Social Workers Across Nations 


In recent years, the Social Work profession has increasingly been recognized as a global human rights-based profession equipped to deal with a range of issues and challenges confronting urban and rural communities worldwide. As the global community continues to face health disparities, poverty, an increase in orphans, and vulnerable children, gender-based violence, and related critical issues, social workers are able to build and expand collaborations with in-country professionals and programs to promote comprehensive, culturally competent services.

Recognizing that social work is now a global profession the NASW Foundation initiated the Social Workers Across Nations (SWAN) program to provide a mechanism for social workers in the United States to offer their expertise and skills to the international community and to develop supportive and collaborative linkages with social workers around the world. NASW and the NASW Foundation have worked with a wide array of partner organizations on international issues involving the social work profession. The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW), IFSW North America Region, the United Nations, and the Social Work, Education and Social Development Conference, are among these partnerships.  We provide a summary here about these important relationships and outcomes of our collaborative work. 

International Federation of Social Workers

The International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) was formed in 1956 as a global organization that “strives for social justice, human right and social development through the promotion of social work, best practice models and the facilitation of international cooperation.”  The organization has grown from seven country member associations to over 128 country associations, representing over three million social workers. IFSW provides a global voice for the social work profession and plays a prominent role at the United Nations with special consultative status by the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).  In addition, IFSW works closely with the World Health Organization(WHO), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Participation in these important entities ensues that social work is promoted to achieve social development.  

IFSW North America Region

The Canadian Association of Social Workers (CASW) and NASW make up the IFSW North America Region and have worked together cooperatively in an effort to strengthen the profession in the region.  The framework of the collaboration continues to operate under a Memorandum of Understanding which was re-signed in July 2012.

IFSW Resources

United Nations

For more than 35 years students, practitioners, professors, non-government organization representatives, associations and other supporters of the social wok profession have convened at the United Nations (UN) to learn more about the United Nations, innovative projects and issues related to international social work, and the critical role social work plays in the international arena.  

IFSW has official representation at the United Nations in New York City, Geneva, and Vienna.  Social work interests are represented on UN Committee including: aging, mental health, social development, family, human rights, indigenous issues, migration, financing for development, and the status of women.  

In 2015, countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as part of anew sustainable development agenda. Each goal has specific targets to be achieved during the next 15 years.  To achieve these goals governments, the private sector, civil society, and individuals need to be involved.  


Related Resources

International Conferences 

The Social Work, Education and Social Development Conference (SWSD) is a joint conference hosted by the International Association of Schools of Social Work, the International Council on Social Welfare and the International Federation of Social Work. NASW and the NASW Foundation participate and a snapshot of recent conferences includes:

  • SWSD 2018 – Dublin Ireland, July 4-7, 2018 –  NASW Foundation Article
  • SWSD 2016 – Seoul, South Korea
  • SWSD 2014 – Melbourne, Australia NASW News Article
  • SWSD 2012 – Stockholm, Sweden
  • SWSD 2010  Hong Kong
Strengthening the Social Welfare Workforce in Africa: Investing in Those Who Care for Children was held in 2010. In collaboration with USAID and the PEPFAR Orphans and Vulnerable Children Technical Working Group and other key stakeholders, convened a conference focusing on strategies to strengthen the social welfare workforce in Africa with the aim of improving the well-being and welfare of children orphaned and made vulnerable by HIV/AIDS.  Follow this link to the conference report >>

Professional Exchanges With Social Work Organizations

NASW hosts professional social workers from other countries for time-limited exchanges. The purpose of these exchanges is to provide a close-up view of the various mechanisms involved in supporting an sustaining a professional social work workforce in the United States.

  • Tanzania Social Workers Association (TASWO) – NASW developed a work plan with TASWO to support exchanges between the two organizations.  A delegation from TASWO visited NASW in November 2011. NASW staff visited Tanzania in March 2012 to conduct regional training for TASWO leaders. Follow this link to a report >> 
  • Korea Association of Social Workers (KASW)  –  The Korea Association of Social workers and NASW partnered to place a KASW staff member in Washington, D.C. for 10 months to learn how U.S. social workers are supported by their national associations.
  • China Delegations – NASW hosted several delegations of leaders from China in 2011 and 2012. The first was a delegation from the Ministry of Civil Affairs of the People’s Republic of China and the second was coordinated through the U.S. Department of State, and was also representative of the People’s Republic of China.  NASW staff and leads provided information on social work in the United States, including standards for practice, education, licensure, and other professional information, and learned about social work in China.   Most recently, in 2017, the China Association of Social Workers (CASW) visited NASW to learn about the development of social services and the profession of social work in the U.S. CASW is the only national social work association approved by the Chinese government. The delegation (25 senior service managers) was from all parts of China. Follow this link to a NASW News digital edition article >>
  • NASW Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Angelo McClain delivered the keynote address at the 24th Asian-Pacific Joint Regional IFSW Social Work Conference in September 2017 in Shenzhen, China. Follow this link to a NASW News digital edition article >> 

NASW Foundation Representatives Participate In April 2017 Social Work Day At United Nations

Social Work Day at the United Nations (UN) April 2017 - NASW Foundation Director, Bob Arnold; NASW Foundation Assistant Director, Susan Rubin; and NASW Pioneer and Howard University School of Social Work Professor, Dr. Cudore Snell.

NASW CEO Dr. Angelo McClain Talks With Particpants At 2017 Social Work Day At United Nations

NASW Chief Executive Officer and Foundation President, Dr. Angelo McClain meets with participants at the Social Work Day at the United Nations, April 2017 in New York. NASW participates each year at this annual event.




NASW Social Work Talks Podcast Logo


In Episode 5, NASW Social Work Talks Podcast features the Director of the NASW Foundation, Bob Arnold.   Tune in for a discussion about the Foundation's many educational, research, and  charitable  initiatives.