Declaration on Strengthening the Social Service Workforce in ASEAN

January 2021

Nicole Brown, Communications and Advocacy Manager at the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance illustrates how the The Ha Noi Declaration on Strengthening Social Work Towards Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN Community shows the critical role played by the social service workforce not only in reaching vulnerable groups but also in mitigating the impact of COVID-19.

The Ha Noi Declaration on Strengthening Social Work Towards Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN Community was adopted in November 2020 by the Heads of State of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Member States in Ha Noi, Viet Nam. The first of its kind in the region, the Declaration commits the ASEAN member states to invest in the social service workforce and the social service system by professionalising, planning for and expanding the workforce.

This Declaration is a result of a 2019 mapping and assessment conducted by the Global Social Service Workforce Alliance in collaboration with the UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office that was documented within the State of the Social Service Workforce in the East Asia and Pacific Region: A multi-country review. It is a part of UNICEF’s broader commitment to strengthening the social service workforce, as outlined in its current strategic plan and the Guidelines to Strengthen the Social Service Workforce for Child Protection.

Conducted in 15 countries in the region, the review determined the size, scope and structure of the social service workforce. It also included prior and current efforts to strengthen the workforce through policy development, legislative reform, professionalization, education and training, and steps to strengthen the child protection system. The intent of the report was to inform advocacy, legal, policy and strategy development, and investment for strengthening the social service workforce. During the process, the Alliance and UNICEF helped convene national stakeholders in the data collection process as well as determining and implementing next steps. A regional planning meeting was held in October 2019 that involved the Alliance and UNICEF and laid the groundwork for this Declaration.

The Declaration lays out 11 steps and goals toward strengthening the social service workforce:

  1. Develop and strengthen legislation and policies including defining, reinforcing and enhancing the roles and functions of social service workers
  2. Develop a strategic plan for the progressive strengthening of social service work, based on an assessment of needs and current social service system capacities and a multidisciplinary, inclusive and participatory approach
  3. Adopt, standardise and strengthen accreditation, certification, registration and licensing systems for social service workers
  4. Enhance inter-agency coordination at the national level, and cross-sectoral collaboration at the ASEAN level, between social welfare and other sectors
  5. Promote the establishment of national associations or councils for the profession
  6. Promote retention through the provision of career progression opportunities and professional development
  7. Allocate adequate resources to strengthen the profession, including financing for education, training, research and publications
  8. Develop and enhance regional networks
  9. Work towards regional professional recognition of social work, render necessary assistance to narrow social work education gaps among ASEAN Member States, and develop regional professional and occupational standards, ethics, standardised competency frameworks, standards/core curriculum and guidelines for supervision
  10. At the national and regional level, endeavour to develop strategies to enhance positive public perception of the profession and workforce including in the media
  11. Undertake cross-sectoral and inter-pillar cooperation across the ASEAN Community

A series of materials are available from the Declaration launch:    

In December, the Alliance participated in an online meeting of the ASEAN Social Work Consortium to discuss and plan next steps toward implementation of the Declaration including developing and implementing a roadmap in 2021.