Providing social work services in this crisis has been an enormous challenge, and each day social workers are bravely facing the demands in contexts of limited resources and often without adequate safety equipment or health protocols from their employers.
The role of social work is to work beyond the crisis and assist people who are experiencing health, wellbeing and economic vulnerability, to translate their fears and concerns into social change. In contrast, many governments are acting to control the spread of the virus at a national level, and they are failing to build global political solidarity, setting global health and wellbeing standards and supporting countries that are struggling. This must change; otherwise the world will learn nothing from this crisis.
While there is a call from the Western counties to formulate a plan to respond to this crisis, this will just return us to the status quo. It will confirm the gap between the rich and the poor. It will maintain a context of philanthropy and charity rather than recognising the assets within the global community which are the foundations of change.
For many years the social work profession has advanced a learning model that grows and collaborates across national borders. The Federation has been an effective place of such solidarity for its 141 country members, and now it is the time for the world to learn from social work. Now is a crucial time for the world to establish new global ethical foundations, centred around solidarity, equality, and recognising everyone’s diverse strengths, rights and responsibilities.
We know as a profession immersed in supporting communities to resolve their conflict and trauma and to find unity and to lead their own sustainable development – that people’s rights are never given, – they arise from the ground-up; from collective action and people transforming vulnerability and hardship into aspirations and then into realities.
‘Solidarity’, ‘Equality’, ‘Self-determination’, ‘Rights and Responsibilities’ and ‘Respecting the Dignity of all People’ are principles born out of the experience of community transformation across differing cultures, religions and social-economic contexts. They must now serve the world as guidance for a future that protects against viruses that are nurtured and explode in contexts of climate change and poverty, and the economic failures that disadvantage 99% of the world’s population.
It is time to move away from models of nationalism and charity, and time for global change and development. If governments are unable to deliver, then it must be people, the people we social workers work alongside, in all of the world’s communities that lead this change. People supported by social workers and social movements for a sustainable and just future.
Social work resolves the crisis today by changing the conditions of tomorrow. Let us globally advance with others a new ethical framework for all.