top of page

Social Work and Social Development’s Approach for Peaceful Engagement and Social Justice

Social work is about social change, advocating for social justice and human rights. Non-violence and peaceful intervention are the hallmark of social work strategies.

While IASSW’s statement[1], ”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”, the effectiveness of such statements for social change is being questioned. How should international organization, espousing to be champions for human rights respond to gross violations of human rights

Social work’s call is for positive engagement and redressing human rights violation at all levels. Rightly, IASSW has in its statement a call on social work educators to ”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.”

It is in this context that we will discuss the Social Work Response to Conflict and Wars. The recent Palestinian- Israeli conflict, Myanmar’s Rohingyas' crisis, Hong Kong democracy movement and Uighurs plight in China, have all rightly sparked social work responses. The various statements and actions, including sanctions and boycotts, against Myanmar and North Korea have yielded negative results. Agencies like world vision has intervened at the humanitarian level.





















                                       World vision bringing humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas in Myanmar


Social Work and Social Development Approach

Social work models and process present the framework for social work approach to dealing with social justice and human rights violation. I suggest that the key to right human rights approach follows social work intervention process, starting with assessment and asking who is the client? Obviously, the focus of social work is on the people most affected by the problem especially those who have no voice or lack power. We often champion the causes of the disenfranchised, and rightly so.  

In assessment, however, the reality is often not black or white, but more complex and multi-layered. Social workers are trained not to take superficial easy way out but to understand the underlying causal factors and aimed at underlying problems and systemic change.

Social work abhors violence. Violence begets violence. The nature of social work intervention and agenda is social justice and social well-being. Social work embraces a social development strategy for social change. Justice and development are two sides of the same coin. Justice paves the way for human development and social wellbeing. 

Social work skills and competencies are in conflict management and creative problem solving. We are trained to address real interests and secondary issues associated with the symptoms and problems. Thus social workers should engage in creative or collaborative strategies.

To resolve the conflict there is the need to meet the real needs of the people, with the call for both sides to lay down weapons and “beat the swords to ploughshares, grow vineyards and build bridges of peace.” In other words, social workers engage in productive development that enhances social well-being.

Social workers should engage in constructive conversations and consultations in various interested parties in working towards peaceful social development and mediating solutions that bring hope and human wellbeing. Self-determinism and empowerment, should be key principles adopted in the process. Next, will develop specific examples of social intervention in the midst of conflicts facing our world today.

In the next blog we will discuss prevailing case situations and apply the social work process for social justice:

  • Palestinian- Israeli-Conflict which is a longstanding conflict, with the struggles lasting more than 3000 years. At the base of the problem is about nationhood and rights to the land, claimed by both sides. Certainly it is the right of each Palestinian to dwell safely in the land, and so how do we reconcile the Israeli as a sovereign nation and their rights to existence? We will discuss the advocacy for the people who wants peace.

  • The protection of the Rohingya community, Myanmar's many ethnic minorities, from human rights abuse and genocide. We will highlight measures to protect its members "one of, if not the, most discriminated people in the world".

[1] IASSW’s Message For Peaceful Engagement With Social Justice, Opposing And Condemning Racism, Discrimination And Violence,

World vision Myanmar.jpg
bottom of page