NASW leaders, members and staff in August attended the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) General Meeting and World Conference in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil.
NASW President James J. Kelly and past presidents Elvira Craig de Silva and Gary Bailey were among the attendees. IFSW prides itself as being the voice of professional social work around the world, with membership representing more than 80 countries and more than 700,000 social workers. IFSW strives for social justice, human rights and social development through a collaboration among social works and their professional organizations.
Craig de Silva said this was her second IFSW World Conference. She noted that it is paramount that social workers support the organization. "The issues related to social work are common around the world and social workers serve similar populations and advocate for the same rights," she said. "It's an honor to be involved with this effort and I've learned tremendously from it. We cannot afford not to be involved in international social work."
At the conference, Craig de Silva offered a presentation about the challenges social work will face in the next decade. "Meetings like this one in which we are participating show the desire to connect, exchange best practices and unite forces to strengthen the profession," she said.
Bailey said the event marked his third IFSW international conference. This year, he served as chair of the Policy, Advocacy, Representation Commission (PARC). "We are aware that for IFSW policies to be useful to IFSW members around the world they need to represent a global perspective," Bailey said to IFSW leaders at the general meeting. He pointed out that NASW was involved in managing the international collaboration to draft an IFSW policy statement on genocide.
"Social workers are in a unique position to inform others and advocate for solutions to genocide," Bailey said. "Often, there is a debate about what genocide is, so it's important that social workers have an opinion on the topic. We are the profession that typically deals with the results and ramifications of genocide."
Bailey said that being active with IFSW is a way to unite the profession. "It's vital that NASW be an active member in these endeavors," he said. "We can't afford to sit on the sidelines. This is a great way to build relationships and utilize our skills and also to listen to what other countries are doing in regards to the profession."
NASW staff spearheaded the collaboration among international experts on aging to produce the IFSW policy on Aging and Older Adults. The policy noted that social workers are well positioned to collaborate with older adults in creating and advocating for aging friendly policies and programs and to provide culturally competent services to this group.
At the meeting, Kelly was appointed as the president of the North American Region of IFSW. He said it is essential NASW and social workers in the U.S. be involved with the international organization that is more than 50 years old.
"Being part of IFSW has upmost importance because even though members come from different social work systems, we all have the same values and core understanding of the profession," Kelly said.
The NASW president noted that he met with IFSW leaders representing several African regions as well as those from Canada, Korea and China. He said the conference provided an opportunity to exchange examples of American social work efforts and a chance to hear firsthand from other nations about their social work perspectives.
Luisa Lopez, acting director of NASW's Division for Social Work Practice, Human Rights and International Affairs, also attended the conference and general meeting in Brazil. She noted today is an opportune time to be involved in international social work since there is a renewed interest in working in other countries. Lopez said social work professionals, student volunteers, the U.S. Congress and the United Nations are committed to supporting effective international development efforts. "This is a vital time to be visible and active with IFSW," she said.