23 February 2012
Globalisation and the environment
Globalisation is the process by which all peoples and communities come to experience an increasingly common economic, social and cultural environment. By definition, the process affects everybody throughout the world.
A more integrated world community brings both benefits and problems for all; it affects the balance of economic, political and cultural power between nations, communities and individuals and it can both enhance and limit freedoms and human rights. Social workers, by the nature of their work, tend to meet those who are more likely to have suffered the damaging consequences of some aspects of globalisation.
Social workers approach globalisation from a human rights perspective as set out in the IFSW international Ethical Documents (1) for social work. Social workers recognise the benefits and disadvantages of globalisation for the most vulnerable people in the world. Our professional perspective focuses especially on how the economic and environmental consequences affect social relationships and individual opportunity.
The statement makes practical suggestions about how social workers, in partnership with local people and communities, can work to promote the positives of global interaction and minimise the harm which can be done.
The background paper explains some of the concepts linked with globalisation, sets the historical context and gives some examples of social work with the consequences of globalisation. Appendix 1 offers an agreed definition of social work, Appendix 2 notes that the term has many different definitions and can be used to refer to many different processes; some definitions of globalisation (globalization) are quoted. For one definition of globalisation, a discussion of the history of the use of the term and links to related themes, visit en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globalisation.
Appendix 3 presents quotations from a United Nations document summarising the main findings from the series of UN global conferences. Appendix 4 presents quotations from an International Labour Organisation report on a social dimension to globalisation. Social workers should be encouraged that these both endorse the humanitarian values and commitment to inclusive and democratic approaches which are inherent in the IFSW Ethical Document. However our daily work illustrates how far we are removed from these high ideals in practice!
Policy statement on globalisation and the environment
Globalisation is the process by which all people and communities around the world come to experience an increasingly common economic, social and cultural environment
Recognises that globalisation is a continuing process which, whilst advancing global technological development and communications, also has a negative impact on the balance of economic, political and cultural power between individuals and communities. Social workers see and work with the causes and consequences of these processes.
Recognises that the natural and built environments have a direct impact on people’s potential to develop and achieve their potential, that the earth’s resources should be shared in a sustainable way.
Recognises that pain and disruption in social, health and education services associated with structural adjustment policies has resulted in negative consequences for social programmes and the practice of the social work profession in many parts of the world.
Endorses the recommendations on social and economic development and on the environment from recent international conferences, as summarised by the United Nations and stated below, and calls on international organisations and nation states to implement these immediately.
Considers that social development programmes, whether linked to structural adjustment or other emergency economic recovery programmes, must have the following elements:
- Education and lifelong learning programmes
- Supportive work programmes for those whose physical, mental or emotional problems or caring responsibilities prevent them from taking standard jobs
- Social protection to sustain those unable to raise income through work, with annual targets to reduce poverty
- Respect for the UN Conventions on Human Rights and the Rights of the Child and arrangements to promote the education and welfare of children.
- Consultation with local communities and civil society organisations and the active involvement of “excluded” individuals and communities in decisions which affect them.
Supports vigorous enforcement of existing environmental protection laws and standards as well as continuing renewal of necessary measurements as our knowledge base expands.
Calls on social workers and their representative bodies to make themselves aware of the positive and negative consequences of globalisation in their countries, and to support policies which uphold social justice, humanitarian principles and human rights and which increase social capital.
Calls on social workers and their representative bodies to recognise the importance of the natural and built environment to the social environment, to develop environmental responsibility and care for the environment in social work practice and management today and for future generations, to work with other professionals to increase our knowledge and with community groups to develop advocacy skills and strategies to work towards a healthier environment and to ensure that environmental issues gain increased presence in social work education.
Will conduct our own business to ensure that our concept of human rights includes the natural and built environment, with special focus on the needs of ethnic minority and indigenous people.
Globalisation and the Environment Background Paper
Human existence, rights and development in a global environment
People live and develop their potential in social groups. Throughout recent history, the ethnic group and nation state have been defining characteristics of human society. Throughout the late 20th century and into the 21st century, people have increasingly found themselves in a globalised world, with economic, social and cultural influences coming from many different sources. This process has challenged human and social rights and affected individual and social development. The nation state and ideas of ethnicity and social cohesion have been challenged by these influences. This process has become known as globalisation.
