I recently attended Social Work Day at the United Nations along with almost 700 students, teachers and social work practitioners from around the world. As a Master’s student from the Graduate College of Social Work attending the University of Houston, this event was an opportunity to travel to New York City, meet other social work students and alumni and hear about the role of social workers in international peacekeeping.
The conference lasted 3 hours and featured speakers like Ninette Kelly, Director of the UN Office of the High Commission on Refugees, His Excellency Deputy Permanent Representative of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Ambassador Nazifullah Salarzai and more. Ms. Kelly started the conference highlighting that there are over 60 million people forcibly displaced in the world. If those people comprised a country it would be the 24th largest in the world and 50% of its population would be children.
Patricia Talisse, a Close the Gap youth representative for the UN and Master’s of Social Work Student from Syria made a plea for compassion saying, “I want to see humanitarian become our race and love become our religion.” Particia has first hand experience being a refugee.
Ruth Stark, President of International Federation of Social Workers wrapped up the conference stressing that as social workers we need to highlight the disconnect between peoples’ perception of the refugee crisis and what the refugees crisis is actually. We need to highlight and understand the root of the crisis. “This is a political issue where the result is displacement,” she said, “The displacement is just the symptom – the crisis is the politics.”
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference. The discussions empowered me as a social worker to feel like it was possible to involve myself in the prevention of these disasters in the future.
Nakia Winfield was an intern with the Nobel Women’s Initiative