1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Research-Related Activities, Research-Related Activities 2020+

World Social Work Day

  • Project from: 2017 to 2021


Celebrated worldwide since 1983 at the United Nations in New York and since 2012 in Geneva, World Social Work Day aims to highlight the achievements of social work, to raise the visibility of social services for the future of societies, and to defend social justice and human rights. World Social Work Day at the UN was born from the initiative of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), which have special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC). The Day has been celebrated since 2012 in Geneva by IASSW and IFSW with the collaboration of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland–Social Work, Geneva (HETS GE), since 2017 with the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD), and since 2018 with the University of Applied Sciences and Arts Western Switzerland–Social Work, Fribourg.

Global agenda for social work and social development


After a first common agreement in 2012, the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Council of Social Welfare (ICSW) adopted in 2020 a Global Agenda 2030 for Social Work and Social Development. This initiative provides a common basis for joint action addressing the major challenges of our societies and identifying relevant social issues for our profession and beyond. The Global Agenda is a strong commitment to promote social and economic equality, the dignity and worth of people, and environmental and community sustainability.

International definition of social work


Social work is a practice-based profession and an academic discipline that promotes social change and development, social cohesion, and the empowerment and liberation of people. Principles of social justice, human rights, collective responsibility and respect for diversities are central to social work. Underpinned by theories of social work, social sciences, humanities and indigenous knowledges, social work engages people and structures to address life challenges and enhance well-being.
Definition of social work adopted in 2014 by IASSW and IFSW.

Objectives of the World Social Work Day


  • Strengthen cooperation, partnership, existing contacts - or establish new ones - with United Nations organizations and international NGOs.
  • Spread knowledge about social work, its values, principles and methods (practical and theoretical) among UN organizations and allied international NGOs.
  • Highlight social work actions, policies and achievements in the pursuit of common goals.
  • Disseminate knowledge about UN activities, goals, programs and campaigns among social workers and social work organizations and schools.

Activities and Outputs



World Social Work Day 2021: Community Engagement for Social Justice

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of our global system. The most vulnerable in our societies are struggling to cover their basic needs. All over the world, communities are responding to these challenges, claiming the right to participate in decisions that affect them, and demanding the care and services to which they are entitled. The active and varied involvement of social work in support of these communities is at the heart of the reflections that will be carried out during these two days of conferences and workshops.
For detailed information on WSWD 2021, see:

World Social Work Day 2019: Social Work, Gender and Sexuality—Towards Empowerment, Equality and Inclusion

At the global level, in the North as well as in the South, women continue to be at a disadvantage to men,socially, politically and economically. These structural inequalities are manifested, for example, in gender-based violence occurring in the domestic and family sphere, in public spaces, and systematic rape of women and girls as a weapon and tactic of conflict and war. A range of initiatives are intended to combat gender-based inequality and discrimination, such as the creation of UN Women or the recognition of women as a major interest group in discussions leading to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

For detailed information on WSWD 2019, see:

World Social Work Day 2018: Social Work and Youth—Towards Inclusive Sustainable Development

Constituting over 1.8 billion persons around the world, young people are key agents of change with the potential to push the world towards a better tomorrow. Young people around the world, in developed and developing countries alike, nevertheless face multiple structural, socioeconomic, political and interpersonal challenges and insecurities—from inter-generational transmission of poverty, lack of economic opportunities, and insufficient social services and protection, to political marginalization, and intersecting inequalities connected to race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, legal status and religion.

For detailed information on WSWD 2018, see:

World Social Work Day 2017: Social Work and Sustainable Development

Since the 1990s, there has been growing awareness in the social work community of problematic disconnections between social work and environmental issues. The emergence of “Eco-social work”, “Green social work” or “Ecological social work” signals a new paradigm. It steps back from the previous anthropocentrism based on the schism between humans and the earth’s natural resources, the latter being then a mere instrument to sustain the human species. Innovative approaches have been developed that allow social workers to pursue and study environmental issues.

For detailed information on WSWD 2017, see:


UNRISD Partners