The SAGE Handbook of International Social Work


Edited by: Karen Lyons, Terry Hokenstad, Manohar Pawar, Nathalie Huegler & Nigel Hall

  • Citations
  • Add to My List
  • Text Size

  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

    View Copyright Page

    Notes on the Editors

    Karen Lyons began her career as a school social worker before entering academic work. From 1978 to 2000 she was responsible for professional social work education at the University of East London (UK) including undertaking research, writing and developing post-qualifying programmes. Involvement from the 1980s in European exchange programmes and anti-racist teaching led to a particular interest in international social work. She has contributed to social work developments and educational programmes in a wide range of countries since the 1990s and was a member of the Board of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (2000–2004). Karen Lyons has had varied editorial board experience and in 2004 was appointed Editor-in-Chief of the journal International Social Work (until 2009). As an Emeritus Professor at London Metropolitan University, she continues to undertake doctoral supervision and examination, editing and writing.

    Terry Hokenstad is a Distinguished University Professor at Case Western Reserve University (USA) and holds the title of Ralph S. and Dorothy P. Schmitt Professor in the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. He has given special attention to the internationalisation of social work and the challenge of an ageing world in a career spanning more than four decades. He has uniquely combined these two areas of expertise in his teaching and writing, as well as in his leadership roles at the United Nations and in national and international organisations, e.g. the (US) Council on Social Work Education and the International Association of Schools of Social Work. Terry Hokenstad has authored and edited numerous books, articles, chapters, and monographs in the fields of comparative social welfare, care of older people, and social work practice and education. In addition, he has served as a former Editor-in-Chief of International Social Work and as a member of the editorial board for a number of other scholarly journals.

    Manohar Pawar is Professor of Social Work at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Charles Sturt University (NSW, Australia) and is president of the Asia-Pacific branch of the International Consortium for Social Development. He has nearly 30 years of experience in social work education, research and practice in Australia and India. Professor Pawar has received various awards, including the citation award for outstanding contribution to student learning (2008, from the Australian Learning and Teaching Council); and Quality of Life Award (2001, from the Association of Commonwealth Universities). Current areas of interest include international social work, development and policy; social consequences of climate change; informal care and ageing; NGOs and community development. Publications include: International Social Work (Sage, 2006), Community Development in Asia and the Pacific (Routledge, 2010), Social Development (Routledge, 2010) and International Social Work (2nd edition, Sage, 2012).

    Nathalie Huegler trained as a social worker and social pedagogue in Germany and has since worked with young refugees in different settings, including in London local authorities, and currently as a senior social worker in a charity which provides rehabilitation and campaigns for the rights of survivors of torture. Following a Master's in international social work and refugee studies, she is undertaking doctoral research at London Metropolitan University about social work with separated children in Germany and the UK and the role of human rights. Other current and past activities include teaching and supervision on social work courses, co-authoring a number of publications and editorial assistance for the journal, International Social Work.

    Nigel Hall is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Social Work, Kingston University, London (UK), and has both academic and practical experience of social work in the UK, Zimbabwe and other African countries. Nigel has represented the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) over many years in several capacities, most recently with responsibility for publications. He is also a Board member of the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW). Nigel has authored and edited a variety of publications on HIV/AIDS, development, poverty alleviation and social work. He is presently the IFSW representative to the Editorial Policy Committee of International Social Work.

    Notes on the Contributors

    Tatsuru Akimoto is Director & Professor of the Social Work Research Institute, Asian Centre for Welfare in Society, Japan College of Social Work (since 2010) and is also Professor Emeritus, Japan Women's University. He is currently President of the Asia Pacific Association of Social Work Education (APASWE); and is a regional Vice-President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). For two decades he was Professor at, Japan Women's University. In addition to social work and international social work, his special interests include ‘work and employment’ and he was an Employment Promotion Expert for the International Labour Organisation (1992–1994). He has published a number of books and articles including ‘The unipolar world and inequality: implications for social work’, in International Social Work (2007).

    Sahar Sulieman Al-Makhamreh was awarded her PhD in social work by Warwick University (UK) and has been a lecturer on the BA social work programme at Al-Balqa Applied University in Jordan since 2005. She is also Head of the Social Work Department and Assistant Dean (Development and Planning) at Princess Rahma University College and Al-Balqa Applied University. She is a co-founder of the Jordanian Association of Social Workers. Her main areas of research are: developing and professionalising social work; inter-professional relationships; health inequality; localising practice; cultural and gender sensitivity in Middle Eastern social work practice.

    Margaret Alston commenced as Head of Department of Social Work at Monash University (Australia) in 2008, and has since established the Gender, Leadership and Social Sustainability (GLASS) Research Unit. She has served on various national Boards (e.g. the Family Services Council and the National Women's Advisory Group overseeing the Rural Women's Policy Unit in the Department of Primary Industries and Energy). In the past decade her expert status has involved her in work with the Gender Division of the UN FAO in Rome, the Commission for the Status of Women in New York and UN-Habitat meeting in Kenya. Her writing, speeches and media commentary focus on rural social conditions, climate change and gender issues.

    Harjeet Badwall from Toronto (Canada) has been a practising social worker for 18 years in the areas of community health, social justice, and working with survivors of violence. She is a doctoral candidate, specialising in the area of critical race studies at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto, and is a faculty member at York University's School of Social Work. Harjeet Badwall's research explores the racial and colonial dimensions of social work theories and practices. Her doctoral thesis explores the narratives of racialised social workers and their encounters with race and racism in the field.

    Liz Beddoe is Associate Professor in the School of Counselling, Human Services and Social Work at the University of Auckland (New Zealand). Her interests include critical perspectives on social work education, professional supervision, the sociology of occupations, the social work professionalisation project, learning discourses, interprofessional learning and practitioner research. She has published articles on supervision and professional issues in New Zealand and international journals. Recent publications include Best Practice in Professional Supervision: a Guide for the Helping Professions (2010) with Allyson Davys, and Mapping Knowledge for Social Work Practice: Critical Intersections, with Jane Maidment (2009).

    Fred H. Besthorn is Associate Professor of Social Work at Wichita State University School of Social Work (USA). He has presented numerous papers at national and international conferences in addition to publications. His interests include developing a theoretical framework for the integration of a deep ecological awareness with social work policy and practice, including conducting research on the relationship between environmental degradation and the social, physical, economic and spiritual impact on at-risk populations. He is the founder of The Global Alliance for a Deep-Ecological Social Work–a forum for concerned social workers sharing a commitment to incorporating deeper environmental awareness into traditional social work practice.

    Jennifer Bourassa obtained a Master's degree in Social Work at the University of Calgary (Canada). She is currently practising as a social worker with the Canadian forces. She previously worked for Alberta Health Services in a variety of roles including: Crisis Intervention Therapist, Brief Therapist, Community Developer and Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Consultant. Jennifer Bourassa has 17 years disaster experience working in countries such as Canada, the United States, Puerto Rico, Indonesia and Haiti. In 2009 her article ‘Psychosocial interventions with mass populations: a social work perspective’, was published in International Social Work, discussing the importance of utilising participatory methodology with disaster-impacted populations.

    Wendy Bowles is Associate Professor of Social Work at Charles Sturt University and is a social worker with experience in the disability field. Her teaching and research interests cover the broad terrain of social work theory, practice and ethics with a focus on rural and regional practice. Two books written with colleagues include Ethical Practice in Social Work and Research for Social Workers–An Introduction to Methods. Wendy has served a full term as member of the National Ethics Committee of the Australian Association of Social Workers and is involved in professional practice issues in social work.

    Paul Bywaters is Emeritus Professor of Social Work at Coventry University and Honorary Professor at the University of Warwick (both in the UK). He was co-founder and the first convenor of the international Social Work and Health Inequalities Network ( Apart from his teaching, research and administrative roles in social work education, he has written extensively about social work and health over the past 25 years. His recent publications include Social Work and Global Health Inequalities (Policy Press, 2009); and he was the co-author of the revised International Federation of Social Workers’ policy statement on Health, ratified in 2008.

    Ruby Chau is an independent researcher. She is formerly Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong and Lecturer at the University of Sheffield (UK). She is a registered social worker in Hong Kong and has worked in NGOs in Hong Kong and the UK. Her main research interests include social exclusion, social diversity and welfare mix. She has conducted research in Hong Kong, China and the UK; and published in internationally renowned academic journals and refereed books.

    David Cox is a retired Professor of Social Work, La Trobe University (Australia). He worked as a social worker with refugees and migrants for nearly 20 years before moving into academic social work. He worked in a variety of Australian universities over approximately a 30-year period, teaching and writing about social work with immigrants, international social work and social development.

    Cindy Davis is an Associate Professor in Social Work at the University of Tennessee (USA). Her primary area of research is health and international social work. After receiving her PhD from the University of California at Los Angeles, she spent two years backpacking across Africa and Asia. She then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in clinical psychology at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Cindy Davis has since served as a behavioural scientist at the National Health and Medical Research Centre's National Breast Cancer Centre in Australia. She has published extensively in the area of health and international issues.

    Murli Desai obtained her doctorate in Social Work from Washington University in St Louis (USA). From 1984 she was on the faculty of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai (India), taking voluntary retirement in 2006 as Professor and Head of its Social Work Education and Practice Cell. In 2007–2008, she worked as a Senior Visiting Fellow in the Department of Social Work, National University of Singapore and the following year, she worked as a Professor in the Department of Social Welfare, Seoul National University of South Korea. She has authored three books, edited six books and guest-edited ten special issues of journals on different themes in social work and social development.

    Lena Dominelli as Professor in Applied Social Sciences and Associate Director at the Institute of Hazards, Risk and Resilience Research, Durham University (UK), heads the Vulnerability and Resilience Programme. She has a wealth of experience as an educator, researcher and practitioner and has published widely in social work, social policy and sociology. Her latest book is Green Social Work. She is recognised as a leading figure in social work education globally and was elected President of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) from 1996 to 2004. She is currently chair of IASSW's Committees on Disaster Interventions and Climate Change. She has received various honours including a medal in 2002 from the French Senate and an honorary doctorate in 2008 from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa).

    Heather Fraser works as a Senior Lecturer in the Discipline of Social Work and Social Planning at Flinders University, South Australia, after years spent teaching social work in Melbourne, Cairns and Winnipeg (Canada). She teaches topics such as Reasons for Social Work, Integrity in Social Work, Social Work with Diverse Populations and Social Work with Addictions. Her practice experience relates predominantly to women and children, particularly in areas related to violence and abuse. Author of the book, In the Name of Love, Women's Narratives of Love and Abuse (2008), Heather Fraser identifies as a narrative feminist who works from a critical perspective.

    John R. Graham is Murray Fraser Professor of Community Economic Development, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary (Canada). He has published extensively on spirituality and social work, international social work, and social policy analysis.

    Gerda Heck is currently a post-doctoral research fellow in an international, transdisciplinary research project, ‘Global Prayers’ at the University of Frankfurt/Oder (Germany), investigating the role of (neo-)Pentecostal church communities on the migration routes of Congolese migrants. In her doctoral thesis (2006) she discussed the phenomenon of undocumented immigration in Germany and the USA, mainly focusing on the development of the respective migration regimes, the public discussion on the subject and the influencing thereof by relevant initiatives. Since 2007 she has been conducting research on the shifts in EU migration policy towards North African countries and the strategies of sub-Saharan migrants on the migration routes towards Europe.

