Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in addressing development challenges

Volunteer Groups take the floor at meetings held around the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations

Volunteer Groups advocated for the integration of volunteerism in the post-2015 development agenda by speaking at two meetings held around the January session of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations.

On 16 January 2015, Msphoto-3 pw350. Nancy Nyambura Wagi Maina, VSO Jitolee, spoke as a panelist on behalf of Volunteer Groups at the Stakeholder Preparatory Forum for the post-2015 development agenda negotiations, held at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

The Forum, organized by a Steering Committee representing Major Groups and other stakeholders, facilitated by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) and the UN Department for Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA-DSD), was held two days ahead of the first session of the negotiations. 

In her statement, she highlighted that development needs people's participation and ownership if it is to make a real difference in their lives, and  recalled that volunteering plays an important role in service delivery, reaching the marginalized, manpower development and disaster response and preparedness. She also emphasized that beyond its immediate contribution, the impact of volunteering reaches much further and enhances sustainability of development outcomes in the true sense of the word. She concluded her speech saying that if we really want to deliver on the SDGs in a way that makes a difference in the lives of all people making up their society, countries will need to further tap into volunteerism as a mechanism to leverage the energy and local expertise of their populations.

The Forum hosted approximately 400 participants from UN Member States, UN System entities and stakeholders from civil society and the private sector. Forum panelists, moderators and discussants comprised civil society representatives from all continents and high level delegates from Member States, including the two co-facilitators of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations, from the Republic of Kenya and the Republic of Ireland, as well as the president of UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC).

In his welcome speech, H.E. Ambassador Macharia Kamau, Permanent Representative of Kenya to the United Nations and co-facilitator of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations, encouraged civil society to be engaged, to be flexible and to be strategic throughout the negotiations. Mr. Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Interagency Affairs, UN DESA, stated that representatives of civil society have a critical role in keeping Member States and the UN focused on eradicating poverty.

Civil society representatives appreciated the format of the Forum and requested the co-facilitators and Member States "to consider future editions of this Forum as the intergovernmental process makes progress".

On 21 January 2015, Mr. Mwangi Waituru, VSO Jitolee, spoke as a panelist on behalf of Volunteer Groups at an interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders organized by the co-facilitators of the post-2015 process, H.E. Ambassador Macharia Kamau (Kenya) and H.E. Ambassador David Donoghue (Ireland). The dialogue was part of the January stocktaking session of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda.

Mr. Waituru reinforced the key messages presented at the Stakeholder Preparatory Forum and provided feedback from panels of community volunteers in Africa that listened to testimonials in poverty hearings. He also spoke on the need for people participation in framing the Means of Implementation for the new agenda. The statements delivered will be available in full online. Mr. Waituru's 5 minute speech is available in this video from 1:41:25 to 1:47:09.

UNV's op-ed envisages the role of volunteers in the new Sustainable Development framework

What role can volunteers play to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals? In an op-ed published on Devex.com, UNV's Executive Coordinator frames the challenges and opportunities for volunteerism in the post-2015 agenda.

"Volunteerism is an old and yet new approach to development, based on people participation, which applies to all countries - 'developing' and 'developed' - in a universal manner. Strengthening volunteer engagement for SDG delivery and enabling volunteer organizations to mobilize volunteers and facilitate volunteer opportunities bears an enormous potential to achieve a truly transformational agenda", says Mr Dictus, UNV's Executive Coordinator.

However, he adds, "while volunteers donate their work, enabling volunteerism needs an investment for people to channel their contribution into meaningful engagement opportunities aligned with wider development efforts. A recent Australian study demonstrates that the contribution of volunteers is quite systematically underestimated, and values the Return on Investment at least 4:1 (for every dollar invested, the financial value of the result is at least 4 dollars)".

"Today's societies need to invent new opportunities for dialogue to co-develop solutions to address development challenges. As Einstein put it, "we can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.""

Read the full article

UNV brokers collaboration between the UN and the private sector on corporate volunteering

IVD 2014 UNV 0106-w250On International Volunteer Day 2014, UNV gathered stakeholders from the private sector and UN officials at the UN Headquarters in New York to launch the commitment of IMPACT 2030 in supporting the implementation of the post-2015 agenda through corporate volunteering. IMPACT 2030 is a global coalition of private sector leaders and other stakeholders aiming to expand and encourage corporate and employee volunteering activities to help achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Photo: Ms Amina J. Mohammed (third from left), UN Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning, receives the IMPACT 2030 Declaration from IMPACT 2030, UNV and stakeholders representatives during the UNV event on International Volunteer Day 2014 at UN Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber. (UNV/Joel Sheakoski, 2014)

Experience with the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has revealed the need for a multi-stakeholder partnership, including with the private sector, for sustainable development and for tackling emerging development challenges. This is reflected into two UN General Assembly Resolutions (66/67 and 67/138) which encourage the UN to further engage with the private sector through the expansion of corporate volunteering and employee volunteer activities.

