Role of IASSW at the UN

A member has asked what IASSW actually does at the United Nations. Hopefully, many of you have gleaned at least part of the answer from the newsletters that our interns prepare to report on our activities.

The short answer to what we do is that we do what the UN allows NGOs with consultative status to do. IASSW has had consultative status with the UN since 1947. The UN defines and limits the activities of NGOs. An NGO is allowed to have up to 7 representatives each at New York, Geneva, and Vienna; one, however, must be the President at each location. Currently, IASSW has a team of representatives at UN headquarters and another small team in Geneva. We can also secure temporary passes for interns. Our team members are association members who serve as volunteers. To be an effective member requires at least monthly participation in UN and NGO meetings.

The UN allows NGOs with consultative status to:

·       Attend UN conferences and events

·       Make written and oral statements at these meetings

·       Organize side events (or workshops) at UN events

·       Have opportunities to network (from UN, 2018, Working with ECOSOC: NGOs Guide to Consultative Status)

We do each of these activities to promote the values and policy priorities of social work and social work education. These include poverty eradication, gender equality, social protection, humane and fair migration policies, and more. At headquarters in New York, our team members each represent IASSW on at least one NGO working group. These include the NGO Committees on Migration, Social Development, Women, the Family, Aging, and Mental Health, plus working groups on Girls, Humanitarian Intervention, and Child Protection. This active membership ensures that social work education is viewed as an important partner in NGO efforts. IASSW officially co-sponsored side events at both the Commission on Social Development in February and the Commission on the Status of Women in March (as reported in the most recent newsletters). We have been active participants in the Grassroots research task force of the Committee for Social Development for at least a decade. Most recently, we have launched a survey on inequalities at the community level. This has been sent to all IASSW members and we hope for social work responses. The results will be presented at this year’s High Level Political Forum and IASSW will co-sponsor the side event. Members also plan and implement Social Work Day at the UN and the associated student conference. This is a brief and selective summary. Our volunteers have done many other things to represent us in these venues. I have also summarized only the New York efforts; more is being done in Geneva, where the primary activity is to monitor and represent us with the Human Rights Council.

We hope this summary is useful. All this information has been included in the newsletters prepared by our interns issued by the UN team, so please do read them and distribute widely to interested faculty members. 

Lynne M. Healy, Ph.D.Main Representative to the UN, International Association of Schools of Social Work
Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor Emerita
University of Connecticut School of Social WorkHartford, CT