    Staffan Höjer is a Social Work Professor in the Department of Social Work at the University of Gothenburg (Sweden). His main research areas concern the development of social work knowledge, organisational development and professionalisation in social work. His publications reflect these interests and include a cross-national analysis of models of supervision. He also has a special interest in international social work: he has undertaken research in Cuba and is currently involved in PhD supervision in Sweden, Rwanda and Uganda. He has been involved in the CERTS project (about doctoral studies in Europe) and is currently Deputy Editor of the European Journal of Social Work.

    Jennifer Holder Dolly was for many years a Lecturer in Social Work and the Coordinator of Graduate Studies at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine. She is currently the Clinical Director and joint owner of a behaviour change consulting firm. She has also worked intensively in disaster recovery and management roles, heading the social sector recovery effort in Grenada after Hurricane Ivan. She has consulted with private, public and non-governmental organisations and conducted a range of psycho-educational and personal development workshops. Dr Holder Dolly has researched and presented many papers at regional and international conferences and workshops.

    Richard Hugman is Professor of Social Work at the University of New South Wales (Australia). He has been a social work practitioner, researcher and teacher in Australia and the UK and has published widely in the field, both as an author and as an editor. Since 2004 he has been a consultant to UNICEF Vietnam on the development of professional social work in Vietnam. Richard is currently the chair of the Permanent Committee on Ethics of the International Federation of Social Workers. Recent publications include Understanding International Social Work (2010).

    Marion Huxtable spent 29 years as a school social worker advocating for school children. She contributed to her profession by serving on Boards of state and regional professional associations, publishing in professional journals and books and serving as a consulting editor for Social Work in Education (now Children and Schools). Twenty years ago, she developed the International Network for School Social Work to give school social workers and their professional associations a way of communicating with peers around the world. It has grown to include 46 countries. She continues to operate the Network to foster international interaction among school social workers.

    Jeff Karabanow is a Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University (Canada) in the Faculty of Health Professions. He has worked with homeless young people in Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Guatemala. He has undertaken research in various locations and published numerous academic articles about housing stability, service delivery systems, street health and homeless youth culture. He has completed a film documentary looking at the plight of street youth in Guatemala City and several animated shorts on Canadian street youth culture. His most recent work is Leaving the Streets: Stories of Canadian Youth published in 2010 (Fernwood Press).

    Synnove Karvinen-Niinikoski is a Professor of Social Work at the University of Helsinki (Finland), engaged in promoting the integration of teaching, research and professional development. Special interests include development of critical practice and reflexive expertise, and she is engaged in practice research and learning and researcher education. In 1998 Synnove Karvinen-Niinikoski was elected the first President of the Finnish Society for Social Work Research and she received the Biannual Nordic Prize for Social Work Educators in 2009. Since 2010 she has been a member of the Board of the International Association of Schools of Social Work; and up to 2012 Vice President of the European Resource Centre for Research in Social Work (CERTS).

    Linda Kreitzer began her Social Work career in 1978 in the United States and migrated to Britain in 1981 where she worked in social service departments for over a decade. Between 1994 and 1996 she taught social work at the University of Ghana, leaving to undertake a Master's degree in international social work at the University of Calgary (Canada), specifically looking at refugee issues. After a year's work in Armenia she returned to Calgary to undertake PhD research. The focus of her doctorate (awarded in 2004) was the development of a culturally appropriate social work curriculum at the University of Ghana, Legon. She is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Calgary, Edmonton, Canada.

    Susan Lawrence qualified as a social worker in 1976 and has been a social work educator since 1991, she is currently Principal Lecturer in International Social Work at London Metropolitan University (UK). She has been actively involved in European social work research, networks and exchanges throughout her career and is Course Director of the MA in Comparative European Social Studies (MACESS) and Course Leader of the Professional Doctorate in International Social Work. Susan Lawrence is currently President of the European Association of Schools of Social Work and Regional Vice-President of International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). She has published in the area of international social work and is on the editorial Board of the European Journal of Social Work.

    Kathryn Libal is Assistant Professor in Community Organisation at the University of Connecticut School of Social Work (USA). An anthropologist by training, she has conducted historical and ethnographic research on women's and children's rights in Turkey. Recently she has collaborated with Dr Scott Harding on research regarding non-governmental organisation advocacy for Iraqi refugees. She also writes on the US human rights movement, with a focus on children's economic rights, and has co-edited the book, Human Rights in the United States: Beyond Exceptionalism (2011). She teaches courses on social policy, human oppression and human rights.

    Reima Ana Maglajlic was a Senior Lecturer in Social Work at Swansea University (Wales) (2007–2011). Prior to this she worked as a consultant and activist across south-east Europe, but primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Her doctoral research used participatory action research with service users, students and practitioners in England and Bosnia to explore social work education. Her main interests and experiences focus on working on the reform of social care services, in societies ‘in transition’ and/or affected by political conflict. In 2011 she became the Research and Monitoring Director at the Mental Disability Advocacy Centre, an international non-governmental organisation based in Budapest, Hungary.

    Kathleen Manion has lived and worked in various countries and studied psychology and community development in Canada and international social work in England. She undertook cross-national research into commercial sexual exploitation of girls in London, Sydney and Vancouver for her doctoral degree and was awarded her PhD by the University of East London in 2006. She has since relocated to New Zealand where she works for the Ministry of Social Development.

    Golam M. Mathbor is the Associate Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, and Professor in the School of Social Work at Monmouth University (USA). Currently, he is Vice President of the American Institute of Bangladesh Studies (AIBS), and of the International Consortium for Social Development (ICSD). He has taught in Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Latvia, Kosovo and the USA and his teaching areas include research methods, programme evaluation, social welfare policy and planning, management of non-governmental organisations, migration and intercultural cooperation, and international social work. Areas of research include disaster relief and management, international social development and international social work. Golam Mathbor has published extensively on disaster relief and other topics including most recently, Effective Community Participation in Coastal Development.

    Jennifer McKinnon is an Associate Professor at Charles Sturt University (Australia). She has a social work practice background in hospitals and mental health, as well as in youth work and private practice, and has been an academic since 1992. Her doctoral studies were on the topic of the social/environmental nexus in social work practice, which is also now her major research focus. Jennifer has published widely on the topic of social justice and environmental justice, and has presented at many international conferences. She has also published on the topic of social work practice in schools, and is the co-editor of two editions of Social Work: Fields of Practice (Oxford University Press).

    Lengwe-Katembula J. Mwansa is a Professor at the University of Botswana in the Department of Social Work. He began his teaching career in social work in 1996 after completing his PhD (awarded by Brandeis University, USA). He has taught in several universities and held various portfolios including headship of the Department of Social Work at the Universities of Zambia and Botswana 1998–1991 and 1999–2005, respectively; Presidency of Southern African Social Sciences Conference (1994–1999); and recently, the Presidency of the Association of Schools of Social Work in Africa (2005–2010), His areas of interest and publications include social policy (health policy), youth, social work education in Africa, and nongovernmental organisations.

    James Midgley is Harry and Riva Specht Professor of Public Social Services at the School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley (USA). He has published widely on issues of social development, international social welfare and social policy. Recent books include The Handbook of Social Policy, Sage, 2009 (co-editor, Michelle Livermore); Social Work and Social Development, Oxford University Press, 2010 (co-editor, Amy Conley); Grassroots Social Security in Asia, Routledge, 2011 (co-editor, Mitsuhiko Hosaka) and Colonialism and Welfare: Social Policy and the British Imperial Legacy, Edward Elgar, 2011 (co-editor, David Piachaud). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and an Honorary Professor at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University; Nihon Fukishi University in Japan; the University of Johannesburg, South Africa; and Sun Yat-sen University in China.

    Joan Orme is Emeritus Professor of Social Work at Glasgow University and Visiting Professor at the University of Southampton (UK). She has been a member of the Board of the International Association of Schools of Social Work and has worked with colleagues in Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Poland and the USA. Her research includes workloads, care management and aspects of social work practice and education and she has published on social work practice and research and feminism. She co-edited the Sage Handbook of Social Work Research (2010) and co-authored (with David Shemmings) Developing Research Based Social Work Practice (Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

    Henry Parada is an Associate Professor at Ryerson University (Canada) where he teaches Theories of Social Work Practices, Transformative Social Work, International Social Work, Graduate Research Seminar and Child Welfare. Henry's research interests include: analysis of institutional practices; social work epistemology; and institutional ethnography methodology. He has published in the area of child protection and governance of workers and clients, institutional ethnography, the construction of subject locations, and community social work and education in Latin American. He has undertaken a variety of research projects with funding from various sources including the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), Latin American and Caribbean Exchange Grant (LACREG), UNICEF-Santo Domingo and SSHRC International Opportunity Fund.

    Malcolm Payne is Policy and Development Adviser, St Christopher's Hospice (London, UK) where he was previously Director of Psycho-social and Spiritual Care. He has broad experience of social work, having worked in probation, social work, community work and management, consulting on teamwork in health and social care organisations. He was Professor and Head of Applied Community Studies, Manchester Metropolitan University, for many years, during which he was involved in child and mental health service advocacy projects, research and international social work. Among his recent books are: Modern Social Work Theory; Humanistic Social Work; Citizenship Social Work with Older People and Social Work in End-of-Life and Palliative Care (with Margaret Reith). He has visiting/honorary academic appointments at a number of UK and European Universities, including Opole University, Poland, and Kingston University, UK.

    Michael Preston-Shoot is Professor of Social Work and Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Sciences at the University of Bedfordshire (UK). He has worked in social work education since 1988 following a career as a social worker. He has been Editor of Social Work Education; Managing Editor of the European Journal of Social Work; and is a Founding Editor of Ethics and Social Welfare. He has written and researched widely on law and social work, and on social work education and practice. Currently, he is an independent chair of two local Safeguarding Boards (Children, Vulnerable Adults) and sits on the governing body of an NHS Trust and of the National Skills Academy for Social Care.

    Shulamit Ramon is mental health research lead at the University of Hertfordshire and Emeritus Professor at Anglia Ruskin University (UK). A social worker and clinical psychologist by training, Shulamit Ramon has researched mental health and social work issues, introducing user involvement in research and education internationally. She has focused on introducing social work education to post-communist countries in the 1990s (Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan), and on the impact of political conflict on social work since 2000. She has recently edited the book Social Work in the Context of Political Conflict (2008); has led two related International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) projects on this issue, and has researched the impact of the end of intifada on Israeli Arab and Jewish social workers.

    Narda Razack is an Associate Dean (Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies) and Associate Professor in the School of Social Work, York University (Canada). She has extensive experience in research, teaching and administration. She has published in the areas of critical race and oppression, international social work and field education; and co-edited Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict and World Order. Narda Razack currently co-directs a CURA-funded project, ‘Assets Coming Together for Youth: Linking Research, Policy and Action for Positive Youth Development’; and is a team member on a Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)-funded project, ‘Social Work in Nigeria’. Research areas include: North–South relations, globalisation and international social work, critical race theory, post-colonialism and equity in administration.

    Taly Reininger is a Professor of Social Work at the Universidad Andres Bello in Santiago (Chile). She received her MSW from the University of Wisconsin (USA). Currently she teaches Field Placement Seminars and Foundations of Social Work and is embarking on her research and writing career.

    Amy Restorick Roberts is a doctoral candidate at the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. She is currently in preparation for an academic career in gerontological social work research and education to improve the quality of life of older adults.

