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AASW, IFSW and the United Nations

In line with our strategic plan the AASW is deeply commitment to working towards a sustainable and socially just environment through individual, cultural and structural change. The AASW achieves this through our continued policy and advocacy work at all levels of government, and internationally through the International Federation of Social Workers.

Australian Social Worker Appointed IFSW UN Representative

Article from Social Work Focus Magazine

SDGs: UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development


AASW Senior Policy Advisor and RMIT Industry Fellow Dr Sebastian Cordoba attended the 2018 United Nations High Level Political Forum at the UN Headquarters in New York as an International Federation of Social Workers delegate, advocating for the important role of international and Australian social work in promoting community and environmental sustainability.

The HLPF is the main United Nations platform on sustainable development and it has a central role in the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the global level.

"To achieve the Goals as social workers we are needed now more than ever. Social workers work with communities who are hardest hit by climate change and play a central goal in promoting sustainable and resilient societies. Social workers are on the front line of human rights protection and it is in our daily work that we ensure that every individual is free from discrimination, oppression and persecution. Whether in direct practice, community development, policy or academia, social workers are key partners in achieving these targets. The forum highlighted how much work is still needed, and how well placed our profession is to make a meaningful contribution towards creating an equitable, socially just and sustainable world."

Dr Sebastian Cordoba
IFSW short term representative to the United Nations

Click here to access a news story on the forum from the IFSW website.

Social Work Day at the United Nations

By Dr Sebastian Cordoba - AASW Senior Policy Advisor/ RMIT Industry Fellow

Every year, in coordination with the International Federation of Social Workers and the International Association of Schools of Social Work, the United Nations (UN) hosts a day-long event to recognise and celebrate the contribution of social workers. This year in April, the AASW’s Senior Policy Advisor/, Sebastian Cordoba, was the Australian delegate in New York.

‘Social Work Day at the UN’ is a unique opportunity for social workers from all around the world to discuss the vital role that the profession plays in the protection of human rights. In recent years, the event has focused on how the professional community can contribute to meeting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The goals are a set of 17 global targets supported by 193 member states that look to address the world’s most pressing issues, including ending poverty, climate action and reducing inequality. Given the current global political climate, social work skills and knowledge are instrumental to achieving these aims.

The UN recognises that as human rights advocates, social workers are key partners. The day tends to focus on discussing and identifying the major social and environmental challenges we are currently facing and exploring the ways in which social workers can come together and better coordinate our efforts. Given the AASW’s reputation at an international level for our advocacy work, especially in relation to asylum seekers, we were invited to attend this year.

The day proved to be an inspiring opportunity to build professional networks and better align our advocacy work to that of the UN, and fellow associations from other countries. The day began with a morning session in the main UN building where keynote speakers explored the theme for this year, ‘Promoting Community and Environmental Sustainability’. Highlights included hearing Ambassador Masud Bin Momen (permanent representative of the Mission of Bangladesh to the United Nations) talk about the impacts of climate change on Bangladesh and the vital role of social workers to address these devastating impacts. The central theme was the injustice that characterises a lot of the impacts of climate change, where the countries that emit the least amount of pollution (for example, Bangladesh) tend to feel the effects with greater severity.

As the Australian representative, I had the opportunity to address the room and pose a point for discussion to the panel on the challenges many Australian social workers face in incorporating green social work principles to daily practice, given the significant time and resourcing limitations. The discussion focused on how environmental justice can inform all aspects of work, including a fascinating reframing of advocacy and direct action as a form of self-care. The ideas will greatly inform the work of the AASW in this space into the future. The AASW also took the opportunity in New York to personally deliver a letter to the UN’s Human Rights Council stating its opposition to Australia’s nomination. Australia has recently bid for a seat on the council and this has raised significant concerns because of our country’s human rights record. Given the importance of the Human Rights Council and its leadership role, its membership must be made up of countries with a commitment and proven track record of protecting human rights. Sadly, Australia currently does not meet this standard and as an association we cannot support this nomination until there is a significant change in policy.

Attending the UN was an incredible opportunity to raise the profile of the work that Australian social workers undertake every day in advocating for social justice and human rights. The relationships and professional networks that were established in New York will greatly assist our work in striving towards a more socially and environmentally just Australia, and world.

IFSW and the United Nations

The AASW is a member of the IFSW. The IFSW has been granted Special Consultative Status by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). In addition, IFSW is working with the World Health Organization (WHO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

The commission supports IFSW representatives and IFSW members to act as facilitators and bridging the gaps between community’s aspirations and UN agendas. At the same time, the knowledge of the UN’s work shall flow back to the IFSW board and the IFSW members with the goal to create a partnership and realising a social change.

Learn more about the work of the IFSW at the UN.

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers