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Former New Zealand PM back’s social work’s Global Agenda

Social work’s global manifesto for promoting social and economic equality, the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development, was officially received on behalf of the United Nations in New York by the former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark.

Now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, the third most senior post at the organisation, Ms Clark praised the role of social work in supporting the most marginalised people around the world and offered backing for the Global Agenda’s commitment to the ‘Promotion of Social and Economic Equalities’.

Speaking to social workers at the UN building in New York on 26 March, she said: “We need approaches which foster the fullest participation of people, along with ‘bottom up’ advocacy which bring the needs of the poor and marginalised to the attention of governments. Real life understanding of the day-to-day challenges which poor people face needs to inform and shape national development strategies.

“Social work professionals play an important role in making these connections. Your actions make a difference where it matters most, and your voices provide direction for policies and programmes.”

Ms Clark, prime minister in New Zealand for nine years until 2008, said progress has been made towards achieving the 2015 Millennium Development Goal targets, including reducing extreme poverty and ensuring all children globally receive a primary education, but that far more work was needed.

“The World Bank estimates that the target of reducing the numbers of people living in extreme poverty by half has already been achieved. Yet a number of inconvenient truths must also be confronted. Many of the seven billion people on our planet live in highly unequal societies where extreme poverty persists.”

Emphasising the role of social workers in speeding-up efforts to achieve the targets, Ms Clark pointed to Colombia and Costa Rica where social work practitioners have helped to “shape national and local MDG acceleration plans”.

The US event marked the culmination of a week of activity following World Social Work Day on 20 March.

View the full transcript of Ms Clark’s speech

View International Federation of Social Workers WSWD coverage