People cannot realise their individual potential and human rights in isolation; they need supportive circumstances to give expression to most of their rights and to realise their human potential. At its most direct, these circumstances need to recognise
- the importance of peace and the avoidance of violent conflict,
- the existence of an equitable social order, and
- confidence in a sustainable natural environment which supports life
This is implicit in many international statements, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Declaration on the Rights of the Child. Other international conferences and statements of special relevance to this policy include:
- World Summit for Children – 1990
- Conference on Environment and Development – Rio de Janeiro 1992
- Convention on Climate Change – Rio de Janeiro 1992
- Conference on Human Settlements – Habitat agenda and Agenda 21 – Istanbul 1992
- World Conference on Human Rights – Vienna 1993
- International Conference on Population and Development – Cairo 1994
- Declaration on Social Development – Copenhagen 1995, Geneva 2000
- Protocol on Climate Change – Kyoto 1997
- The World Conference against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance – Durban 2001
- World Summit on Sustainable Development – Johannesburg 2002
This is a universal truth witnessed by social workers in cities, towns and rural communities every day and therefore a fundamental element of social work ethical codes. Poverty, social isolation/exclusion, environmental degradation and violent conflict undermine the opportunity to make the most of human rights and are an affront to human dignity. They limit the life chances of those in poverty and inhibit their opportunity for personal fulfilment.
Yet, despite the fine words of Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which states that everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being) and the policy commitments from several World Summits [see above], the gap between rich and poor people continues to grow all around the world. The gap between the richest and poorest countries continues to widen, both economic and social exclusion are increasing, environmental problems worsen and violent conflict continues. ‘One billion, two hundred million of the world’s six billion – a fifth of the world’s population – still cannot fulfil their basic needs for food, water, sanitation, health care, housing or education and must try to subsist on less than US$1 a day and half the world – nearly three billion people – live on less than two dollars a day. In more than 30 of the poorest national economies (most of them in sub-Saharan Africa), real per capita incomes have been declining since the early 1980s. According to the United Nations, one child in seven in Africa dies before their 5th birthday and about 1.1 billion worldwide lack adequate drinking water’ (2) . This was recognised in the report of the ILO World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization (3) [See appendix 4].
Social workers see the effects of this reality in both the global South and the global North, among indigenous and minority populations, women, children, refugees, immigrants, displaced persons, rural workers without land, urban workers, older persons and too many others. This process of globalisation which it was claimed would bring the world together is in practice creating tension and division. These realities have provoked world-wide concern, protest and violence, much of which is directed at international bodies, such as the World Bank, World Trade Organisation and International Monetary Fund, and also at the G8 group of leading economic nations and at national governments.
Social workers have a duty to bring these realities to the attention of international bodies, governments and the wider world population and to contribute to the global debate about new solutions. IFSW does not claim to offer unique solutions but is committed to working in partnerships which aim to promote human rights and the social and environmental well-being of individuals and communities.
IFSW believes that a stable world order must be built on mutual recognition of human rights, a more equitable economic order, the enforcement of world treaties on a sustainable environment and a more determined search for non-violent solutions to national and international conflicts. IFSW welcomes evidence that these principles are becoming more widely recognised by national and international bodies. The World Bank has initiated discussions about a number of developmental issues significantly increasing development assistance whilst there is at least more open dialogue with the International Monetary Fund.
The last twenty years has demonstrated as never before the inter-dependence of life on the globe. The whole global environment is affected by changes in weather and land use which in turn have direct implications for individuals and communities. Economic developments in one continent can have almost simultaneous consequences in another. Conflicts in one area can provoke actions and reactions on the other side of the world which can be watched simultaneously on television or the internet by the whole world.
The natural environment
People share a common need for and a right to a fair share of the Earth’s resources, including a clean, safe and healthy environment. These basic requirements are under threat from climate change and environmental degradation. These challenges are widely recognised as presenting the greatest priority for global co-operation. The degradation of the global environment has observable social and economic consequences and therefore has an impact on the ability of people and communities to achieve their potential as human beings and to give expression to their human rights.
The IFSW-IASSW Definition of Social Work (Appendix 1) states: “social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments”. There is also a clear link to the Ethics of Social Work, in terms of our obligation to challenge unjust policies and practices and to seek solutions based on solidarity. Yet in recent years, social work has been mainly pre-occupied with people’s social environment and not so much with the natural environment (4). This was not the case in the 19th and early 20th century when the early social workers campaigned with others around the world for improvements in public health and the built environment [housing and public spaces]. Our communities have been rediscovering that a positive social environment is not possible without a sustainable natural environment. It is generally accepted that our natural environment not only influences but also is crucial for our social lives now and in the future.
The world’s resources are limited and threatened by pollution and consumption patterns all over the world. Pollution does not respect national boundaries, but is rapidly spreading its effects from one country or region to another. The critical condition of the physical environment demands a more holistic approach (5). The rapid global changes in the environment are complex and of a magnitude that significantly affect the planet and how its functions. The degradation of the natural environment calls for effective multilateral cooperation and policy measures which humanity needs to work on together.
