Social work organisations respond to developing crisis in Ukraine

Bodies representing social workers across the globe have called for world leaders to bring an end to the conflict and encouraged humanitarian support.

28/02/22

Social work organisations respond to developing crisis in Ukraine

Social work organisations have called on world leaders to find a peaceful way forward amid growing humanitarian concerns due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Russia announced that it would be launching “a special military operation” in Ukraine last Thursday after a prolonged Russian military build-up beginning in early 2021. Tensions rose earlier in the week after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech announcing that the country recognised the independence of two pro-Russian breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, which led to a round of economic sanctions from NATO countries.

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) warned that conflicts like the one seen in Ukraine could have dire consequences.

“Historically we have seen that land disputes on this international scale, apparently fueled by the need for power and control, affect all our shared futures. A conflict of this proportion will also result in driving higher prices of key commodities throughout the world contributing to the increasing levels of poverty and exacerbating the climate change agenda. This affects everybody worldwide,” the Federation said in a statement.

“Social work has responded over many decades to the human tragedies that follow the war. The military aggression in Ukraine will result in death, destruction, more human rights abuses, large-scale refugee movements, and the traumatization of people.

“As a profession based in and working with communities and conflict, we recognize the role of civil society in standing up for peace and the recognition of dignity and respect of all people.”

The IFSW also stressed the power of social work and social workers in these situations, pointing to the profession’s previous experience supporting civil society to influence peacebuilding in Northern Ireland, El Salvador, Rwanda, East Timor, and many other places.

“We have learnt that a key ingredient in creating the space for people to listen to each other, overcoming people’s insecurity, and equipping them with confidence to reestablish trust, the basis of all good human relationships,” the Federation continued in its statement.

“Through civil society action and protest, even the most entrenched or hateful political processes can be changed.”

Meanwhile, the British Association of Social Workers (BASW) warned of the “devastating impact” war has on innocent people “who pay the price of aggression with their lives, their homes, and their safety.”

“While there is not yet a full picture of the situation on the ground given the size and scale of military action by the Russian Government it is likely that civilian casualties in Ukraine will be high. Independent estimates put the possible number of refugees fleeing the conflict zone at between 8 and 10 million,” BASW said in a statement.

“This military conflict directly impacts the people of Ukraine, but it will have wider repercussions. People may be displaced and will need to seek refuge in other countries as a result. Social workers across Europe will also play a key part of supporting people in rebuilding their lives.”

Urging the UK Government to ensure that the people of Ukraine have the support and assistance through humanitarian relief, BASW also called for protections for those providing support in the region, such as social workers.

“We also ask for vital support for those working in social work, health and welfare services in Ukraine, many of whom will undoubtedly strive to keep humanitarian services available and support people least able to protect themselves during the conflict and in its aftermath,” BASW said.

Meanwhile, the Eastern European region of the International Association of Schools Of Social Work (IASSW) said it “strongly condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine which will cause unnecessary human suffering, loss of life, poverty, trauma, destruction of infrastructure and the natural environment.”

“Social work as a profession and academic discipline is based on the idea of peace and non-violence (Statement 9 of the Global Social Work Statement of Ethical Principles). The pioneers and founders of professional social work explicitly advocated for peace and against military interventions that continue to inflict suffering on people on all sides of violent attacks.”

“We support the right of the people of Ukraine to live in peace, and the right of the people of Russia who are affected by the military attack and who are working for peace to be heard. We think about the neighbouring countries and the whole world that is destabilised by the war. In today’s world, war is no longer justifiable. Diplomacy, negotiation and peaceful recognition must be the supreme imperative of politics and human coexistence,” the regional sub-group said in a statement.

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