Celebrating 75 years of SPSSI’s Engagement at the United Nations for Human Rights and Social Justice
Yasmin Hussein, Graduate Student, Fordham University
On October 20th, 2022, at the Church Center of the United Nations, SPSSI’s UN/NGO team held a civil society event, celebrating SPSSI’s 75 years of engagement at the UN. This event was co-sponsored by the APA Division 52 (International Psychology); the Psychological Coalition of NGOs at the UN (PCUN); and SPSSI New York. Since SPSSI’s obtainment of NGO status with the Department of Public Information in 1987 and achieving consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in 1991, SPSSI has continued to work towards advancing social justice and human rights. This event was held in order to not only recognize SPSSI’s history, but also the individuals, UN entities, and members of civil society who have worked with the team to achieve these goals.
Dr. David Livert, SPSSI UN Main Representative, opened the event, welcoming all who attended. A moment of silence was held in recognition of land and human rights violations, led by Dr. Sheri Levy, SPSSI UN Representative. Following this, a brief presentation was given, highlighting some of SPSSIs major accomplishments and collaborations, such as the teams work with UNESCO, membership in CoNGO, and role in founding PCUN. Speakers for this event included Ambassador Maritza Chan of the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica; Mr. Rio Hada, Chief of the Equality, Development, and Rule of Law Section; Lily Gray, Senior Liaison Office for UNESCO; Daniel Seymour, UN Women; Levi Bautista, President for CoNGO ; Patrick Sciarratta, President of Global NGO Executive Committee; Houry Geudelekian, Chair of the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, and Dr. Florence Denmark, International Council of Psychologists. Speakers were introduced by members of the SPSSI UN team: Dr. Corann Okorodudu, Dr. Deborah Fish Ragin, and Dr. Harold Cook.
Following the keynote speakers, SPSSI President Dr. Abigail Stewart spoke on the rich history of SPSSI, highlighting important figures like the early president of SPSSI, Otto Klineberg, and organizations SPSSI has worked with (i.e., UNESCO, UNICEF, APA). To honor the work of those who advance social justice at the UN and the international community, awards were presented to the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica at the UN, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNESCO, and the NGO Committee on the Status of Women. For their significant contributions across many decades to SPSSI and the UN, special recognition was given to retiring SPSSI UN team members, Dr. Rachel Ravich and Dr. Pete Walker as well as to current SPSSI UN team members, Dr. Harold Cook, Dr. Joseph DeMeyer, and Dr. Corann Okorodudu. SPSSI Youth Representatives Alison Goldberg, Yasmin Hussein, and Dr. Anni Sternisko-Wang gave closing remarks thanking the team for the work they have done and the support they have provided in their graduate careers including future endeavors in work related to social justice at the UN. The event ended with a heartwarming toast by Anila Balkissoon, Executive Director of SPSSI. For their superb coordination and support of the 75th Celebration Event, gratitude is extended to SPSSI’s Central Office Team of Anila Balkissoon (Executive Director), Sarah Mancoll (Policy Director), and Justin Belsley (Administrative Manager).