Refections on the SWSD conference in Seoul
The Global Social work conference 2016 in Seoul, has come to a close. What an extraordinary event this was. Plenary presentations were powerful, often emphasising on the need to combine theories of political engagement with concrete examples of action. Streaming sessions were incredibly rich and diverse. They generated some really important debates. Several sessions focused on the plight of refugees and displaced populations, demonstrating examples of grassroots social work.
SWAN did not go ahead with a fringe meeting in this conference. There was a good reason for that. The despicable treatment disabled activists received by security personnel when tried to protest against Korean government’s reform was met by anger and fury by all delegates which quickly turned into active solidarity. SWAN and BASW activists Rea Maglajlic and Guy Shennan were instrumental in working in solidarity with the local activists, round the clock, these days. Also, Rory Truell and Ruth Stark from IFSW put a lot of effort in helping achieve a very positive outcome. 20 or even 10 years ago, who would have thought that a group of activists protesting at the global social work conference would have been offered stage to talk about their principled struggle, invited to address the IASSW General Assembly, visit the conference venue everyday, organise a press conference and –through mediation of social workers- meet with local government officials? I am very heartened by the overwhelmingly supportive and proactive response of colleagues involved in this. In politics and activism, anger is a very ‘healthy’ reaction to injustices but it only becomes transformative when there is a concrete plan of action. This is what happened in Seoul.
I am still concerned about the very high registration fees which automatically exclude practitioners and educators from many countries. In several cases the registration fee is higher than the monthly salary of a social work practitioner. We need to think carefully and proactively about how to rectify this. In the meantime we have an obligation to expand the scholarship fund which ensures that many colleagues from the Global South are able to attend and represent their countries.
The next Global conference will be held in Dublin, Ireland in two years and our very own Ciarrai Ni Ghoilla Coiscle is a member the local organising committee. I will also be involved as a member of the international organising committee. Well done everyone and I am looking forward to continuing the good work in Dublin.