2013 Psychology Day at the UN: A broad look at global violence

The 6th Annual Psychology Day focused on violence prevention across the life span, its impact on development and strategies for intervention.

The 6th Annual Psychology Day at the United Nations took a step further in raising the visibility of psychology in efforts to address current issues at the U.N.

The event opened with greetings from the U.N. Secretariat, read by the co-chairs of the Psychology Day Planning Committee. In the welcome message (PDF, 16KB), U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson wrote: “The growing involvement of your profession in the work of the international community is matched by the U.N.’s rising appreciation for the role that psychology can play in responding to global challenges...We at the United Nations look forward to learning more about your work and finding scope for your expertise to be utilized. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and I thank you for your support and wish you a stimulating and productive day.”

Seated: Walter Reichman (Psychology Day Co-Chair), Neal Rubin, Julia da Silva, Bonnie Nastasi (CIRP Co-Chair); Standing: Judy Kuriansky, Ava Thompson, Merry Bullock, Roseanne Flores, Telma Viale, Lori Foster Thompson, Corann Okorodudu, John Scott (Psychology Day Co-Chair)The Planning Committee co-chairs, John C. Scott (representative for the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology, SIOP) and Walter Reichmann (representative for the International Association of Applied Psychology, IAAP) continued by welcoming an audience that filled the room to capacity and congratulating the many organizations accredited to the U.N. for bringing Psychology Day to fruition. They introduced the broad topic of the day and the distinguished speakers.

The theme for the 2013 Psychology Day was “Psychology and Violence in the Global Context: Antecedents, Consequences and Prevention.” Presentations included a keynote address, followed by two panels and an open audience discussion that together covered violence across the lifespan.

Theresa Betancourt, Harvard School of Public Health, gave the keynote talk on “Addressing the consequences of war: Using longitudinal research to develop interventions for war-affected youth.” She painted a broad picture of the demographics of children and youth involved in armed conflict and described some of her work, based on a broad ecological perspective, to address the mental and physical health issues of these vulnerable victims.

The first of the two panel discussions focused on children and youth. It included presentations from Julia da Silva, director of APA’s Violence Prevention Office, who described training efforts to bring violence prevention programs to parents, schools and communities; from Ava Thompson, College of the Bahamas and a representative from the International Union for Psychological Science, who spoke on the disproportional effects of majority world violence on youth development; and from Joost Kooijmans, special assistant to the special representative of the U.N. secretary-general on Violence Against Children, who talked about ongoing efforts to address violence at the country level.

The second panel covered adults and ageing, and included talks by Mary Crawford, University of Connecticut, on sex trafficking in South Asia; from Shamita Das Dasgupta, New York University Law School and founder of a non-profit organization to support actions against domestic violence, who spoke on domestic violence in the South Asian immigrant community; and from Rosemary Lane, senior social affairs officer of the Focal Point on Ageing in the U.N. Division for Social Policy and Development, who spoke on violence against older persons.

The lively discussion following each of the two panels, as well as the closing remarks by Florence Denmark (U.N. representative for the International Council of Psychologists) and Neal Rubin (U.N. representative for APA) further emphasized the important roles for psychology-based models of conflict and intervention strategies to address the many forms of violence across the lifespan.

This event, the 6th Annual Psychology Day at the United Nations, was organized by a planning committee that included representatives and student interns from the many psychology organizations accredited to the U.N., and was sponsored by 19 national and international psychology organizations. The full Psychology Day program and additional information on APA’s U.N. representation is available online.