IASSW CONFERENCE 15-18 JULY 2002 MONTPELLIER
GREETINGS FROM IFSW
INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF SOCIAL WORKERS
Dear Colleagues all,
It is both an honor and a pleasure to be asked to bring you words of greetings from the a half a million members represented by the International Federation of Social Workers. We have just concluded our General Meeting in Geneva and thus I come here with the very best wishes of the Federation.
Given the topic for this conference, Citizenship And Social Work Education In A Globalising World, I want to spend a moment reflecting on the past and present.
100 years ago nations were very much sovereign states exercising stringent and effective control over matters of currency, trade, migration and general social policy. Today the autonomy of sovereign states has been severely undermined by the increasing development of a globalised economy.
The movement of people, currency and industry is no longer controlled by governments to the same degree. The economic fortunes of nations and therefore their people are easily affected by the activities of transnational organisations, some of which have resources equivalent to or greater than those of some nation states. Fluctuations on stock markets have impacts across many nations. Environmental impacts do not have national boundaries. Armed conflicts lead to mass displacement of peoples and movements across borders. Global forces have their impact at local levels, perhaps particularly on the lives of disadvantaged people.
It is estimated that of the six billion inhabitants on this planet, and while 500 million live comparatively privileged lives, 5.5 billion live in poverty. So while many live the lifestyle of comparative comfort, have access to advanced communication and knowledge, enjoy a greater appreciation of internationalism than their predecessors, others – and in many countries the vast majority of the population – are left behind in intensified poverty, unemployment and social disintegration.
The situation for our world’s children is a major concern. An estimated 1.2 billion people world-wide survive on less than USD 1.00 per day. Half of them are children . Of the estimated 50 million people who are refugees in another country or displaced within their own country, half are children. Two million children have been killed in conflict in the last decade, one million orphaned and six million wounded.
300 000 youths and girls are serving as child soldiers, many forced into sexual slavery. AIDS has killed more than 3.8 million children and orphaned another 13 million. In the last five years, HIV/AIDS has become the greatest threat to children and adults. The recent conference suggests that it is the biggest killer not just of our time but of history. In the worst affected countries, as many as half of today’s 15-year olds will die from the disease. I only too painfully remember the words of an academic from Africa who told me at the commencement of each intake of student she looked at them and wondered who would still be with her at the end of the degree because surely 30% will die from HIV AIDS
During the past week we have seen in addition to the Conference on HIV AIDS we have seen farmers in Mexico take hostages in a desperate attempt to halt the progress of an airport which would otherwise deny them a living. We have seen an attack on a head of government here in France. We have seen an increase in tension in both Kashmir and the Middle East and we keep watch for the likely invasion of Iraq.
These are not impressive statistics they are a chilling reminder of the challenge which faces us all.
Because we live in an increasingly globalised world we cannot ignore the international trends and the effects which they may have on in social work practice. Thus it is important that social workers understand and engage with the debates about globalisation. This is clearly a contention to be addressed here at this conference.
The core challenge identified in the call to this conference was
“How to prepare future professionals to understand and address the various forms of inequality, exclusion and discrimination; how to understand the context in which these phenomena develop and to define those strategies and methods that should be used to combat them?”
I cannot think of a more important set of questions, nor a more important set of challenges for social work educators and practitioners alike. I would add one small point which I know is included inter alia. That is that we need to also ensure that graduate social workers, no matter what their vintage, are also equipped to answer this challenge through continuing education.
There is no denying that there is a special relationship between the academy and practice. I could be rather humorous and suggest simply that we are the outcome of your endeavours!
However there is clear truth in that statement but the relationship is far more complex, rich and hopefully rewarding.
The 500,000 that the IFSW represents plus those social workers not in membership have indeed been shaped by social work academics past and present. But this is not a production line and it is not a linear relationship.
The journey through social work education is, or should be, the beginning of an ongoing relationship between social work practitioners and the academy. Those who know me well will also know that I am passionate about the importance of our interrelationship.
Put overly simply, we rely on you not only to train us in the beginning but also to nourish our thinking with the research and analysis that will inform our best practice. You rely on us to provide you with the feedback and the practice experience which in turn gives birth to your thinking research writing and teaching. I am personally of the view that this is a vital relationship which must be continue to strengthened and this is a view shared by the IFSW and I know by your President and executive.
I want to conclude by extending my appreciation to Lena and Abye for inviting me to speak to you. I look forward to our continued excellent working relationship and extend the warmest wishes of IFSW to you all for a very fruitful and enjoyable 4 days.