    Letnie Rock completed her doctoral studies at Fordham University, New York (USA) and after a period in practice is a Lecturer in Social Work and Head of the Department of Government, Sociology and Social Work at the University of the West Indies (Cave Hill Campus, Barbados). She is currently the President of the Caribbean Association of Social Work Educators, a member of the Editorial Board of the Caribbean Journal of Social Work and of the Boards of the North American and Caribbean Association of Schools of Social Work and of the International Association of Schools of Social Work. Research and publications to date have primarily been in the fields of child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, disaster management and social work practice.

    Mahia Saracostti Schwartzman qualified as a social worker and with a Master's in Business Administration of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, before being awarded her PhD in Social Welfare at City University of New York. She is currently Director of Social Work at the Universidad Autónoma de Chile in Santiago, and has held posts at various Chilean Universities previously. She has been member of the Editorial Board of International Social Work, and is a faculty advisor at Hunter College School of Social Work, New York, as well as a consultant for the Inter-American Development Bank and for the European Union. She has published in specialised journals, newspapers and books.

    Uma A. Segal is Professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri, St Louis (USA). Her Areas of research are immigrant and refugee concerns, Asian American acculturation, and cross-national issues in family violence. In 2004, Uma Segal was appointed Editor of the Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies and redirected it toward an international, interdisciplinary focus in exploring human migration. She serves as resident scholar on immigration for the Advisory Board of the Katherine A. Kendall Institute (KAKI) of the (US) Council on Social Work Education; and co-edited Immigration Worldwide with Elliott and Mayadas in 2010.

    Micheal L. Shier qualified as a social worker (BSW) before completing his MSW and is now a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania (USA) researching human service organisations and service delivery outcomes. He is currently working as a research associate at the University of Calgary and Doctoral Research Fellow at University of Pennsylvania. He has co-authored articles on the subjects of spirituality and religion in social work, the lived experiences of vulnerable populations, and practice-based experiences of social workers in diverse contexts.

    John Solas is currently Senior Lecturer in Human Services and Counselling at the University of Southern Queensland (Australia). John previously lectured on social policy at Monash University and human rights at Queensland University of Technology. He was a member of the Centre for Rural, Social and Economic Research Centre at Central Queensland University and of the Health and Well-Being Research Group at Ballarat University. While Head of Social Work and Welfare Studies at Charles Darwin University, he was a representative on the Northern Land Council where his research and advocacy were instrumental in improving the delivery of primary health care services to Indigenous communities in Central and Northern regions of Australia. John has published widely on social work theory and practice. Among his major works is The Deconstruction of Educational Practice in Social Work.

    Cynthia Akorfa Sottie gained her MSW at West Virginia University in the United States in 1996 and completed her PhD in Social work at Queens University in Belfast in 2010. She has been teaching at the Department of Social Work, University of Ghana since 2000. Her main area of research interest is child and family welfare with specific interest in ways of helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds break out of the cycle of poverty and overcome vulnerability when social and economic conditions place severe limits on opportunities.

    Silvia Staub-Bernasconi is a member of the Academic Board and Lecturer of the European network programme, INDOSOW (International Doctoral Studies in Social Work), following eight years as Director of the Master's programme ‘Social Work as Human Rights Profession’ in Berlin. She has been a Professor at the Technical University in Berlin teaching Social Work Theory and Human Rights Practice since 1997. Initially she qualified as a social worker in Zurich, gaining a UN-Fellowship to study social work in the USA. She subsequently practised in New York and Zurich, including study visits (e.g. to Birmingham (UK), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil, U of California/Santa Cruz). From 1967 to 1997 she was Professor of social work at the Zurich School, while studying sociology, psychological pedagogy and social ethics, finishing her studies with a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of Zurich. She published widely on social problems, social work as discipline and profession, social work and human rights/social justice, theories of power and empowerment. At the Joint World Conference on Social Work in Hong Kong she received the “Kathleen Kendall Award 2010”.

    Decha Sungkawan is Associate Professor of Social Welfare and Criminal Justice at the Faculty of Social Administration, Thammasat University, Thailand where he teaches social work, social welfare, social policy, criminology and criminal justice. His research interests and publications have addressed the interrelated issues of social work and social welfare and criminal justice. He has been involved in several studies and development projects in Thailand including the projects on human rights plan education, community justice, restorative and transitional justice, conflict resolution and reconciliation, drug control policy, offenders and drug addicts rehabilitation programmes, victim compensation and reparation, human trafficking, refugees and migrant workers, disabilities and older persons, family violence, volunteer network and social work education. He holds Ph from the School of Social Service Administration, the University of Chicago. Presently, he is the Dean of the Faculty of Social Administration, Thammasat University.

    Ming-sum Tsui is a Professor of Social Work and Leader of the Doctor of Social Work (DSW) Programme in the Department of Applied Social Sciences, Hong Kong Polytechnic University. His research interests include social work supervision, social work theory and practice, human service management, substance abuse, and international social work practice. Ming-sum Tsui has published more than 100 pieces of research works, including 11 books and 50 journal articles. He is involved in editorial or reviewing work for 20 professional/academic journals. Recently, his article ‘From resilience to resistance: A reconstruction of the strengths perspective in social work practice’, published in International Social Work was awarded the Frank Turner Prize - Best Paper in 2010.

    Khuajin Ulziitungalag is Professor in the Social Work Department at the State University of Education in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia (where she has worked since 1997). Her teaching includes courses on Macro Social Work Practice, Child Protection, and Human Rights and Social Work. Khuajin Ulziitungalag's research is informed by her previous social work experience with maltreated children in public and private settings and focuses on child protection in the social welfare system. She is currently working to adapt a community-based child protection service aimed at increasing community participation in protecting children.

    Julia M. Watkins is the Executive Director of the Council on Social Work Education (USA). She serves as treasurer of the International Association of Schools of Social Work. Previous positions have included President of the American University in Bulgaria (1993–2003), Professor of Social Work, and interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College of Social And Behavioural Sciences at the University of Maine. Other leadership positions have included President of the Alliance of Universities for Democracy and President of the Association of American International Colleges and Universities. She received the MSW and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Utah.

    Joseph Wronka is Professor of Social Work at Springfield College in Massachusetts (USA). He is also Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva for the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW). He has also taught extensively on the college level; practiced in inner cities and Indigenous communities; and presented his work in roughly 13 countries. He is a Fulbright Senior Specialist in social work with specialties in poverty, social justice, human rights, psychology, and phenomenology. His doctorate in social policy is from Brandeis; his Master's is in existential-phenomenology from Duquesne. He also studied the phenomenology of the performing musician at the University of Nice.

    Darja Zaviršek is Chair of the Department for Research on Social Justice and Inclusion at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Social Work (Slovenia) and Chair of the Indosow programme (International Doctoral Studies in Social Work). In 2002 she was appointed Honorary Professor of the University of Applied Sciences Alice Salomon, in Berlin. She initiated the Eastern European Sub-Regional Association of the European Association of Schools of Social Work (EASSW) serving as its President since 2008. She has been on the Board of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) since 2003. Areas of research and publications include: disability and mental health; gender and violence; history of social work; diversity studies, ethnographic research and international social work.

    Editorial Advisory Board

    Tatsuru Akimoto, Japan

    Sahar Al Makhamreh, Jordan

    Christine Bon, France

    Cecilia Chan, Hong Kong

    Cindy Davis, USA

    Murli Desai, India

    Lena Dominelli, UK

    Iris Fenner Bertani, Brazil

    John Graham, Canada

    Mel Gray, Australia

    Lynne Healy, USA

    Sven Hessle, Sweden

    James Midgley, USA

    Lengwe-Katembula Mwansa, Botswana

    Joan Orme, UK

    Shula Ramon, UK

    Narda Razack, Canada

    Letnie Rock, Barbados

    Mahia Saracostti, Chile

    Vishanthie Sewpaul, South Africa

    Ming-sum Tsui, Hong Kong

    Katherine Van Wormer, USA

    Idit Weiss, Israel

    Darja Zaviršek, Slovenia

    List of Tables and Figures

    Preface and Acknowledgements

    An invitation from Sage in late 2009 to put in a proposal to produce a Handbook of this kind was both exciting and challenging. As (initially four) prospective co-editors (KL, TH, MP and Nathalie H), we had all been engrossed in the subject of ‘International Social Work’ for various lengths of time: we all knew of each others’ work, though had not worked together on a task such as this, with the exception of Karen and Nathalie who had gained recent experience editing the journal International Social Work. We received comprehensive–if sometimes conflicting–feedback from a number of reviewers on the initial proposal, for which we thank them, and proceeded to draft the final outline for the Handbook, according to the publisher's guidelines, with indicative content shaped by our own ideas and the feedback.

    The first challenge was to identify social workers around the world who would be knowledgeable about the subject area and would be active editorial advisors. We asked the people we approached whether they might be willing to write specific chapters–or could assist us in identifying other authors–and also to contribute to the reviewing of drafts. A major vote of thanks, therefore, is to the members of the Editorial Advisory Board (see page xxi) who, almost without exception undertook the tasks they had volunteered for, or agreed to, promptly and helpfully. Special thanks go to those who undertook more than their fair share of reviewing or who subsequently agreed to contribute to the appendices or to the final stages of the editing process itself (of which more later).

    Recruiting authors was an interesting process which took longer than we had anticipated. Apart from immediately raising queries about our ambitious time-scale(!), this also provided some insights into which were ‘popular topics’ and which seemed ‘unknown’ or not conceptualised in the way we were proposing. However, together with offers from individual editors as well as members of the advisory board, we eventually ‘signed up’ authors for Chapters 2 to 30, the first one being the editors’ responsibility. We decided early on that we would encourage co-authorship of these long chapters on a variety of criteria. We particularly favoured cross-national collaborations, but it was not always possible for lead authors to arrange this and did not always work so smoothly where we prompted authors not known to each other to work together–although some such arrangements worked very well (in terms of both the process and outcome). Another criterion was the more familiar one of an experienced author working with a junior colleague, which has also produced some good chapters. Finally, some authors either chose to work alone or were left to do so if others were unable to deliver on previous agreements. While we very much appreciate the contributions of all the authors, we are particularly grateful to people who were solo authors (not by choice) and to others who came on board later in the writing stage due to intended authors finding themselves unavailable for some reason.

    The phrase ‘stuff happens’ was very apt at various stages of this Handbook's production and helped give perspective when events threatened to raise blood pressure or produce grey hairs. Apart from ‘losing’ occasional authors, the editors themselves were not immune from work pressures and personal events–sometimes anticipated and sometimes not–which impinge on the smooth flow of work. And of course, particularly given the nature of the Handbook, people were occasionally away at conferences or undertaking work abroad, sometimes affording time to meet but at other times making e-mail contact difficult in the short-term. In addition, at various stages, individual editors moved house; had new responsibilities in ‘the day job’; had to attend funerals or mind sick children; and even had a first baby. It was this last event, coupled with the fact that our initial planned submission date had had to be renegotiated, which prompted recruitment of a fifth editor (Nigel H.) who, drawing on his own experience (in international work and editing, as well as his role on the editorial advisory board), was able to make a significant contribution to the final stages of editorial work.

