By Paul R. Pace
The world needs new policies, social contracts and practices that foster relationships and partnerships that build security and confidence for all people and promote the sustainability of the planet, say world social work leaders. The social work profession is an important stakeholder and partner for global action to further this commitment.
To help set these goals in motion, a people’s summit was held summer 2022 with the theme “Co-building a New Eco-Social World: Leaving No One Behind.” The United Nations Research Institute for Social Development and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) organized the summit.
NASW is a member of IFSW, and NASW President Mildred Joyner serves as vice president of the IFSW North America Region. The NASW Foundation helps administer NASW’s international social work efforts by serving on the international committee, spearheading IFSW reporting requirements, and assisting with international conferences for the North America Region.
The people’s summit brought together social workers, community representatives, politicians, unions, civil rights leaders, and climate justice leaders to create opportunities for all people to contribute to changing world values. The virtual event took place before the United Nations (U.N.) High Level Political Forum in July and aimed to deliver messages to the U.N. and all world leaders on the future values that need to underpin relationships within nations. IFSW President Silvana Martinez noted the summit was “a once in a generation opportunity for us all to act together and make the difference we all seek.”
The gathering was groundbreaking in that it was rooted in social work yet purposefully was designed as an inclusive platform that brought together a transdisciplinary global community, said Anne Deepak, PhD, the IFSW representative to the U.N. Deepak, associate professor at the Monmouth University School of Social Work, noted the summit brought together global organizations that represent hundreds of millions of people worldwide.
Participants were invited to contribute by sharing their suggestions through open-mic sessions, traditional academic presentations, TikTok style videos, workshops, poetry and spoken word, dances, songs, storytelling, blogs, interviews and panel discussions.
A key element at the summit was adoption of The People’s Charter for an Eco-Social World.
The charter aligns with the IFSW policy statement, The Role of Social Workers in Advancing a New Eco-Social World, adopted earlier this year, Deepak explained.
According to the IFSW, an eco-social approach requires key actions in relation to the five dimensions of sustainability: people, planet, prosperity, peace, and partnership. More specifically, the dimensions are:
People: In line with the central premise of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals, “leaving no one behind” must be at the core of all governments’ decisions that ensure human rights for all. IFSW recognizes it takes all of us to ensure dignity and respect for rights to be realized.
Planet: An eco-social approach recognizes that humans are part of the ecosystem, and that human and environmental well-being are interrelated. Climate action must prioritize listening to and working with First Nations peoples all over the world. IFSW and partners to the Global Definition of Social Work recognize the equal foundation knowledge from indigenous wisdom as central to achieving an eco-social world.
Prosperity: An eco-social understanding of prosperity must critically examine societal and economic structures, practices, and ways of life. The IFSW promotes transforming global economies toward a more sustainable, inclusive and fair approach, driven by a change in understanding of prosperity from purely economic growth toward sustainable social and environmental well-being.
Peace: An eco-social approach requires new bottom-up approaches that recognize that national and individual interests are secondary to global fairness, peace and sustainability. IFSW views an eco-social world that respects cultural diversity and identity in the context of global citizenship and reciprocal respect, creating a foundation for sustainable peace.
Partnership: The Sustainable Development Goals call for “a spirit of strengthened global solidarity.” For social workers, partnership starts with respecting difference and diversity, centered in equity; and by listening and understanding each other. IFSW promotes the sharing of knowledge and insights, working in collaboration centered in equity that leads to agreed solutions and joint actions for sustainable shared futures.
“Social workers should read the People’s Charter and the IFSW policy statement and explore the eco-social approach and the holistic human rights framework introduced in the policy,” Deepak says, adding that the documents can be used as guidance and as a resource for social workers in direct practice, policy development, governance and education.
Deepak co-authored the policy with IFSW U.N. Commission representatives Sebastian Cordoba, IFSW U.N. Asia Pacific representative and deputy program manager of social work at RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia; Evelyn P. Tomaszewski, IFSW U.N. North America representative and MSW program director, and assistant professor at George Mason University Department of Social Work; and Shenae Osborn, IFSW U.N. North America representative and licensed master social worker.
Deepak adds: “This policy statement is also a resource for the non-social work community, including the United Nations and/or partners to see the role of social workers in advancing a new eco-social world using a holistic human rights framework.”