The Inaugural ASEAN Social Work Consortium (1 – 3 March 2011)

In March 2011, Social Work EXCO member Amran bin Jamil represented the Singapore Association of Social Workers in the first ever ASEAN Social Work Consortium held in Manila, Phillipines.

The ASEAN Social Work Consortium (ASWC) held its first meeting from 1 to 3 March 2011 in Manila, the Philippines, attended by more than 70 social work practitioners, educators and policy makers from all ten Member States. ASWC represents a platform for social workers, social work educators and schools of social work to enhance quality of social work practices and policies in the region as well as to synergize ideas and initiatives to further address fellow ASEAN people’s welfare, especially the underprivileged, marginalized and disadvantaged.

The Singapore delegation to the first ASWC was made up of social workers from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), National Council of Social Service (NCSS), AWWA Family Service Centre (representing the voluntary welfare organizations sector) and the Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW) as the national professional body representing all social work practitioners in Singapore. Membership to the Consortium is open to organizations or individuals representing social work practitioners, educators and schools of social work from ASEAN Member States.

The inaugural meeting set out the terms of reference for the members of the consortium and issued the Manila Statement of the First ASWC. The platform, currently led by the Philippines, also provided opportunity for members to learn from each other through the sharing of current efforts and policies in each member countries in propagating and promoting social work practices, education and policies.

“In Southeast Asia, social work practice and education have developed at an uneven pace amidst diverse but interconnected historical and social contexts. This situation encourages social workers to support and learn from each other, and work collaboratively. Moreover, our region is also caught in the global and national crises at various fronts – ecological, economic, and financial, which pose serious threats to people’s security and well-being. Hence, it heightens the need for social workers to create synergies in analysis and action, and weave national perspectives and experiences into regional ones as we forge unity and solidarity…Through the ASWC, we hope to raise our regional voice and contribute to the ongoing process of enriching and finalizing the Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development,” read the Manila Statement of the First ASEAN Social Work Consortium.

The ASWC also adopted a 3-year work plan for 2011-2014 and the initial actions to kickstart its implementation. The work plan focuses on three key result areas: capacity building, knowledge production and management, and the strengthening of national social work and regional welfare institutions. The Singapore delegation has drafted several initiatives in support of the ASWC blueprint including strengthening the accreditation framework and encouraging cross-boundaries exchanges.

The next ASWC conferences in 2012 and 2013 would continue to be held in the Philippines, with Thailand being the host in 2014. We hope that Social Workers in Singapore would also be able to participate in regional discussions that would benefit the social landscape of ASEAN in the future.

Amran bin Jamil is the Centre Manager at the PPIS Family Service Centre (East). He is currently the Chair of Ethics for the Singapore Association of Social Workers (SASW).