This article focuses on the Health Bridges for Peace project launched by IRSS in 1996. The project uses a shared concern, namely the restoration of public health, as a vehicle to convene, engage, and train health care professionals in conflict management and community reconciliation techniques. Also, after training the professionals, the project helps them design and implement intercommunal activities that integrate community reconciliation and conflict prevention strategies into health care delivery. The project’s first field program has taken the form of the Medical Network for Social Reconstruction, which connects all parts of the former Yugoslavia.
The article also describes the Health Bridges strategy, which deliberately integrates conflict management with other humanitarian efforts in an “integrated action” program. Through integrated action, conflicting parties are brought together to work on a humanitarian or development program that involves superordinate goals, and are provided with significant, concrete incentives for cooperation. At the same time, the humanitarian program receives the benefit of conflict management training expertise. Essential principles for integrating health initiatives with community reconciliation in a systematic and sustainable manner, as has been done in the former Yugoslavia, are also included in the article.