Ecological social work requires a shift in thinking for social workers because it does not place humans at the center of its concerns. Rather ecological social work puts the interrelationship between humans and nature at its center. This radically de-centered view of humanity aims to bring consideration of the planet and all of its environmental systems into decision making to ensure the sustainability of natural resources for the long term. Ecological principles can guide social work practice, research, and education in ways that promote a transition to sustainable practices in every sphere of life. Widespread ecological consciousness is advocated as an important focus for change by some social work authors promoting this approach. A global consciousness is understood to enable humanity’s capacity to deal with the growing concerns about the survival of planet earth as a suitable habitat for humans, animals, and plants. Humanity’s activities are understood to contribute to the ongoing degradation of fresh water, fertile soils, and pollution of the atmosphere. Drastic changes in the way humans behave and relate to the earth are considered necessary at the global, national, and local levels. Social workers are thus called on to engage with others in taking on significant roles in many areas of practice to facilitate these crucial societal transformations.
Michael A. Dover
Human need and related concepts such as basic needs have long been part of the implicit conceptual foundation for social work theory, practice, and research. However, while the published literature in social work has long stressed social justice, and has incorporated discussion of human rights, human need has long been both a neglected and contested concept. In recent years, the explicit use of human needs theory has begun to have a significant influence on the literature in social work.
Joseph M. Wronka
At the heart of social work, human rights are a set of guiding principles that are interdependent and have implications for macro, mezzo, and micro policy and practice. They can be best understood vis-à-vis the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, increasingly referred to as customary international law; the covenants and declarations following it, such as the conventions on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), and Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW); and reporting procedures, such as the filing of country reports on compliance. Briefly, this powerful idea, which emerged from the ashes of World War II, emphasizes human dignity; non-discrimination; civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; and rights to solidarity. Only chosen values endure. The challenge is the creation of a human rights culture, which is a “lived awareness” of these principles in one's mind, heart, and body. Doing so will require vision, courage hope, humility and everlasting love, as the spiritual sage Crazy Horse reminds us.
The International Federation of Social Workers is an international organization representing the interests of social workers around the world. This organization works in cooperation with global regional social work bodies, national organizations, and other associations to organize international events, publish policy statements, encourage cooperative initiatives, and link to other international bodies. It is active in human rights and social development and in the promotion of best practices and high professional social work standards.
Charles D. Cowger
This entry discusses the relationship of war and peace to social work practice. The historic and current mandate for social workers to work for peace is presented. The inevitable tie of war to everyday social work practice is described, and the relationship between social justice and peace is illustrated.
S. Megan Berthold
Although state-sponsored torture violates human rights and international law, it is a widespread practice worldwide. The effects are profound and extend beyond the targeted individual. This entry will explore the debate surrounding different definitions of torture and examine who is targeted for torture and why, as well as the wide range of effects of torture on individuals, families, and communities. Factors that contribute to the resilience of torture survivors will be identified. The various roles that social workers can play with this population will be outlined and common assessment and intervention approaches utilized by social workers with torture survivors will be discussed.