11 January 2017

Statement from IFSW Latin American and Caribbean Region on the Triumph Of Social Work In Colombia


The importance of the collective action of Social Work at a national, regional and international levels.


Based on the criteria elaborated by the UNESCO in October 2015 and by the resolution nº 16460 there was a subsequent re-organization of the Commission for the Assurance of the Quality of Higher Education. By the resolution nº 776 in April 2015 from the National Administrative Department of Statistics, it is established the International Normalised Classification of Education adopted by Colombia. The Notice nº079 on December 2015 established the new structures for the evaluation of the International Commission for the Assurance of the Quality of Higher Education which was going to be effective from the 1st of January of 2016. The policies mentioned earlier aimed at the re-location the Social Work discipline into the Health and Wellbeing field. Therefore, the application of these new policies would have implied remove the profession from the field of the Social Sciences – where it has been historically linked to and endorsed by the Law of Professional Exercise in Colombia(Law nº 53 of 1977, Decree 2833). Also it was recognised by the proper rules of the National Department of Education as the Resolution nº 466/2007 indicates it.


This abrupt decision generated an absolute rejection from the professional organisations of Social Work in Colombia as the National Council for Social Work Education in Colombia and the Colombian Federation of Social Workers, as well as of all the Social Work professional groups in Colombia. Thus, the Colombian Social Workers began a collective fight that included a series of actions such as: demonstrations, press conferences, assemblies, elaboration of various documents, negotiations with national agencies of different character, Colombian Universities, among others.


On the 10th of October of 2016, and once the Latin American and Caribbean IFSW Region (LAC IFSW-Region) had acknowledge this situation, it was decided to develop a joint declaration with the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), the Latin American Association of Social Work Teaching and Research (ALAEITS) and the Latin American and Caribbean Committee of Social Work (COLACTAS) where all expressed our support in the fight and mobilisation of the Social Work professional groups in Colombia. We all together disagree with the re-location of our profession in the field of the Health and Wellbeing by restating the relevance of the Social Work in the field of the Social Sciences. This document also rejected the interference of the Ministry of Education – body that not only put at risk the identity of the Social Work profession but also with its actions was going to impoverished the training of future Social Work professionals in Colombia. We all officially requested to the relevant bodies and authorities leave without effect the proposal elaborated by the Ministry of Education of Colombia.

In addition, and as a part of the IFSW Global, the Latin American and Caribbean IFSW Region (LAC-IFSW Region) brought this situation to the attention of Ruth Stark (IFSW President) and Rory Truell (IFSW Secretary-General). They both did not hesitate to get involved and wrote a document – dated 19th November 2016 – where they sat arguments of why the Social Work profession is and must be part of the Social Sciences field. They also began to develop a joint strategy with our regional UN representatives with the purpose of establishing contacts with UNESCO members and discuss different concerns about certain educational categories and classifications that this agency establishes.

As a result of the strong campaign led by the Colombian Social Workers and the different organisations such as the Latin American and Caribbean IFSW Region (LAC-IFSW Region), the Latin American Association of Social Work Teaching and Research (ALAEITS) and the Latin American and Caribbean Committee of Social Work (COLACTAS), the Colombian Government and its Ministry of Education decided to not continue with the changes planed (resolution nº 48 dated 26th of November 2016 that modifies the resolution nº 79 dated 28th of December 2015).

This historic achievement that re-establishes the Social Work as part of the Social Sciences field would not have been possible without the collective action and cooperation of the Colombian Social Workers, the joint action of our regional Social Work organisations (LAC-IFSW Region, ALAEITS and COLACTAS) and the participation of the IFSW and our IFSW UN representatives in Geneva. Once more the history shows us that the social and professional achievements are always product of collective cooperation and solidarity.

This recent experience also shows us the direction and the strategies that we have to follow. As Social Workers there is a huge importance in the collaborative action at national, regional and international levels aimed at joining strengths to fight back situations like the de-professionalisation, the setback in the acquired rights and the precarious labour conditions that the professionals in the Latin America and Caribbean Region suffer.

We would like to thank and congratulate each of the Social Workers who got involved and fought for their rights as well as the involvement of our professional organisations that have been very supportive from the beginning. We have been the main actors, we have made history and together we have taken part on this historical achievement. Our profound admiration to the Social Workers of Colombia that embraced the sentence of the Che Guevara “The only struggle you lose is the one that you abandon”.


Dra. Silvana Martínez                                               Dr. Larry Alicea Rodríguez

President LAC-IFSW Region                                                Vice-President LAC-IFSW Region