Sustainable Development Goals, Climate Change and Social Work Practice: 2018 Social Work Day at the United Nations
By Megan Carroll, MSW Student, University at Buffalo
World Social Work Day at the United Nations was an opportunity for students and professionals to come together to discuss emerging issues within the Social Work profession. The 2018 event, held March 25 and 26, centered around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Climate Change, and Social Work Practice.
There are 17 goals that members of the United Nations set as priorities for overall development.
These include poverty, hunger, health, education, gender equality, water, energy, work, economic growth, sustainable cities, climate action, and building peace and justice – all issues social work has been tackling since the beginning of the profession. It’s only logical to have social workers actively engaged in the work being done at the macro-level.
The two-day event began with a student conference at Fordham University. Students from across the country came together to discuss issues such as the human impact of climate change, how climate has caused forced migration, natural disasters, and more. We discussed at length how social workers seek to mediate such events, from working with refugee populations, to Red Cross disaster response, including such tasks as obtaining Medically Assisted Treatment for those battling chemical dependency amidst a natural disaster. We discussed community involvement (using the phrase “nothing about us without us” to demonstrate the importance of community engagement and buy-in when it comes to program development and interventions).
This discussion emphasized the true generalist nature of the profession, and linked the Sustainable Development Goals together to show that despite the population one is working with, social workers are still working together for the common good.
We learned about the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development which has as its goals
· Promoting social and economic equality
· Ensuring the dignity and worth of the person
· Promoting sustainable communities and environmentally sensitive development
· Promoting well-being through sustainable human relationships.
This global agenda was drafted by members of three international organizations: International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW), and the International Council on Social Welfare (ICSW). It appears to align with the tenants of trauma-informed care (Safety, Trustworthiness, Choice, Collaboration, and Empowerment), which has been a major focus throughout our coursework at the University at Buffalo.
The group also discussed intervention techniques such as psychological first aid and the impacts on the care providers in working with clients of crisis, such as vicarious trauma. While discussing this, the topic of vicarious resilience surfaced – the presenter discussed this as growth and inspiration that the social worker experiences, stemming from the growth and motivation we see in clients. When the group was asked who had heard of this resilience before. I was one of the few students who was familiar with this term (way to go, UB School of Social Work, for providing us with your trauma-informed curriculum!)
The student event was also a great networking opportunity as well as a way to learn about other great programs around the country. For example, the School of Social Work at the University of Connecticut has a program to help social work students learn how to run for office!
The day at the UN was filled with hundreds of students and professionals eager to hear the progress being made in the profession in regards to environmental justice. A panel of professionals from a range of backgrounds, from academia to the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability came together to discuss the role we as professionals play in accomplishing the UN’s development goals. The panel encouraged political engagement and leading by example as fundamental means to making lasting change.
As a student interested in Macro level work, it was refreshing to attend an event discussing “big picture” issues and programmatic efforts being made to make changes for national agencies, client groups, and the social work profession as a whole. It allowed me to see the true flexibility the MSW degree offers, as well as provided me with ideas of how different international agencies might be to work for at a Macro level at programming and policy.
Here is a link for a recording of the livestream of the event:
Megan Carroll is a part-time Advanced Standing MSW student at the University of Buffalo School of Social Work. She hopes to practice macro social work. Megan works as a case manager for the nation’s first Opioid Crisis Intervention Court by day, and works at her social work field placement at Crisis Services by night.