Statement endorsed at the IFSW European Members Meeting, Vienna, 8th September 2019
Delegates representing social worker organisations from across Europe meeting in Vienna on 6-8 September 2019 and continuing in the European social work conference 9-11 September 2019, note the growing social crisis in Europe. They carry personal stories which illustrate the human cost of the social crisis, seen in personal lives disrupted and economic pressures in many communities. Social workers believe that those European citizens who are struggling deserve better from their leaders and politicians.
Social workers drew attention to current challenges to social stability in Europe:
- the evidence of an increase in hate crimes against individuals and minority groups and the challenges for the police and other agencies in responding to the number of such crimes;
- continued public concern about migration, despite the reduction in the number of people seeking refugee and asylum status in European countries and the reality of continued conflicts and social conditions which are driving migration in some countries;
- the growing public concern about the climate emergency and about the sustainability of human life and society in the face of climate change;
- the result of exclusion from the benefits of globalisation experienced in many communities, including loss of previously secure employment and increases in unemployment in some areas;
- the rise of nationalism and populism, which is frequently expressed as negative views of minority communities and individuals within countries;
- the need to demonstrate the same honesty, integrity and use of polite language in politics as is expected in effective social work practice;
- continuing policies of austerity in many countries which have the biggest negative impact on the most vulnerable people in each society;
- continued workforce pressures in social work and social services, including low salaries, poor working conditions and workforce shortages in many European countries, all of which contribute to deteriorating social conditions.
Social workers stand for respect for all people, inclusion, equality, human rights and social justice and consider that Europe should be able to uphold the dignity of all people. This is a moral responsibility and there are many examples of positive relationships which can be built on.
Given this context, and recognising the European Pillar of Social Rights as a welcome call for action, IFSW Europe and its member organisations therefore resolve to:
- Hold European institutions, governments and organisations to account to promote the values of a common humanity, to uphold the principles of the UN Conventions and to recognise that our shared European future is made more secure in a community of mutual respect;
- Recognise the reality of the climate emergency, take action ourselves to be sustainable and call on governments to take urgent action to protect our common living space;
- Work with organisations sharing similar objectives to increase social inclusion, to make Europe poverty free and to eliminate discrimination in Europe;
- Call on political office holders and activists to use inclusive language and to stop using hate speech towards minorities and specific groups;
- Demonstrate, with practical examples, that mutual respect for different cultures and identities is the best way to achieve a sustainable and peaceful future for all living in Europe;
- Recognize the need for social economic policies that enable communities to flourish and be cohesive taking account of the needs of all members hold governments to account for the commitments made in UN Conventions.
- Work in partnership with other organisations which share common values and objectives, including Social Platform;
- Encourage national associations and individuals to share evidence of the importance of positive human relationships in delivering effective social work and creating stable societies;
- Continue to support development of national social work organisations and to involve younger social workers in building the future of the profession;
- Encourage national social work associations to consult widely about the themes and priorities which should feature in the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development 2020-2030, which needs to address these concerns.
Social work is a human rights profession and social workers will therefore continue to work with people, regardless of their origins and circumstances, to promote their wellbeing. When our communities and politicians uphold human rights, everyone benefits.
IFSW Europe delegates thanks David Jones, the Chair of Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development, for his work on this subject.