Celebrate World Social Work Day

Elvira Craig de Silva— Elvira Craig de Silva, DSW, ACSW

From the President

April 15, 2008, will mark the second annual World Social Work Day celebrated and recognized by NASW and coordinated by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW). We invite social work professionals everywhere to take pride in the important contributions the profession makes worldwide.

This year's theme, "Making a World of Difference," continues a promotion IFSW launched on its 50th anniversary in 2006. IFSW established the annual observance to showcase the goals and accomplishments of diverse social work professionals in all countries and to raise awareness about the profession's rich history across the globe.

World Social Work Day is about working together to achieve social justice for everyone, as well as human rights and social development for all nations. IFSW believes that international cooperation between professional organizations will further this goal.

Social workers around the world share similar values, strategies and roles. But it is also important to recognize that the profession has evolved to meet the needs of the diverse communities and nations it serves. Currently, 84 nations are members of IFSW, each with different definitions of which populations are most vulnerable and in need of help. Social work infrastructures differ as well, with countries receiving varying types of funding and oversight from government and private sectors to meet a range of goals and expectations.

For example, our colleagues in Canada have worked to make the issue of women and poverty a national priority. Social workers in the European Union are working through a complex transition, pulling disparate social systems together and recruiting enough people to meet service needs in all represented countries. Social work in Latin America has always been focused on the concept that access to social services is a human right; our colleagues pursue their goals there using a classic social action and community organizing approach.

Social workers in South Africa have an advanced system of training, which helps them combat the enemies of poverty and AIDS. The social work profession in India boasts a well-renowned social work institute, which has the attention and respect of that nation's most prominent leaders. And as we have learned through multiple recent conferences, China is vigorously exploring social work's impact on social progress.

These are but a few examples of how social workers are part of renewed global interest in human development as an essential ingredient to social well-being and economic stability. To find out more, visit the IFSW Website and NASW's Social Work Portal.

In honor of World Social Work Day, sign up for daily news feeds at Google by searching on "social workers" and clicking on the News Alerts envelope. You will be amazed at how many exciting things are happening every day in the social work community, across the U.S. and thousands of miles away.

Lastly, if you are planning a trip abroad, consider calling your destination country's social work organization or any of a number of social service programs there and asking for a tour. This is how we can build on the IFSW vision of an interconnected social work world and greatly improve our knowledge of all human potential.

One of the many honors of being president of NASW is the opportunity to serve on the Executive Committee of the International Federation of Social Workers. A wonderful preface to the World Social Work Day celebration is Social Work Day at the U.N., which a team representing IFSW and the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) coordinates.

This year's event, held on March 31, marked the 25th anniversary of the meeting in New York City. Over the years, it has grown from 200 people to nearly 1,000 attendees. The IFSW team at the United Nations includes Michael Cronin as the main representative, Robin Mama, Elaine Congress, Marcia Wallace, David Roth and social work interns. Many of these team members have been longtime representatives as well as NASW leaders. This year, David Jones, president of IFSW, welcomed the attendees, as did Abye Tasse, president of IASSW. David is from the United Kingdom, and Abye is from Ethiopia.

World Social Work Day and Social Work Day at the U.N. serve to remind us that social work can make the world a better place. Both occasions also reaffirm our profession's value to those served and to those responsible for building stronger and healthier nations. We all can be proud of that.