We are all exposed to environmental degradation, but some more than others. There is evidence that poor neighbourhoods, communities and countries are more affected than others (6) . Lack of political and social power and limited access to economic alternatives increase the exposure of people to the dangers of environmental degradation. Children are more exposed than others because toxins concentrate more rapidly in smaller bodies; child workers are especially exposed. Large groups of the population in more fortunate circumstances are affected by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) due to exposure to chemicals found in personal care products, building material, processed food, pharmaceuticals and plastics.
The very future existence of some communities and nations is affected by anticipated changes in sea levels, itself a product of increasing industrialisation brought about by globalisation.
The economic environment
From 1945 until the 1970s, conventional economic wisdom saw the improvement of living conditions for all as an economic, social, and moral imperative, built upon the lessons of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and ‘Keynesian’ economic theories. Improvement in living and economic conditions was considered fundamental to the promotion and maintenance of social stability, order, peace and prosperity. The construction of social welfare protection was an important component of building social harmony and integration. Programmes of public works and public investment were considered to be important ways to tackle the problems of unemployment. The idealism exemplified in the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights was seen as an attainable objective for the world.
For the past 20 years, conventional economic wisdom has been pursuing a very different policy agenda, reflecting a number of influences:
- there has been a real and rapid expansion of world trade, popularly referred to as the globalisation of trade, made possible by advances in transportation, technology and electronic information transfer;
- the collapse of the former communist political systems has resulted in the need to rethink political and economic relationships;
- there has also been a different approach to economic theory, under the influence of ‘neo-liberalism’.
Structural adjustment programmes
The neo-liberal theorists argued that the old social and economic consensus undermined economic energy for a number of reasons. They argued that the involvement of national governments in economic management undermined human rights by restricting individual freedoms, by increasing the potential for state and private corruption, by supporting the minority of producers at the expense of the majority of consumers and by undermining individual initiative and responsibility. They therefore emphasised the need to encourage personal initiative and responsibility and proposed that governments should significantly reduce their involvement in economic activity and regulation of markets. These neo-liberal policies, often called structural adjustment policies, have dominated international economic policy and have had a real impact in on millions of people in the countries where they have been applied.
Whilst this period has seen significant improvements in living conditions and opportunities for many, there have also been seriously damaging consequences which have primarily affected the poorest people. In practical terms, ‘structural adjustment policies have resulted in reduced public expenditure and state intervention in industry, cuts in taxation, which have tended to give most benefit to the richest groups, and cuts in social security protection, and limited the regulatory powers of states to protect individuals and communities. Deregulation, privatisation, and reductions in social welfare programmes have been implemented in most countries and have often been conditions laid down by the World Bank and others for economic assistance and loans to poorer countries in economic crisis.
Such ‘structural adjustments’ have had negative effects in many industrialised countries: an increase in the gap between rich and poor, lower per capita income for most, an increase in the number of women and children in poverty, an increase in the flows of refugees and asylum seekers and outbursts of public discord. There is also evidence of increased support for racist and nationalist political parties and a growth of intolerance. In less developed nations, these economic and social requirements, following after the impact of the economic consequences of the oil crisis in the early 1970s, were accompanied by rapid inflation and an escalation of the debt burden. In terms of social well-being, they have increased the level of unemployment, thrown households into poverty, reduced the fabric of social protection offered by the state, such as education and health services, exacerbated the problems of extreme poverty and driven more people into migration.
The policy usually recommended by international economic organisations seeking to promote economic development and to support nations in economic crisis has been ‘structural adjustment’ [see above]. The characteristics of these neo-liberal structural adjustment programmes include:
- Liberalisation of trade in order to stimulate investment, meaning the abandonment of restrictive tariff structures on imported goods and the opening up of domestic markets to international competition
- Reductions in taxes and public expenditure, usually involving cuts in health, education, and social security programmes
- Devaluation of the currency
- Tight fiscal [public finances] policy, including increased interest rates to dampen demand
- Privatisation of state enterprises, often involving the sale into private ownership of natural resources and essential utilities such as water
The consequences of these measures have been mixed. In some countries, for example Chile and Mozambique, they have brought about sustained economic growth but have resulted in a dramatic widening of inequalities in society. In others, such as Zimbabwe and Kenya, the policies achieved little but a worsening of the plight of the poorest in society, aggravated at times by corrupt, insensitive and occasionally brutal political regimes. The social costs are invariably high in terms of increased unemployment as a result of the combination of reduced tariff barriers and higher interest rates, reduced purchasing power through devaluation and wage restraint, reduced access to health and education programmes and reductions in social security.
