crisis is over. These [host] countries need support in order to ensure that they do not close their borders to future refugees.”

In follow-up to Mason’s overview of the refugee crisis, Macauley provided an examination of psychological trauma in these refugees and how “refugees enter these camps with traumatic experiences, and then these camps provided additional layers of trauma.” When entering the camps, refugees may have post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses not currently being treated. Once there, refugees may not have access to services, or even if they do, “every aspect of socialization has been affected.” From Macauley’s research, he reports that many refugees do not feel safe even after reaching camps. The Syrian conflict has specifically seen an unparalleled amount and level of sexual violence, which Macauley explains that both sides use as a weapon. He then discusses the cultural barriers impeding healing and notes that “in a society where victims of violence are further victimized, women are forced to bury their experiences.” In order to help, Macauley has facilitated trainings on providing peer support in other countries, and CISR hopes to implement this in Iraq.

The last speaker, Abu Sarah, presented the results of an article he wrote for National Geographic: “Five Things I Learned in Syrian Refugees.” Abu Sarah covered five revelations:

  1.  Many refugees are not counted.
  2.  The host countries are in crisis.
  3. Children’s education is neglected.
  4. Many Syrian refugees are still in Syria.
  5. Refugee camps are like a prison.

Abu Sarah expounded upon each point and provided anecdotes from his experiences traveling to multiple camps and conducting interviews. In his presentation, he urged the conference audience to “listen to the stories, because sometimes the numbers can be overwhelming. When it gets that way, really go back and listen to the stories, because everybody has one, and it reminds us that these are more than numbers—they’re people.”

Lastly, the session featured a Q&A panel. Several questions for Macauley focused on the role and balance of psychological support, based on the tumultuous conditions. In response, Macauley emphasized the importance of peer support, which could be carried wherever peer mentors traveled, thus hopefully resulting in a larger impact. 

Sami Noble
James Madison University Class of 2015
Master of Public Administration
Intern at Center for International Stabilization and Recovery

In a panel discussion on the long-lasting psychosocial effects of conflict that remain long after peace is declared, local trauma specialists and a genocide survivor from Burundi will share their experiences, featuring the Director of Strategies for Trauma Awareness and Resilience at Eastern Mennonite University, Elaine Zook Barge, CISR Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist Cameron Macauley, survivor Jean Claude Nkundwa and James Madison University's Dr. Anne Stewart.

April 2 | 7-8:30 p.m. | ISAT 159 | Light refreshments to follow

CISR’s director, Dr. Ken Rutherford, and trauma rehabilitation specialist, Cameron Macauley, arrived this evening (February 28) in Iraq with a late-night walk about Erbil to shake off jet lag.

They are preparing for a scoping mission centered on unexploded ordnance and landmine-risk education for Syrian refugees in Northern Iraq based on a CISR arts-based program that includes survivors and people with disabilities


On November 17, CISR’s Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist was invited to present the findings of a peer-support study at Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic Church in Tucson, AZ.
The occasion was the opening of the U.S. office of CEDAC (the French acronym for the Training Center for the Development of Ex-Combatants), a Burundian NGO that helps former soldiers and victims of war-related violence. The U.S. office in Tucson will raise funds to support CEDAC’s activities in Burundi.
Since 2005 CEDAC has provided services, including the collection of small arms/light weapons, in Muramvya in north-central Burundi. In 2012 CEDAC established a peer-support program with the help of CISR and Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based nongovernmental organization.
CISR just finished analyzing data gathered in a survey of people who received CEDAC’s peer-support services and compared it to a control group. Both groups were surveyed in July of 2012 and then again one year later, after half of them had received 12 months of peer support. The results show conclusively that peer support improves mental health: Using a psychometric test created by the World Health Organization, 79 percent of those who received peer support were “recovering” as opposed to only 57 percent of the control group. The full results of the study will be published sometime next year.
“We are pleased that CISR is able to present these positive results at the inauguration of our U.S. office,” said Eric Niragira, CEDAC’s President and co-founder. “We hope that people who hear this presentation will be inspired to support CEDAC with donations.”
“There is a large and very generous Burundian refugee community in Tucson,” explained Eduard Hakizimana, the director of CEDAC’s U.S. office. “Most of them arrived here having lost everything. Now they own homes and businesses, and they are interested in giving back.”

International Law, Politics and Inhumane Weapons: The Effectiveness of Global Landmine Regimes

by Alan Bryden

Routledge, 17 August 2012

ISBN-13: 978-0415622059 


The central question Bryden asks in International Law, Politics and Inhumane Weapons: The Effectiveness of Global Landmine Regimes is whether treaties controlling the manufacture, stockpiling and use of landmines have succeeded in reducing the horrific effects of victim-detonated explosives around the world. Bryden comes to this topic through his work: first at the British Ministry of Defence, then as a project manager for the Department for International Development and most recently as a security analyst for the Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces. Bryden calls into question the assumption that “adherence to and observation of treaty provisions will generate mine action payoffs that improve the lives of people living with landmines.”

