Africa is one of the world's poorest regions and it faces numerous and complex challenges as it strives to achieve its development objectives. The main challenges relate to poverty and its alleviation, economic growth, democratization leading to political stability, improving social welfare, and generally creating a just and equitable society. The resolution of these issues is critical to social work if the profession is to make an impact.
Ngoh Tiong Tan
Asia contains more than 60% of the world’s population and is the fastest growing economic region. However, it faces challenges, including poverty, HIV and AIDS, and human rights concerns. In the midst of rapid changes in the social–political context, social workers and welfare organizations are making a significant contribution in addressing these challenges and improving social well-being in the region by broadening indigenous social networks to incorporate private, public, and community interventions.
Mel Gray and Kylie Agllias
Australia and Aotearoa-New Zealand are among the world's most “livable” countries, despite the increase in relative poverty and the negative effect of past policies on indigenous populations. Social work is well established and is social-justice oriented. In the Pacific Islands, where social work is much less developed, economic and social potential is hampered by political instability and a lack of sustainable economic management, rapid urbanization, unemployment, and crime.
The Caribbean is a multiethnic, multilingual archipelago of island and mainland territories, with similar experiences of European colonialism and modern-day globalization. Inequality poses a greater challenge than poverty in most countries. Although most diseases associated with underdevelopment have been eradicated or controlled, life-style diseases are on the increase and the region is second only to sub-Saharan Africa in the prevalence of HIV and AIDS. Social service provisioning is modeled on the traditional welfare state approach, although few countries achieve universal levels of service. Social work is well established particularly in the English-speaking countries.
The social, political, and economic features of Central America are summarized and the impact of economic and political processes on the region is highlighted. Predominant global, historical, cultural, and political events are weaved together, in an attempt to understand the realities of the region. The challenges for social work profession and practice are presented, as well as their implications for new approaches to intervention and education.
David N. Jones
Europe includes not only some of the most economically and socially developed countries in the world but also some of the poorest. Social work as a profession has been well established for over 100 years within a variety of social welfare models; the countries in Central and Eastern Europe have reestablished social work since the 1990s. The financial crisis of 2007/2008 and its aftermath had a significant impact on the resources available for social services and social work in most countries and has provoked a reevaluation of the European social model.
John R. Graham and Alean Al-Krenawi
North African and Middle Eastern nations have an 80-year history with social work, based on colonial, imported models of practice. There is some success in localizing social work to immediate communities. Social welfare tends to be instrumental, selective, and not comprehensive. Colonialism has hurt political institutions; and geopolitical conflicts, socioeconomic inequality, poverty, and political repression also influence parameters of social work and social change.
North America is one of the world's richest regions, and both the United States and Canada are ranked in the top 10 of the United Nations Human Development Index. However, poverty and inequality, and in particular, child poverty continues to be a significant problem. Social workers in both countries provide a wide array of human services to a range of populations. Social work has developed into a mature profession but is currently struggling to meet the increasing demand for its services.
South America, a land of beauty, diversity, and socioeconomic disparity, is going through a profound identity search, redefining the government's role concerning the welfare of its people, and most important, reevaluating its relationship with the Global North. Within this context, social work has a strong commitment to work with the most vulnerable sectors of the population affected by structural adjustment programs.
Cheryl L. Franks and Marion Riedel
Privilege is the invisible advantage and resultant unearned benefits afforded to dominant groups of people because of a variety of sociodemographic traits. Privilege provides economic and social boosts to dominant groups while supporting the structural barriers to other groups imposed by prejudice. Social work education and practice seldom challenges us to evaluate the effects of privilege on our professional relationships and the concomitant systems of oppression that marginalize many of the groups we work with. Privilege nurtures dependence, distances us from others, and creates a barrier to reflective social work practice. Acknowledging the effects of privilege increases our capacity to affirm our humanity and that of the communities we serve.