    So we have reached the point when the Handbook goes into production, if not in record time, at least in a timeframe which, we hope, means that material (often drafted in 2010 but revised in 2011) will still be topical and up-to-date when published. We are, of course, grateful to staff at Sage–for giving us the chance to work on this very stimulating project, for agreeing to revised schedules and the addition of a fifth editor–as well as for the more formal tasks which publishers undertake, including marketing and production. We also express thanks to long-suffering partners and families who are familiar with the demands that work regularly places on us and who, nevertheless, support our endeavours.

    As is customary, we accept responsibility for any errors which we might not have spotted. However, we are also pleased that we have been able to encourage diverse voices and views in this Handbook. Our approach to analysing and developing different aspects of ‘international social work’ has been largely thematic (with the exception of the chapters in the Regional Perspectives section), and including authors from a range of countries and beyond the English-speaking world has resulted in examples from many countries and use of literature which might not otherwise be widely accessible. Nevertheless, we regret that ‘coverage’ could not be comprehensive and hope that some notable omissions will be addressed in alternative or subsequent texts. As co-editors, sharing a common language (English in its various forms), we have varied personal heritages and bring professional experience from different national contexts contributing to sometimes differing interpretations or emphases in relation to our common theme. We agreed early on that it is not possible to give one definitive answer to the question, ‘what is international social work’ but (apart from our own attempts to address this question in Chapter 1) authors have explicitly or implicitly also considered this question from their own perspectives. While we expect that individual readers will ‘dip’ into the Handbook to read the chapter(s) of most interest to them, we think that the whole also adds up to a wide-ranging consideration of a topic which increasing numbers of social workers will need to be informed about. We therefore believe that this is an important contribution to considering the value base and developing theory and practice in the broadly defined field of international social work.

    KarenLyonsUK (Ireland), TerryHokenstadUSA, ManoharPawarAustralia (India), NathalieHueglerUK (Germany), NigelHallUK (Zimbabwe)

    November 2011

  • Appendix 1: International Definition of Social Work (IFSW/IASSW)

    This document can be viewed at:



    The International Definition of Social Work is arguably the single most important document for the profession since it sets out the role and function of social work and applies across the globe. The first definition was approved and adopted by the General Meeting of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) at its General Meeting in Brighton in 1982, as follows: ‘Social work is a profession whose purpose it is to bring about social changes in society in general and in its individual forms of development'. While this served the profession for many subsequent years it was seen to be rather limited and a more comprehensive definition was required that also committed the profession to a value-base which social workers around the world could aspire to.

    Between 1996 and 1999, IFSW set up a Task Force, part of a joint working party constituted with members of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) to draft a contemporary definition of social work that aimed to have global applicability. A variety of national and international source materials was consulted and extensive reviews undertaken by a number of practitioners, academics, experts and representatives of national and international organisations. At its biennial general meeting held in Montreal in July 2000, IFSW agreed a new international definition of social work, while IASSW also adopted this definition at its General Assembly.

    The core concept of this new Definition is that of ‘person-in-environment', where it was accepted that ‘…the central organizing and unifying concept of social work universally was intervention at the interface of human beings and their environments, both physical and social, thereby reaffirming the thinking of previous social work theorists’ (Hare, 2004: 409). This is a generic view, where environment can be interpreted in a holistic sense at micro, meso and macro levels, reflecting the broad range of activities, interactions and change strategies that social workers engage in, from individual counselling and therapy to working with families, groups and communities, advocating change at a social policy level and engaging in social action. In addition, the definition emphasizes the principles of empowerment, respect for human rights and social justice which are seen as key to social work practice.

    The International Definition of Social Work was formally adopted by both IASSW and IFSW on 27 June 2001 and reads as follows:


    The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work.


    Social work in its various forms addresses the multiple, complex transactions between people and their environments. Its mission is to enable all people to develop their full potential, enrich their lives, and prevent dysfunction. Professional social work is focused on problem solving and change. As such, social workers are change agents in society and in the lives of the individuals, families and communities they serve. Social work is an interrelated system of values, theory and practice.


    Social work grew out of humanitarian and democratic ideals, and its values are based on respect for the equality, worth, and dignity of all people. Since its beginnings over a century ago, social work practice has focused on meeting human needs and developing human potential. Human rights and social justice serve as the motivation and justification for social work action. In solidarity with those who are disadvantaged, the profession strives to alleviate poverty and to liberate vulnerable and oppressed people in order to promote social inclusion. Social work values are embodied in the profession's national and international codes of ethics.


    Social work bases its methodology on a systematic body of evidence-based knowledge derived from research and practice evaluation, including local and indigenous knowledge specific to its context. It recognises the complexity of interactions between human beings and their environment, and the capacity of people both to be affected by and to alter the multiple influences upon them including bio-psychosocial factors. The social work profession draws on theories of human development and behaviour and social systems to analyse complex situations and to facilitate individual, organisational, social and cultural changes.


    Social work addresses the barriers, inequities and injustices that exist in society. It responds to crises and emergencies as well as to everyday personal and social problems. Social work utilises a variety of skills, techniques, and activities consistent with its holistic focus on persons and their environments. Social work interventions range from primarily person-focused psychosocial processes to involvement in social policy, planning and development. These include counselling, clinical social work, group work, social pedagogical work, and family treatment and therapy as well as efforts to help people obtain services and resources in the community. Interventions also include agency administration, community organisation and engaging in social and political action to impact social policy and economic development. The holistic focus of social work is universal, but the priorities of social work practice will vary from country to country and from time to time depending on cultural, historical, and socio-economic conditions.

    This definition and associated commentary has received wide acceptance by most social work organisations, educational bodies and associations and is used extensively today. It is understood that social work is a dynamic and evolving profession, and the definition needs to be continually reviewed to keep up with the changes in the profession as well as reflect the diversity of social work practice. Consequently IFSW and IASSW have agreed a procedure to review the definition every ten years. Although a review was considered at the Hong Kong Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development in 2010, no changes were made to the definition at that time, and the results of an international survey (EASSW, 2010) will be presented to the Joint Conference of the IASSW, IFSW and the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) in Stockholm in June 2012, which may lead to further changes. Translations of the definition are available from in Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.

    EASSW.(2010)‘Review of the International Definition of Social Work’. Available at:, accessed 18 July 2011.
    Hare, I.‘Defining social work for the 21st century. The International Federation of Social Workers’ revised definition of social work,’International Social Work, 47(3): 407–24. (2004)

    Appendix 2: Ethics of Social Work: Statement of Principles

    This document can be viewed at:



    The Ethics in Social Work: Statement of Principles developed by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) demonstrates an initiative to develop global ethical standards for the social work profession. Prior to publication, the document was reviewed extensively by social workers in the 80 professional organisations of IFSW, as well as by social work educators from around the world, and then approved at the 2004 World Conference in Adelaide, Australia, and adopted formally in October 2004.

    The Statement of Principles is based on the 1976 International Code of Ethics of IFSW which represented the first code of ethics adopted to apply to social workers globally, supplemented in 1986 by a Declaration of Ethical Principles. These were merged in July 1994 into the International Ethical Principles and Standards for Social Workers.

    This led in 2004 to an agreed joint document with IASSW: Ethics in Social Work: Statement of Principles. This document was designed to be shorter than the 1994 version and to remain at the level of general principles. The Statement needs to be acceptable in all countries and consequently cannot be too specific, but needs to spell out broad principles that social workers may generally aspire to. As with the other joint policies this was not seen as a final and complete document, but one in the process of constant revision. Both IFSW and IASSW have formed a joint Ethics Committee to try to operationalise the Statement and consider any possible changes.

    The Statement of Principles is incorporated into national statements and codes of ethics around the world and is an essential element in social work education and training. The development of international statements of value and principle is part of the process of building a unifying framework for the social work profession based on, or influenced by, international human rights declarations.

    The Statement of Principles has four main sections. First, a Preface which emphasises that ethical awareness is a fundamental part of professional practice. This suggests that by staying at the level of general principles, the aim is to ‘…encourage social workers across the world to reflect on the challenges and dilemmas that face them and make ethically informed decisions about how to act in each particular case'. Complicating factors are that: often these decisions may be complex and nuanced; social workers may find themselves in the middle of conflicting interests, they also function both as ‘helpers’ and ‘controllers', there may be a conflict between protecting the interests of people and ‘demands for efficiency'; and resources are limited.

    Second, the Statement includes the International Definition of Social Work which emphasises that the social work profession promotes social change in a context where human rights and social justice are fundamental. The third section notes that the common standards where human rights and justice are specified can be found in international statements and covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), which form common standards of achievement, and recognise rights that are accepted by the global community.

    Finally the Statement specifies the ethical principles themselves and divides these into three main areas: (1) human rights and human dignity; (2) social justice; and (3) professional conduct. These are reproduced below:

    Human Rights and Human Dignity

    Social work is based on respect for the inherent worth and dignity of all people, and the rights that follow from this. Social workers should uphold and defend each person's physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual integrity and well-being. This means:

    • Respecting the right to self-determination–social workers should respect and promote people's right to make their own choices and decisions, irrespective of their values and life choices, provided this does not threaten the rights and legitimate interests of others.
    • Promoting the right to participation–social workers should promote the full involvement and participation of people using their services in ways that enable them to be empowered in all aspects of decisions and actions affecting their lives.
    • Treating each person as a whole–social workers should be concerned with the whole person, within the family, community, societal and natural environments, and should seek to recognise all aspects of a person's life.
    • Identifying and developing strengths–social workers should focus on the strengths of all individuals, groups and communities and thus promote their empowerment.
    Social Justice

    Social workers have a responsibility to promote social justice, in relation to society generally, and in relation to the people with whom they work. This means:

    • Challenging negative discrimination1–social workers have a responsibility to challenge negative discrimination on the basis of characteristics such as ability, age, culture, gender or sex, marital status, socio-economic status, political opinions, skin colour, racial or other physical characteristics, sexual orientation, or spiritual beliefs.
    • Recognising diversity–social workers should recognise and respect the ethnic and cultural diversity of the societies in which they practise, taking account of individual, family, group and community differences.
    • Distributing resources equitably–social workers should ensure that resources at their disposal are distributed fairly, according to need.
    • Challenging unjust policies and practices–social workers have a duty to bring to the attention of their employers, policy makers, politicians and the general public situations where resources are inadequate or where distribution of resources, policies and practices are oppressive, unfair or harmful.
    • Working in solidarity–social workers have an obligation to challenge social conditions that contribute to social exclusion, stigmatisation or subjugation, and to work towards an inclusive society.
    Professional Conduct

    It is the responsibility of the national organisations in membership of IFSW and IASSW to develop and regularly update their own codes of ethics or ethical guidelines, to be consistent with the IFSW/IASSW statement. It is also the responsibility of national organisations to inform social workers and schools of social work about these codes or guidelines. Social workers should act in accordance with the ethical code or guidelines current in their country. These will generally include more detailed guidance in ethical practice specific to the national context. The following general guidelines on professional conduct apply:

    Social workers:

    • are expected to develop and maintain the required skills and competence to do their job;
    • should not allow their skills to be used for inhumane purposes, such as torture or terrorism;
    • should act with integrity. This includes not abusing the relationship of trust with the people using their services, recognising the boundaries between personal and professional life, and not abusing their position for personal benefit or gain;
    • should act in relation to the people using their services with compassion, empathy and care;
    • should not subordinate the needs or interests of people who use their services to their own needs or interests;
    • have a duty to take necessary steps to care for themselves professionally and personally in the workplace and in society, in order to ensure that they are able to provide appropriate services;
    • should maintain confidentiality regarding information about people who use their services. Exceptions to this may only be justified on the basis of a greater ethical requirement (such as the preservation of life);
    • need to acknowledge that they are accountable for their actions to the users of their services, the people they work with, their colleagues, their employers, the professional association and to the law, and that these accountabilities may conflict;
    • should be willing to collaborate with the schools of social work in order to support social work students to get practical training of good quality and up-to-date practical knowledge;
    • should foster and engage in ethical debate with their colleagues and employers and take responsibility for making ethically informed decisions;
    • should be prepared to state the reasons for their decisions based on ethical considerations, and be accountable for their choices and actions;
    • should work to create conditions in employing agencies and in their countries where the principles of this statement and those of their own national code (if applicable) are discussed, evaluated and upheld.

