By International Social Service, the Global Social Work Organization
ISS - 100 Years : 100 Years of Pioneer Advocacy through publications, evidence-based research and action

100 Years of Pioneer Advocacy through publications, evidence-based research and action

Since its early years, ISS has played a pioneering role in championing evidence-based advocacy and advocating for impactful change in the realm of children’s rights, family protection, and migration. Through the publication and dissemination of technical and expertise-based reports, ISS has been at the forefront of influencing legislation and policymaking globally.

In 1921, the London based Standing Migration Committee of the Young Women Christian Association (that would later become the International Migration Service (IMS) / ISS) conducted a preliminary survey on the problems faced by migrants in places including the port of Marseilles and French-Italian border. The findings of the preliminary survey were shared with the Health and Transit Sections of the League of Nations.

Later, recognising the need for a more comprehensive examination, the Standing Migration Committee entrusted Mary Hurlbutt, an American social worker and one of the founding members of ISS in 1924, with the task of conducting a thorough survey of the migration process across in France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Switzerland. Her seminal report, “The Welfare of Migrants”, was published on August 21, 1921, and submitted to the International Emigration Commission of the International Labour Organization.

It was also in the 1920s, following its foundation in 1924, that IMS/ISS began publishing “Les Migrants”, an annual publication encompassing core activities, technical insights and a financial report. “Les Migrants” was the forerunner of today’s ISS annual Global Report. The 1927 edition of ‘Les Migrants’, for example, covered topics such as ten years of migration, field visit reports, special studies and a detailed description of the activities of the then national ISS branches of the USA, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece and Poland.

Between 1925 and 1926, the ISS network prepared a series of study reports directed at different institutions including the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization to influence international policy making but also enact reforms in national legislation, policies and administrative procedures with regard to migration.  These reports were rich and specific as they were based on the numerous cross border cases handled by the first ISS members. “Social Problems of Migrating Children” (1925), “Children in Transit” (1925), “Separated Families” (1926), and “The Desertion and Repatriation of Children” (1926), to name a few, were among these first reports.

Until today, ISS has remained steadfast in its mission to produce reports aimed at shaping legislation and providing guidance to national authorities, international and national NGOs in effectively implementing children’s rights and safeguarding children and families by borders.

The establishment of the ISS/International Reference Center for the Rights of Children Deprived of Their Family (ISS/IRC) in 1993 further expanded the range of ISS publications. The ISS/IRC’s principal goal is to equip alternative care and adoption professionals on the ground by developing resources and highlighting promising practices. Likewise, it aims to raise awareness regarding the critical importance of promoting and protecting children’s rights within the analytical framework of international standards in an ever-changing environment. More than 5000 professionals in countries of origin and receiving countries directly benefit from the ISS/IRC services, including access to its bimonthly newsletter.

Over the past century, ISS has produced an extensive array of publications, including annual global reports, manuals, thematic fact sheets, evaluation mission reports, editorials, and alternative reports submitted to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. These publications cover a broad spectrum of issues related to child and family protection, such as intercountry adoption, international family mediation, children on the move, alternative care, and the search for origins, among others.

ISS publications are the result of comprehensive research and analysis, cross border expertise and field work relying on various sources of literature and resources. Moreover, ISS publications stem from a collaborative effort involving ISS General Secretariat technical staff, ISS Members and other experts and ISS partners.

Today, most of these publications are available online for free, underscoring ISS’s commitment to knowledge sharing and joint advocacy.


Fehrenbach, Heide. “Children as Casework: The Problem of Migrating and Refugee Children in the Era of World War.” Handbook on Migration and Childhood, Jacqueline Bhabha, Daniel Senovilla Hernandez, and Jyothi Kanics. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2018.

Larned, Ruth, International Social Service, A history 1921-1955

ISS, the Global Social Work Organization

ISS is present in more than 120 countries, constituting a well-connected network of NGOs, authorities and private social work practices. The ISS global network is coordinated by the ISS General Secretariat in Geneva.
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