Human Rights Day, December 10, 2011

Celebrate Human Rights

Background: On December 10 the world will celebrate Human Rights Day.  Every year, Human Rights Day marks the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. This year the day celebrates human rights activists who have taken to the streets across the globe to advocate for change. 

The Role of Social Workers: Social work is fundamentally a human rights profession.  When the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was ratified, human rights concerns had been the bedrock of the social work profession in the United States for more than 50 years.  Discrimination and social exclusion based on racial and religious intolerance; gender inequality and violence; denial of the rights of women and children, refugees and older people – all are social justice issues that long have concerned social work (NASW 2009).

The International Federation of Social Workers includes human rights in their definition of social work: “The social work profession promotes social change, problem solving in human relationships and the empowerment and liberation of people to enhance well-being. Utilising theories of human behaviour and social systems, social work intervenes at the points where people interact with their environments. Principles of human rights and social justice are fundamental to social work” (IFSW 2000).

Take Action:


National Association of Social Workers (2009). International Policy on Human Rights. Social Work Speaks, National Association of Social Workers Policy Statements, 2009-2012 (8th ed., pp 202-207). Washington, DC:  NASW Press.

International Federation of Social Workers (2000). Definition of Social Work.  Retrieved from

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