This page provides overview about COSW, its objectives, goals, statement on human rights, leadership and board, and history
The Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW) has been established for citizens of the Commonwealth who are committed to the promotion and implementation of social development within the civil society of Commonwealth countries. It is recognised as a formal partner by the Commonwealth Secretariat and IFSW.
- To promote the education and training of social workers throughout the world for the benefit of the public
- To relieve poverty
- To promote the education of the public in matters of social policy, social organisation and social problems.
- To provide a Commonwealth network for information about social work and social development
- To provide support and sharing of technical knowledge and expertise between and amongst Commonwealth countries and their social workers
- To identify contact people in all Commonwealth countries who will act as liaison persons for interested individuals, groups and organisations within their countries
- To establish a link with Commonwealth organisations with similar objectives in order to pursue common objectives
- To work closely with the International Federation of Social Workers and to promote active involvement of Commonwealth social workers in international social work and social development organisations
COSW Statement on Human Rights for all people in the Commonwealth
Sylvia Daisy Romanus (India) – Honorary Chair
Dr. A Sylvia Daisy is the Chair of Commonwealth Organization for Social Work, London since September 2020. Teaching is her passion. She started her career as a teacher at Nava Nirmana Social Institute in 1999 and later taught UG and PG in Social Work at Stella Maris College. She works as an Associate Professor at Madras Christian College in the Department of Social Work, Self Financed Stream. She has associated with MCC since August 2007. Networking with people is her strength. She enjoys working with social work practitioners and academicians. She is a Member of the Steering Committee, Rural Job Creation, South India, Confederation of Indian Industry since July 2018. Since 2019 March she is a member of the Community Advisory Board, the National Institute for Tuberculosis Research, Indian Council for Medical Research. Recruitment of Staff for various projects being the minority representative, sharing expertise relating to research, and bringing institution and community connections are a few of her responsibilities. She is the author of the book titled “Marriage and Family”. She has been the Guest Editor of the International Journal on Social Work Management. She is interested in research and has published more than 25 research papers in National and International Journals. Her Research paper presentation in Sweden in 2012 and Belgium in 2017 was supported by Madras Christian College and University Grants Commission, Government of India respectively. She is affiliated with Anbaam Trust since 2007 as she loves fieldwork. she has made a remarkable contribution by leading the Tribal Children Nutrition project 2014 to 2019, Tribal women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment project 2017 to 2019, Chennai Floods Relief and Rehabilitation project 2015, Vardha Cyclone Relief and Rehabilitation Project 2017, COVID 19 relief and Rehabilitation project 2020
Naomi Spencer (Australia) – Honorary Secretary
Naomi has been an Australian/Pacific representative on the COSW (Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work), Board for eleven years. Currently Naomi works for the NSW Government as a specialist counsellor. She is/was Adjunct academic for Charles Sturt University, Convenor of SWITS, Social Workers in the Shoalhaven, sometime largest practice group in Australia, Vice president and longest serving member of NSW Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) Branch, Director on National AASW Board for four years. It’s important to grow confidence in, build sustainable professional associations and ‘share with justice the resources of the earth’. She delights in family and home life.
Sharon-Rose Gittens (Barbados) – Honorary Treasurer
Sharon is a qualified social worker and a former Registered Nurse who joined Barbados Welfare Department in 1999. She holds a Masters of Educational Psychology involving a dissertation on understanding the perpetrator of domestic violence using learning theories. She was a partner on Barbados COVID 19 Mental Health Psychosocial First Aid Response, is a member of the Barbados Social Justice Committee and has been a Part-time Lecturer at University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus since 1997. She a Past Chair of the Barbados Association of Professional Social Workers.
David N Jones (UK) – Main Representative to the Commonwealth Institutions
Dr David N Jones is a qualified social worker (1974) with extensive national and local government, NGO and private sector experience. He was President of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) 2006-10 and Global Coordinator of The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development1 (2010-2020)2. He is a Board Member of the Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work (COSW) and its Main Representative to the Commonwealth Institutions and a member of BASW Council. His doctorate researched evaluating the quality of social services. He is a Trustee of Children and Families Across Borders (ISS-UK) and has published and spoken extensively on social work practice and management in the UK and overseas.
1 Jones, D. N. and R. Truell (2012). “The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development: A place to link together and be effective in a globalized world.” International Social Work 55 (4): 454-472.
2 Jones, D. N. (2020) “The Global Agenda for Social Work and Social Development. Fourth report: strengthening the importance of human relationships” Rhinefelden, Switzerland, IFSW https://www.ifsw.org/product/books/global-agenda-for-social-work-and-social-development-4th-report/
Monique Auffrey (Canada)
Monique first joined COSW in 2006, while attending the IFSW World Conference in Munich Germany as the winner of the prestigious Eileen McGowan Kelly Scholarship. Monique was elected to the board in 2008 in Salvador Brazil, IFSW World Conference. Monique is a registered social worker in Canada having practiced in Nova Scotia and Alberta. Monique has held senior level positions as Executive Director and CEO of organizations focused on children, families, homelessness, domestic violence and addiction. She was appointed to the Alberta Family Violence Death Review Committee by the Alberta Government Minister of Child and Family Services in 2017 and sits as an advisory member of the Global Institute of Social Work (GISW). Monique completed field work in The Netherlands focusing on asylum seekers, unaccompanied minors and researching the psycho-social needs of asylum seekers in Canada. She also worked for Oxfam and the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs as a landmine ambassador where she completed training in Ottawa and Cambodia. Some of Monique’s published work include;
1. Blyth, E. and Auffrey, M (2008). ‘Policy on Cross Border Reproductive Services’. Geneva: IFSW. http://www.ifsw.org/en/p38001484.
2. Auffrey, M., Tutty, L.M., & Wright, A.C. (2017) Preventing homelessness for women who leave abusive partners: A shelter-based “Housing First” program in T. Augusta-Scott, K. Scott, & L. Tutty (Eds.), Innovations in interventions to address intimate partner violence: Research and Practice. New York, NY: Routledge http://.routledge.com/Innovations-in-Interventions-to-Address-Intimate-Partner-Violence-Research/Augusta-Scott-Scott-Tutty/p/book/9781138692275
Charles Mbugua (Kenya)
Charles Mbugua is a front line social work practitioner with long and extensive experience having worked in other countries in Africa. He is a past president of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) in Africa, and former co-chair of COSW. He is the representative of IFSW at UN Habitat and is the co-chair of General Assembly of Partners (GAP)- older persons constituent group
Jan Christianson-Wood (Canada)
Janice (Jan) Christianson-Wood, MSW, RSW is a registered social worker in Canada. She is past President of the Canadian Association of Social Workers (2016-2020) and of the North America Region of IFSW (2016-2018) and is a Board Member of the Canadian Association of Social Workers. Jan’s career has focused on child welfare from front line practise to thesis research on risk assessment in child welfare, and child welfare oversight at the local and provincial level. She was the first social worker hired as a Special Investigator by Manitoba’s Chief Medical Examiner.
Joachim Cuthbert Mumba (Zambia)
Mr Joachim Mumba is a qualified social worker since 2002, with extensive working with local and International NGOs in Zambia. He has been Secretary General and Chief Executive Officer of the Social Workers’ Association of Zambia (SWAZ) since 2005. Joachim served as IFSW Africa Region representative on the Ethics Commission and is currently Global President of IFSW. He has spoken on a number of fora on social work practice in Zambia. His main interest is strengthening the governance and financial systems of national associations of social workers in Africa.
K. S. Ramesh (India)
Dr K S Ramesh is one of the steering committee members of Tamilnadu State Professional Social Work Council, Deputy Director at Banyan Academy of Leadership in Mental Health and Co-Lead of Centre for Social-care Needs and Livelihoods at The Banyan. He was a President of Professional social workers’ association, Co-Founder & Secretary of the alumni association of Madras school of social work, Patron of Journal of School Social work, Mentor for CII-women exemplars, State steering committee member of the National HIV/AIDS bill, contributed to ‘TB-HIV’ co-infection policy and Drafting committee member for Tamilnadu State Youth policy.
Professional Ugandan Social Worker since 2015 from when he offered volunteer service at the National Association of Social Workers of Uganda (NASWU) as a Programs Office for two years after which he was later elected in 2017 as a board member of NASWU up to date. Currently he works with Compassion International – Uganda where he offers support to staff working with children and youth efforts aimed at releasing them from poverty. He has also served as the Young Carers Ambassador in East Africa under COSW since 2016 and has embraced new role (2021) to serve on the Editorial Team of Commonwealth Organization for Social Work (COSW). On the other hand, he is passionate about service, justice and family in the community and occasionally thus offers independent Social Work services to individuals who would wish to reunite with their families in the diaspora
Teoh Ai Hua (Malaysia)
Teoh is a senior lecturer at the School of Applied Psychology, Social Work and Policy, College of Arts and Sciences, Universiti Utara Malaysia (UUM). He has a degree in Public Administration (UUM) and a MA (Social Work Studies) from University of Kent at Canterbury, UK. His area of interests includes public social services, professionalization of social work, case management and care in the community. He served as the President of the Malaysian Association of Social Workers (2009-2017), member of the Technical Committee to Improve Social Work Professionalism in Malaysia, Special Project Team member for the Social Work Profession Bill, and member of the Management Committee of the Malaysian Council on Welfare and Social Development (MAKPEM). He is also active regionally in promoting the profession. He was Chair of the Commonwealth Organization for Social Work (COSW) (2014-2020), and currently serving as the Honorary Secretary of the International Federation of Social Workers-Asia Pacific, and represent the region in the Ethics Commission of IFSW, as well as serving as the Honorary Treasurer of the South East Asia and Pacific region of the International Council of Social Welfare (ICSW-SEAP).
The idea of a Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work was first raised in 1993 in a discussion initiated by Anthony Tan (former Chair of the Malaysian Association of Social Workers – MASW) with David N Jones (then BASW General Secretary) and Serge Paul (Chair of the BASW International Relations Advisory Panel). Anthony had been awarded a Commonwealth Fellowship and was in the UK with other Fellows. He pointed out that the Commonwealth engaged with around 80 professional and related bodies but there was no voice for social work.