In addition to structural adjustment programmes in South America, Africa, and Asia, the process of transition from the command economies in Eastern Europe to market economies has imposed similar high social costs on citizens. In most cases, there has been a rapid rise in unemployment with the disappearance of traditional forms of employment. In Western Europe and North America, in addition to an increase in the poverty rate, globalisation has resulted in a reduction of average wages, reduced access to health and education through privatisation of payment options, major changes in retirement pension arrangements and unemployment.
Neo-liberalism in its pure form rejects any concept of social responsibility and views any restraint on these global forces as a hindrance to economic vigour and a restriction of human rights. Neo-liberal structural changes, in particular the free movement of finance and capital, have enabled major trans-national businesses to move their activities around the world to the place where they see the best economic benefit for themselves. For example, they can move production to parts of the world where labour costs are lower, with no regard for the workers discarded in the pursuit of profit. In practical terms, this has enhanced the interests of shareholders [those who benefit from profits] and reduced the significance of stakeholders [other people who are affected by the activities of the companies, such as workers and local communities].
International business has become aware of the potentially damaging impact of these developments, not least because companies have seen how shareholder value and economic viability can be undermined by bad publicity about unethical or unacceptable business practices. Many firms have published policies on ethical business practice, most major international businesses have ethical officers and many have ethical statements. However this has not prevented some major corruption scandals, such as the collapse of the US oil firm Enron and a successful legal challenge to Arthur Anderson, the international firm of auditors, among other examples. Nor does it stop the ‘hidden hand of the market’.
These global movements and economic policies also affect the natural environment as has been described in the section on the physical environment above.
Structural impoverishment, environmental degradation, pauperisation, and social and economic exclusion are contrary to basic, universal human rights and social work values, are economically unsound, and ignore the interdependence between the various sectors of society nationally and internationally. Social work cannot avoid confronting these realities and searching for solutions.
The war and peace environment
Some have argued that one reaction to the process of globalisation has been an escalation of tension and in particular the development of conflicts between religious and ethnic groups. These tensions have always been present but the speed of communication and travel brings the issues closer to more people and enables conflicts to be escalated around the world. Since the end of the Second World War in 1945, there have been constant local and regional wars. The attacks and significant loss of life in the United States in September 2001 (7), the response of governments and international bodies to those attacks and the launch of the ‘war against terrorism’, alongside the increase in religious and ethnic tensions world-wide, have highlighted questions of peaceful co-existence and the nature of global conflicts. IFSW addressed these matters in general terms in its Policy Statement on Peace and Social Justice approved in 2000 (8).
Examples of positive social work responses to globalisation
The following six examples of social work practice illustrate how social workers in different situations can support people to challenge the negative consequences of globalisation and realise more of their own potential.
1. In Latin America, a group of street children, one of the most marginalised inner-city groups, have lived together for several months. They survive by stealing from hotel kitchens, begging from passers-by, and stealing from cars. A social worker from the local Refuge befriends them and gradually wins their confidence, first by gifts of paper and crayons and helping them to draw and write and later by inviting them for occasional meals at the Refuge. The children grow in familiarity and stay overnight when it is very cold. With the help of volunteer teachers, an informal education programme is developed covering the basics of literacy and numeracy. Some of the children begin to lift their dreams and expectations beyond a lifetime of street life.
2. In India, a micro-credit programme was developed by social workers for poor, disadvantaged women working as weavers, dressmakers and small retailers. The co-operative lent money without security to its members at an interest rate similar to banks (who would not lend to these groups anyway). The repayments were monthly, and the surplus was then recycled into a larger lending pool. The co-operative approved (or rejected) loan applications from its members, thus taking collective responsibility for decisions and shared interest in business success.
3. In the Balkan conflict, a village was displaced by ‘ethnic cleansing’. All except the very elderly and weak fled to the neighbouring country where their language and religion was accepted. Instead of splitting up the community because of pressure for space in the refugee camp, a resettlement worker takes an audit of skills and talents. Many of the villagers had worked on textiles, weaving fine cloth. With a small grant, and begging and borrowing second-hand equipment, the worker is able to encourage the villagers to rebuild their skills. In addition to regaining confidence and self-respect, the villagers generate some income which they agree to plough back into improving the quality of materials and equipment.
4. In Nigeria, the Back to Land programme encouraged training in agriculture for young people whose families had migrated from the country to urban areas. It linked with a small scale credit programme to encourage the development of new rural enterprises. The emphasis has been on the development of co-operatives with skills in running small business. Social workers have worked closely with these initiatives to help build the skills and earning potential of the cooperatives’ members.
5. In the Philippines, a social worker is hired to develop a rehabilitation programme for ex-prisoners, most of whom had been detained for protesting exploitation of their villages or their people under various globalisation contracts. She set up a direct service programme, broadened linkages with other service-related institutions, and soon began lobbying nationally and internationally on behalf of not only the rights of the ex-prisoners, but on behalf of all of the human rights for which they struggled.
