The Global Minimum Qualifying Standards Committee was set up as a joint initiative of the International Association of Schools of Social Work (IASSW) and the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) at the joint IASSW/IFSW Conference in Montreal, Canada in July 2000.
The final version of the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training was adopted by IASSW and IFSW at their General Assemblies in Adelaide, Australia in October 2004.
Vishanthie Sewpaul who was Chair of the Global Standards Committee writes:
We are indebted to our international colleagues for their responsiveness and engagement in making the Global Standards for Social Work Education and Training possible. We are particularly indebted to all those colleagues who translated the document into several languages. The idea of Global Standards was conceived well before my entry into it through the visionary leadership of persons such as Lena Dominelli who was Chair of what was then called the Global Qualifying Standards Committee from January 2000 until January 2001, when I was appointed as the chair. On first hearing about the possibility of formulating global standards for social work education and training I was appalled by what I thought to be a far too presumptuous and ambitious project. I immediately questioned its potential to reinforce Western imperialism and hegemonic discourses and expressed my reservation about getting engaged in such as process. I was told that as I was aware of the complexities of such an initiative I would be well suited to approach it with the kinds of sensitivities that was required.
I entered the terrain by beginning dialogue with members of the Global Standards Committee and with as many colleagues across the world as possible. I initially asked colleagues what they thought about the idea of developing global standards, what might be its potential advantages and disadvantages, what should constitute the contents of such a document, should it materialize. To my surprise, I found that the majority of colleagues were in favour of developing global standards. Their recommendation, I thought, was ‘a tall order’ that such a document that details certain universals be sufficiently flexible to be applicable to any context and allow for interpretations of locally specific social work education and practice. Having obtained the mandate to continue with such an initiative, on the input of the Committee and colleagues, a review of available national and regional standards and a review of literature a first draft was produced in January 2002. Various consultative processes, all of which are detailed in the Global Standards document, and several reviews later culminated in the document that was adopted at the General Assemblies of IASSW and IFSW in Adelaide in October 2004, with the proviso that the concerns of social pedagogues be incorporated into in the document, with the social pedagogues providing the language to embrace their concerns. When the social pedagogues provided such a language they insisted that all reference to “social work” should read as the “social work profession.” Thus, the final document refers to: “Global Standards for the Education and Training of the Social Work Profession.”
Despite the flaws inherent in the process of representation the document, which has been developed through an inclusive a process as possible, does represent, to the best of our ability, the views of IASSW and IFSW membership. While the vision of global standards was initially conceived by IASSW and IFSW leadership, its substance was determined by a broad constituency. The document is not intended to be a finite, static end product and in the interests of deepening our commitment to social justice, human rights, inclusivity, international dialogue and responsiveness to service users we have to consistently question the value of what we are doing and how we are doing it. Thus, there is a call for our colleagues across the globe to critically engage with the document, assess its relevance for their particular historical, socio-economic, political and cultural contexts and engage in cross national and cross regional dialogue about social work education and practice. The Global Standards have stimulated a great deal of debate as seen in the number of publications related to it. See for example, the special themed issue on Global Standards in Social Work Education, Volume 23, No. 5, October 2004 and the International Journal of Social Welfare, Volume14, No. 3, July 2005. Interesting debates continue. For example, I was recently asked to write a response to a paper written by two UK colleagues for the International Journal of Social Welfare regarding the applicability of the international definition of social work and the global standards to the Chinese context.