Message to the 20th Social Work Day at the UN-New York 2003
Poverty, Health & Families – Global Concerns
On this day we bring the special thoughts from the entire membership of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). With national organisations in 78 countries in membership the IFSW represents the voice of 450,000 social workers around the globe.
Established in Munich in 1956 the modern IFSW has maintained a strong working relationship with the United Nations since 1959. We have always had, and retain, a strong and abiding commitment to the United Nations as an organisation and the goals it seeks to achieve.
Your meeting this year is occurring in the midst of one of the most turbulent times since the establishment of the UN. The IFSW’s dual opposition to terrorism on the one hand and the use of military force, without UN sanction is well documented and we reassert our position here.
This opposition is also closely related to the theme of the Social Work Day – Poverty, Health & Families – Global Concerns. We believe that unless and until we address the root causes of poverty, access to adequate health care, education and economic stability the impact on individuals, families and communities will be severe. It will also foster the environment that allows disparate, often violent groups to take hold and in which the seeds of extremist and terrorist behaviour may flourish to the detriment of all. The United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals remain a main instrument to work towards a more just, sustainable and secure world.
Social workers have always dealt with issues of disadvantage. Poverty has always been a main area of concern for our profession. While 500 million of us live in relative prosperity, 5.5. billion people live at different levels of poverty, many on less than 1 dollar a day.
The UNDP has identified the formula to cutting poverty as “sustained and equitable economic growth, accompanied by strategies aimed at meeting the health and education needs of the very poorest”.
Other challenges face us now and in the immediate future. The most evident examples include the estimated up to 600,000 refugees form the war against Iraq. For many this will lead to family breakdowns. HIV/AIDS remains a key threat, particularly in developing countries where only 1 in every 300,000 people with AIDS has access to antiretroviral drugs. The number of children orphaned by the AIDS pandemic continues to grow at a staggering rate.
In our local communities the increase in the addictive behaviours relating to illicit drugs, legalised substances and gambling pose significant threats to family and community stability. In addition we are working with increasing rates of suicide and mental health issues.
Both nationally and internationally there are insufficient resources being targeted to poverty alleviation, sustainable health projects and sustainable economic development. Such a situation stands in stark contrast to the incredible amounts used on military expenditure.
We regret that we cannot be with you on this day. We express our sincere thanks to Gary Bailey, our Vice President North America for conveying our message. To Terry Mizrahi and the NASW for their continued support and finally to Michael Cronin and our UN New York Team for their continuing work and the effort which has gone into this event. We also thank the schools of social work in New York and New Jersey for their support, as well as our close partner the International Association of Schools of Social Work. It is also a sign of expanded international cooperation that the Canadian Association of Social Workers is collaborating for this event.
You have before you a day of rich discussion, nourished by an outstanding panel of speakers. We extend our warmest regards for a successful day.
Sydney/ Bern, March 28, 2003
Imelda Dodds Tom Johannesen
President Secretary General