    The Ethics Statement is subject to revision in a similar way to the International Definition of Social Work through the joint Ethics Committee, while discussion at Conferences also focuses on areas for possible change. In the context of this discussion, social work can be viewed on two levels. As noted in Banks et al. (2008), while at one level it is a professional practice rooted in particular nation states, cultures, and legal and policy frameworks, at another level it represents an international social movement, concerned to work for social justice worldwide: ‘The international statement on ethics embodies both these senses of social work and contributes to dialogue about values, practices and ideals across boundaries’ (2008: 14). This suggests the importance of a continual process of constructive dialogue between the two organisations and an ongoing debate about the purpose, role and mission of the social work profession.


    1 In some countries the term ‘discrimination’ would be used instead of ‘negative discrimination'. The word negative is used here because in some countries the term ‘positive discrimination’ is also used. Positive discrimination is also known as ‘affirmative action'. Positive discrimination or affirmative action means positive steps taken to redress the effects of historical discrimination against the groups named.

    Banks, S., Hugman, R., Healy, L., Bozalek, V. and Orme, J.(2008)Global Ethics for Social Work: Problems and Possibilities. Papers from the Ethics and Social Welfare Symposium, July 2008, Durban. Available at: Accessed 21 August 2011.

    Appendix 3: Global Standards for the Education and Training of the Social Work Profession

    This document can be viewed at:



    The Global Standards for the Education and Training of the Social Work Profession were developed by the Global Minimum Qualifying Standards Committee, established in 2000 and comprising members from the International Association of Schools of Social Work and the International Federation of Social Workers: the resulting document was approved at the separate General Meetings of the two bodies in Adelaide in 2004. The document was developed on the basis of wide consultations (including about the need for such standards) but has not been accepted without criticism in some quarters (see later): they have, however, been described by the joint chairs of the international bodies as ‘aspirational’ and dynamic and not intended to be prescriptive (Sewpaul and Jones, 2004).

    In prefacing the document, the international organisations gave several reasons for adopting international standards. These include the need to take account of the impact of globalisation on social work training and practice, recognising the changing world in which social workers function and the responsibilities of social work education to adequately prepare practitioners for this globalised environment. A corollary to this principle is the facilitation of partnerships, including international student and staff exchange programmes. The standards seek to encourage exchange while respecting cultural diversity.

    Other reasons noted for adoption of the standards focus on protection of clients and recognition of social work practitioners. The standards are not intended to be a substitute for licensing or other legal certification of professional expertise, but aspire to assure a baseline of knowledge and skills for programme graduates around the world. This will help both clients and officials to draw a distinction between social workers and non-social workers in all countries, as well as facilitating the movement of trained social workers from one country to another by assuring equivalency of educational background.

    Summary Contents

    The document commences with an introduction which refers readers to appendices detailing the processes involved in its production and caution that should be exercised in its use. It accepts and reiterates the international definition of social work and provides a short summary of the core purposes of social work (broadly described as being ‘targeted at interventions for social support and for developmental, protective, preventive and/or therapeutic purposes’ [ISW, no date: 15]).

    The document then lists a range of standards to be aimed for in the following nine areas:

    • School's core purpose or mission statement
    • Programme objectives and outcomes
    • Programme curricula including field programmes
    • Core curricula
    • Professional staff
    • Social work students
    • Structure, administration, governance and resources
    • Culture and ethnic diversity and gender inclusiveness
    • Values and ethical codes of conduct of the profession

    The section on core curricula is prefaced by the statement that curricula should be identified and selected according to ‘local, national and/or regional/international needs and priorities’ (ISW, no date: 19) and is then subdivided into four sections suggesting core curricula relating to:

    • the domain of the social work profession (4.2.1);
    • domain of the social work professional (4.2.2);
    • methods of social work practice (4.2.3);
    • (epistemological) paradigm(s) of the social work profession (4.2.4).
    Commentary and Critiques

    The elaboration of and agreement on global standards in education for social professionals (including social pedagogues) can be seen as a major step in the internationalisation of social work education. The standards are designed to encourage the development of high quality education for social workers in countries around the world. In adopting the Global Standards, IASSW and IFSW were aspiring to move social work graduates closer to a global equivalency where the professional qualifications obtained by social workers in one country are accepted as comparable with those achieved elsewhere. Globalisation has resulted in increased migration in the general population, including, more specifically, increased international mobility of social workers. In addition, the growing number of social workers employed by international organisations often need to confirm professional credentials including educational qualifications. In some (primarily Western) countries, there is increasing governmental regulation of social workers, which requires documentation of credentials received from an accredited educational institution. While the global standards are an aspirational document and there is no monitoring, control, or accreditation function connected to them, they do provide a baseline of comparison that may assist social workers working out of the country in which they received their training (Sewpaul and Jones, 2004).

    Additionally, anecdotal evidence suggests that in countries where social work is relatively new (or recently re-established) and lacking in formal structures for accreditation, or even in precedents with regard to expectations, social work educators can find it helpful to have external (international) criteria and standards against which to develop their programmes and to promote their own needs and values in higher education institutions unfamiliar with the requirements of professional education programmes (Lyons and Lawrence, 2006). It can be argued then that the standards provide a broad universal framework for the education of social professionals that can be adapted to local contexts and conditions (Hokenstad, 2008).

    However, the advent of even an aspirational set of global standards has not been without controversy. A major point of debate has been their relevance to local cultures and conditions. This issue concerns both the value base and curriculum content addressed in the document. Some educators argue that sections are based on assumptions of universality based in Western societies and grounded in Western experiences. The argument suggests a form of intellectual imperialism that attempts to determine the nature of social work education around the globe. It further states that the standards fail to give attention to indigenous cultures and their contributions to human wellbeing. For example, Yip (2004), taking the international definition, the ethics statement and the global standards document together, suggests that these still embrace an ideology of Western social work imperialism reflecting values which do not sit comfortably with Chinese experience and expectations (e.g. where responsibilities and stability are at least as much valued as rights and change, respectively). Gray (2005) also argues that much greater emphasis must be placed on culture and cultural context and that in any debates and assumptions about globalisation, internationalisation and universalism, we should not perpetuate imperialistic tendencies, but rather aim to promote indigenous practices, educating social workers accordingly.

    Thus the standards are not accepted as globally appropriate by all, nor even as necessary by some. However, the criticisms were to some extent anticipated and the dangers of devising such a document have been articulated (e.g. Sewpaul, 2005). It is ultimately the responsibility of social work educators (and their national organisations, if any) to promote or ignore the standards. If the former, they need to be adopted in ways which are appropriate to national conditions and respectful of both local values and the aspirations of the international authors of this document.

    KarenLyons and TerryHokenstadJoint editors
    Gray, M.‘Dilemmas of international social work: paradoxical processes in indigenisation, universalism and imperialism,’International Journal of Social Welfare, 14(3): 231–8. (2005)
    Hokenstad, M.C.(2008)‘International social work education,’ in T.Mizrahi and L.E.Davis (eds), Encyclopedia of Social Work, (
    20th edn
    ). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Vol. 2, pp. 488–93.
    ISW (International Social Work). Supplement issued with International Social Work, containing the Definition, Ethics and Global Standards documents.London: SAGE.
    Lyons, K. and Lawrence, S.(2006)Social Work in Europe: Educating for Change.Birmingham: IASSW/BASW, Venture Press.
    Sewpaul, V.‘Global standards: promise and pitfalls for re-inscribing social work into civil society,’International Journal of Social Welfare, 14(3): 218–30. (2005)
    Sewpaul, V. and Jones, D.‘Global standards for social work education and training,’Social Work Education, 23(5): 493–513. (2004)
    Yip, K.S.‘A Chinese cultural critique of the global qualifying standards for social work education,’Social Work Education, 23(5): 597–612. (2004)

    Appendix 4: The United Nations

    The United Nations website, a comprehensive outline of the organisation.

    Some key objectives of the United Nations (UN) system, namely peace-keeping, human rights, humanitarian assistance, and social and economic development, closely reflect, albeit on a different level and scale, fundamental goals of social work. Moreover, the UN can often support workers and agencies engaged in international social work. Hence it is important that social workers understand the UN and cooperate with it wherever possible.

    Founded in 1945 by 51 nations as a response to the experience of World War II, the UN is engaged in assisting its current 193 member states to work together on a wide range of fronts to maintain peaceful relationships, improve people's lives, respect rights and harmonise action. While essentially a member states organisation, operating under a Charter, the UN relates also to over 13,000 civil society organisations, some of which have consultative status and various other roles through the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the Economic and Social Council. The UN is thus the only international organisation that enables states and a wide variety of other organisations to work together to the extent that they are willing to do so. It has, however, little ability to oblige any state or organisation to do anything.

    The UN has six principal organs established under its Charter. The General Assembly, composed of the member states on the basis of ‘one state one vote', receives many reports, discusses a wide range of issues and makes recommendations. While it represents nigh universal coverage, it can only reflect essentially the positions of the current political leadership of its members, rather than peoples, specific populations or civil society. This can be a significant drawback in its effectiveness, leading at times to the suggestion that one or more parallel assemblies are required, representing perhaps people and civil society.

    The Security Council, with its five permanent members (France, Republic of China, Russian Federation, United Kingdom and the United States) and ten elected members with two-year terms, is charged with peace and security issues. The arrangement of five permanent members, each with a veto power in regard to substantive resolutions, has greatly reduced the Council's effectiveness and cries out for reform. Alternative arrangements have been advanced in recent years and may not be too far off. The Council has been accused of not acting in relation to various states infringing people's rights and jeopardising peace, but the prevailing voting system is largely responsible for this failure. Where it is able to intervene, the Council encourages and facilitates negotiations between warring parties and may deploy a peace-keeping force, with personnel made available by member states. In 2011, fifteen peace-keeping operations were deployed.

    The Economic and Social Council, with a revolving membership of 54 states, promotes economic and social development, and oversees many of the agencies with which social workers are likely to be involved. This Council also has active regional commissions and standing committees: social workers can be very active at these levels.

    The remaining three central organs are the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice (with the related International Criminal Court emerging in 2002), and the Secretariat. In June 2010, the Secretariat had some 44,000 staff members located at various centres around the world. It requires a large budget and a complex administration, and the UN has been criticised as being too expensive, bureaucratic and hierar chical.

