eBook: The Biggest Social Justice Issues of The Decade (2010 – 2020)
First we look at human rights and its effect on social workers and the clientele who are most in need of their services.
The International Federation of Social Work (IFSW) defines human rights as “the recognition of basic rights founded on the concept of the inherent dignity and
worth of every individual.”
“Ultimately, human rights is the core principle of social work,” according to Ruth Stark, president of the IFSW. “By directly challenging the inhumane treatment of the most vulnerable people in society, social workers (and their clients) are among those most directly affected by changes in government policy and the ever-evolving definition of human rights.”
In this section, we will briefly highlight:
• Dimensions of human rights change over time.
• Direct involvement of social workers in human rights actions.
• Spotlight: Advocates and organizations.
Change Over Time
As the political landscape changes, the very definition of “human rights” changes along with it. Demographics also play a part in shifting policies and perceptions:
The world now has the largest generation of young people ever, but it is rapidly getting older, with 46 million Americans over the age of 65. As a consequence, more people are at risk of elder abuse, which already affects 5 million seniors each year.
Extreme poverty is shrinking, but economic inequality is growing. This has many implications, including leaving some populations more to sex trafficking. In 2016, human trafficking in the US rose nearly 36 percent from the previous year, with 7,500 cases of sex and labor trafficking reported to the National Human Trafficking Hotline.
International conflicts and violence have resulted in larger numbers of displaced persons than ever before, with between 50,000 and 100,000 refugees resettling in the United States each year. International conflicts and violence have resulted in larger numbers of displaced persons than ever before, with between 50,000 and 100,000 refugees resettling in the United States each year. More people live in cities than ever before, with more than 60 percent of Americans flocking to urban centers.
A more racially and ethnically diverse population, including recent immigrants, may be linked to an increase in hate crimes in the United States, including those that are religiously motivated. For example, the Council on American-Islam Relations detailed a 57 percent increase in anti-Muslim incidents between 2015 and 2016.
The Need For Specialized Social Workers
Changing demographics will be responsible for the caseload of social workers looking substantially different than it has in the past. Most specialized social workers will be needed for specific fields.
It’s estimated that up to 70,000 geriatric social workers will be needed by 2030 to help an aging population navigate health, mental health and social services. Settlement workers are presently needed to help the thousands of refugees resettling in the United States annually.
Demographic shifts are very complex and this research covers some of the major highlights in the topic. For further reading, you may be interested in an extensive discussion of the NASW’s International Policy on Human Rights.
The Role of the United Nations in Worldwide Human Rights
It wasn’t until the world witnessed the horrific violations against human dignity during World War II that human rights reached the international agenda. In 1948, the United Nations (UN) set a universal precedent by establishing the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Today, the UN continues an important role in defining and securing human rights across the world. One leader in this role is Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Under-Secretary-General of the UN and Executive Director of UN Women. A global activist, she has devoted her career to issues of human rights, equality and social justice and is affiliated with several organizations devoted to education, women’s empowerment and