International Federation of Social Workers
International Association of Schools of Social Work
The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) call on their member organisations and social workers around the world to continue to advocate for a broad-based non-violent approach to resolving the current world crisis. While the war in Afghanistan may appear to be drawing to an end, many issues remain and require our urgent attention, both in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Addressing the vexed issue of redistribution of wealth between developed and least developed countries should be of paramount concern.
In making this call we note
- Afghanistan has been torn by strife for over 20 years. It has a complex cultural and historical context that must be properly understood in order for any long term solutions to emerge
- UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Aid agencies are reporting that the majority casualties of the current action in Afghanistan are women, children, frail and aged people
- More than 5 million of the civilians who remain in Afghanistan- the vast majority of them women and children – have a fragile grip on survival.
- 7.5 million Afghans may need aid to survive
- Nearly 20 per cent of those in need are children under age five
- Since 11 September, 135,000 Afghans have fled to Pakistan in search of safety and assistance
- An estimated 1.6 million people in northern Afghanistan will run out of food by December 1)
- Both the Taliban and Northern Alliance forces are treating men in a manner that can only be described as an horrific and a clear breech of international conventions
- The repression of women in Afghanistan by the Taliban has been and remains unacceptable to the social work profession. The recent inclusion of women in national discussions and the opening up of their participation in the public sphere is most welcome and there cannot be a return to the policies and practices of the past. Women must be included in the process of reconstruction at all levels. Indeed their active participation in this process is, in our opinion, central to a successful rebuilding of the country.
- The inadequate response by Western countries towards refugees and the failure to recognise their legitimate and dangerous flight from danger is distressing and of serious concern.
- There is an estimated 3.6 million refugees in total and 1 million internally displaced persons.
- The lack of willingness by developed countries to analyse the possible causes of such widespread discontent and violence.
- The reluctance to accept that foreign policy of the past cannot be excluded from this debate.
- Xenophobia in particular towards followers of Islam and people of Arabic descent continues to escalate at an alarming rate and cannot be allowed to continue
- Finally there is an urgent need to ensure that ethnic rivalries do not become the basis for genocide.
IFSW & IASSW are opposed terrorism in all its forms
The IFSW and IASSW have already expressed our condemnation of terrorist acts past and present. However we remain concerned about the comparative lack of recognition of and interest in other regions where terrorist activity and the need to address these by non-violent means has been well-established. Partners to current efforts against Osama Bin Laden include a number of locations where terrorist campaigns in the recent past have impacted deleteriously upon the well-being of members of their societies. Their concerns also require need urgent non-violent forms of resolution aimed at dealing with the causes of terrorism.
While there is widespread acceptance of the need to unite against terrorism we maintain that this cannot be achieved in isolation from factors that lead to fundamental disadvantage. So long as people in low income countries perceive and experience real disadvantage in comparison to industrialized Western countries, dissident and extremist groups will have an ideal environment in which to ply their policies and recruit further generations of willing terrorists.
Human rights at risk
The UN Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson recently expressed her concern “that democracies may introduce measures erodng core human rights safeguards, that non democratic countries may clamp down on legitimate dissent and freedom of expression, and that refugees and asylum seekers may be excluded on a new and very general ground of being suspected of being involved in terrorism” 2)
The IFSW and IASSW share her concern and believe that there exists a very real threat to the fundamental tenets of human rights. This includes the potential erosion of civil & political rights as set out in UN Declaration of Human Rights. The positive rights of social justice, freedom from want, participation in social, economic & cultural aspects of life are absent in many areas and under threat in others. Finally the collective rights i.e. the entitlement to a peaceful and just social and international order are manifestly threatened in the current crisis.
International community must act to rebuild Afghanistan
The Alliance partners with the United States do have responsibility to help with the nation-building process. This is despite the recent comments made by US President Bush on the subject. It is imperative that any support is not tantamount to “the new colonisers”. We believe that it is the responsibility of the world community to help all suffering people – children, women and men, realise their citizenship potential. This will require the acknowledgment of our interdependence and reliance on each other for all our welfares. As social work practitioners and educators we do have a real stake and role to play in this vital issue.
What can you do?
We remind all our members that sustained calls for a non-violent approach to resolving the current crisis are critical. Social workers, along with others should never underestimate the value and power of individual as well a group advocacy. We urge our members and social workers to continue to implement the strategies outlined in the call to action released in September. For details see the document Social Workers Call to Action and www.iassw.soton.ac.uk Statement re 11 September 2001 attacks.
Sydney/Southampton, 30 November 2001
Imelda Dodds, President IFSW Lena Dominelli, President IASSW
International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)
Postfach 6875, Schwarztorstrasse 20
Tel (41) 31 382 6015
Fax (41) 31 381 1222
International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW)
Department of Social Work Studies
The University of Southampton
Southampton SO17 1BJ
Tel: 44 + (0)2380 – 593054
Fax: 44 + (0)2380 – 594800
1) Joint Statement from UN Heads of Agencies, UN agencies warn of major humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, 24 Sept 2001
2) As above