    Apart from affiliation with the Economic and Social Council and involvement in UN conferences through, for example, a parallel civil society organisations conference, most social work involvement with the UN is with the range of specialised agencies, funds and programmes, offices and other entities, reporting variously to the General Assembly, Security Council or Economic and Social Council. The list of these agencies and other entities is a very long one (see the UN websites). Some of them come under the UN budget, to which all member states contribute, and some of them must raise their own funds. Some are essentially operational while others have coordinating, promoting, overseeing, and other roles. Some are also independent of the central organs of the UN, apart from reporting to and at times cooperating with them. These include the World Bank (WB) Group, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the various courts and tribunals. Among the UN agencies best known to social workers are the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and very recently, UN-Women, but social work in the field engages with a very wide range of UN entities.

    In international social work, as commonly defined, social workers are often working in partnership with, collaborating with, or being assisted by various elements of the UN system. In addition, some draw on, and sometimes contribute to, publications emanating from the UN, or draw inspiration from the work of its agencies and their personnel. However, it should be noted that the UN is often limited by the influence of state members’ current leadership over what it can report, say, or do about many situations. Hence discussions with UN personnel will often provide important insights at variance with published reports or even actions in the field. Not only may reports be biased by states’ demands and statistics, but the field work is limited in scope and direction by the funds, personnel and other resources made available to UN agencies in the field seeking to respond to specific situations. In these ways, particular activities of the various arms of the UN can be significantly circumscribed by specific member states, and it is important to appreciate this when evaluating the agency's work in any context.

    Over the years, the UN has enacted a large number of conventions, frequently aimed at protecting either universal rights or those of specific populations. Not all member states choose to sign these conventions, and even more fail to reflect them in state legislation or seek to enforce them. However, their very existence enables social workers at any level to campaign around these conventions. These conventions cover not only basic human rights but also the rights of virtually all populations with which social workers commonly work, as well as others.

    The UN is not engaged in world governance, even though some states have feared that it could be and have campaigned against this. Whether it should become so by being reformed is debated. For example, could it be more representative of peoples and nongovernment agencies, and given the power to enforce the many conventions, agreements and recommendations that already emanate from the organs of the UN? A similarly controversial area is its role in relation to the formulation and enforcement of international law. It has clearly played a role over the period of its existence in the emerging field of international law, and the established international courts, together with the tribunals set up in the aftermath of conflict, do represent some of the first tentative steps towards the enforcement of an international legal system. However, the effective functioning of such a system still has a long road ahead, and it remains controversial as to whether the UN should be given this role.

    A further area of debate is that of global social policy. Much of what the UN has achieved to date can be seen as contributing to that end, but the extent to which it should play a pro-active role in this regard remains an open question. One key issue is that of the sovereignty of states versus the capacity of an international body to hold states to account in various ways: this is likely to remain controversial. A second issue is the relative roles of the UN as an international body and the emerging regional bodies, such as the European and African Unions. These clearly have the potential to carry out a range of roles, at least within the confines of their regions but sometimes with consequences well beyond.

    The UN is a large and complex structure that currently operates in the face of a range of restrictions. Despite its limitations, it has achieved much over the decades of its existence and possesses the potential to do even more. To be effective, however, it needs to work in close cooperation with all nation states and a range of other organisations, and that aim can best be achieved through the active involvement and support not only of governments but also of the professions and civil society. To this end, international social work can, and should, certainly contribute.

    Further Reading provides alphabetic and thematic indexes of the names and websites of United Nations organisations, and the separate websites are the best current introduction to any United Nations body.
    A further comprehensive outline of the United Nations system can be found in Weiss, T.G. and Daws, S. (eds) (2007)The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations.Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Robertson, G.(2000)Crimes Against Humanity: The Struggle for Global Justice.London: Penguin Books, provides an excellent discussion of the history of, and difficulties confronting, the United Nations in the field of global justice.
    For an overview and discussion of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization, see Todaro, M.P. and Smith, S.C.(2003)Economic Development.
    8th edn.
    Harlow, England: Pearson. pp. 584–7 and 626–30.
    For good discussions of the United Nations System, its strengths and limitations, see Gordon, W.(1994)The United Nations at the Crossroads of Reform.New York: M.E. Sharpe; and Mingst, K.A. and Karns, M.P. (2007) The United Nations in the Twenty-First Century. 3rd edn. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Appendix 5: Human Rights: The Human Rights Triptych

    Given that social work is considered a human rights profession1, it is necessary to have an adequate understanding of human rights principles. Having arisen from the ashes of World War II, they are essentially international legal mandates to fulfill human need, a world response to human rights abuses and declarations that they should never happen again. To fully understand the entire body of human rights principles, Rene Cassin, often referred to as the Father of Human Rights, urged the peoples and nations of the world to understand and appreciate the ‘Human Rights Triptych'. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the authoritative definition of human rights standards, a document increasingly referred to as customary international law, is at the centre. On the right are the guiding principles, declarations and conventions that elaborate upon the Universal Declaration and can have more judicial force: on the left are implementation measures, such as reporting to human rights committees, the Universal Periodic Review, and world conferences (see Wronka, 2008: 52, for a tabular representation of this triptych). Taken altogether, human rights principles can serve as the bedrock of social justice, asserting values that can ultimately move the world community towards a ‘human rights culture,’ that is, a ‘lived awareness’ of human rights principles in our minds and hearts and dragged into our everyday life (

    The Central Panel: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)

    Endorsed with no dissent by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948, by January 2012 virtually every member nation of the UN has signed this document. The most translated document in the world, it can be found on the internet at

    For a summary of the UDHR's historical, philosophical, and religious antecedents, as well as, country debates prior to its endorsement, see Wronka (1998, 2008). Very briefly, the UDHR, a philosophic/historic compromise, consists of five interdependent crucial notions: human dignity (Article 1, a major teaching in nearly every religion); non-discrimination (Article 2, also a major teaching); negative freedoms (Articles 3–21, also called civil and political rights, largely reflective of the US Bill of Rights, urging governments not to interfere with fundamental freedoms, like speech and the press); positive freedoms (Articles 22–27, also called economic, social, and cultural rights, indicative of the Soviet Constitution of 1923, which pose governmental obligations to provide for the fulfillment of human needs like physical and mental health); and solidarity rights (Articles 28–30, urging duties towards one another and the need for a socially just national and international order requiring governmental cooperation to fulfill human rights for everyperson, everywhere).

    For the sake of brevity, below is an educated layperson's2 summary of the UDHR's substantive provisions, with some commentary as appropriate.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    Given that disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts that have shocked the conscience of humanity and that recognition of the inherent dignity of human beings and equal rights of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world, the General Assembly proclaims UDHR as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations.

    Article 1

    All human beings are born free and equal with dignity and rights and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood [and sisterhood].3

    Article 2

    Everyone is entitled to human rights without discrimination as to race, color, sex, language, religion, political opinion, national origin, property, birth, or other status (italics added).4

    Article 3

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security.

    Article 4

    No one shall be held in slavery or servitude.

    Article 5

    No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment.

    Article 6

    Everyone has a right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

    Article 7

    Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection before the law.

    Article 8

    Everyone has the right to an effective remedy should a right be violated.

    Article 9

    No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile.

    Article 10

    Everyone is entitled to full equality in a fair and public hearing by an independent, impartial, and competent tribunal.

    Article 11

    Everyone has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in a public trial with all guarantees necessary for a proper defense.

    Article 12

    Everyone has the right to privacy in the family, home, or correspondence and to protection against attacks upon honour and reputation.

    Article 13

    Everyone has the right to freedom of movement within one's country and the right to leave one's country and the right to return to it.

    Article 14

    Everyone has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution in other countries.

    Article 15

    Everyone has the right to a nationality.

    Article 16

    Men and women of full age have a right to marry, with free and full consent, and to found a family, the fundamental unit of society, which is entitled to protection by the state.

    Article 17

    Everyone has the right to own property, which shall not be arbitrarily taken away.

    Article 18

    Everyone has the right to freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion.

    Article 19

    Everyone has the right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas and to freedoms of opinion and expression.

    Article 20

    Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly and association.

    Article 21

    Everyone has the right to take part in government directly or through freely chosen representatives and the right to equal access to public services. The will of the people shall be the basis of government.

    Article 22

    Everyone has the right to social security through national and international cooperation and is entitled to the realisation of economic, social, and cultural rights, which are indispensable to human dignity and development.

    Article 23

    Everyone has rights to: meaningful and gainful employment which shall ensure to the worker's family an existence worthy of human dignity and supplemented by social protections as necessary; equal pay for equal work; and to form and join unions.

    Article 24

    Everyone has the right to rest, leisure, and periodic holidays with pay.

    Article 25

    Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for the health and well being of the family, including but not limited to: food, clothing, housing, medical care, necessary social services, security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, or old age. Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. Children born in or out of wedlock shall enjoy the same social protection.

    Article 26

    Everyone has the right to education, which shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the promotion of understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations, racial, or religious groups.

    Article 27

    Everyone has the right to the free participation in the cultural life of the community; to enjoy the arts; and to share in the benefits of scientific advancement.

    Article 28

    Everyone is entitled to a social and international order in which human rights can be realised.

    Article 29

    Everyone has duties to the community in which the free and full development of the human personality is possible. Rights have limits solely for the purpose of securing recognition and respect for the dignity of others.

    Article 30

    No person, group, or government has the right to engage in the destruction of any of these human rights.5

    The Right Panel: Conventions, Declarations, and Guiding Principles

    Mentioned below are first, articles from two major conventions, at times, called covenants and treaties: The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR). Following are mention of other core and timely human rights documents, including not only conventions, but also declarations and guiding principles, the former having the most judicial force. (They can be found in their entirely at: and scrolling down to the appropriate document.) In brief, guiding principles often become declarations, if not conventions. A case in point is the Guiding Principles to Eradicate Extreme Poverty. In March 2012 at the Human Rights Council meetings, IASSW urged governments to consider drafting a legally binding International Convention to Abolish Extreme Poverty (CAEP) (see, also this author's website and portal for resources for human rights/social justice advocates). It is important to keep in mind that many state constitutions have an article that asserts in essence that international treaties ought to become law, such as Article 6, the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution, stating they should become “law of the land… and the judges bound thereby.”

    The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)6

    Endorsed 16 December 1966; entered into force on 23 March 1976. September 2011: 72 signatories, 167 parties. At:

    Article 1–All peoples have the right to self-determination meaning that they can freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, based upon the principle of mutual benefit. They cannot be deprived of their own means of subsistence.

    Article 2–Everyone has the right to non-discrimination and a remedy by competent state authorities should their rights be violated.

    Article 3–All men and women have equal rights.

    Article 6–Everyone has the right to life and survival.

    Article 7–No one shall be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment, nor to medical or scientific experimentation without full consent.

    Article 8–No one shall be held in slavery; slavery and the slave trade in all their forms shall be prohibited.

    Article 9–Everyone has the right to liberty and security of person, including freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention and the right to a fair and prompt trial. Upon arrest, persons must be informed of the reasons for their arrest and the charges brought against them.

    Article 10–Persons deprived of liberty shall be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person. Juveniles shall be separated from adults and be treated appropriately for their age. The essential aim of treatment of prisoners is for their reformation and social rehabilitation.

    Article 11–No one shall be imprisoned due to debt.

    Article 12–Everyone has the right to liberty of movement, including the right to leave and return to one's country and the right to choose one's residence.

    Article 13–Aliens have the right to submit reasons against possible expulsion, which ought to be reviewed by specially designated competent authorities.

    Article 14–Everyone has the right to equality before the law. This should include the right to a fair and public trial by competent impartial authorities; the presumption of innocence until proven guilty; trial without undue delay; an understanding of charges in language the accused understands; and an adequate legal defence.

