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David Livert

Chair, SPSSI UN Committee


Bringing the UN to SPSSI and SPSSI Members to the UN: The Multifaceted Educational Role of SPSSI’s United Nations Committee

In varying capacities, SPSSI members have been involved with the United Nations since shortly after its founding in the late 1940s. Many SPSSI members are aware of the work of Otto Klineberg at the United Nations and in international affairs in general. Klineberg, a noted scholar and former SPSSI president, is celebrated by SPSSI’s Klineberg International Relations award. Since the late 1980s, SPSSI has maintained a team at the United Nations (Cherry et al., 2011). The SPSSI team is accredited by the UN Economic and Social Council as well as the UN Department of Public Information. Your SPSSI UN team has organized a number of side events at United Nations gatherings and authored many policy statements.  It has played an instrumental role in the development of Psychology Day at the UN and the establishment of the Psychology Coalition of NGOs Accredited at the UN (PCUN). Members of SPSSI’s UN team (graduate student interns included) hold UN grounds passes and participate in a breadth of activities at the New York Headquarters.

One of the key functions of the SPSSI UN team is to raise awareness of United Nations activities and opportunities among the SPSSI membership. In previous Forward columns, we have written about the importance of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals: 17 goals adopted by all member nations of the United Nations that promote social development, social justice, and sustainability of the planet. SPSSI members may not be aware of the opportunities for participation in the annual meetings of United Nations Commissions at the New York UN headquarters. Member states, UN staff, and civil society (represented by NGOs such as SPSSI) participate in these events which include key presentations, reports, and dialogue among member nations, side events organized and led by the NGO community, and parallel social and cultural activities.

SPSSI members are invited to attend these annual Commission meetings, learn, and share your expertise and passion. SPSSI’s UN team can assist SPSSI members in obtaining access to Commission events, be a guide as you attend functions at the UN, and certainly join you for coffee or lunch. We would like to call upon SPSSI members to work with the SPSSI UN team to create Written Statements (policy statements which become part of the official record of the commissions) and to develop parallel events (such as educational panel discussions) that the SPSSI team can sponsor at the UN.

Take a moment to review the list of upcoming commissions and consider a visit to New York. Email David Livert ( with any questions about the SPSSI UN team or the UN in general.

The HLPF will focus on the cross-cutting issues of Quality Education, Decent Work, Reducing Inequalities, Building Peaceful, Just, and Strong Institutions, and Climate Action. SPSSI is developing two potential parallel events for the HLPF.

Over the next few Forward issues, we will also provide an update regarding each of the SPSSI UN team members. Here is an update from Dr. Rachel Ravich.

On September 26, 2018, Dr. Ravich attended the event “Time to Act on Global Mental Health: Building Momentum on Mental Health in the SDG Era.” This was the first time that an event on Mental Health took place during the session of the UN General Assembly, marking a new era for global awareness regarding mental health issues and cooperation for developing strategies to address them. It was sponsored by the World Health Organization, several UN Missions and NGOs, including the Psychology Coalition at the UN, of which SPSSI is a founding member.

We should note that two other SPSSI UN NGO Representatives, Joseph DeMeyer and Corann Okorodudu, have served on the Executive Committee of the NGO Committee on Mental Health, which worked with WHO on bringing mental health and psychosocial wellbeing concerns into developments at the UN. These pioneering efforts culminated in the inclusion of well-being, mental health and mental health services under SDG#4 of the UN 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The September 26 event included video addresses by the UN Secretary General and the Queen of Belgium, and panel presentations by among others, the Director General of the WHO, Ministers of Health, UN Representatives, and several Mental Health advocates. The event underscored the shared responsibility of expanding access to mental health care and the necessity of integrating mental health care strategies in development planning.

In July, Dr. Ravich attended several sessions of the 2018 High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), the multi-stakeholder gathering that shares lessons learned and challenges in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  Its theme was “Transformation towards Sustainable and Resilient Societies.” 46 countries gave Voluntary National Reviews, sharing their progress related to 6 out of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: Water and Sanitation for All (SD#6), Sustainable Energy (SDG #7), Cities & Human Settlements (SDG#11), Sustainable Consumption and Production (SDG #12), Terrestrial Ecosystems (SDG#15), and Global Partnership for the Sustainable Goals (SDG #17).  The HLPF included multiple events that included a partnership exchange, a business forum, and SDG learning workshops. Dr. Ravich attended the workshop on “Advancing the 2030 Agenda in a Context of Uncertainty: The Use of Strategic Foresight for Adaptive and Future-Ready SDG Strategies.” The workshop presented tools for planning in fast paced digital economies.

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