10 December 2013

Social Work on Human Rights Day 10th December 2013

The IFSW has members from 116 countries representing over one million professional social workers. One of the difficulties in enforcing the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights is that it is not legally binding on the countries that have signed the declaration. Consequently the world’s majority does not live in the context of human rights protection. Members have been engaging with their governments to encourage them to sign up to the UN Optional Protocol adopted in 2008 to legally bind themselves to the Declaration. We bring our skills, knowledge and expertise to achieve the full recognition of peoples human rights and responsibilities to achieving social justice.

Social work actions result in the maximising of social capital, leading to social cohesion and work towards achieving social justice.
The aim is to enhance people’s quality of life and maximise their own power and control over their own lives. Social workers work with people in partnership individually and collectively through change to meet need, assess and help manage risk and work with often competing human rights. They do it by helping people make an analysis of the situation they are in, help them devise a route for change, often being the catalyst for that change and do this through social relationships.
The skills, knowledge and expertise of social work interventions are underpinned by social work theories and methodologies, research in social sciences, indigenous knowledge and social development. Principles and values of human rights, collective responsibility and social justice are fundamental to practice.
Through the journey to change social workers are working to help people increase their capacity to find solution to life’s problems, building their self-belief, increasing their understanding of their responsibility. This often involves a journey dealing with previous feelings and emotions leftover from their experiences so far.
In recognising each person’s right to be regarded with dignity and respect social workers encompass the three generations of human rights, civil-political, socio-economic, and collective-developmental (Vasek, 1977)
Social work is part of a radical transformative tradition. Social workers have to have an understanding of the perspective of others. Working with people involves listening, analysis and working ethically. In working with competing human rights they have to work with people to prevent others taking control, to ensure people have rights and choice.
Working with individuals and groups of people will lead to every person being able to contribute in the socio-economic capacity of the society in which they live and secure the future in a life sustaining environment.

Ruth Stark
IFSW Human Rights Commission
December 2013