Through regime theory, the study of international rules and their influence on the behavior of states, Bryden analyzes the history and impact of two landmine treaties: the 1996 Amended Protocol II (APII) of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May Be Deemed to Be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects and the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention or APMBC). He notes that APMBC grew out of an unprecedented movement composed mainly of nongovernmental organizations, and many governments jumped onto the bandwagon without clearly understanding their responsibilities. Implementation, he says, “provides the litmus test of whether states’ willingness to cut a positive international figure by joining a regime with evident humanitarian credentials is matched by the political will to accept the costs associated with their new obligations.”

The book places modern mine-control efforts within the historical context of previous arms-control initiatives such as the 1925 Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous or Other Gases, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (Geneva Protocol) and the Hague Declaration 3 (the Hague Conventionof 1899 prohibiting the use ofexpanding bullets).1,2 “Over time,” says Bryden, “these two historical regimes have proved effective in raising the political costs of continued use [of inhumane weaponry].” Bryden is also fascinated by the differences and similarities of the mine action-related protocols (such as APII) and APMBC, two distinctly separate documents created through unrelated processes but with similar objectives.

However, Bryden feels that the final form of APMBC was influenced heavily by a desire for consensus and that some provisions of the convention were unrealistic for developing nations most heavily affected by landmines. For Bryden, a troubling gap exists between the government actors and international bodies who design the landmine conventions and the mine action field workers who see the daily effects of landmines on human life—and for whom the conventions appear to have changed little on the ground. He identifies humanitarian concerns as “the driving motor that led to the rapid formation of” the APMBC, yet “elements of the mine action community are—quite deliberately—detaching themselves from implementation because their interests lie in mine action and not in the regime per se.”

Bryden is deeply critical of the lack of international oversight related to compliance, saying: “The absence of strong verification and monitoring provisions within either landmine regime raises questions over their ability to evolve, with evident considerations for effectiveness.” He describes persistent difficulties in identifying mined areas, which in turn impede states parties’ ability to adhere to clearance deadlines, and he claims that some states parties deliberately suppress information in order to appear compliant with the treaty. In addition, he notes that because humanitarian demining consumes significant resources, as the number of landmines in an area diminishes, authorities have incentive to terminate demining before 100 percent clearance is achieved. He also feels that the fanfare around stockpile destruction may serve to disguise lack of compliance in other more important areas.

The book concludes with a concise summary of the disjunctions between treaty goals and mine action priorities. Bryden argues that the numbers produced by those implementing the treaties do not reflect the humanitarian impact; in fact, they often camouflage the lack of progress for people living in small mine-affected communities. He maintains that mine action practitioners are developing better analytical and information-gathering skills while the “regime implementation cluster is unable to bridge the gap between adequate and effective resources.”

Bryden warns that the conventions’ inherent flaws threaten to disintegrate international support for them, endangering future initiatives to control the use of weapons that cause unnecessary suffering. He points to those in the field who understand the realities of mine action, the “epistemic community” that can offer recommendations for effective mine clearance and victim assistance. By paying closer attention to the needs and benefits of the mine-affected, he says, we can do away with distractions and regain the original vision of the APMBC. [Insert JMA icon]

~ Cameron Macauley, CISR staff


  1. “1925 Geneva Protocol.” United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs. Accessed 7 June 2013.
  2. “The 1899 Hague Declaration concerning expanding bullets: A treaty effective for more than 100 years faces complex contemporary issues.” ICRC. Accessed 7 June 2013.

CISR Supports Expansion of Peer Support Activities to Burundi’s Capital

In April, CISR Peer Support Specialist Cameron Macauley returned to Burundi to assist in the training of new peer support workers for a program expansion into Bujumbura, Burundi’s capital. CISR’s Burundian partner since 2010, CEDAC (Center for the Education and Development for Ex-Combatants) operates a highly successful program for survivors of war-related violence in Muramvya, a community about 20 miles east of the capital. CEDAC’s peer-support workers provide counseling and psychosocial support to survivors who are recovering from traumatic experiences suffered during Burundi’s civil conflict, which ended in 2006.

With support from CISR, CEDAC implemented a new monitoring and evaluation system last June to assess the results of its work with 363 survivors. Preliminary data suggests that CEDAC’s services are overwhelmingly successful, with 99 percent of survivors reporting positive changes in their lives as a direct result of peer support.

With generous assistance from Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based nongovernmental organization, CEDAC will begin providing services in Bujumbura, where thousands of war survivors still need assistance. This most recent training prepared 30 women with disabilities to offer peer support in the capital. CEDAC’s supervisors were also trained to respond to issues related to disability, such as discrimination, domestic violence, and lack of access to schools, clinics and government buildings. Participants also learned how to help survivors overcome low self-esteem and how to build self-confidence.

