Human Rights in Social Work

Lecture, Seminar
  • Course description

    Human rights is a dynamic and constantly evolving concept, finding its allies and associates, as well as targets for its activism among representatives of law, policy, economics and social work. Human rights have a long tradition in social work theory and practice. The professions commitment to values and principles of human rights are explicitly reflected in the Global Definition of the Social Work Profession (2014), the national and international Codes of Ethics in Social Work. This commitment means a lot more than a verbal and written pledge for theoretical foundations of the profession. It should bring human rights as a central, regulative idea into the whole discipline and practice of social work, which means bringing it into the debates about social work's object and explanatory base as well as its value base and practice (Healy, Link, 2011).
    Moreover, it is the social worker’s professions’ responsibility identifying connections between individual human rights issues and the broader political, social, economic and cultural context where injustice occur. Thus, social workers need to become catalysts bringing attention to the need to craft solutions to human rights violations that take into account global human rights standards (Clayton, Hopps 2013).
    The purpose of the course is to gain comprehensive knowledge about the concept and the goals of the social work as a human rights profession. Main themes to be discussed during the course:
    What are human rights violations in the action field of social work? What are their reasons and consequences for individuals, groups and the entire society? What is the role of an international community preventing violations of human rights, protecting and rehabilitating the victims of violations, which already occurred? What is the impact of international treaties on local social work practices? What is the influence of human rights for the professional mandate of social workers? How are the principles of human rights perceived and implemented on the micro, mezzo, and macro levels? What are the key measures to raise awareness in the society about human rights and intolerance towards their violation?
    Programme competences to be developed: to interpret social work and human rights in a broad social, legal, political and economic context. Critically analyze and systematically assess social services organization and contribute to its development from the perspective of human rights and social work ethics. Identify faulty social work practices, violating client’s human rights. Generate measures and models how to protect client’s rights on micro, mezzo or macro level.
  • Main themes

    Social work – human rights profession.
    Human rights in social work practice.
    Stigma and discrimination.
    Human rights violations: micro, mezzo and macro perspectives.
    Human rights monitoring in closed institutions.
    Advocacy for human rights.
    The role of NGOs in human rights protection.
    Social work in developing countries.
    The impact of international treaties on local social work practices (in particular CRPD, CRC and CEDAW).
  • Learning outcomes

    Understanding the role of social work in human rights protection.
    Understanding the peculiarities of social rights violations.
    Ability to assess the reasons under which occur violations of human rights.
    Extensive knowledge on the methods to prevent violations of human rights and to help victims of these violations.
    Extensive knowledge on values, principles and guarantees stipulated in international human rights treaties.
    Ability to work in group to analyze practical situations and provide solutions.
  • Assessment criteria and methods

    • Research group work and discussions during the course 40%): quality of research, ability to identify key themes, quality of presentation.
    • Written exam (60%): knowledge of the material presented and discussed during the course.
  • Required reading

    Required reading
    Ife, J.
    2008 Human Rights and Social Work. Towards Rights-Based Practice. P. 140-199 Curtin University of Technology, Pert.
    Healy, Lynne M. 2008 Exploring the history of social work as a human rights profession. International Social Work, doi: 10.1177/0020872808095247
    Compulsory reading
    David Androff
    2018 Journal of Human Rights and Social Work   ISSN: 2365-1792 (Online)   

    Oona A. Hathaway.
    2007 Why Do Countries Commit to Human Rights Treaties? Journal of Conflict Resolution Volume 51 Number 4 August. P. 588-621
    Silvia Staub-Bernasconi
    2007 How to rethink theories of social work in the light of human rights. Pre-Conference “Human Rights in Teaching and Practice”, April 26th, 2009. ENSACT-Conference in Dubrovnik/Croatia: Social Action in Europe. Different Legacies – Common Challenges.

Last updated: 25 August 2017

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