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Implementing a Global Code of Ethics to Ensure Professional Standards

This webinar was held on April 24, 2019.

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View the webinar recording on our YouTube channel.

Webinar Summary:

A Global Statement of Ethical Principles has recently been developed to facilitate social workers' aspirations towards the highest possible standards of ethical practice, through processes of constant debate, self-reflection, willingness to deal with ambiguities, and to engage in ethically acceptable processes of decision-making to achieve ethical outcomes. The Statement makes an explicit commitment to value the people with whom social workers engage and a shift toward recognizing and connecting work toward advancing human dignity and human rights. Download the Global Statement of Ethical Principles.

Finalized in 2018 through the inputs by many individuals, organizations and social work associations, and led by the International Association of Schools of Social Workers and International Federation of Social Workers, this Statement builds upon the global definition of social work, defined in 2014.

Dr. Vishanthie Sewpaul, provided an overview of the Statement and the nine guiding principles within it. She shared that IASSW developed a longer document providing descriptions of these nine guiding principles as they apply to teaching and research. She also shared some of the challenges the groups overcame through collaboration, seeking global feedback and input throughout the process of developing these principles toward reaching conscensus on princples and wording to include. The development process took several years and is still being rolled out.

Dawn Hobdy then shared more background on how the process began by reviewing the 2014 definition of social work and decisions by an ethics committee that the principles needed reviewing and updating. Member surveys were created and translated into multiple languages to gather input from IFSW and IASSW members around the world to inform the Principles and process. Upon approval of the Statement in June 2018, the associations are now informing members of this statement, reviewing existing codes of ethics in various countries to determine where there is not alignment, and discussing with associations that don't currently have a code of ethics how this Statement can be interpreted and applied.

Aina Lina Flem and Jessica H. Jönsson then presented research findings from interviews and focus group discussions with 24 Norwegian and Swedish students following international field placements in Global South countries to determine ethical dilemmas and how students are overcoming these situations. Their findings present opportunities to inform social work field placements globally and classroom education on ethical situations students will face both in field placements and their career. They provided some specific examples of situations students faced during their field placement and how they are applying their learnings and decisions in these situations.

Dr. Vishanthie Sewpaul then opened up the webinar to address many questions from the online participants regarding ethical situations, the composition and work of the ethics committee in developing the Ethical Principles, and how field placements are meant to supplement education rather than be tourist opportunities. Presenters shared how this Ethical Statement can be applied not only by social workers but other volunteers and para professionals in the social servce workforce to support ethical practice and address injustices globally. She concluded by inviting participants to join upcoming webinars to be hosted by the Alliance to continue to dialogue and learn from global colleagues and to become a member of the Alliance for further engagement on topics related to the social service workforce.



Dr. Vishanthie Sewpaul, PhD, Emeritus Professor, University of KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, and Professor II, University of Stavanger, Norway

Dr. Sewpaul joined the Board of the International Association of Schools of Social Work in 2000 where she chaired several committees, and she currently chairs the Global Social Work Ethics Taskforce. She currently holds teaching roles with the University of KwaZulu Natal and University of Stavanger and previously taught social work at Zayed University in the United Arab Emirates. She has published widely, serves as either reviewer or advisory board member of several journals, as external examiner at several international institutions, and has delivered numerous keynote and plenary addresses in many countries. She has worked extensively in the fields of mental health, HIV/AIDS, and children in difficult circumstances, particularly children and youth living on the streets. Social work practice and teaching with a focus on social justice, human rights and emancipatory education remain her passion. She is currently a Steering Committee member of the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance.

Ms. Dawn Hobdy, LICSW, Director of the Office of Ethics and Professional Review at the National Association of Social Workers, United States (NASW)

Ms. Hobdy provides leadership and oversight for the overall vision and structure of the nationwide ethics and professional review program. She has 21 years of experience developing ethics courses and conducting trainings. She presents at numerous conferences around the country and has served on various task forces including the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) International Technology Task Force, the NASW & ASWB Technology Standards Task Force, and the NASW Code of Ethics Revisions Task Force. She currently serves as the Ethics Commissioner for the International Federation of Social Workers. Ms. Hobdy is an Adjunct Professor in the graduate program of the Howard University School of Social Work. Her research and teaching interests include social gerontology and ethics. She began her career in gerontology, serving several years as Director of Social Services in a long-term care setting as well as providing case management for seniors of the DC Wavier program. Ms. Hobdy received her MSW degree from Howard University and her BS degree in Communications from Syracuse University.

Aina Lian Flem, Associate Professor of Social Work, affiliated to the Department of Social Work at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Norway

Ms. Flem's research and teaching area concern theoretical, practical and pedagogical challenges for social work in a globalized world. She has worked extensively within the field of child and family welfare in Norway as well as within international child rights work globally. She has held leading positions in Save the Children and been a member of the board of NASSW (Nordic Association of Schools of Social Work). Anti-oppressive perspectives have been the basic building block in her teaching, research and practice in order to encourage students, teachers and practitioners to enter into processes of critical reflexivity. Together with colleagues at NTNU, she has been in charge of strengthening critical and global perspectives of the Bachelor Curriculum, a passion she shares with her Swedish colleague Jessica H. Jönsson.

Dr. Jessica H. Jönsson, Research Fellow, School of Law, Psychology and Social Work, Örebro University, Sweden

Dr. Jönsson's research area concerns social work as a globalized and sociopolitical field facing increasing theoretical, practical and ethical challenges caused by socioeconomic, political and cultural transformations. She has studied global social problems, sustainable- and social development, poverty alleviation, migration and reception of asylum seekers and refugees, and national (dis)organization of social work, including its education and practices. She is teaching mainly in community work, social work and migration and global social problems.

Flem and Jönsson have together developed social work curriculum that encompasses critical, global and postcolonial perspectives in social work educational and field training. Students’ ethical and critical awareness, as well as, self-evaluation of international field training in realizing human rights and social justice in field practice settings, have been the focus of their research and publications.


This is the 30th webinar hosted by the Global Social Service Workforce. Please visit to view recordings and summaries from past webinars.