Alongside more than 11,000 peer organizations, University Settlement is a member of the International Federation of Settlements and Neighbourhood Centres (IFS).
Last month, University Settlement staffers attended the 2021 IFS Conference: Social Justice – The Unfinished Journey, which took place virtually from Sydney, Australia. A collaborative convening of our international movement, it was an inspiring reminder that actions at the level of neighborhoods truly make global impacts.
As part of this year’s conference, the IFS issued a Declaration on Social Justice, which we’ve summarized and excerpted below. For more background, click here to download the full statement and click here for the background white paper.
In September 2021, as the world continues to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, people from settlement houses and neighborhood centers from around the world came together to strengthen and affirm our pursuit of social justice.
Social justice as a concept came about in the early nineteenth century during the industrial revolution in Europe and it sought to address growing inequality brought about by the capitalistic exploitation of labor.
By the twentieth century the concept of social justice had evolved to include other aspects of social life including gender, race, the environment, and all manifestations of inequality between groups and individuals.
The main principles of social justice include access to resources, participation, equity, and diversity within the framework of universal human rights.
IFS represents a global network of thousands of organizations as well as hundreds of thousands of active citizens, volunteers, students, and professionals in neighborhoods of more than 30 countries across all global regions.
IFS members embrace and champion the principles of social justice and have developed considerable skills and capacity to directly move them forward at a local level for more than a century. Our work concentrates on local, community development approaches based on authentic engagement and a commitment to local communities’ desire to self-determine.
Concepts of social justice and sustainable development are intrinsically intwined, with sustainable development being the ideal vehicle to achieve social justice. But neither is achievable without local community engagement and participation.
Social justice will not be achieved without a shift of power imbalances across society. Communities need to lead and drive decision making for their areas. Settlement houses and neighborhood centers play their vital role in giving people a voice, engaging and mobilizing people and communities who are currently and who have been historically excluded from decisions affecting them.
Power structures that marginalize and minoritize communities must be challenged and dismantled.
Communities around the world face challenges brought about by the flood of information and misinformation easily accessed via social media and the ‘always on’ nature of the internet. We are committed to communicating truth, equality and fairness in opposition to inequality, hatred and misinformation of any sort.
In a world where more than 800 million people are displaced, an historic record high number, IFS member organizations continue to empower local community efforts to support displaced people, and migrants generally, to retain dignity as they pursue their journey for freedom and human rights.
IFS collectively calls on the governments and institutions of the world to support their local community development practitioners in developing and maintaining a just, sustainable community, free of hatred, inequality, injustice and fear. We seek unity from these organizations in pursuing humanity’s goal of social justice in sustainable communities.
We declare that:
- Social Justice must remain a central focus for our global community alongside the defense of democracy and the pursuit of sustainable development. International collaboration, dialogue, promotion and sharing of local community stories that display the successes and challenges of local approaches to human rights, social justice and sustainable development are vital to this agenda and must be better supported and resourced.
- Local engagement based on community-led development practice is essential to effectively addressing social justice and embedding sustainability.
- We commit to playing our part in highlighting power imbalances and working to rectify them within our own structures and using our influence to with partner organizations to drive change more widely.
- Governments and institutions of the world need to continue and increase support for local community development agencies and practitioners and engage with these regional, national and global networks.
- Increasing isolation and narrow nationalism is dangerous and undermines any progress towards universal human rights. IFS is committed to practicing and promoting international solidarity as the effective response to this threat.