6. In the United Kingdom, in common with some other developed countries, one consequence of more open global travel has been an increase in the numbers of unaccompanied children seeking asylum. This has created a new area of work for social workers. These young people have a right to local council care whilst their needs are assessed and for as long as they need support. In some areas, the proportion of young people in care who are asylum seekers is now more than 25%. Some social workers have needed to develop new skills in assessing and supporting these young people, helping them to get into school and making contact with communities in the UK from their country or origin. This is in the context of an increasingly diverse ethnic and cultural society in general, which has also required social workers to extend their understanding of different cultures and their skills in assessment and support.
In order for social workers to counter the negative effects of globalisation and also to assist people to benefit from the positive opportunities which may arise, it is necessary to consider initiatives at various levels. The following sections of this paper suggest action which can be taken at international, national, regional, and local levels to implement a human rights and social development approach to dealing with the positive and negative consequences of globalisation.
The 1995 and 2000 World Summits on Social Development identified a number of commitments for all member governments. Particularly relevant for social workers are:
‘ensure that national budgets and policies are oriented as necessary to meeting basic needs, reducing inequalities and targeting poverty as a strategic objective’,
‘ensure that when structural adjustment programmes are agreed to, they include social development goals, in particular eradicating poverty, promoting full and productive employment, and enhancing social integration’.
Translating that rhetoric into reality is a difficult task. Social workers see little evidence of these grand commitments being applied in practice. The rhetoric seems to make little difference to the people affected.
International organisations, including the United Nations and its subsidiary bodies, need to make a continuing commitment to implement the objectives of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the World Summit on Social Development, the Kyoto Protocol and related international statements. This should be based on an understanding that the full implementation of human rights is not possible unless social issues are addressed. The over-riding objective to nurture a sustainable environment, the right to work, the right to housing, food, clothing and medical care, the right to education, civil and political rights, and the right to the protection of the law are all under threat for those in poverty. These social rights need to be affirmed at the international level.
The World Bank and international financial institutions need to have the protection of the environment, the reduction of poverty and the improvement of the living conditions of the poorest as their overriding strategic priority. This is not found in every action. For example, international financial institutions have made heavy investments in companies responsible for environmental destruction and the internal displacement of thousands of people in Nigeria, Columbia, and Indonesia.
International and national bodies need to recognise the overwhelming case for the relief of the debts of the most indebted countries, one consequence of which is that every child born in the most indebted countries is born into debt.
The report of the IFSW Europe project on social exclusion (9) (1997) argued for a treaty on social rights in Europe which should include the right to family life and relationships of choice, the right to be integrated or not according to personal choice, the right to housing, the rights to education, the right to health care, the right of children and young people to be treated as citizens and for their wishes to be heard and taken into account. It argued for an implementation plan to secure these rights and the commitments of the World Summit on Social Development. This approach could usefully be adopted by other international bodies. Words need to be backed up by policy commitments and action plans against which implementation can be measured.
National governments need to be clear about the social impact of the policies which they are following so that the impact on employment, health, housing and income distribution is routinely assessed in the analysis of economic policies. Too often, economic measures have been produced which secure fiscal stability at the price of human suffering and devastating consequences for socially excluded families and individuals. These consequences have both personal and societal costs which need to be reflected in any true economic analysis.
In their role as advocates, national social work associations should press for government policies to be co-ordinated across different sectors of government to assess the impact of change in one area having a pernicious impact elsewhere. They should advocate for an action plan with annual targets to reduce poverty. They should insist that social impact statements be attached to new government initiatives. For example, having failed to force government to adequately to assess the impact of the 1996 welfare reform legislation, social work organisations in the United States worked closely with each other and with recipient organisations to monitor and document trends and case studies. They were able to challenge, refuting many government claims of the successful results of welfare reform in extensive reports and in the media.
Many of the initiatives in which social workers are involved are targeted at the local level. These individual, relatively small scale projects need to be integrated in a holistic approach co-ordinating a range of interventions. It is important to use these projects as examples of how social exclusion can be overcome and to create opportunities for other citizens to become involved. Social workers have a responsibility to publicise this knowledge and evidence through their agencies, professional organisations, and in other ways to advocate for the development of policy and action at the macro-level.
Social workers need to work closely in solidarity with those most affected by globalisation and structural adjustment policies in the struggle to bring basic change in their relationship to the rest of society and ensure their inclusion in the planning, performance and evaluation of social welfare and social work policy and practice. Individuals and communities can be engaged to overcome disadvantage and marginalisation
The overall approach needs five elements:
Education is essential in order to break into the cycle whereby severe poverty and deprivation for the parents is replicated in diminished life chances for the children of the household. Educational opportunities need to be made available to all members of society. This will involve a conscious and deliberate attempt to create enhanced access for families living in deprived conditions to overcome the social obstacles which they face.
