[Opinion] Promoting social and economic equality

Year 2010 in Hong Kong, social workers launched a social movement directed to address the major challenges of our societies today. The movement is led by the International Federation of Social Workers, International Association of Schools of Social Work and the International Council on Social Welfare and their theme is “Promoting social and economic equality.”

The meeting was attended by over 3,000 social work practitioners, educators and development workers all over the world. They marked March 13 as a Social Work Day, an “annual opportunity to advocate social work perspective in the political systems that affect people’s well-being and to celebrate the contribution of social work to societies.”

The unities and objectives were encapsulated in what is now known as the “Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: Commitments to Actions”.

The ambitious plan started out by encouraging social workers to speak about their experience on issues relevant to the larger community. Undeniably, the social workers are frontline witnesses to the daily realities and challenges confronted by different people. Thus, they have a critical role to play in promoting social and economic equalities in order to achieve a people-focused and regulated economy.

I believe that the movement made a remarkable analyses when it recognized that the “past and present political, economic, cultural and social orders, shaped in specific contexts, have unequal consequences for global, national and local communities and have negative impacts on people.”

In fact, its analyses elaborated on a broad range of issues which points out why the world is characterized by social and economic inequalities and what steps to take to address the elements that sustain such inequalities.

One element is that “that the full range of human rights are available only to a minority of the world’s population and that the unjust and poorly regulated economic systems, driven by unaccountable market forces, together with noncompliance with international standards for labor conditions and a lack of corporate social responsibility, have damaged the health and well-being of peoples and communities, causing poverty and growing inequality”.

It also said that “cultural diversity and the right to self-expression facilitate a more satisfactory intellectual, emotional, moral and spiritual existence but these rights are in danger due to aspects of globalization which standardize and marginalize peoples, with especially damaging consequences for indigenous and first nation peoples.

The movement believes those “people that live in communities and thrive in the context of supportive relationships are being eroded by dominant economic, political and social forces.”

Moreover, “peoples’ health and well-being suffer as a result of inequalities and unsustainable environments related to climate change, pollutants, war, natural disasters and violence to which there are inadequate international responses.”

These riveting analyses that our society undergoes today compelled social workers to advocate for a new world order which promotes respect for human rights and dignity and a different structure of human relationships.

Their urgent task is to work together with people who use services and with others who share their objectives and aspirations, to create a more socially-just and fair world that they will be proud to leave to future generations.

In the midst of this enormous responsibility, Philippine social work is no longer attractive to the youth as a noble vocation. Social workers suffer diminishing resource support to implement and sustain quality programs that are responsive to the needs of our people. Worse, their work is considered risky and high in accountability but it is low-paying.

The challenge is upon the shoulders of social workers. They have to summon extraordinary courage because the work that they have outlined is revolutionary in itself.

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