    Article 17–No one shall be subjected to arbitrary unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home, or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks upon his/her honour or reputation.

    Article 18–Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the right to practice his/her religion individually or in community.

    Article 19–Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas of all kinds, either orally, in writing, in the form of art, or through any other media of choice.

    Article 20–Advocacy of national, racial, or religious hatred, propaganda for war that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility, or violence shall be prohibited.

    Article 21–Everyone has the right to peaceful assembly.

    Article 22–Everyone has the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to join or form trade unions for the protection of his/her interests.

    Article 23–The family, as the natural and fundamental unit of society, is entitled to protection by society. Everyone has the right to marry and found a family with free and full consent of intending spouses.

    Article 24–Every child has rights to non-discrimination and protection by society. They shall be registered immediately after birth, have a name, and the right to acquire a nationality.

    Article 25–Everyone has the right to take part in public affairs either directly or through freely chosen representatives and the right of equal access to public service.

    Article 26–Everyone has the right to equality before the law and to equal protection.

    Article 27–Ethnic, religious, or linguistic minorities shall not be denied the right in community with other members of their group to enjoy their own culture, profess and practice their own religion, or use their own language.8

    First Optional Protocol9–Individuals, who feel that they were victims of violations, as defined by the ICCPR, have the right to send communications to appropriate human rights committees (Endorsed 16 December 1966; entered into force 23 March 1976. At August 2011: 35 signatories; 114 parties).

    Second Optional Protocol–Governments shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty (Endorsed 15 December 1989; entered into force 11 July 1991. At August 2011, 35 signatories; 35 parties).

    The International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

    Endorsed 16 December 1966; entered into force 3 January 1976. At August 2011, 69 signatories; 160 parties. At:

    Article 1–All peoples have the right to self-determination meaning that they can freely pursue their economic, social, and cultural development, based upon the principle of mutual benefit. They cannot be deprived of their own means of subsistence.

    Article 2–States shall take steps to progressively realise economic, social, and cultural rights and with non-discrimination.

    Article 3–Men and women shall have equal rights as enunciated in this Covenant.

    Article 4–In enjoying economic, social, and cultural rights, states may pose limitations, but only in so far as they are compatible with promoting the general welfare in a democratic society.

    Article 5–No state, group, or person has the right to destroy any of the rights in this Convention.

    Article 6–Everyone has the right to work, including the opportunity to gain one's living by work freely chosen and accepted. States shall take steps like technical, vocational, and training programs and policies to achieve steady, economic, social, and cultural development and full and productive employment.

    Article 7–Everyone has the right to just and favourable conditions at work, which at minimum includes safe and healthy working conditions; fair wages to ensure a decent living for workers and their families; equal pay for men and women for equal work; and rest, leisure, and reasonable limitation of working hours and periodic holidays with pay.

    Article 8–Everyone has the right to form and join trade unions, to strike in conformity with laws necessary for a democratic society, and to establish national and international confederations of unions.

    Article 9–Everyone has the right to society security, including social insurance.

    Article 10–The widest possible protection and assistance should be accorded to the family, the natural and fundamental unit of society, particularly while responsible for the care and education of dependent children. Special protections should be accorded to working mothers during a reasonable period before and after childbirth, including paid leave or leave with adequate social security benefits. Children should not be discriminated against because of parentage. They should be protected from economic and social exploitation, which would prohibit employment in work harmful to their morals or health and likely to hamper their normal development.

    Article 11–Everyone has the right to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing, and housing. Everyone has the right to be free from hunger. States individually and through international cooperation shall promote programs to improve methods of production, conservation, and distribution of food; disseminate knowledge of the principles of nutrition; reform agrarian systems to ensure the efficient development and utilisation of natural resources; and ensure the equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need.

    Article 12–Everyone has the right to enjoy the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health. Steps taken to achieve this right shall include provision of the reduction of stillbirth and infant mortality rate; the improvement of all aspects of environmental and industrial hygiene; the prevention, treatment, and control of epidemic, endemic, occupational and other diseases; and conditions to ensure to all medical service in the event of sickness.

    Article 13–Everyone has the right to education, which shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and the sense of its dignity and shall strengthen respect for human rights. Furthermore, education shall enable all persons to participate effectively in a free society, promote understanding, tolerance, and friendship among all nations and all racial, ethnic, or religious groups and the maintenance of peace. Primary education shall be compulsory and available free to all.

    Article 14–If states, when becoming a party to this Convention do not have compulsory primary education free of charge, they shall undertake measures within two years to work out a detailed plan of action for its progressive implementation.

    Article 15–Everyone has the right to participate in cultural life, to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress, to benefit from the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he/she is the author. States shall respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research and creative activity and encourage the development of international contacts and cooperation in the cultural and scientific fields.10

    Select Core and Other Timely Human Rights Documents11

    International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)–Endorsed 7 March 1966; entered into force 4 January 1969. At August 2011, 85 signatories; 174 parties. At:

    Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)–Endorsed 18 December 1979; entered into force 3 September 1981. At August 2011, 98 signatories; 187 parties. At:

    Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)–Endorsed 20 November 1989; entered into force 2 September 1990. At August 2011, 143 signatories; 140 parties. At:

    Convention Against Torture (CAT)–Endorsed 10 December 1948; entered into force 26 June 1987. At August 2011, 77 signatories; 149 parties. At:

    Genocide Convention–Endorsed 9 December 1948; entered into force 12 January 1951. At August 2011, 41 signatories; 141 parties. At:

    Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples–Endorsed on 13 September 2007 with 143 for; 4 against (USA, New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, who have now voted in favour); 11 abstaining; 34 absent.

    Guiding Principles for the Protection of Persons with Mental Illness and the Improvement of Mental Health Care–Endorsed 19 December 1991. Other information not available. At:

    Guiding Principles to Eradicate Extreme Poverty–Still in the process of endorsement. At:

    The Left Panel: Implementation12

    A Major Portal to Human Rights Initiatives: The UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (

    Countries’ Reports to Human Rights Committees (

    Portal to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) (

    Proceedings of the Human Rights Council in general (

    World Human Rights Conferences (

    A Human Rights Portal for the African Union (AU) (

    A Human Rights Portal for the Organization of American States (OAS) (

    A Human Rights Portal for the European Union (EU) (

    A Human Rights Portal for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations: ( Author's Website serving as a portal for human rights/social justice advocates, particularly those in the discipline of social work: (


    1 See, for example, Ife (2008), Reichert (2011) and Wronka (1998, 2008).

    2 Please note that Eleanor Roosevelt, chair of the drafting committee for the Universal Declaration, wanted a document for the educated layperson, not for the doctorate in jurisprudence. Whereas summaries of articles may not be total or precise, they ought to agree with their substance and sense and provide an adequate platform discussing the values inherent in the UDHR.

    3 Eleanor Roosevelt wanted a document using non-sexist language, a rather novel initiative given the tenor of the times. However, the committee by and large felt otherwise.

    4 It is important to emphasise that this article's emphasis is that being human, rather than such characteristics like race, sex, or religion, is the sole criterion to have the rights to be enumerated. Roughly, this article, also reflective of the spirit of the times, was a prelude to considering other areas of discrimination, such as sexual orientation, age, disability, medical condition, or marital status. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, the UDHR was ‘a good document… not a perfect one'.

    5 Originally intended to be elaborated upon by later UN documents, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) of which Jane Addams was first co-president radically departed from this intent by calling upon the world community to amend the UDHR to include an Article 31, the right to clean and potable drinking water, indicative of perhaps the most pressing concern in the 21st century.

    6 Continuing with the intent of Eleanor Roosevelt, this section states what appears to substantively represent a major theme (or themes) of select articles, including either direct or paraphrased clauses from the articles. Although an unofficial summary, the purpose here is to expand debates concerning the values that these documents represent, generally going beyond the UDHR and working on the assumption that only chosen values endure. Here, for purposes of expediency only the first two major human rights conventions, the ICCPR and CESCR (to be discussed), given their widespread familiarity in the international arena, will be elaborated upon. Their familiarity is further buttressed by the fact that taken collectively with the UDHR, they have traditionally been referred to as The International Bill of Rights. Later, mention of other select core and other timely human rights documents will be mentioned only cursorily for purposes of expediency. For a tabular summary of all those documents, see Wronka (2008).

    7 Websites for conventions will include countries’ concerns, that is, reservations and understandings as pertaining to each document and whether they have signed and/or ratified that document. Being a signatory means that a country has decided to consider ratification in its legislative bodies. Once ratified, however, it poses a legal obligation, especially if the state constitution has a clause as in the USA's Constitution's Article 6 (sec. a) called ‘The Supremacy Clause', which states that a treaty must be considered ‘Supreme Law of the Land', and ‘the judges bound thereby’ (see, for example, Steiner et al. (2007) and Weissbrodt et al. (2001). But ratification may include a ‘non-self-executing’ clause, giving the human rights document a mere symbolic, rather than judicial significance, as the USA did when it ratified the ICCPR (Buergenthal et al. (2002).

    8 The rest of the Covenant, articles 28–53, deal essentially with procedural and other matters pertaining to states’ ratification and submission of periodic reports before the monitoring committee of the ICCPR. These reports, substantive to the left side of the Human Rights Triptych can be found on the internet at:

    9 Roughly, such a protocol serves as an amendment to the foregoing document.

    10 As in the ICCPR, the rest of the Covenant deals essentially with procedural and other matters pertaining to states’ ratification and submission of periodic reports before the monitoring committee of CESCR.

    11 These documents are here given their importance in the human rights arena. At first glance, it may seem that they set us up against one another because, for example, working on behalf of the rights of women, we might forget the rights of children. However, if we acknowledge the interdependence of human rights and the fact that social justice is, indeed, a struggle, all of our efforts can and should integrate all human rights principles in creative ways which call in part for a just social and international order, until every person, everywhere has their rights realised.

    12 Concerning implementation, generally considered the weakest part of the triptych, ultimately the will of the people is necessary to enforce human rights principles. Consequently, this Second World Decade for Human Rights Education (2005–2015) can continue to play a pivotal role in bringing a global consensus towards creating a human rights culture. Listed here are select resources, not only for UN implementation measures, but also for other regional organisations that have evolved.

    Buergenthal, T., Shelton, D. and Stewart, D.(2002)Buergenthal's International Human Rights in a Nutshell.Eagan, Minnesota: West Publishing Company.
    Ife, J.(2008)Human Rights and Social Work: Towards Rights Based Practice.Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    Reichert, E.(2011)Social Work and Human Rights: A Foundation for Policy and Practice.New York: Columbia University Press.
    Steiner, H., Alston, P. and Goodman, R.(2007). International Human Rights in Context: Law, Politics, Morals.
    3rd edn.
    New York: Oxford University Press.
    Weissbrodt, D., Fitzpatrick, J., Newman, F., Hoffman, M. and Rumsey, M.(2001). International Human Rights: Law, Policy, and Process.Cincinnati, OH: Anderson.
    Wronka, J.(1998). Human Rights and Social Policy in the 21st Century: a History of the Idea of Human Rights and Comparison of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights with United States Federal and State Constitutions (
    rev. edn
    ). Lanham, MD: University Press of America.
    Wronka, J.(2008). Human Rights and Social Justice: Social Action and Service for The Helping and Health Professions.Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

    Appendix 6: Millennium Development Goals

    This document can be viewed at:

    The Millennium Development Goals (also known as the MDGs) are a set of social objectives that the member states of the United Nations (UN) have agreed to meet by the year 2015. They are contained in a UN resolution, known as the Millennium Declaration which was unanimously adopted by the organisation's 189 member states at a Special Session of the General Assembly (known as the Millennium Summit) in September 2000 (United Nations, 2000). The Declaration contains eight broad goals which are broken down into 18 specific, measurable targets that range over topics such as poverty reduction, improvements in school attendance, the enhancement of gender equity, reductions in child and maternal mortality, the promotion of sustainable development and improvements in international cooperation.


