In one of its first functions in officially working with the United Nations (U.N.), APA recently joined other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in advising the U.S. State Department on policy for the U.N.'s upcoming special session on children and adolescents (see related Monitor article).
In a briefing preparatory to the Sept. 19-21 U.N. General Assembly, APA Board of Directors member Laura Barbanel, EdD, told State Department officials that mental health issues are not only important to health, but also to the family, the schools and the community.
The briefing, chaired by State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs Michael Southwick, included comments from several dozen organizations concerned with children's issues, including health, education, disabilities, violence and child labor.
The Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly will produce a global agenda devoted to three outcomes for children: the best possible start in life, a good-quality basic education and opportunities for children and adolescents to have meaningful participation in their communities.
APA was granted nongovernmental status with the United Nations at the first of this year, after a year-long application process. NGO status, which has been part of U.N. structure for decades, allows nongovernmental, nonprofit public or voluntary organizations to serve as advisers to governments and the U.N. Secretariat, participate in meetings and advocate for particular actions.
Barbanel noted that the interrelationship of mental health with many of the issues the NGO representatives discussed at the briefing illustrates the importance of APA's move to become an NGO. "Psychology has a particular mission and it is wise for us to be involved where health care is on the agenda to be sure that mental health is included," she noted.
APA representatives in New York are working in preparation for the session on children. They also organized a special symposium in conjunction with the June 25-27 U.N. Special Session on AIDS. The association is sending an official NGO delegation to the World Conference Against Racism, in Durban, South Africa, Aug. 31-Sept. 7.