All States should therefore have the goal of securing universal access to primary and secondary education, necessary by gradual extension of the age of leaving full-time education. The annual Action Plan to combat poverty should record the proportion of those under 16 in full-time education, and develop strategies to combat those who do not fully participate in the educational structure.
2. Supportive Work Opportunities
Work enables people to support themselves and their dependants and to feel a part of their society. Social workers are in contact with many people who have difficulty returning to or entering employment or who have physical, mental, or emotional problems or caring responsibilities which prevent them from taking standard jobs. They need assistance in finding work and/or alternatives to standard paid employment. Supportive work programmes, for example to improve the environment or to improve levels of social support to marginalised groups, are acceptable only if they promote the dignity of participants and pay a realistic income above subsistence level. However effective the programmes of work creation, the community will always need to support some individuals who are not able to work because of disability or illness of themselves or family members.
3. Social Protection
Social protections are necessary in order to sustain those unable to work. To tackle a rapid widening between the rich and the poor, it is essential to use fiscal measures [taxes and benefits] to create a system of social protection for marginalised groups like older people, people with disabilities and people with mental health problems who are unable to sustain full time employment. The annual Action Plan of the state should set targets to reduce year on year the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty.
Children are particularly vulnerable when living in poverty. Their education, their health and their vulnerability to abuse are much greater. The Convention on the Rights of the Child should guide policy initiatives.
All initiatives should be based on the principle of citizen participation. Citizens should have the opportunity to get involved in planning future developments and in participating about decisions which affect them. By making positive choices and decisions, individuals gain self-confidence and involvement in communities. Self help initiatives can be important in creating opportunities for personal development and growth. Empowerment is a basic social work principle.
This paper has presented a simplified analysis of dominant economic theories and strategies over the last fifty years and highlighted some of the adverse impacts of current policies of neo-liberalism/structural adjustment. It has identified the potential for change at international, national and local levels. It has set out the contribution which social work can make through work with individuals, social development and community action in enhancing the life chances for socially excluded individuals.
IFSW will play its part in building a global coalition to promote an inclusive society.
Definition of Social Work (10)
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 dis-advantaged, 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 international definition of the social work profession replaces the IFSW definition adopted in 1982. It is understood that social work in the 21st century is dynamic and evolving, and therefore no definition should be regarded as exhaustive.
Adopted by the IFSW General Meeting in Montréal, Canada, July 2000
Definitions of Globalisation
International Federation of Social Workers
Globalisation (or globalization) is the process by which all peoples and communities come to experience an increasingly common economic, social and cultural environment; by definition, the process affects everybody throughout the world.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics (11)
A central part of the rhetoric of contemporary world politics and the subject of increasing volumes of academic analysis. It resists any single or simple definition. Although often associated with claims that the present world system is undergoing transformation, it is an old idea. There is a long tradition of writers emphasizing the external economic constraints that act upon nation states and the transforming impact of global economic processes, with Marx being amongst the most powerful and prescient. [A thorough analysis of the concept, different uses, academic and other criticisms and political significance.]
A Dictionary of Economics (12)
The process by which the whole world becomes a single market. This means that goods and services, capital, and labour are traded on a worldwide basis, and information and the results of research flow readily between countries. The rise of cheap sea transport and the telegram contributed to this process in the 19th century. Cheap air travel, the telephone, and the computer, together with the rising importance of multinational companies and general relaxation of controls on trade and international investment, continued the process in the 20th century. It is possible that the rise of the internet and the start which has been made on liberalizing international trade in services will continue this movement in the 21st century. The world has still a very long way to go, however, before its economy is fully globalised. In particular, international mobility of labour is tightly restricted, and poor transport and communications in most less developed countries (LDCs) mean that only the economies of the richer and more advanced countries are at all seriously globalised.
A Dictionary of Geography (13)
The concept of the interactions of natural and human phenomena on a global scale. Global warming, for example, is a world-wide phenomenon where human agency may have major repercussions on the atmosphere, geosphere, and hydrosphere.
Globalization. A Very Short Introduction (14)
“Globalization refers to a multidimensional set of social processes that create, multiply, stretch, and intensify worldwide social interdependencies and exchanges while at the same time fostering in people a growing awareness of deepening connections between the local and the distant”
Wilkipaedia – the Free Encyclopaedia (15)
Globalisation (or globalization) in its literal sense is a social change, an increase in connections among societies and their elements due to, among others, the explosive evolution of transport and communication technologies. The term is applied to many social, cultural, commercial and economic activities.
