More than 550 participants from 37 countries gathered in Reykjavík at the end May 2017 to participate in the IFSW European Conference. The theme of the Conference was Marginalization in a Changing Society and how we can promote sustainable communities.
The Icelandic Association of Social Workers hosted the conference this year. IASW is the professional association and union for 450 social workers in Iceland and runs an office of 1,6 employees. In preparation of the conference IFSW Europe executive members took an active role. The president and two other members were in the steering committee and one member on the programme committee in addition to the nine Icelandic social workers in the committees.
IFSW Europe members Associations were asked to send out a call for abstracts in April 2016 and prioritize the top five abstracts. This procedure made a difference for the programme committee who overviewed all the abstracts, including those from outside Europe. More than 130 presentations and workshops and six field visits, organized by Icelandic social workers,
Participants were welcomed on Sunday afternoon at the Whale exhibition where they had the change to start networking. The opening ceremony was on Monday morning in Harpa, the conference venue. The ceremony started with a choir singing traditional Icelandic songs, followed by welcome speeches from María Rúnarsdóttir, president of IASW and Ana Lima Fernandez, president of IFSW Europe. The President of Iceland welcomed participants and stressed the importance of social work, human rights and social justice. The Minister of Social Affairs and Equality also welcomed participants to Iceland and talked about the importance of social work, equality and activation strategy in welfare services.
Two Keynote speakers were at the IFSW European Conference, Helga Thorolfsdottir, an Icelandic social worker who has been working for the International Red Cross for many years. Her Keynote was on humanitarian aid and social work. Here is a short video clip on her keynote speech. Professor Lena Dominelli gave a Keynote speech on precariousness, marginalization and climate changes. Here is a short video clip on her keynote speech.
On Tuesday morning there was a panel discussion facilitated by the director general at the Ministry of Welfare with participants from the Icelandic Association of Social Workers, the British Association, Georgian Association and Dutch Association.
Social workers‘ knowledge and experience is important in social policy making because social workers know where social actions are needed the most. Social workers have great knowledge on vulnerable groups, people, the society, systems in the society and how to build networks. We need to stand together, join hands and stand up for vulnerable groups so that every person has a fair chance and the opportunity to fully realize their potential.
Speakers and participants at the IFSW European conference in 2017 emphasized the importance of social workers being politically active, to contribute to welfare policy in their communities. The conference gave participants a change to discuss how social workers can attribute to achieving the sustainability developmental goals.
The IFSW European Conference 2017 was a great success where social workers from all over Europe and many other countries as well had the opportunity to share their knowledge and discuss how social workers can have impact on welfare policies.
I thank all the social workers who participated in the IFSW European conference for making the conference such a great success!
Reykjavík, 20th of June 2017