    The UN and its member states have been committed to improving the well-being of the world's people since the organisation's Charter was signed in 1945. Numerous resolutions and other international instruments have been adopted and various international gatherings have been convened to mobilise support for this effort. One especially important international meeting was the World Summit on Social Development held in Copenhagen in 1995. This was convened at a time of global economic adversity, financial crises and the promotion of neoliberal policies by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the governments of some Western countries such as Britain and the United States. All used their political influence and aid programmes to promote market liberalisation and reduce government involvement in social and economic affairs. By the 1990s, these policies had resulted in severe spending cuts, retrenchments in government services and an increase in the incidence of poverty and deprivation in many countries. The summit was convened to challenge these developments and to secure a renewed commitment from the member states to use public resources to improve the well-being of their citizens. A particularly noteworthy feature of the summit was that 117 heads of state including presidents, prime ministers and monarchs from different parts of the world attended and endorsed the summit's call for international action. The summit concluded with the unanimous adoption of the Copenhagen Declaration which contained 10 broad commitments to address pressing global problems such as poverty, hunger, unemployment, gender discrimination, child mortality and HIV/AIDS among others (United Nations, 1996). These subsequently formed the basis for the MDGs.

    Following the World Summit, staff at the UN Secretariat began to plan for the implementation of the commitments through closely collaborating with governments, donor countries and other international agencies. It was agreed that a follow-up meeting would be held in 2000 to assess progress. Initially this meeting was known as Copenhagen +5 but when it was realised that it would be held at the beginning of a new millennium, the title of the meeting was changed to the Millennium Summit. This time, 147 heads of state attended and many of them addressed the General Assembly and declared their support for the Declaration.


    With the exception of Goal 8 which deals with global partnerships, national governments are given primary responsibility for implementing the goals. Most have established implementation plans, allocated funds and created reporting and monitoring systems. Responsibility for particular goals was usually assigned to government ministries such as health, education and housing while overall direction was provided by the government's central planning agency or the office of the president or prime minister. Nongovernmental organisations and the business community were also encouraged to participate. The UNs’ Millennium Project (based in New York) provides policy direction, promotes coordination and monitors progress.

    Although many governments have increased budgetary allocations to programmes designed to meet the goals, international aid has also been required, especially to assist low-income countries. In addition to funding from the UN and its different agencies, resources have been provided by the IMF, the World Bank and the regional development banks. Official development assistance, from high-income donor countries as well as international nongovernmental organisations and foundations, has also been mobilised. A special effort has been made to integrate the poverty alleviation policies of the World Bank with the longer-term MDGs. Today, the Bank is a major advocate and funder of government efforts to achieve the goals.

    In addition to meeting the MDGs through nationally directed programmes and policies, the adoption of what are described as Quick Win projects has been encouraged. These can be more readily implemented than longer-term national programmes often at a relatively affordable cost. Among others, they include the provision of mosquito nets to poor families, the abolition of school fees and user charges for health services, legislative reforms guaranteeing property and inheritance rights to women and local community-based forestry projects. International donors and large foundations have made a significant contribution to funding these projects.

    Progress So Far

    Although it is intended that most of the goals and targets will be reached by 2015, some goals may be met sooner, while it is recognised that others will require longer. For example, it is anticipated that a target date of 2020 will be required to meet the goal of improving the lives of people residing in informal settlements. On the other hand, it was hoped that gender disparities in primary and secondary education could be eliminated by 2005 and that universal access to HIV/AIDS treatment could be provided by 2010. In some cases, such as halving the proportion of the population living in poverty by 2015, a baseline of 1990 is used so that the time to achieve this target is actually 25 years.

    In addition to establishing an international system of data collection and monitoring, the UN convened two high-level meetings of the General Assembly in 2005 and 2010 to evaluate progress. The meeting of 2005 was overshadowed by the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and vigorous criticism by Mr John Bolton, the US ambassador at to the UN, of the work of the organisation in general and the goals in particular. His views reflected the disdain in neoconservative circles in the United States government for the UN and its activities. Mr Bolton raised a number of objections to the goals arguing that more progress would be made if governments adopted free-market economic policies and liberal democratic political systems. Much was made of the fact that progress since 2000 had been decidedly mixed (United Nations, 2005).

    The 2010 meeting was less contentious and the progress report presented by the Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, was generally well-received (United Nations, 2010). The report stated that significant progress had been made in achieving many but not all of the goals. The incidence of absolute poverty had fallen steadily and is on target to decline to 920 million people or about half the number who were in poverty in 1990. The most dramatic reduction in the incidence of poverty had taken place in East Asia but declines were also recorded in other regions including South Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. School attendance has increased significantly and the enrolment of girls had improved, particularly in sub-Sanaran Africa. There were also what the report described as ‘remarkable’ improvements in combating HIV/AIDS. The incidence of other infectious diseases such as malaria and measles had also fallen largely because of effective immunisation campaigns. These programmes played a major role in reducing the incidence of child mortality which fell from about 12.5 million in 1992 to 8.8 million in 2008. The report was optimistic that most countries were on target to reach these goals.

    On the other hand, less progress had been made in reducing the incidence of hunger, maternal mortality and providing access to safe water and improved sanitation. Although the incidence of hunger has fluctuated over the years, food insecurity remains endemic in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Despite progress in combating infectious diseases, tuberculosis infections in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa were still a serious problem even though infection rates had levelled off. With the exception of Central Asia, little progress had been made in reducing the rate of maternal mortality, and complications arising from pregnancy remain the primary cause of death among young women in developing countries. Similarly, minimal progress had been made in providing access to adequate sanitation and it was unlikely that the target of reducing the proportion of people without sanitary access by 2015 would be met. This was also the case with access to clean water but some gains had been recorded in East Asia and Latin America. With regard to the goal of developing a more effective global partnership between the Western and developing nations, official development assistance flows from high-income donor to low-income countries fell short of agreed targets. The report called for a renewed commitment to increasing international aid. The report also pointed out that much more needed to be done to address the limitations of the global financial system which had experienced a major crisis in 2008 with serious repercussions for many countries. On the other hand, there were positive indications that the financial situation in highly indebted low-income countries had improved. Also, it appears that multinational, pharmaceutical firms were more amenable to reducing the costs of essential drugs and increasing their availability in poor countries.

    The report noted that some countries had made little progress because of the effects of the global financial crisis; a lack of political commitment and dedication to development; and insufficient funding. Violence, dictatorship and food insecurity continue to be a problem in a number of countries. Major disparities between social conditions in urban and remote rural areas remain a serious problem. Nevertheless, the report claimed that many governments supported by international agencies had made significant progress, justifying the view that states can adopt policies and programmes that promote the well-being of their citizens. This is true even of a number of low-income countries which were able to mobilise the political will and resources to improve social conditions. Although the report made little reference to the role of direct income transfers in reducing poverty, the expansion of conditional cash transfers and other means tested programmes in regions such as Latin America and Southern Africa had made a significant contribution to poverty reduction. Economic growth has also played a major role, particularly in the East Asian and Southeast Asian countries, India and parts of Latin America. Poverty reduction, the report pointed out, would depend on both antipoverty programmes and long-term sustainable growth.


    The MDGs have been the subject of lively debate ever since they were first adopted in 2000 and a number of criticisms of their limitations as well as the underlying philosophy have been made. Some of these criticisms are concerned with technical issues such as the way particular targets are operationalised and how data is collected while others address more substantive issues.

    There has been some discussion about the limitations of using official data to assess progress. It is recognised that data collection procedures in many countries are inadequate and it is on this basis that some have questioned whether data have been presented in a particularly favourable light by governments for political advantage. There are doubts about the claims of some governments, particularly in very poor African countries, that they have dramatically reduced the incidence of poverty. A related question is whether improvements in numerical indicators actually reflect substantial qualitative changes in the social services. For example, it cannot be claimed on the basis of increases in school enrolments that the quality of education has improved and that children are better educated than before. This is equally true of the quality of services in many clinics and hospitals. In some cases, the data also fail to address delivery problems such as whether food distribution programmes actually reach poor people. In this regard, it is recognised that high levels of ‘leakage’ have often impeded performance even though the extent of the problems of mismanagement and even corruption is not officially documented.

    As may be expected, different groups have claimed that the goals do not adequately address their needs. Women's groups have pointed out that gender equality is largely confined to reducing gender disparities in education and maternal health and that the goals have failed to address problems of discrimination, violence and the blatant oppression of women. Human rights advocates want more emphasis on civil and political rights and the promotion of liberal democratic forms of governance. Others have claimed that the goals do not place sufficient emphasis on promoting peace and addressing the perennial problem of civil wars, ethnic conflicts and the oppression of minority groups. It has also been pointed out that the goals are minimal standards and that more ambitious efforts could have been made particularly with regard to reducing inequalities in income, wealth and power at both the national and global levels. On the other hand, some critics have argued that the goals are another example of a failed, wasteful and ineffectual statist approach that will not bring about sustained improvements in people's well-being. They believe that a market-based approach is more likely to be successful.

    Questions about the way the goals have been conceptualised have also been raised. It has been argued that the goals are an ad hoc collection of targets that do not coherently address the challenges facing the global community today. In this regard, it has been claimed that the Commitments contained in the Copenhagen Declaration offer a more effective programme of action and that they should have been more effectively used to set targets in the Millennium Declaration. Another criticism is that the great majority of the goals are directed at the developing countries even though they are supposed to have universal relevance. While it is true that high-income countries have already met many of the goals, more effort should have been made to link the experience of these countries with efforts to achieve the MDGs in the global South.

    Although these criticisms raise important questions, there is general agreement that the adoption of the MDGs by the member states of the United Nations in 2000 was in itself a remarkable achievement. Efforts to respond to social problems at the global level have been evolving since the formation of the League of Nations in 1919, but it was only with the World Summit in 1995 and the Millennium Summit in 2000 that the governments of the world's nations made an unprecedented collective commitment to improve social well-being throughout the world. Despite the fact that primary responsibility for the implementation of the MDGs lies with national governments, implementation has been a global affair. Although much more needs to be done, the goals have formed the basis for significant progress in the first decade of the 21st century. Hopefully, these historic efforts to eradicate poverty, address the challenges of ill-health, ignorance and social deprivation and improve the well-being of the world's people will continue well beyond 2015.

    United Nations(1996)Report of the World Summit for Social Development: Copenhagen, 6–12 March 1995.United Nations: New York.
    United Nations(2000)The United Nation Millennium Declaration. (Resolution 55/2) United Nations: New York.
    United Nations(2005)Investing in Development: a Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals.United Nations: New York.
    United Nations(2010)Keeping the Promise: a Forward-looking Review to Promote an Agreed Action Agenda to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.United Nations: New York.

    • Loading...
Back to Top

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website