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EFPA EMC 28/2019: Human Rights Day - Human rights of central importance for psychological practice

Human rights are of central importance for psychological practice

December 10th: International Human Rights Day


Tuesday 10th December 2019, marks Human Rights Day – the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The European Federation of Psychologists’ Associations EFPA celebrates the actions of all those throughout the world, psychologists among them, who act to protect human rights.

We also remember the many people, young and old, who are deprived of fundamental rights and are suffering from human rights violations.

Below are some examples of where psychology is playing a role in promoting and protecting human rights.

1. The impact of the climate and environmental emergency gets played out in a way that leads to those who have contributed least to climate change being affected the most – climate injustice indeed.

The ‘International Summit on Psychology and Global Health: A Leader in Climate Action’ (1) on November 14-16, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal brought together leaders in the field of psychology from nearly 40 countries from around the world to focus on elevating psychology’s role in addressing global climate change, specifically to help achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts and agreed on the need for immediate and urgent action.

2. Another important field of violation of Human Rights is the denial of women’s rights. As described by UNICEF, 153 countries have laws which discriminate against women economically, including 18 countries where husbands can legally prevent their wives from working.

On average, women are paid 24% less than men for comparable work, across all regions and sectors. Nearly two thirds of the world’s 781 million illiterate adults are women, a proportion that has remained unchanged for two decades.

Worldwide, 1 in 3 women and girls will experience violence or abuse in their lifetime (2). Psychologists take care in assessments and in interventions to evaluate and to empower women for equal participation and better self-esteem. At the same time, they develop diversity programs to make work conditions more suitable for minority groups among which women.

3. One third of the refugees that arrive in Europe are children (3) and across the globe many grow up in refugee camps, often without the love and care of their parents. According to scientific evidence and widely accepted knowledge, needy and traumatized children depend on the caregiver to regulate states and emotions, to feel safe and develop soundly. Separation from the caregiver in times of war, dangers and prolonged stress will likely induce more harm to the child, create another loss and deepen the traumas already inflicted. For children in these circumstances good psychosocial support is essential.

A wonderful example of how children can be helped is such situations is the Fairstart Foundation (4), founded by psychologist Niels Peter Rygaard. The purpose of Fairstart is to support caregivers by using innovative, evidence-based low-cost training programmes using the internet to local care systems and has been translated into many languages and is in use in many countries throughout the world, making a difference in children’s lives.

All of these human rights threats, and many others need to be addressed. We call on all psychologists to contribute to the improvement of the situation of people in disadvantaged situations. In order to promote and protect human rights, psychologists need to become engaged even more with Human Rights, and learn about how, where and when fundamental rights are at stake.

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