Human Rights Day Joint Statement by IFSW and the WFPHA

The 2021 United Nations Theme for Human Rights Day is ´EQUALITY – Reducing inequalities, advancing human rights´. The International Federation of Social Workers and World Federation of Public Health Association jointly advance the following statement:

On Human Rights Day 2021, we are aware of the persistence of enormous inequities in the world, which are a flagrant disregard for human rights. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic not only revealed these inequalities but also contributed to their exacerbation.

Alongside a democratic redistribution of wealth and power between countries and within each country, the road to equality requires a fundamental shift away from the public policy silos that have separated many of our public services, including health and social protection.

Throughout the Covid 19 pandemic both health and social professionals have, as a matter of necessity, had to work outside of their historic policy silos to co-work in creating partnerships with the public to minimize its effects on health, wellbeing and economies. Our work, when supported by political process has demonstrated significant success in saving countless lives and restoring the quality of life to many people across the world.

This has heightened recognition within the public and our professional bodies, that where silos are reinforced inequality has been exacerbated and rights consequently undermined. The global professional bodies for health and social work therefore regard social, environmental, physical and emotional health services that work with the strengths of communities as essential to addressing inequality and ensuring human rights.

The paradigm shift of working together and with the public has already begun. Locally, many in each of our professions have developed ad hoc intersectoral working arrangements engaging with communities to more effectually improve health and wellbeing. We continue to work together to influence global, regional, and national policy structures to tackle health and social protection inequalities. This includes continuing to advocate with the United Nations, governments, companies and civil societies for the promotion of equity and respect for human rights, starting with the equitable distribution of vaccines and guaranteeing the universal right to sustainable development.

Our next steps are expanding our networks with other global bodies and movements that share aims of working toward a new eco-social world where sustainability, as well as health and social protection, remain at the forefront of national, regional, and global priorities. These developments for health and social work represent a return to the roots for both professions as both aimed to reduce illness and social disadvantage in all societies.