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BASW’s round up of the IFSW summit

Social workers from around the world were welcomed in Dublin

The 2018 General Meeting of International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) was held in Dublin last week and saw the coming together of associations of social workers from across the world.

The IFSW was founded in 1928 to promote build ethics, practice and solidarity.

It has 128 members and many countries’ associations were at the meeting, while others had entrusted proxy votes to those attending.

“The meeting acts as a strong reminder that we are part of a global profession,” said BASW chair Gerry Nosowska, who attended the four-day summit.


Regional reports

Presidents of the five regions of IFSW - Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America and Caribbean, and North America – reported on work across the regions. The common themes were Working to respond to environmental change, migration, austerity and Promoting human rights, social justice, reconciliation.

A report on work across the globe over the last two years is available here.


Censure of the Israeli Union of Social Workers

The executive of IFSW (made up of elected representatives from each region of the world) passed a motion to censure the Israeli Union in March 2018. This was because the Israeli Union was not acting on a human rights perspective.

The executive can censure a member of IFSW if they counteract the aims or policies of the federation. BASW has also called out human rights abuses in Palestine and had written to the Israeli Union.

The censure came to an end at the start of the General Meeting and the executive were asked to discuss what should happen now. “It was evident from the debate that the process for censuring a member was unclear and that the implications were unclear,” said Nosowska.

The Palestinian Union of Social Workers put forward a motion for the general meeting to censure the Israeli Union as they had not shown a change in their actions or position. “I decided to abstain on this vote – because the approach to censuring members was unclear, it did not seem right to vote on a censure,” said Nosowska.

The motion to censure the Israeli Union was passed and, as a member of IFSW, BASW supports this censure. There were also unanimous votes to clarify the censure process and implications, and in support of a UK motion to pursue timely and meaningful dialogue about the issues.

Nosowska commentated that there continues to be a strong relationship between BASW and the Palestinian Union.

This will see BASW work in council and in the International Committee to:

•             Continue to call out human rights abuses in Palestine and anywhere else they occur

•             Support IFSW to clarify the process for censure of members

•             Support the European region of IFSW with efforts for meaningful dialogue between the Israeli Union, Palestinian Union, European and Asian regions and IFSW Human Rights commission.


Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW(

There was a brief meeting of representatives from Commonwealth countries. The COSW can contribute social work perspectives across the Commonwealth and has recently been involved in the Heads of Government Meeting in London. It was agreed that COSW would work to strengthen its membership and activities.


New commissions

The General Meeting agreed to set up a United Nations Commission to coordinate work that is already happening across the world to get social justice issues onto UN agendas.

BASW also agreed that an interim Education Commission would work to identify how IFSW can work collaboratively to help strengthen education for social workers across the world.


Ethical principles

The General Meeting approved work by the IFSW Ethics Commission on a joint statement with the International Association of Schools of Social Work of nine shared ethical principles.


New President

Ruth Stark ended her four-year term as IFSW president. The General Meeting elected Silvana Martinez from Argentina as the new president – the first from the Latin America and Caribbean region.



David Jones, Chair of BASW’s International Committee, was awarded the Andrew Mouravieff-Apostol Award for his contribution to global social work. Puerto Rica also received an award for their innovative and inspiring approach to social work in communities. 

“The General Meeting was inspiring in its relationships, breadth of concern, and reminder that - as a global profession - when we work together we really do change the world,” concluded Nosowska.