United NationsDepartment of Economic and Social Affairs Sustainable Development

Psychology Coalition at the United Nations (PCUN)

Intervention by the Psychology Coalition at the United Nations (PCUN)
Presented by Judy Kuriansky, Chair, PCUN

(note: information shown on slides are shown in word highlighted in green)

Thank you co-chairs. I’m Judy Kuriansky speaking in behalf of the Psychology Coalition at the United Nations, the Federation of Iberoamerican Psychology Associations and the Pan Africa Psychology Union.

We present the following recommendations.

In the chapeau, paragraph 4, in the 2nd sentence, we propose adding the words “physical and mental health and wellbeing” to the list of important issues and affirmed rights, like freedom, food and women’s empowerment.

Slide: In the chapeau:
“We further reaffirm the importance of freedom, peace and security, respect for all human rights, including the right to development ….women’s empowerment, [add] physical and mental health and wellbeing and the overall commitment to just and democratic societies for development.”

In the title of Goal 3, we propose adding the words “and wellbeing” so the goal reads “Attain healthy life and wellbeing for all at all ages” since ‘wellbeing’ is a word resonates with people and is increasingly used in addition to the word “health” in scientific literature to reflect a holistic view. Furthermore, this concept can be measured – a factor important in the SDGs.

SLIDE: Goal 3 title:
“Attain healthy life [add] and wellbeing for all at all ages”

With regard to target 3.4, we welcome, and greatly appreciate, the inclusion of “mental health and wellbeing” AND its support during OWG 11 by many member states, including from the LDCs, CARICOM, the EU, the African Group, SIDS and many others.

This acknowledges the high costs to people and economies. WHO estimates that 450 million people worldwide suffer mentally, with the 2014 WHO Adolescent Health Report citing suicide as the 3rd leading cause of death in adolescents, and mental health as the leading cause of morbidity. Also, the global cost to governments was nearly 2.5T US dollars in 2010 with a projected increase to $6T in 2030.

Conversations with more than 60 member states representing countries of varied cultures, and at every level of social and economic development, have revealed recognition of the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing to their citizens in their family and work life, and the impact on their society.

We note problems with the current placement of mental health and wellbeing in target 3.4, which includes the words “promote mental health and wellbeing,” is presently overly long and crowded, with mixed actions on four issues – a structure for targets that Ambassador Kamau has advised against and encouraged splitting into separate targets. Additionally, the word “promote” for mental health and wellbeing is not easily measurable. Further, it is not specific or detailed enough to address the seriousness of mental health issues, and does not include the % that would allow measuring progress, nor the services, training or education required, that can also be assessed.

In light of these factors, we propose a stand-alone target, to read:

“By 2030, reduce by x% stress-related and mental health disorders and provide universal access to comprehensive culturally appropriate services, training and education.”
SLIDE: Stand-alone target in Goal 3:
“By 2030, reduce by x% stress-related and mental health disorders and provide universal access to comprehensive culturally appropriate mental health and wellbeing services, training and education with an emphasis on prevention.”

Please note that the first part addresses prevalence which relates to prevention activities and the second part addresses universal access to services which relates to treatment. Both are measurable and lend well to means of implementation, as shown by considerable documents and also in extensive scientific literature and research, to track progress, effectiveness and outcomes.

Such a target is transformative given its vast potential impact on the three pillars of sustainable development -- social, economic and environmental. It reflects the language of the chapeau that “puts people at the centre of development,” and is consistent with two such targets that specifically emphasize the importance of mental health, proposed by the Global Youth Call drafted by the Global Partnership for Youth in the Post 2015 Agenda. It fits target requirements of being “action-oriented, concise, easy to communicate, aspirational and universally applicable.” In addition, it is consistent with UN agencies and documents.

Given its importance, we urge that it be included in the top 5 priority targets of Goal 3.


In targets 1.6 and 13.2, we advise inserting the words “infrastructural and psychosocial” before the word “resilience” since resilience usually just refers to rebuilding physical structures. Such distinction is consistent with IASC guidelines on psychosocial support in emergency situations (from the Interagency Standing Committee, representing various UN agencies), and extensive research proving extreme and long-term emotional suffering of children and adults post-disaster, which is also measurable.

SLIDE: Targets 1.6 and Target 13.2: insert the words “infrastructural and psychosocial” before “resilience”

Target 1.6: By 2030 strengthen early warning and disaster risk reduction systems and related capacities with the aim of building [add] infrastructural and psychosocial resilience…
Target 13.2: Build [add] infrastructural and psychosocial resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-induced hazards in vulnerable countries

In target 4.5, we propose including reference to “income generating activities combined with life skills” in the list of skills, since this approach has been shown to encourage youth entrepreneurship, overcoming poverty and even avoiding HIV infection. And in target 4.7 we advise some rewording and including education about “mental health and wellbeing,” particularly to protect schoolchildren from violence, bullying and gangs.

Target 4.5: By 2030 increase by x% the number of young and adult women and men with the skills needed for employment, including vocational training, ICT, technical, engineering and scientific skills, [add] and income generating activities integrated with life skills

Target 4.7: By 2030 integrate relevant knowledge and skills, and awareness raising about the contribution of culture, in education curricula and training programs, including education for with emphasis on sustainable development [add] and health and wellbeing. and awareness raising on culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Finally, regarding Target 8.16, we echo our colleagues recommendation Wednesday to “look beyond GDP,” by adding the phrase “to include measures of wellbeing and satisfaction.”
SLIDE: Target 8.16
[add] By 2020, Create a global broader system of capital accounting looking beyond GDP and incorporation social, human and environmental capital, [add] to include measures for wellbeing and satisfaction…

Such measurement is extensively supported by noted economists, including United Nations Secretary-General's Special Adviser Jeffrey Sachs, in the 2013 World Happiness Report, as well as in the UNDP Human Development Report, and is currently being explored by several governments for implementation at the national level.

We further suggest adding the date “by 2020” to this target.

We thank the co-chairs for their hard work and emotional fortitude during this challenging process.

June 20, 2014
Lead authors: Dr. Judy Kuriansky, Chair Psychology Coalition at the United Nations and Columbia University Teachers College, and Dr. Corann Okorodudu, Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and Rowan University

For more information or to offer feedback, please contact Dr. Judy Kuriansky at DrJudyk@aol.com or jk2013@tc.columbia.edu.