The BASW team was reluctant to be seen to engage in ‘colonial’ structures and did not wish to undermine IFSW. BASW could not see how additional resources could be found for a Commonwealth social work body.
In subsequent correspondence it was agreed that the idea would be put to a meeting of social work associations from Commonwealth countries at the 1994 world conference in Sri Lanka. This was attended by representatives from more than 10 Commonwealth countries including David N Jones (BASW General Secretary) and Terry Bamford (IFSW Board member).
The idea was very warmly received by delegates from social work associations in Africa, Asia and New Zealand. Australia was cool but supportive and Canada expressed some reservations. The decision was taken to form a Commonwealth Organisation for Social Work, closely linked with IFSW, on the understanding that this would not demand significant new resources from social work associations. The founding President was the Chair of the Sri Lanka association (SLAPSW – Dudley Dissaniake); he died a few years later and the ‘ceremonial’ position of President has remained unfilled. Anthony Tan was elected as Chair and David N Jones was elected as Honorary Secretary and representative to the Commonwealth Institutions in London.
COSW then engaged with the Commonwealth Secretariat in London and received moral support but no resources. COSW was invited to regular meetings of Commonwealth Organisations and contributed to policy discussions with the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation. Pro bono advice on the constitution was provided by Bates Wells and Braithwaite (the BASW solicitors). Most of the development work was undertaken by Anthony Tan and David N Jones.
The 1997 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) was held in Edinburgh, Scotland. COSW had a strong presence, provided a briefing to all national delegations, and participated in the People’s Forum. Anthony Tan (travelling from Malaysia at his own expense) attended the opening ceremony and David N Jones attended the welcome reception for Heads of Government and CHOGM reception, meeting and talking briefly with several heads of government including Queen Elizabeth, Tony Blair, Nelson Mandela, Robert Mugabe, the King of Botswana, the Prime Minister of Australia and many others.
The formal COSW constitution was signed during the 2000 world conference in Montreal and the first formal Board appointed in the launch meeting held at that time, with representatives from each of the 5 regions.
General meetings have been held, with an open invitation, at all world social work conferences since 1994. Membership of the Board has changed as new people become involved. After Anthony Tan, there was joint chairing by Charles Mbugua (Kenya) and Tiong Ngoh Tan (Singapore). They were succeeded by Ai Hua Teoh (Malaysia) and Monique Auffrey (Canada) took over the role of Honorary Secretary. Terry Bamford became the COSW representative to the Commonwealth institutions in London with David Jones and Nigel Hall deputising as needed.
Terry Bamford later stood down as Representative, whilst remaining a member of the Board, handing the role back to David N Jones. COSW played a leading role in the development of the informal network of Commonwealth Organisations which was later formalised as the Independent Forum of Commonwealth Organisations (IFCO), both David N Jones and Godfred Boahen serving on the Steering Group. COSW has continued to play an active role in discussions between Commonwealth Organisations and the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Ai Hua Teoh handed over the Chair to Sylvia Daisy Romanus (India) in 2020 with several new members joining the Board. Fiona Robertson handed over the role of Honorary Treasurer to Godfred Boahen at the same time, after serving for almost two decades in that role.
1992 Discussions with British Association initiated by Anthony Tan (Malaysia)
1994 First meeting of social work associations from Commonwealth countries in the wings of the IFSW world conference in Sri Lanka agreed to proceed with forming a Commonwealth organisation. Anthony Tan (Malaysia) was elected as Chair, David N Jones (UK) as Honorary Secretary, Dudley Dissanyike (Sri Lanka) as founding President with a steering group of people from the Commonwealth regions including some members of the IFSW global executive.
1997 COSW accredited to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh and submitted a policy paper to all national delegations
2000 COSW constitution signed in Montreal Canada in the wings of the IFSW world conference including signatories from all Commonwealth regions
2002 Commonwealth Professional Fellowship awarded to Max Anyuru (Uganda) supporting a three month placement with the UK Audit Commission working jointly with David N Jones
2005 COSW formally incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee at Companies House, London under UK law – Company number 05616132.
2006 Young carer conference held in Nairobi bringing together social workers (including academics) from across Africa and the UK alongside young carers from East Africa and UK.
2009 Young carer festival
2011 CHOGM in Australia – COSW contributed to development of policy submissions and was active in the Fora in partnership with the Australian Association.
2013 CHOGM in Sri Lanka – COSW contributed to development of policy submissions.
2012 Young carer festival
2015 CHOGM in Malta – COSW contributed to policy submissions and participation in the Fora in partnership with the Maltese Association
2016 Young carer festival
2018 CHOGM in London – COSW actively involved in preparing policy submissions and in the People’s Forum
2019 Young carer festival
2020 COSW webinar hosted by Madras Christian College
2021 Webinar on the history of social work around the Commonwealth jointly with the Social Work History Network
2022 Two day webinar on Commonwealth Histories of Social Work jointly with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and others.
2022 CHOGM in Kigali, Rwanda – COSW again actively involved in preparing policy submissions and in the People’s Forum, Women’s Forum and Youth Forum.