Depending on the context it can mean
- formation of a global village – closer contact between different parts of the world, with increasing possibilities of personal exchange and mutual understanding between “world citizens”,
- economic globalisation – more freedom of trade and increasing relations among members of an industry in different parts of the world (globalisation of an industry),
- negative effects of increasingly multinational businesses – perceptions of evasion of legal and moral standards through moving manufacturing, mining and harvesting practices overseas.
It shares a number of characteristics with internationalisation and is used interchangeably, although some prefer to use globalisation to emphasize the erosion of the nation state or national boundaries.
This definition is available in several global languages from this website.
United Nations New Approaches to Development (16)
A SUMMARY OF ACTION FROM INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCES
“Since 1990, the international community has convened 12 major conferences which have committed Governments to address urgently some of the most pressing problems facing the world today. Taken together, these high profile meetings have achieved a global consensus on the priorities for a new development agenda for the 1990s and beyond. ”
The United Nations has published a briefing paper, with a chapter dedicated to each of the major conferences. The paper attempts to answer important questions, such as: What problems did these conferences address? What did they accomplish? What actions did they propose? What is the follow-up? Where do we go from here? What is the UN role in the new development agenda proposed by these meetings?
The challenges ahead
“The world conferences reaffirmed many long-standing principles and helped articulate new ones that reflect the experience — both the successes and failures — of the past 50 years of work in the principal areas of the UN mandate. Both the conferences and the parallel work on “An Agenda for Development”, the evolving proposal for a new approach to development, currently being revised by the General Assembly, have focused attention on problems of development and reflect the new thinking that has emerged over the past decade in the face of ever-changing circumstances. The Agenda’s call for a “common framework” for the various initiatives for development and the emphasis placed on integrated follow-up have been echoed in the conferences. The conferences also linked the themes and action plans to each other in a deliberate way. Although there is no universal prescription for successful development, the conferences reflect the growing convergence of views that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to development, are interdependent and mutually reinforcing. There is also concern that the “top-down” approach to development be countered by genuine input from the community level to the policy-making process. These are concepts that mark major shifts in thinking, not simply among some development specialists or academics, but by government leaders and policy makers who are setting policy at the highest levels. These can be expected to have a far-reaching impact at all levels of society.
“There is increasing acceptance of a common concept of development, which is centered on human beings, their needs, rights and aspirations, fostered by sustainable global economic growth and supported by a revitalized and equitable system of multilateral cooperation. These major international conferences have played a key role in building this consensus and in identifying the actions needed to fulfill common goals.
New approaches to development
“A variety of guidelines and principles reflecting the new thinking about development are highlighted in the action plans of the world conferences. The action plans call for their integration into policy and programme formulation at both the national and international levels. These constitute the bases for evaluation of the Conference accomplishments over time.
“Development should be centred on human beings. Because an individual’s well-being is multifaceted, a multidimensional approach to development is essential. Therefore, any formulation of strategies, policies, and national, regional and international actions has to be based on an integrated and comprehensive approach.
“Central goals of development include the eradication of poverty, the fulfilment of the basic needs of all people and the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms, the right to development among them. Development requires that governments apply active social and environmental policies, and the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of democratic and widely participatory institutions. Goals of economic growth and social progress in larger freedom must therefore be pursued simultaneously and in an integrated manner.
“Investments in health, education and training are critical to the development of human resources. Social development is best pursued if governments actively promote empowerment and participation in a democratic and pluralistic system respectful of all human rights. Processes to promote increased and equal economic opportunities, to avoid exclusion and to overcome socially divisive disparities while respecting diversity are also a necessary part of an enabling environment for social development.
“The improvement of the status of women, including their empowerment, is central to all efforts to achieve sustainable development in its economic, social and environmental dimensions.
n Diversion of resources away from social priorities should be avoided and, where it has occurred, be corrected. The formulation of structural adjustment policies and programmes should take these considerations into account.
“An open and equitable framework for trade, investment and technology transfer, as well as enhanced co-operation in the management of a globalised world economy and in the formulation and implementation of macro-economic policies, are critical for the promotion of sustained economic growth. While the private sector is the primary motor for economic development, the importance of an active role for governments in the formulation of social and environmental policies should not be underestimated.
“An acceleration of the rate of economic growth is essential for expanding the resource base for development and hence for economic, technical and social transformation. Economic growth generates the required financial, physical, human and technological resources and creates a basis for sustained global economic growth and sustainable development as well as for international economic co-operation. It is also essential to the eradication of poverty.
A Fair Globalization Creating Opportunities for All (17)
World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization
International Labour Organisation
Our remit, the Social Dimension of Globalization, is a vast and complex one. As a Commission we were broadly representative of the diverse and contending actors and interests that exist in the real world. Co-chaired by two serving Heads of State, a woman and a man, from North and South, we came from countries in different parts of the world and at all stages of development. Our affiliations were equally diverse: government, politics, parliaments, business and multinational corporations, organized labour, academia and civil society.
