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Article

Global Development Actors (Public, Private, Corporate)  

Smitha Rao, Javier Reyes-Martinez, and Carlos Andrade-Guzmán

The global development landscape has witnessed a transformation with previously held development roles and priorities changing and increasingly overlapping with others. This is compounded by the intersection of emergent challenges, such as the climate crisis and economic downturn, that create additional inequities, making the landscape increasingly complex to navigate. The social work profession has actively engaged with international entities through service provision, education, and advocacy. Social workers have historically recommended actions or changes on behalf of individuals, communities, and groups, guided by principles of social justice, dignity, and worth of each person, as well as the importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence while interfacing with development efforts in multiple other ways. Development as a topic on a global scale emerged in response to evolving conceptualizations beyond the idea of development as growth alone. For instance, originating from development economics and initially focused on modernizing new nation-states at the end of colonialism, social development aimed to achieve economic growth as the primary means of development. Practice and scholarship on development have also moved from an “international development” framework to a “global development” framing to highlight the interdependence among various societal actors rather than a linear pathway. Finally, sustainable development and its derivative, sustainability, have become central components of the current developmental discourse due to their commitment to addressing the present needs without jeopardizing future generations’ capacity to fulfill their own. To understand this complex landscape better, it is important to identify the various actors in global development and the differential goals, strengths, and constraints they bring to the table. The public sector is the traditional source of funding and action for global development projects worldwide, with governments at all levels playing a central role in resource provision, policy setting, and program implementation. The private sector, encompassing nongovernmental organizations, civil society and community-based organizations, philanthropic foundations and entities, and social entrepreneurs focused on social initiatives, has increasingly become involved in global development. Relatedly, the corporate sector, too, has emerged as a key player with a different structure and access to infrastructural and other resources. With individual strengths and constraints, these global development actors play specific roles and often collaborate to address social and developmental causes. At the same time, important complexities and shortcomings across these sectors need to be taken into cognizance to ensure continued efforts toward global development. The global development landscape offers numerous prospects for social workers to apply their knowledge and professional expertise. An understanding of this landscape equips social workers in developing a holistic approach to cross-sectoral development initiatives.

Article

Global Health  

Jessica Euna Lee

Within its 150-year history, public health has grown from a focus on local communities to include countrywide, then international, and now global perspectives. Drawing upon the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, this article provides an overview of global public health within the broadest possible context of the world and all of its peoples. Also provided are the global burden of disease as measured in disability-adjusted life years, global health statistics, current health priorities, and recommendations for action by social workers and other health professionals.

Article

Social Work Education: Social Welfare Policy  

Ira C. Colby

The educational imperative to study social welfare policy has remained a constant throughout the history of social work education. Although specific policies and social issues may change over time, the need to advocate for and create humane, justice-based social policy remains paramount. The study of welfare policy contributes to the effectiveness of practitioners who are knowledgeable and skilled in analysis, advocacy, and the crafting of justice-based social welfare policies. In addition to traditional policy content areas, students should develop knowledge and skills in critical thinking, understand a range of justice theories, and recognize the direct interaction between globalization and national and local policy matters.

Article

Peace  

Charles D. Cowger

This entry discusses the relationship of war and peace to social work practice. The historic and current mandate for social workers to work for peace is presented. The inevitable tie of war to everyday social work practice is described, and the relationship between social justice and peace is illustrated.

Article

Cultural Equity and the Displacement of Othering  

Rhea Almeida

This article proposes social equity as a paradigm to guide social work practice and education. “Cultural equity” encompasses the multiplicity of personal, social, and institutional locations that frame identities in therapeutic practice as well as the classroom by locating these complexities within a societal matrix that shapes relationships of power, privilege, and oppression. Foregoing cultural competency for a cultural equity framework requires both analysis and interruption of the “otherizing” process inherited through multicultural discourses and the legacies of colonization. Through the use of education for critical consciousness, accountability through transparency, community-learning circles, progressive coalition-building, and usage of action strategies, transformative potential is revealed across multiple sites, both local as well as global. Multiple illustrations for the coherent application of cultural equity in social work practice and education are offered.

Article

Income Distribution  

Joel Blau

Income distribution is defined both as the process of distributing income to individuals and families and as the statistical consequences of that distribution. After examining the measurement issues that enter into this distribution, the discussion highlights the evidence for rising inequality in the United States. It finds the top quintile, and even more starkly the top 5% and 1% of all households, to have secured most of the gains. Identifying neoliberalism, the heightened power of business, and the effects of globalization as the primary causes for this shift, income distribution is then correlated with other social welfare policy issues such as economic growth, health, and political democracy.

Article

International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)  

Nigel Hall

The International Federation of Social Workers is an international organization representing the interests of social workers around the world. This organization works in cooperation with global regional social work bodies, national organizations, and other associations to organize international events, publish policy statements, encourage cooperative initiatives, and link to other international bodies. It is active in human rights and social development and in the promotion of best practices and high professional social work standards.

Article

Social Justice  

Janet L. Finn, Jen Molloy, and Ashley Trautman

The concept of social justice is significant as a core value of social work. Conceptualizations of social justice are diverse, with important philosophical underpinnings. A range of philosophical perspectives influences social work’s conceptualization of social justice, including those of John Rawls, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, Nancy Fraser, and Iris Marion Young. The roots of social justice are traced through social work history, from the settlement house movement to the rank and file movement, the civil rights movement, and contemporary struggles in the context of globalization and neoliberalism. Challenges for social justice-oriented practice in the 21st century are addressed. Examples are provided of ways in which social workers are translating principles of social justice into concrete practices.

