What is International Social Work?

According to the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), international social work deals with universal problems experienced by people around the world. There are actually many employment opportunities within this important field.

Global Social Work

Global social work deals with problems that are caused between countries, that occur across national boundaries or that are issues that countries work together to collectively solve. International social workers focus on problems that affect billions of people spread throughout in over 300 countries and districts. While international social workers do not attach any special value and importance to any specific country or people, they firmly stand against xenophobia and ethnocentrism. They are concerned with bigger issues, like how to effectively intervene, ameliorate and solve local problems and life difficulties experienced by people around the world.

Child Rights

One of the most important global issues is child rights and protection. Social workers around the world strive to uphold the fundamental human rights of children. They provide support to vulnerable populations, such as exploited, trafficked, impoverished and HIV/AIDS affected children. They deal with abuse, child labor, gang activities and indifferent local authorizes. They promote psychosocial well-being, education, family unity, separation prevention, social development and access to basic health care. Social workers usually focus on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and they may even find employment through the UNICEF program.

Foreign Assistance

Some international social workers focus on temporary or permanent foreign assistance programs. They contribute their knowledge and skills to developing areas during disaster relief and development initiatives. For example, they usually help out during international disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, in foreign countries. These social workers deal with civil-military issues, aid effectiveness, foreign assistance reform and local policy change. They advocate for more effective and sustainable programs that protect human rights, safety and dignity. These social workers may work for non-profit humanitarian groups like InterAction's Foreign Assistance Reform program, the Center For Global Development Resources and the Aid Effectiveness' Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

Gender Equity

There are many international initiatives that promote gender equity, such as the United Nation's third Millennium Development Goal (MDG), the promotion of gender equity and empowerment of women, and the globally ratified Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Social workers focus on minimizing prejudice directed against women that damages their social, emotional, and economic well-being. Many Americans aren't aware that many women in developing countries around the world face extreme discrimination when it comes to simple things like owning property, starting a business and even applying for a driver's license.

Additional Areas of Interest

International social workers focus on global health and dealing with health epidemics in poor countries. Common health issues include HIV/AIDS, family planning and reproductive health. Immigration and refugee rights are becoming a sensitive political issue in the U.S. International social workers act as both policy advocates and direct service providers to immigrant and refugee populations. They may coordinate community support programs for refugee families, or they may carry out research that advocates for stronger refugee resettlement services.

International social work is an extremely important field of work that always needs qualified and dedicated workers. Anyone who wants to become a social worker will need to have at least an accredited and NASW approved bachelor's degree in social work.

See also: Top 25 MSW Online Programs 2016