Yet, through a spirit of common purpose, we arrived at the shared understandings that are before you. As a collective document it is quite different from alternative reports each one of us would have written individually. But our experience has demonstrated the value and power of dialogue as an instrument for change. Through listening patiently and respectfully to diverse views and interests we found common ground.
We were spurred on by the realization that action to build a fair and inclusive process of globalization was urgent. This could only happen in the future through forging agreements among a broad spectrum of actors on the course for action. We are convinced that our experience can and should be replicated on a larger and wider scale, expanding the space for dialogue aimed at building consensus for action.
A vision for change
Public debate on globalization is at an impasse. Opinion is frozen in the ideological certainties of entrenched positions and fragmented in a variety of special interests. The will for consensus is weak. Key international negotiations are deadlocked and international development commitments go largely unfulfilled.
The report before you offers no miraculous or simple solutions, for there are none. But it is an attempt to help break the current impasse by focusing on the concerns and aspirations of people and on the ways to better harness the potential of globalization itself. Ours is a critical but positive message for changing the current path of globalization.
We believe the benefits of globalization can be extended to more people and better shared between and within countries, with many more voices having an influence on its course. The resources and the means are at hand. Our proposals are ambitious but feasible. We are certain that a better world is possible.
We seek a process of globalization with a strong social dimension based on universally shared values, and respect for human rights and individual dignity; one that is fair, inclusive, democratically governed and provides opportunities and tangible benefits for all countries and people.
To this end we call for:
A focus on people.
The cornerstone of a fairer globalization lies in meeting the demands of all people for: respect for their rights, cultural identity and autonomy; decent work; and the empowerment of the local communities they live in. Gender equality is essential.
A democratic and effective State
The State must have the capability to manage integration into the global economy, and provide social and economic opportunity and security.
The quest for a fair globalization must be underpinned by the interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars of economic development, social development and environmental protection at the local, national, regional and global levels.
Productive and equitable markets
This requires sound institutions to promote opportunity and enterprise in a well-functioning market economy.
The rules of the global economy must offer equitable opportunity and access for all countries and recognize the diversity in national capacities and developmental needs.
Globalization with solidarity
There is a shared responsibility to assist countries and people excluded from or disadvantaged by globalization. Globalization must help to overcome inequality both within and between countries and contribute to the elimination of poverty.
Greater accountability to people
Public and private actors at all levels with power to influence the outcomes of globalization must be democratically accountable for the policies they pursue and the actions they take. They must deliver on their commitments and use their power with respect for others.
Many actors are engaged in the realization of global social and economic goals – international organizations, governments and parliaments, business, labour, civil society and many others. Dialogue and partnership among them is an essential democratic instrument to create a better world.
An effective United Nations
A stronger and more efficient multilateral system is the key instrument to create a democratic, legitimate and coherent framework for globalization.
References and footnotes
(1) International Federation of Social Workers Ethical Document
(2) Hall, Nigel 2002 Globalisation and Third World Poverty, paper presented to New Zealand Association of Social Workers annual conference, unpublished
(3) World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization 2004 A fair globalization: creating opportunities for all, International Labour Organisation, Geneva, www.ilo.org/public/english/wcsdg/docs/report.pdf
(4) See for example National Association of Social Workers 2003 Policy Statement on “Environmental Policy” in Social Work Speaks, 6th Edition, NASW Press, Washington, DC. www.socialworkers.org/resources/abstracts/abstracts/environmental.asp
(5) Hoff, M. D. 1997 Social Work, the Environment, and Sustainable Growth. In M.C. Hokenstad and J. Midgley (Eds.), Issues in International Social Work: Global Challenges for a New Century, NASW Press, Washington, DC.
(6) Rogge, M.E. and Darkwa, O.K. 1996 Poverty and the Environment; an international perspective for social work, International Social Work Journal 39, Sage, London
(7) See for example the news archives on the following site www.september11news.com (8) International Federation of Social Workers 2000 International Statement on Peace and Social Justice
(9) International Federation of Social Workers Europe 1997 Social exclusion and social work: facilitating inclusion
(10) International Federation of Social Workers 2000 Definition of Social Work
(11) The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Politics, Oxford University Press
(12) A Dictionary of Economics, Oxford University Press
(13) A Dictionary of Geography, Oxford University Press
(14) Steger, Manfred B. 2003 Globalization. A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press
(15) Wikipedia: the free encyclopedia 2004 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Globalisation
(16) United Nations, www.un.org/geninfo/bp/intro.html
(17) World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization 2004 see above