Message to the 19th Social Work Day at the UN-New York 2002
On behalf of the IFSW and your social work colleagues around the globe we extend to you our best wishes and warmest greetings for the 2002 UN Social Work Day – New York.
The theme of this year’s Social Work Day – “Displacement, Forced Migration, and the Effects of War” – could not be more relevant. Not only is this the first social work day since the tragedy that befell New York last September, but you also approach the day with the tragedy continuing in the Middle East and civil war or drug wars in many other countries. These form the backdrop to your important deliberations.
The displacement of people can be caused by a number of factors, the most common being armed conflict. Natural disasters, famine and economic changes also play a role.
Present figures suggest that as many as 50 million people are uprooted around the world, either as refugees in another country or displaced within their own country. The impact on children is staggering – half or 25 million are children. Refugees take incredible risk in the pursuit of safety and en route will experience significant trauma.
Armed conflict continues to dominate the world landscape and is to be seen in many parts of the world. The loss of life to such conflict is high and particularly for 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.
One of the known outcomes of conflict, displacement and forced migration is escalation in level of poverty. An estimated 1.2 billion people world-wide survive on less than USD 1.00 per day. Half of them are children. Alongside of this the levels of overseas aid have almost halved over a 10-year period. Overseas aid has fallen from US$ 32 per person in 1990 to US$ 18 per person in the late 1990’s. This trend must be reversed, and we must once and for all understand that development assistance is not a charity, but a vital investment in global peace and development. The aim for foreign aid has been set to 0.7 % of the annual GDP in the industrialised world, but is only at 0.24 % at this time. The difference between these figures is US$ 100 billion a year. For millions of people, this is the difference between life and death. Never was development assistance more needed. With each passing year, the challenge increases. Over the next 25 years, 2 billion people will be added to the planet, 98 % of that in the developing world.
Forced migration and dislocation also have demographic consequences that will be far reaching. In 2000 47 % of the world’s population lived in urban areas. In 2020, this is expected to reach 55 %. Today, we have 20 mega cities with populations over 10 million. In 2015, it is expected that we will have 26 mega cities, with enormous environmental and human consequences. Pollution is moving towards a catastrophic level in Asia, where 12 of the world’s most polluted cities are located. These are some of the other consequences of the enormous movement in the world’s population.
What can be done to address the very disturbing trend? No doubt during this day you will hear many proposals and apply your minds to this critical question. The IFSW continues to urge all its member organisations to petition their governments on the promotion of peace, a positive approach to refugees and an increase in overseas aid.
We are pleased to know that the North American Launch of the IFSW Manual on Social Work and the Convention on the Rights of the Child will occur at your Conference today. It will also be a key platform of our presentation to the forthcoming Special Session on the Rights of the Child.
In closing we want to thank Michael Cronin and our UN Team, Terry Mizrahi and NASW for the tremendous effort that has gone into preparing for this day.
In Montreal 2000 Keynote Speaker Stephen Lewis gave the following invocation “…while conflicts, pandemics and escalating poverty are happening the world is looking for your voice.” We wish you good voice and look forward to the outcomes of today.
With warm regards
Imelda Dodds Tom Johannesen
President Secretary General