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International statements about social work ethics have been criticized as imposing Western values in non-Western contexts. Two forms of this criticism can be identified in recent literature, one 'strong' in that it calls for each cultural context to generate its own relevant values, the other 'qualified' in that while it seeks basic common values it calls for these to be interpreted with cultural sensitivity. Such arguments raise a particular problem with the notion of human rights as a foundation for social work ethics. In response, the plurality of values is examined and the concept of 'human capabilities' is suggested as a basis for values that cross cultural differences. The implications of this notion are explored using the example of responses to domestic violence. It is suggested that such an approach could be fruitful as a basis for future international dialogue concerning social work ethics.