One of the essential roles of the APA president is to serve as the face of American psychology. Nowhere is that role more important than as APA's ambassador in international settings. No association today, including APA, can view itself as exclusively national in scope. The issues we address are global. The proliferation of mass shootings, civil wars, and worldwide terrorism and the plight of women and girls in many countries are just a few examples. The expertise we need to address these issues is both international and local.
To promote an inclusive and comprehensive science, we need to move beyond current models in which American data, theories and research dominate the literature and are viewed as universally generalizable. By listening to others from across the globe, we can discover innovative ways to address the challenges facing psychology.
APA acts internationally through three avenues: its Committee on International Relations in Psychology (CIRP), Office of International Affairs (OIA) and Div. 52 (International). CIRP was established in 1944 to advise those who were rebuilding their psychology laboratories and libraries damaged during World War II. Today CIRP's mission is to advise APA on policies and programs that foster interaction, promote an international perspective within psychology and advance the use of knowledge globally. In the past, CIRP took stands against apartheid in South Africa, abuses in Greek mental hospitals, and human rights violations by psychologists in Chile and the former U.S.S.R.
The goals of the OIA are to support the development of programs, initiatives and policies to promote international exchange, collaboration, and partnership among psychology organizations and individual psychologists. The office also supports sustained APA representation in international psychology and policy settings and provides service to the several thousand APA members and affiliates who live outside the United States and Canada. The office encourages interaction between APA and other national psychology associations, supports APA's non-governmental representation at the United Nations, and manages APA's contribution to the revision of the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10).
Div. 52 seeks to encourage its members' participation in international research, to discuss effective assessment and treatment models in diverse cultures, and to better understand the psychological problems that predominate in a given region of the world. It aims to promote international exchange, interaction and information.
One important way that APA promotes international collaboration is through the signing of memoranda of understanding with our counterparts in other countries. To date, APA has such agreements with the national psychological associations of Australia, China, Colombia, Guatemala, Jordan, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, Spain, and the United Kingdom — and I was privileged to represent APA at signing ceremonies with Sweden and Portugal this year. These agreements articulate the mutual goals of psychology associations and pledge the signatories to communicate regularly and consider the development of joint activities.
This year in my role as APA's ambassador, I was pleased to represent the association at the meetings of the Norwegian Psychological Association in Oslo, the Fifth International Conference on Licensing, Credentialing, and Certification in Stockholm (where we discussed common competencies of psychologists throughout the world), the European Congress of Psychology in Stockholm (where I moderated a panel on international perspectives on law and psychology), the Society of InterAmerican Psychology in Brasilia (where I gave a keynote address on privacy, culture and violence), and the Colombian Psychology Association in Bogota (where I discussed APA's policies on violence, particularly violence with firearms). One quite pleasant revelation that I gleaned from these visits is how admired and respected APA is throughout the world.
APA's presence at international conferences is of utmost importance in promoting the association as an international entity and in enabling APA to learn from other countries. In an era of inevitable globalization, it is essential that APA continue to promote our international outreach and collaboration.
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