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Human Rights and Social Work

Universal Declaration of Human Rights

What is Human Rights? Men and women are born free to live in peace, dignity and hope. Human rights “include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more. Everyone is entitled to these rights, without discrimination.” So why does this concern social workers? Social work is based on values of social justice and equality. Infringements of human rights on life and liberty is an assault on human dignity and the value of life, values that the social work profession holds dear to. ​ So what actions should social workers take? Before any action social workers are trained professionally to make a thorough assessment of the situation, conditions and person and based on that accurate evaluation of the causal and maintenance factors, make appropriate intervention, within the scope of their work. The situation is often more complex, thus, as far as possible, an analysis of the historical, political and multiple perspective is warranted. ​ What are the causes of human rights violations? These could be actions made by governments and oppressive structures; invading forces in military conflicts, businesses and economic systems that are exploitative, or even interpersonal or cultural practices that inflict physical hurt or social psychological deprivations. ​ What can social workers do? Social workers should intervene at the level of practice they are trained and competent in, whether confronting or engaging with individuals, families, communities, governments or nations to redress the violence or violations. The intervention could include engagements with and training or facilitating mediation and conflict resolution, engaging in social actions such as protest, demonstration or making statements and calling for a stop of the human rights violation. ​ The aim for social work is often positive engagement, either for a direct cessation of the violation or raising public awareness of the issue and to advocate and build support for the oppressed. ​ Before any action, social workers should gauge the intended effect, or even the unintended consequences of their actions, whether it will achieve their intervention goal or even detract from the objective. The approach must always take the interest of and the safety concern, as well as impact on the clients as the key consideration. It is only ethical practice for social workers to take responsibility for their actions. ​ GISW calls Social Workers of the World to Unite against Human Rights Violation: Global Institute of Social Work stands with our international social work fraternity in the universal call of social workers to act on human rights violation that is embodied in the IASSW statement for Peaceful Engagement: ​ IASSW’s Message For Peaceful Engagement With Social Justice, Opposing And Condemning Racism, Discrimination And Violence ”IASSW opposes and condemns racism, discrimination, intolerance and violence in all its pernicious and evil forms, and condemns those governments, quasi-governments and individuals who perpetrate racism, discrimination and support intolerance and violence. We condemn racist acts and people or industries that make and sell the weapons and other equipment that allow terrorists to carry out their violent intentions. Our condemnation does not change according to country, race, ethnicity, religion, or other circumstance. IASSW does support robust conversations undertaken in goodwill to address and resolve injustices around the world that have grown from years of oppression, colonialism, and religious and economic hegemony. The history of discrimination and oppression, however, cannot in any way justify contemporary violence and acts of terror and racism which can only perpetuate the oppressive cycle of violence, and do nothing to advance social justice or peace. The great religions of the world only advocate peaceful resolution of conflict and complaints. Social work educators also teach peaceful engagement for social justice in our classrooms, support it in our research, and are prepared to engage with anyone of goodwill who is interested in addressing and resolving historical or modern grievances with the goal of social justice and an end to racism and oppression in all its forms.”

Loss of innocent human lives is an affront to human rights! ​​

In relation to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, IFSW has issued a specific statement: TERROR IN GAZA: REQUIRES SOLUTIONS THAT ADDRESS THE UNDERLYING PROBLEMS, Information Type: Statement Topic: Conflict, May 17, 2021 “The Israel / Palestine war is an International disaster with the potential to escalate in the region and beyond. Such a conflict could affect each and every one of us and requires global action to support a peaceful and just resolution. Social workers from every part of the conflict area have contacted IFSW to express their fear of the Israeli government sending ground troops into Gaza. All have said that it will increase the death toll exponentially. Social workers in other parts of the region are concerned that this escalation will fuel tensions which have already created refugee camps with millions of displaced persons. Diplomats globally have reported their fear that this escalation will lead to a massacre that will have wider repercussions.” ….. IFSW recognized the need for solidarity, with the call made by IFSW President, Silvana Martinez and Secretary-General, Rory Truell: “Key factors in achieving this requires us all to support the people of Palestine and Israel to: · Recognise each other´s rights · Recognise that the solutions involve all sides · Recognise that land is there to support everyone, and we have a responsibility to care for it and each other. These core principles have assisted the transformation from war to peace in many places throughout the world. Evidence from our global members has shown that peace processes are successful when engagement takes place at both the political and civil society levels and a new vision is formed with a focus on joint and better futures.” ​ As early as 2006, at the IFSW general assembly, a resolution was made: “The IFSW General Meeting in 2006 endorsed a: “Resolution on the Victims of Violent Conflicts” and expressed its dismay at the threat to the well being of the world’s most vulnerable citizens in conflicts: women, children, the elderly, the disabled and the poor, who are disproportionately affected by these conflicts. The resolution further emphasized the right of all peoples to live in an environment in which essential human rights and social justice are respected. Social work values emphasize the need for dialogue, respect and consideration of the views of opposing parties. Life is the ultimate human right. War as a conflict resolution method is not working, only making things worse. We therefore call on the international society and the actors in the ongoing conflict to do their outmost to stop the use of military means and seek a sustainable, peaceful solution providing safety for both parties.”

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