Join Login


David Livert  

Maya Godbole



Advocacy for the Human Rights of Scientists:
SPSSI’s United Nations Committee at the AAAS Conference

David Livert, PhD, Chair, SPSSI UN Committee and Maya Godbole, SPSSI UN Committee Intern

The SPSSI United Nations (UN) NGO team had the opportunity to lead a workshop at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Science, Technology, and Human Rights Conference in October in Washington D.C. This annual conference, established ten years ago, seeks to engage scholars across science, engineering, health, and law in the promotion and protection of human rights. SPSSI’s UN team is accredited with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), as well as the UN Department of Global Communications. Our team seeks to educate and advocate UN members and affiliated bodies regarding the utility of psychological science in addressing social issues, as well as to share the work of the United Nations with SPSSI membership. (See our previous Forward column here to read more about our background and activities).

Facilitated by SPSSI’s Policy Director, Sarah Mancoll, our session addressed three main topics: 1) how organizations engage at UN; 2) advocacy at the UN; and 3) graduate student and youth engagement at the UN. We had approximately 80-90 people in attendance. Some informal polling indicated that we had attendees from psychology, sociology, political science, physics, and mathematics (among other fields) and a strong representation of individuals from various career stages. At the end of the panel, several groups reached out directly for further questions as they navigate their own NGO accreditation process or seek to get involved with the UN in varying capacities.

David Livert, main team representative, began the session with a brief introduction about how organizations engage at the United Nations. While most of the attendees were generally familiar with the structure of the United Nations, as well as the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) framework, few groups had undergone the official accreditation process to gain UN consultative status. David shared key information on how to apply for ECOSOC status—including completing the online application form and developing and collecting supporting documents.

Peter Walker, team representative, continued with a discussion on advocacy at the UN. He shared three case studies with the group: SPSSI years of activism at the UN (from 1989 to present), advocating at the UN for older persons and their rights, and addressing climate change at the UN. Peter shared how advocacy regarding each of these topics has changed over the years and underscored the importance of the “marathon, not sprint” approach to UN advocacy.

In the final session, Priyadharshany Sandanapitchai and Maya Godbole, team interns, along with Teresa Ober, former APA intern, led a session on youth and graduate student involvement at the UN. As graduate student interns, we have the unique opportunity to participate in a range of activities, both within our individual NGOs and the psychology coalition, as well as with other UN-affiliated bodies. Priya discussed her participation in the Global Climate Strike and the UNICEF Backpack Activation to bring awareness to the high rate of child deaths in conflict zones. Maya discussed her experience with proposing and organizing a SPSSI-sponsored parallel event at the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Teresa talked about her role in organizing and planning the annual Psychology Day at the UN. We each offered our own perspective on personal and professional growth as a result of the intern experience. We jokingly refer to this role as a “build-your-own-internship” – and it really is true!

Interested in learning about or becoming involved with the SPSSI UN Team? Visit the newly updated SPSSI United Nation webpage or contact David Livert

back to menu