Committee Spotlight

ISSTD-UN Taskforce

Karen Hopenwasser, MD, ISSTD Representative to the UN

The ISSTD UN Taskforce consists of:

Lynette S. Danylchuk, PhD Chair
Karen Hopenwasser, MD
Vivien Pender, MD
Christa Kruger, MD
Lisa Danylchuk, MFT
Victor Welzant, PsyD

Together we work to develop our collaborative relationship with the UN.

In mid 2017, the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) granted ISSTD special consultative status. This enables us to actively engage with ECOSOC and its subsidiary bodies, as well as with the United Nations Secretariat programs, and with Member States and the United Nations system at large. Consultative status also enables the Council, or one of its bodies, to seek expert information or advice from us in the areas of our competence. We have information about the provisional agendas of the ECOSOC, and we can request the Secretary-General, through the Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) to place items of special interest in the provisional agenda of the Council.

Being affiliated with the UN will also give us the opportunity to network and develop connections with over 3000 NGO’s around the globe.

This project has been in development for some time and our involvement at the UN began before 2017. For example, in March 2016 three members of ISSTD (Karen Hopenwasser MD, Robert Schwab LCSW, and Roberta Estar PhD) attended the USUN (US mission to the UN) event: “Combatting the Trafficking of Women and Girls: What Role Can the Private Sector Play in Addressing and Preventing Human Trafficking and Modern-Day Slavery?” co-hosted by the Commission on the Status of Women.

Since then, with slow but steady progress, we are establishing a presence at the United Nations. One small way to do that has been to co-sponsor events being put on by other NGOs. Often this simply means putting the ISSTD logo on social media announcements. So for example we did that in October 2017, for World Mental Health Day.

Another way to participate is through the NGO Committee on Mental Health. This NGO represents many mental health related NGOS. I am currently a Member- at- Large on the Executive Committee of the NGO Committee on Mental Health. My official representation is for ISSTD. The other member organizations of this NGO can be found here.

As a member of the NGO Committee on Mental Health I am co-convener of the Trauma Working Group. Every February this subgroup organizes a presentation for the membership and extended community. These presentations are either at the UN or at a building nearby the UN. A few years ago I presented on Complex PTSD (before I represented ISSTD on the committee). Two years ago I presented on intergenerational transmission of trauma.

This past February I moderated a presentation entitled: “Shared Trauma: The impact of working with traumatized groups”. Our two presenters were:

  • Carol Tosone PhD, Professor and Director of the DSW Program in Clinical Social Work at NYU Silver School of Social Work, who presented on: “Shared Trauma: When the Professional is Personal”
  • Nina Urban MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at New York University and a psychiatrist at the Bellevue World Trade Center Clinic and the NYU Program for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture, who presented on: “Refugees and trauma: implications for evaluation, treatment and vicarious trauma”

The moderators were Irit Felsen PhD and myself, both co-conveners of the NGO CMH Working Group on Trauma and Mental Health.

As a representative of ISSTD, I was registered to attend the 56th Session of the Commission for Social Development January 29, 2018 – February 7, 2018. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend and could not find anyone on short notice in my place.

In March we had at least one other ISSTD member registered for the 2018 Commission on the Status of Women. There were many parallel meetings going on and for ISSTD it was an opportunity to network.

On May 17th I attended the UN Forum Supporting the Voices of Youth Against Gun Violence. This event was co-sponsored by the NGO Committee on Mental Health. Vivian Pender MD, Chair of the NGO Committee on Mental Health spoke. Here is a link to UN – TV – Click here

At most events I try to tweet something and include @ISSTD to get it out to our membership.

We are currently planning for our next Trauma Group presentation in February. Understandably there is a lot of interest in refugee/asylum issues and the long-term consequences of parental separation.

Come and join us! The more ISSTD representatives show up and contribute in meetings, the more helpful information about trauma and recovery there will be in the UN. We need more ISSTD people in the NYC area, or in Geneva or Vienna, to join us. If you have an interest, please email Karen Hopenwasser at: khopenwasser@gmail.com

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