Article

Labor Unions in the United States  

Paul A. Kurzman

Labor unions are major participants in the world of work in the United States and abroad. Although union membership in the United States has steadily declined since the 1950s, unions continue to provide a critical countervailing force to the largely unchecked power of employers, whose strength has increased. Hence, to be successful in meeting their goals, unions must learn to deal creatively with the realities of automation, globalization, privatization, de-unionization, and the trend toward contingent work arrangements. Nonetheless, despite the disadvantages and struggles they face, labor unions in 2020 represented almost 16 million wage and salary workers, who have families who vote; therefore, they remain a core constituency for political and corporate America and a significant part of the economic landscape in this country and abroad. Unions remain a core constituency and continue to be a significant part of the economic landscape in this country and beyond.

Article

Social Work and the United Nations  

Robin S. Mama

The profession of social work has a long and rich history of participating in and influencing the work of the United Nations and its affiliate agencies, almost since the inception of the institution. This history includes not only the work of social work or social welfare organizations as accredited nongovernmental organizations, but also of individual social workers who were trailblazers in the field of international work. The founding conference of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 played a key role in establishing what has come to be a formal relationship between civil society and the United Nations. Article 71 of the United Nations Charter cemented this relationship by allowing the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to make consultative arrangements with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) (United Nations, 2003). The number of NGOs at the founding conference numbered 1,200; at present there are 3,900 NGOs that have consultative status with ECOSOC (Department of Economic and Social Affairs, 2014). Three of the leading social work organizations that have consultative status with the United Nations are: International Association of Schools of Social Work (received consultative status in 1947), International Federation of Social Workers—(received consultative status in 1959), and International Council on Social Welfare (received consultative status in 1972).

Article

Radical Social Work  

Mary Bricker-Jenkins, Rosemary Barbera, and Barbara Hunter-Randall Joseph

Since the beginning of the profession, radical social work has avowed a commitment to practice dedicated to advancing human rights and social and economic justice. Since the 1980s, the rise of neoliberal global capitalism has vitiated support for robust social welfare programs; its conservatizing effect on the profession has rendered the radical agenda both more urgent and more difficult. Ensuing polarization in the economic, social, and political arenas has been mirrored in the profession as well: differences widen between the micro and macro realms and privatization engulfs the public welfare arena; the epistemological bases of knowledge and prevailing theories form competing camps; the entire project of social work for social welfare is challenged as Eurocentric and implicitly white supremacist. Radical social work has responded to these challenges with innovation and energy, deriving insight from and participating in spontaneous uprisings and resistance, while engaging theoretical and practical conundrums.

Article

Human Rights Overview  

Joseph M. Wronka

At the heart of social work, human rights is a set of interdependent and indivisible guiding principles with implications for meta-macro (global), macro (whole population), mezzo (at risk), micro (clinical), meta-micro (everyday life), and research interventions to eradicate social malaise and promote well-being. Human rights can be best understood vis-à-vis the UN Human Rights Triptych. This consists of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, increasingly referred to as customary international law; the guiding principles, declarations, and conventions following it, such as the Guiding Principles to Eradicate Extreme Poverty, Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Convention the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; and implementation mechanisms, such as the filing of country reports on compliance to conventions, the Universal Periodic Review, thematic and country reports by special rapporteurs, and world conferences. This powerful idea, which emerged from the ashes of World War II, emphasizes five crucial notions: human dignity; nondiscrimination; civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and solidarity rights. The hope is that every person, everywhere, will have their human rights realized. Only chosen values endure. The challenge is the creation of a human rights culture, which is a lived awareness of these principles in one’s mind, spirit, and body, integrated into our everyday lives. Doing so will require vision, courage, hope, humility, and everlasting love, as the Indigenous spiritual leader Crazy Horse reminded us.

Article

Homelessness  

Yin-Ling Irene Wong and Claudia J. Vogelsang

Homelessness is a major social problem in the United States. The article starts with an overview of homelessness in American history, followed by the definition of contemporary homelessness, its prevalence, and the composition and diverse characteristics of the homeless population. Contrasting perspectives on what causes homelessness are discussed, while the multidimensionality of the homeless experience is explored. The unique experiences of three subpopulations, including homeless persons who are involved in criminal justice, emerging youth leaving foster care, and older homeless persons are further featured. Public and community responses to homelessness are examined, highlighting evidence-based and emerging practices that aim at reducing and preventing homelessness. A discussion of international homelessness follows, as homelessness is recognized as a global issue affecting people living in poverty in both the developed and developing world. The article concludes with discussion of the implications for social work.

Article

International Council on Social Welfare  

Sergei Zelenev

The International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW) is a nongovernmental organization (NGO) focused on advocacy, knowledge-building, and technical assistance projects in various areas of social development carried out at the country level and internationally. Created in 1928 in Paris to address the complexities and challenges of social work, the ICSW has evolved through the years to embrace the major issues of social development, becoming a global organization committed to improving human well-being. Establishing common ground on issues of international significance and acting with partners through its nine regional networks, ICSW represents national and local organizations in more than 70 countries throughout the world. Membership also includes major international organizations. By virtue of its constitution, it operates as a democratic and accountable organization.