APA Efforts in Promoting Human Rights and Social Justice

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Abstract

This article reviews the American Psychological Association’s (APA) efforts in promoting human rights and social justice. Beginning with a historical review of the conceptualizations of human rights and social justice, the social challenges that have faced the United States over time are discussed in relation to the APA’s evolving mission and strategic initiatives enacted through its boards, committees, and directorates. From early efforts on the Board for Social and Ethical Responsibility in Psychology and the Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs to the establishment of the Public Interest Directorate, the APA’s efforts to address these human rights and social justice challenges through its task force reports, guidelines, and policies are described. Specifically, issues related to diversity and underrepresentation of minority group members and perspective within the APA, as well as women’s issues (prochoice, violence against women, sexualization of young girls, human trafficking) were central to these efforts. These minority groups included racial and ethnic minority groups; immigrants and refugees; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and queer individuals; and those with disabilities. Later attention shifted to broader social justice challenges within a public health perspective, such as AIDS, obesity, and violence. Also included is a brief discussion of the Hoffman Report. The article ends with a discussion of future directions for the APA’s efforts related to human rights and social justice related to health disparities, violent extremism, social inequality, migration, cultural and racial diversity, and an evidence-based approach to programming.

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