Psychology Day 2010: Psychology and Diplomacy: Negotiating for Peace and Human Rights

Psychologists and UN staff hear about the contributions of psychology to diplomacy, peacekeeping and disaster response.

Psychology Day at the UNThe 2010 Psychology Day at the United Nations almost didn’t happen. Plans were set, speakers engaged, but the UN rooms for hosting the event evaporated at the last moment, sending the multi-organization planning committee into fast gear to secure a new venue. However, despite room and date changes and challenges in publicizing the event at short notice, the ballroom at the Millenium Hotel in New York was full, and the program was dynamic, giving the 150+ attendees much to learn and contemplate from speakers addressing psychology and diplomacy.

The program began with opening remarks from Florence Denmark, former APA representative to the UN, and currently Main Representative for the International Council of Psychologists. She sketched for the audience the lineup of speakers and opportunities for interaction and conversation.

The speakers addressed different aspects of psychology and negotiation. Harvey Langholtz, Fellow at the United National Institute for Training and Research, spoke on The Psychology of Peacekeeping, stating that this was a propitious time for psychology to show its utility in the peacekeeping process. Riet Kroeze (Medair Netherlands) and Judy Kuriansky (Main Representative for IAAP) described issues that arise during post-disaster interventions. Daniel Shapiro, Harvard Negotiation Project, spoke of his extensive experience in advising nations and peacekeeping missions, and raised a cogent model of the dimensions that evoke emotions surrounding negotiations. The last two speakers, Johnston Barkat, UN Ombudsman and Karen Sealey, Special Advisor to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), discussed community rebuilding within the UN community and beyond, with special reference to Haiti.

Chair of the sessions included representatives from APA and the International Association for Applied Psychology (IAAP). Psychology Day is planned by a committee with representation from each of the psychology organizations represented at the UN.

Following the full afternoon participants met for a cocktail reception at a local restaurant.