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Social workers from across the world unite at Joint World Conference

More than 2,500 social workers from across the globe are coming together this week at the Joint World Conference in Hong Kong.

The conference, organised by the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), International Council on Social Welfare and the International Association of Schools of Social Work, will produce a global agenda for social work and social development for the next few years.

Social workers from more than110 countries are converging on Hong Kong for the conference which begins on Thursday, when the keynote speaker will be Mr Sha Zukang, United Nations under-secretary general for economic and social affairs.

He is expected to address the conference about the successes and disappointments of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals, adopted by the UN in 2000, of halving extreme poverty and alleviating the consequences of acute deprivation in the world by 2015.

Equity and social inclusion will be one of three key conference themes and Mr Zukang will focus particularly on the crucial role of social work and social development professionals in making links between global policy and local action.

Among other plenary sessions on poverty, Professor Hans Rosling of the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Professor Viviene Taylor of the University of Cape Town will look at the role of social work in poverty eradication.

The conference will produce a social agenda for the next decade which is likely to set out what social workers can contribute to creating a world without poverty, emphasising that for social work ‘poverty eradication is an ethical, social, political and economic imperative’.

Other themes at the conference will be ‘life course challenges and actualisation’ and ‘sustainable environment’, with speakers from Japan, China, Ethiopia, New Zealand, Uruguay and America, among others. The IASSW Eileen Younghusband Memorial Lecture will be given by Professor Sibin Wang from Beijing University, who will speak on the role of social work educators in social and national development.

IFSW president David N Jones hopes that the new social agenda emerging from the conference will offer an opportunity for social work to seize the initiative on the development of social policy. “All round the world I find social workers frustrated at being marginalised and unheard,” Mr Jones said. “We have a large amount of experience and knowledge but too often the policy debate is dominated by economists and theorists who lack our direct knowledge and experience.”

Mr Jones, who steps down from the presidency at the conference after four years in the role, said that partnership was all-important for social work, which recognised that “nothing can be done without involving and listening to local communities”.

But he added: “Social workers have a special and valuable perspective and it has been ignored for too long. The Hong Kong agenda will provide a platform for a new professional self-confidence. The professional voice of social work and social development will be heard.”

For more information about the Joint World Conference on Social Work and Social Development, which is taking place on 10-14 June 2010, click here