2015 State of the World's Volunteerism Report – Transforming Governance

About the report

The State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015 is the first global review of the power of volunteer voices to help improve the way people are governed. Drawing on evidence from countries as diverse as Brazil, Kenya, Lebanon and Bangladesh, the UN report shows how ordinary people are volunteering their time, energies and skills to improve the way they are governed and engaged at local, national and global levels. Better governance at every level is a pre-requisite for the success of the new set of targets for future international development, the Sustainable Development Goals, which are due to be agreed at the United Nations in September 2015.

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Volunteering today

More than 1 billion people volunteer globally, the majority of them working in their own countries. Many are in the forefront of efforts to improve the way they and their fellow citizens are governed and engaged - volunteers are playing a vital role in making governments worldwide more accountable and responsive to their citizens. They are working with governments and civil society to hold those in power to account, to represent the voices of those who are often left out of development decisions such as women, youth and marginalised groups. The end result is more inclusive - and ultimately more effective - development.

Watch volunteers in action here.

United Nations Volunteers

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development. UNV is active in around 130 countries every year. UNV, with Field Units in 86 countries, is represented worldwide through the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and reports to the UNDP Executive Board.

Volunteer stories

Learn more about how ordinary people are transforming governance: Volunteer stories from the 2015 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report.

Rural women’s network lobbies law-makers to change seed policy

In Chile, a network of rural and indigenous women has grown into a 10,000 member force for change that has influenced national policy on the patenting of seeds. The Asociación Nacional de Mujeres Rurales e Indígenas (ANAMURI) is made up of women volunteers from across the country. From local roots they have become skilled political influencers who have fought attempts to update laws on seed and plant patenting, arguing they would prevent them from planting strains of seeds they have used for generations. Their efforts proved successful when they persuaded legislators to reject a seed patenting bill in 2014.

In Chile, a network of rural and indigenous women has grown into a 10,000 member force for change that has influenced national policy on the patenting of seeds.

Volunteers lead the way in fighting corruption in local government

Brazil’s ‘Social Observatories’ are dynamic volunteer-led groups that monitor the spending of local authorities and root out corruption. They grew out of a case in Maringa in Southern Brazil where the municipal government misappropriated more than US$57 million in 2000. The Maringa Social Observatory was created to monitor all bids and expenditures by the city authorities. Its members are volunteers – lawyers, economists, business managers and students. Now the model has spread across Brazil where there are now more than 80 social observatories. According to Brazilian news reports they have collectively stopped the embezzling of close to US$100million from public coffers.

Guilherme Pimentel, campaign coordinator at Meu Rio, leads a team meeting.

Using crowdsourced information to monitor elections

Ushahidi is the ground-breaking crowd-sourced reporting tool developed to track violence after the 2007 elections in Kenya. A group of Kenyan bloggers built a platform allowing citizens to share information on human rights violations via text messages, tweets and an online form and have this information aggregated on a map. Within days, these individual witnesses had together compiled a more complete picture of the violence than any one organisation, helping to reveal atrocities and enable aid agencies to better respond. Since then, Ushahidi has been used in elections and crises around the world.

Ushahidi crowdsourcing platform - a people-centered approach to conflict transformation in Kenya.

Amending discriminatory nationality laws

In many countries in the Arab world, women married to foreign nationals are denied the right to pass on their nationality to their children. This causes untold hardship as their offspring are shut out of education, healthcare and social security and can face restrictions on employment and property ownership. Over the past two decades, a movement has grown, largely driven by volunteers, to change these discriminatory laws and support the victims. Spearheaded by the Beirut-based Collective for Research and Training on Development Action (CRTD), it has so far helped to change the law in Egypt, Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

Middle East and North Africa (Lebanon)
Lina About Habib, Executive Director of the Collective for Research and Training on Development - Action, at her office. Lina led the campaign to reform nationality rights across the Arab world.

Citizen voices change the law on violence against women

Volunteers from across India have played a major role in securing changes in the law on violence against women since the gang rape and murder of a woman student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012. Having set up a high level commission to review the laws and recommend changes, the government asked citizens to share their perspectives. In just two weeks, they received more than 80,000 submissions. In response, the Indian government moved quickly to pass several new laws on rape and create new courts to enable faster convictions.

Protestors gather outside Bangalore Town Hall on Sunday, December 30 demanding justice for Jyoti Singh in the wake of her rape and murder (Photo - Jim Ankan)

Scrutinizing labour practices in third world manufacturing

The collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in April 2013 killing more than 1,000 workers triggered a global outcry and huge pressure on the clothing industry to do more to protect its workers. Around the world, volunteers engaged in online campaigns and offline demonstrations. In response to the power of volunteer voices and aided by social and mainstream media, an Accord requiring independent safety inspections was developed. It has so far been signed by apparel corporations from more than 20 countries in Asia, Australia, Europe and North America including major European chains such as H&M and Zara.

Workers in a garment factory in West Rampura, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Grass roots activists monitor pollution to improve air quality reporting

Grass-roots activism on environmental issues in China has surged in the past two decades, much of it fuelled by volunteers. In cities across the country, local volunteers have mobilized to monitor smog levels, as part of a campaign urging the government to measure and disclose levels of dangerous smaller particulates that penetrate deeper into the lungs leading to a higher risk of cancer. Some Beijing residents have even attached their monitoring kits to kites. As a result of these efforts, the Chinese government has started to publish the smaller particulate measures and has committed to lower pollution levels by 2016.

People with face masks are seen in Beijing, China. 104 cities in China suffered from severe air pollution on Dec 7 2013, Beijing was among that hit the hardest.

Youth Acting in the Community

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One of the workers in a garment factory in West Rampura, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Volunteers in action

2015 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report

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You can download materials relevant to the 2015 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report below.

For the press release click here For the FAQ click here

Download Centre

Partners and UNV Field Offices can access a SWVR 2015 launch toolkit and ancillary materials below.

For the download centre click here