Social Work in Natural and Political Catastrophes
The focus within this theme will be on social work and social policy responses to natural and political catastrophes, recognising that the border between what is ‘natural’ and what is ‘man-made’ is extremely porous. The ongoing influx of refugees into Europe, the majority of them coming from countries in the midst of armed conflict (such as Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Mali) in which several European countries have intervened, or are still intervening militarily, is perhaps the most dramatic instance of the challenges social workers, policy makers and activists face. The many migrants not classified as refugees, but as ‘economic migrants’ who run away from economic and social catastrophes, partly related to the impact of neoliberalism and partly to endemic corruption and the return to fundamentalism, also deserve our attention.
How should activists, social workers and communities respond to these types of disasters? How can immediate relief on the front lines be combined with advocacy to tackle the root causes of disasters and conflicts? Why has social work education and practice neglected the impact of these catastrophes both on social work and on the people it serves and what can be done to correct this? What can be done to promote sustainable solutions at the global levels, within international organisations who, formally at least, exist to promote and defend human rights? What are the current and future challenges for social work responses to the impacts of climate change, including climate-induced migration, flooding, and ill-health impacts? How can social work responders ‘do no harm’ and promote dignity and empowerment?