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Book_of_Abstracts_FINAL_July_16.pdf (2.34 MB)

Social work and extreme events - challenges to social work research on disasters and complex emergencies

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posted on 2023-06-09, 02:13 authored by Reima Ana MaglajlicReima Ana Maglajlic, Jim Campbell, Vassilis Ioakimidis, Lesley Cooper, Lynne Briggs, Mojca Urek
The proposed Symposium is related to the Special Interest Group on Social Work and Extreme Events and is proposed by the Group initiators. Over the past year, we witnessed an almost unprecedented movement of people due to political conflict. Based on the figures by the EU Border Agency (Frontex), more than 500,000 refugees were detected at EU external borders in the first eight months of 2015. In the Spring of 2014, large scale and repeated flooding in South-East Europe (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Serbia) caused damage similar to that experienced during the political conflicts in the same region in the early 1990s. The purpose of the Group and the proposed Symposium is to explore how and whether the impact of political conflicts and/or national disasters on social work can be explored through a joint title of ‘extreme events’. This is relevant not solely because many countries experience one or even both types of extreme events, as noted above. The relevance and parallels are also encapsulated in the impact of such events on the variety of social work resources (from infrastructure to loss of life and limb) and the difference between the urgent/immediate responses during the extreme events and during long-term recovery. Recently, a group of social work academics from a variety of countries affected by political conflicts and/or natural disasters in Europe and Asia (Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, UK/Northern Ireland, Slovenia and Sri Lanka) initiated a network to explore this theme. In parallel, the network also explores the frequently contested and difficult relationships between the local social work practices and traditions with those of international development organisations, frequently active in countries affected by extreme events. It is hoped that the work within the network can inform and improve the emergency protocols and subsequent post-extreme event reconstruction and development practices in relation to vulnerable groups (e.g. women, children without parental care, people with disabilities, older people), as well as contribute to the growth of social work disciplinary knowledge on this theme. The Symposium is to help outline some of the thinking and work within the network to date, based on the studies conducted by the participants in their own contexts and as a group. The focus of the Symposium will be on the methodological challenges this theme poses for research, both within particular countries, as well as through cross-national and/or comparative research. The current group is comprised of scholars from the countries affected by extreme events who hope to build on their current studies, explore them within the wider framework of extreme events and to initiate future joint research. The rationale for local scholars’ participation stems from the need to enable mutual learning process, not aiming for a single, unified, outcome or finding – based on the lessons learnt to date from cross-national action research (Matthies et al., 2000). The key findings from group discussions to date indicate concerns whether and how international, cross-country methodology can be developed which would allow for more meaningful knowledge sharing between social workers and development practitioners in different countries. Possibilities to use ‘green social work’ and critical theory as relevant theoretical frameworks for international collaboration on this theme will be outlined. The findings to date also highlight a range of roles that social workers do or should employ during and after the extreme events, from targeted assistance to vulnerable groups to involvement in peace building and reconciliation.


Publication status

  • Published

File Version

  • Published version

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Presentation Type

  • paper

Event name

6th European Conference for Social Work Research

Event location

Lisbon, Portugal, Catholic University of Portugal

Event type


Event date

30 March - 1 April 2016

Department affiliated with

  • Social Work and Social Care Publications

Full text available

  • Yes

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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