“With help from CISR and AOAV we hope to eventually become a national organization,” said Eric Niragira, CEDAC’s executive director. “We look forward to the day when all war survivors can participate fully in Burundian society.”


~ Cameron Macauley, CISR Peer Support and Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist

Supervision of Peer Support Program for Burundi War Survivors Reveals Early Benefits

During the first week of October, CISR Peer Support Specialist Cameron Macauley visited Burundi to supervise the peer support program operated in conjunction with Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and the Center for Development of Ex-Combatants (CEDAC). The trip included individual visits to war survivors receiving peer support services and a first look at a survey of 756 residents of communities in Muramvya, a province in northwest Burundi.

When the survey data is analyzed, it will provide a snapshot of mental health in this population, which was severely affected by war-related violence during the 15-year conflict. Survivors describe mass executions, rape, torture and forced conscription. Very little has been done to help survivors deal with their psychological trauma.

The peer support program consists of home visits by 30 peer support workers and has been in operation since June 2012. Survivors give enthusiastically positive opinions of the services they received. “No one showed much interest in my problems until the peer support worker began to visit me,” said Joseph Ntawanka, a 70-year-old who was the lone survivor of a massacre in which 32 people died. “Now I have help in solving my problems, and I am thinking in new ways about the past. I have hope that the future will be better.”

“I have been lonely and sad since I lost my arm during the violence that devastated my community,” said Languide Nsabiyumva. “A woman with one arm is nobody—people act as if she doesn’t exist. But my peer support worker cares about me, wants me to feel better. She has made me think about myself differently. When I talk to her I feel as if my life has meaning once again.”

For peer support workers the days are long and strenuous: Many homes are remote and accessible only on foot. However, the rewards of helping others make every step worthwhile. “Even when I’m not working, I think about the people that I’m trying to help,” said Candide Nsabiyumva. “Knowing that I can make a difference in their lives is an inspiration for me.”

Monitoring and evaluation data collected by CEDAC on hundreds of survivors will be analyzed during the next few months and used to improve program activities during 2013. “Each day brings new refinements to this program,” says CEDAC Director Eric Niragira. “We look forward to expanding into new communities and eventually helping the entire nation. We are assisting each other to recover from Burundi’s violent past.”

~ Cameron Macauley, CISR Peer Support Specialist

CISR Implements Monitoring and Evaluation for Peer Support in Burundi

In partnership with the British NGO Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), CISR staff created a system to monitor and evaluate the impact of a psychosocial support program for victims of armed violence in Burundi. The program, operated by the Center for Development for Ex-Combatants (CEDAC), a Burundian NGO, has been in operation since 2009 but has recently received significant funding which will allow it to enlarge its administration and implement a new system for monitoring and evaluation.

Starting with a baseline survey of the target population, data is collected by the peer support workers (PSWs) who are trained in counseling but who also have a broad impact on community development. CEDAC now has four community animators and eight supervisors who will oversee the collection of information and data from the program’s beneficiaries. This will permit fine-tuning of the program by assessing the impact of peer support activities, such as peer support groups, income-generation, vocational training and peer counseling.

In August, CISR completed a training program for CEDAC’s program supervisors on how to collect, analyze and interpret data they receive from the PSWs.

“We have already started to see many positive outcomes from our psychosocial interventions,” said Eric Niragira, CEDAC’s president and CEO. “Victims of armed violence who believed that they would never recover from their experiences are now regaining their confidence and adopting a positive outlook on life. Information from the field gives us a clear view of what works and how to improve our program.”

CISR completes sixth and final peer-support workshop in Rwanda


On Wednesday, June 20, CISR handed out graduation certificates to 20 newly trained peer-support workers in Kamonyi, Rwanda. They will work with CISR’s partner organization, IBUKA, which coordinates the activities of other support organizations for genocide survivors. Thanks to CISR’s ongoing technical guidance, IBUKA now has 65 peer-support workers in 30 communities to the north, west and east of the capital, Kigali.

CISR also donated 200 mobile phones so that peer-support workers can keep in touch with their supervisors and contact health care professionals in the event of an emergency or to seek advice on handling psychological trauma.

The community of Kamonyi where this training was held was the scene of some of the worst massacres of the 1994 genocide. More than 90 percent of the Tutsi population died, according to participants in the training, and “the town’s main street ran red with blood.” Some perpetrators still await trial, but Rwanda’s traditional gacaca court system closed June 18 after operating for 10 years. Those awaiting trial will probably go through a standard judicial court, meaning further delays.

“These unresolved issues weigh heavily on the minds of survivors,” said Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, IBUKA’s president and professor of psychology at the National University of Rwanda. “Peer support gives survivors an opportunity to discuss their feelings, which reduces anger and bitterness that can lead to suicide and revenge killings. We encourage all Rwandans to live together peacefully, to take the past as a lesson and to learn positively from it. CISR’s support has helped us create a program that will make the people of Rwanda healthier and more resilient.”