NASW’s Luisa Lopez, Rebecca Myers, Elizabeth J. Clark and Robert Carter Arnold attended the global conference in Hong Kong.
NASW was part of a June gathering of more than 2,500 social workers from more than 110 countries charged with drafting a global social work action plan for the future.
The three leading global social work organizations — The International Federation of Social Workers, the International Association of Schools of Social Work and the International Council on Social Welfare — endorsed an agenda June 14 in Hong Kong during the 2010 Joint World Conference of Social Work and Social Development: The Agenda.
NASW was a supporting organization for the event that brought together groups representing hundreds of thousands of social workers worldwide.
“The global consultation on the Hong Kong agenda will support our continued lobbying worldwide to promote the achievements of the social work profession,” said former NASW President Gary Bailey, who was elected IFSW president at the conference. The agenda was the product of four days of plenary presentations, workshops and debate by the three organizations. The collaboration brought forth a collective voice in the direction of social development, practice and education, Bailey said.
The agenda highlights four main themes that will be refined in preparation for the next global conference, which is set for 2012 in Stockholm.
The themes are: economic and social inequalities within countries and between regions; dignity and worth of the person; environmental sustainability; and importance of human relationships.
The three organizations will develop a communications strategy to boost publicity of the priorities for social work and social development.
“Social work, both at the local and global level, provides a major contribution to solving human problems,” Bailey said. “The global agenda process shows that the profession is committed and determined to work with other interested parties to ensure that the contributions of social work are recognized and that social work has a significant role in responding to the global economic and social crisis affecting people everywhere.”
NASW was well represented at the conference. The association’s president, James J. Kelly, served on the planning committee and will continue to serve the IFSW as member-at-large for the executive committee.
“This was a great opportunity to meet with our colleagues from around the world,” Kelly said. “It was a pleasure to be there and vote for Gary Bailey to be the IFSW president.”
NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark said the conference served as an excellent opportunity to discuss issues with other social work leaders.
“We discovered that many of the challenges social workers face in the U.S. are the same for social workers around the world,” she said. “Issues such as human trafficking, lack of funding for social services and maintaining professional titles were some of the common themes.”
Clark and Joan Levy Zlotnik, director of the NASW Foundation Social Work Policy Institute, presented “Strengthening the Social Work Voice in Policy Deliberations: The NASW Social Work Policy Institute.”
Zlotnik explained that the policy think tank was developed to strengthen social work’s voice in public policy deliberations, to collect and disseminate information on social work effectiveness and to create a forum to examine current and future issues in health care and social services delivery.
Luisa Lopez, NASW’s director of human rights and international affairs, discussed “Advocating for Increased Reproductive Health Services: The Impact on the Family, Demographic Transition and a Sustainable Environment.”
Lopez said there is a severe lack of reproductive health services throughout the world and it results in poor health, higher maternal deaths and higher infant mortality rates.
“Access to reproductive health services is not only a basic human need, but it is also critical to the protection of a sustainable environment,” she said.
Lopez also said social workers can play a key role in promoting the importance of these critical health services, identified as a Millennium Development Goal of universal access to reproductive health by the U.N.
“Social workers have developed innovative approaches to advocacy, practice, research, policy and community and public health programs to promote strong reproductive health services,” she said.
Lopez noted that NASW initiated a project funded by the United Nations Foundation to build greater awareness of the need for more attention to maternal and reproductive health.
The conference was also an opportunity for NASW to further its collaboration with other countries, Lopez said.
NASW, as a member of the IFSW, participated in receptions with members of the Hong Kong Boys and Girls Club and the Hong Kong Social Work Association, Lopez noted. The association met with leaders of the Korea Association of Social Workers, including President Sung-Chul Cho, Past President Soung-Yee Kim and Secretary General Myung-Soon Won.
Rebecca Myers, director of external relations at NASW, and Robert Carter Arnold, director of the NASW Foundation, discussed “International Collaboration to Build Social Work Capacity: Improving Psychosocial Oncology Care in Hungary.”
Myers explained how NASW’s Social Workers Across Nations program works to assist social work in other countries. For example, SWAN recently developed a program to strengthen psychosocial oncology services in Hungary and the U.S. A poster session at the conference highlighted recent SWAN initiatives.
When the three main groups meet again 2012, they will deliver recommendations and draft a unified action plan that will be presented to the secretary general of the United Nations and individual countries.
In other global social work news, NASW Executive Director Clark and NASW President-Elect Jeane Anastas presented in July at Changing Health: Acting and Reacting, Challenges for Social Work Theory and Practice, a conference held in Dublin.
Anastas said the conference yielded exciting collaborations. “The plenary speakers were excellent and many individual speakers addressed inequities in health and behavioral health on a global scale,” said Anastas, a professor at the Silver School of Social Work at New York University. She presented on “Changing Knowledge for Changing Health: Epistemologies for Social Work Research.”
Clark’s presentation was titled “Why Do We Need Social Workers Now?” She explained the many challenges facing the profession in the U.S. and what is being done to address them.
“NASW was well represented,” she noted, “with a large contingent of members in Dublin.”