From Gary Bailey, IFSW President
22nd April 2012 will mark Earth Day worldwide, an event now in its 42nd year and will be observed in 175 countries worldwide. In 2009, the United Nations designated April 22- International Mother Earth Day. Commemorations of Earth Day are planned for April 22 by the United Nations in all years at least through 2015.
This year’s Earth Day theme is “Mobilize the Earth”. It is a theme which it is hoped will inspire people around the world to start participating in discussions about environmental issues and will encourage them to put pressure on their elected leaders to make these issues a priority. The Earth Day theme also resonates with our World Social Work Day 2012 theme, which was “Social Workers: Building Relationships, Strengthening Communities and Partnering for Change, and our call for a Week of Social Work Action Around the World- beginning World Social Work Day 2012 – and culminating with UN Social Work Day – which was held on 26th March and when the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development was presented to the United Nations and governments around the world.
The preamble of the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development states:
“As social workers, educators and social development practitioners, we witness the daily realities of personal, social and community challenges. We believe that now is our time to work together, at all levels, for change, for social justice, and for the universal implementation of human rights, building on the wealth of social initiatives and social movements. We, the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), and the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW), recognise that the past and present political, economic, cultural and social orders, shaped in specific contexts, have unequal consequences for global, national and local communities and have negative impacts on people.
The Global Agenda identifies the following areas of concern :
– The full range of human rights are available to only a minority of the world’s population;
– Unjust and poorly regulated economic systems, driven by unaccountable market forces, together with noncompliance with international standards for labour conditions and a lack of corporate social responsibility, have damaged the health and wellbeing of peoples and communities, causing poverty and growing inequality;
– Cultural diversity and the right to self-expression facilitate a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence, but these rights are in danger due to aspects of globalisation which standardise and marginalize peoples, with especially damaging consequences for indigenous and first nation peoples;
– People live in communities and thrive in the context of supportive relationships, which are being eroded by dominant economic, political and social forces;
– People’s health and wellbeing suffer as a result of inequalities and unsustainable environments related to climate change, pollutants, war, natural disasters and violence to which there are inadequate international responses. Consequently, we feel compelled to advocate for a new world order which makes a reality of respect for human rights and dignity and a different structure of human relationships.
The Global Agendas statement of “Our Commitment to Action” highlights areas for our collective efforts, and I am pleased that environmental sustainability is a key area of its focus:
‘OUR ROLE IN PROMOTING SUSTAINABLE COMMUNITIES ANDENVIRONMENTALLY SENSITIVE DEVELOPMENT’
The United Nations and other international agencies
We commit to aligning our activities and programmes to development initiatives that are sustainable and which integrate the human dimension. We will strengthen our established relationships with the UN and other international agencies in order to reaffirm our support for initiatives aimed at protecting the natural environment. Our major focus will be on the Rio +20 process, World Urban Forum and the post-2015 development agenda, including attention to disaster prevention and management.
Communities and other partners
We will promote community capacity building in responding to environmental challenges and human and natural disasters (e.g. flooding, water degradation, food insecurity).
Our own organisations
We will promote within our own organisations, standards in education and practice that facilitate sustainable social development outcomes, including the prevention, mitigation and response to disasters. We will encourage and facilitate research into the social work role in relation to disasters and environmental challenges.
Earth Day is coordinated globally by the group Earth Day Network (EDN). They expect more than 1 billion people will be participating in Earth Day in some form or fashion. The organization is encouraging people to use social media, blogs and Internet sites to organize on a grassroots level and help spread the message of Earth Day. As mentioned in “Our commitment to Action’ the upcoming U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, which will be held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, June 20-22 will be an area of intervention. The last such conference took place 20 years ago, and we have only seen environmental issues intensify since then.
EDN Director Franklin Russell, referring to the wave of public support for environmental action that brought about the first Earth Day in 1970 said: “Developed nations and rising powers alike attending the Rio conference should be pressured to shift away from fossil fuel-based economies toward ones sustained by renewable energy sources, and a popular environmental movement can help achieve that. This has been a large matter of debate for rapidly developing nations like India and China, which seek to sustain economic growth to accommodate their large populations. The first step is to bring the world leaders together so that they have the opportunity to come up with a solution”.
It is evident that our planet, our home is being neglected. Climate change continues unabated and there seems to be a new ecological disaster happening on an almost daily basis.
The famed Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” So please on 22nd April 2012, awake and join with me and other social work colleagues and our partners for ‘A Day of Action and Service’ on behalf of our planet, Mother Earth! This Earth Day let us as social workers come together and from the ground up send a message to our leaders and to one another, that the Earth, Mother Earth will not have to wait any longer for our collective focus and attention!
Gary Bailey, MSW, ACSW, President IFSW