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International Committee & The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW)

The International Federation of Social Work (IFSW) represents social work organisations from approximately 80 countries across the world, grouped into 5 regions, i.e. Asia and Pacific, Africa, Europe, Latin America and North America. It has formal links with the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, the Council of Europe, the European Union and Amnesty International, amongst others. The IASW has been a member organisation of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) for 35 years.

In that time, the IASW has provided a global president of IFSW (Augusta McCabe), an IFSW European Region President (Eilis Walsh), a European Region Committee Treasurer (Monica Egan) and an Election Officer (John Brennan).

The IFSW Global and each region get their funding through contributions from the member organisations. The IASW pays their membership fees to both the Global and the European section. The fees are quite low so the finances of each sector are limited and it only allows them to employ a small group of staff to ensure that the IFSW can carry out its functions. Each Region holds a yearly delegates meeting and the European region holds their meetings around April or May of each year. At those meetings, the various projects are reviewed and decision for official international policies and further actions are made.  The office of the Association is to maintain the website, provide minutes of the meetings and support the various projects agreed meetings etc. Most of the work that is generated at the meetings is carried out by the member organisations and is mainly done in a voluntary capacity.

Formal Links with the IFSW

The formal link between the IFSW and each member organisation is the Chair or President of each member organisation.  They are the official delegate at the meetings at either Regional or Global level and formally represent their country’s organisation. The Chair of the IASW represents the Association at the General Meetings of the IFSW as the formal delegate.

The Purpose of International Committees

Most member countries have an international committee to support their official delegate locally and at the meetings and some of these, generally the Chair of the committee, come to meetings as well.

The international committee is a way of ensuring continuity. The Chairs/Presidents of a Board or Executive change and the international committee with a more stable membership can ensure a more stable input. It is important that the people that attend the meetings, know what the issues are and can contribute to the discussion while being aware of the policies in their country of origin. The delegate meetings are quite political and decisions are made that can affect the future of social work and can have national implications. It is therefore important that the members of the international committee have a good understanding and experience of social work, the policy implications of decisions and are aware of the International Agenda.

The international committee of the IASW has been in existence for many years. The committee has a chairperson who chairs the international committee meetings and acts as a second delegate at meetings or stands in for the Chair of the Board of the Association when necessary. 

International Federation Membership

The IASW is first and foremost a member of the European region of the IFSW and as such the International Committee on behalf of the IASW actively participates in the work of that region through the formal annual delegates meeting and participation in the working groups that are set up to deal with specific projects. The European Region feeds into the IFSW Global Agenda for Social Work (see IFSW website).  The IASW also feeds directly into the IFSW Global and are involved in the global agenda.


The policies of the IFSW are devised in the General meetings of IFSW and the IASW’s International Committee engages in these processes by providing suggestions and/or feedback along with other member organisations.  The definition of social work, policy papers on human rights, poverty, refugees are only some of the documents published by IFSW.  The International Committee links in with the IASW Executive through the Chair and, for example, regular reports, reports at the meetings of the IASW Council, web links, annual reports etc.

The following are a number those as an example.

- Preparing submissions and reports from IASW to IFSW

- Participating in projects set up by the IFSW

- Participating at IFSW Delegates Meetings

- In-put to policy development at the European and Global levels 

Projects and Activities

The two most recent projects undertaken by IFSW Europe were on:

1)    The social impact of the financial crisis and

2)    Standards in Social Work Practice Meeting Human Rights

In addition to those projects, IASW (the international committee) participated in workshops and hosted a week-end workshop in Dublin in February 2011 on IFSW responses to the financial crisis. 

The International Committee works on a number of projects per year and each member has taken on a specific piece of work.  The programme for this year (2012-13) includes work on the Roma Integration Strategies, Council of Europe Guidelines on Child-Friendly Justice, Housing Rights Watch across Europe and an autumn seminar on Equality and Social Justice.

Over the years the International committee has organised events to mark Social Work Action Day, which is an initiative of the IFSW to celebrate the achievements of social work across the world.  In 1997 the International Committee worked with social work colleagues in UCD to organise a joint IFSW-International Schools of social Work conference in Dublin.  There were over 500 delegates from across the world.  This conference (and an IFSW Delegates’ meeting) was a tremendous success both from a social work perspective and a financial standpoint.  These events take a huge amount of personal time and commitment. 

Membership of the International Committee

The Chair of the Board is an automatic member of the International Committee and the chair of the International Committee is the second delegate. The International Committee is not a Special Interest Group and decisions about membership lie with the Chair of the Board of the Association as the official representative as the members of the International Committee carry out an official function on behalf of the Association. A member of the international committee needs to have demonstrated involvement in human rights and equality issues through membership in project both within the IASW as well as in general and experience of European affairs and the workings of the European Community structures and departments is helpful.  The International Committee takes on projects as demonstrated above and in order to complete these, consistency of membership is essential. IASW members can apply to become a member of this committee.

Present Membership

Since May 2012, the International Committee merged with the Equality Committee as the agenda for both groups were very similar and the numbers were very limited so it seemed more helpful to have the two groups merge. 

The present members of the committee are: Donal O'Malley (Chair of the IASW), John Brennan (Chair of the International Committee), Ineke Durville, Maria Swan, Anna Deneher and Kerry Cuskelly.

John Brennan

Chair International Committee


Visit to find out more about ‘What they do’, ‘Partners’, ‘Governance’, ‘Policies’ and ‘General Meetings’, and to receive a copy of their newsletter.

International Federation of Social Workers,

PO Box 6875
Schwarztorstrasse 22

Tel: (41) 22 548 36 25 Email:

Last year (2012) IFSW held a European Regional meeting in Yervan, Armenia and the bi-annual Global meeting in Stockholm. IASW was represented at the Stockholm meeting. The UK held the proxy for IASW at the Armenian meeting.