IVD 2014 UNV 0027-cut w250"Corporate volunteering initiatives are excellent enablers to make global sustainable development work, and to ensure that social corporate responsibility is counted as a major contributor to this global endeavour", said Richard Dictus, UNV's Executive Coordinator. He also stated that partnering with corporate private sector and philanthropic foundations is key to unlocking essential and innovative partnerships for volunteerism, with special reference to two UNV initiatives bearing enormous potential for collaboration: the UN Online Volunteering service and the placement of corporate volunteers in the UN system. (Watch full speech at 8'36'' of the video of the event)

Photo: Mr Richard Dictus, UNV's Executive Coordinator, gives his opening statement at the UNV event on International Volunteer Day 2014 at UN Headquarters, Trusteeship Council Chamber (UNV/Joel Sheakoski, 2014)

The 10 Year Plan of Action to integrate volunteering in peace and development in the next decade and beyond was presented to the audience as an opportunity to move volunteering from implementing the MDGs to shaping the SDGs. The over 200 participants were invited to contribute their views as part of the ongoing consultations that are being held by UNV.

IMPACT 2030 was introduced by Mr Grady Lee, Chair of the IMPACT 2030 Executive Committee and Co-Founder of Corps-Giving/RockCorps, and Ms Sue Stephenson, Vice Chair of the IMPACT 2030 Executive Committee and Vice-President of Community Footprints, the CSR programme of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Founding partners include The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, IBM Corporation, SAP SE, UPS, Perkins Coie, and Waggener Edstrom Communications. Collaborating partners include Google, Cemex, Telefonica, SingTel, and Ball Corporation; a network of stakeholders will be established around the world.

The leadership of IMPACT 2030 formally presented its Declaration to the United Nations, represented by Ms Amina J. Mohammed, UN Secretary-General's Special Advisor on Post-2015 Development Planning. Each IMPACT 2030 partner committed to applying its employee volunteer actions towards one or more of the SDGs in the form of capacity building and civic engagement.

Welcoming the Declaration as a positive sign of an increased commitment of the private sector in addressing the challenges of the post-2015 framework, Ms Mohammed recognized corporate volunteering as an additional contribution to localizing the new agenda through the specific expertise it brings. She closed the event acknowledging the synergy of the IMPACT 2030 Declaration with other calls from different stakeholders, which demand more inclusive dialogue spaces for the Post-2015 Development Agenda to be truly transformational, and encouraging the private sector to continue its engagement in shaping the agenda. (Watch full speech at approx 2h52' of the video of the event)

Further information about the UNV event

Making change happen: corporate volunteers’ impact in sustainable development

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On 5 December 2014, at the United Nations Headquarters in New York UNV celebrated the power and potential of corporate volunteering to better the world

The United Nations International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (IVD), observed every 5 December, was established by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 40/212 of 17 December 1985. IVD is to commend volunteerism in all its facets and to pay a special tribute to people's participation in making a difference locally, nationally and globally.

To mark IVD 2014 in New York, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme gathered a group of volunteers, corporate volunteering actors, volunteer-involving organizations, and other stakeholders to bring to the attention of the international community the commitment of private sector to positively impact the implementation of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda through corporate volunteering.

Focusing on the recognition and celebration of corporate citizens' participation and engagement in making a difference through corporate volunteering, the event launched IMPACT 2030, a global collaboration between the United Nations (UN) and the private sector created to mobilize corporate volunteers to directly and substantially contribute to achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.

Watch the video of the event  |  Read the IMPACT2030 Declaration

Volunteerism prominently featured in UN Secretary-General’s Report on post-2015 agenda

20141204 unsg2 w250‘As we seek to build capacities and to help the new agenda to take root, volunteerism can be another powerful and cross-cutting means of implementation. Volunteerism can help to expand and mobilize constituencies, and to engage people in national planning and implementation for sustainable development goals. And volunteer groups can help to localize the new agenda by providing new spaces of interaction between governments and people for concrete and scalable actions.’ (The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet, p. 36, para 131)  

With these words, the UN Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda acknowledges and recognizes the contribution of volunteers and volunteerism to development, and underlines the role volunteer groups can play in the sustainable development agenda.  This is a remarkable achievement by the global volunteer community as it positions volunteerism in the ongoing debate about the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly at national and local level.  

Together with the Open Working Group’s proposal for SDGs, this report will be a key background document for the negotiations among member states starting in January 2015.

Policy-makers from Southern African countries and civil society engage to position volunteers as key actors to achieve new development goals

20141122 Civicus 0791 w250Over 150 participants, including 20 Members of Parliament from Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa and Zambia, former Ministers, Regional Directors, international and community volunteers and civil society members, discussed pathways to participation in the new sustainable development framework in a workshop organized jointly by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO), FK Norway and the Volunteer Council South Africa. The workshop was part of the 2014 Civicus International Civil Society Week held in Johannesburg, South Africa, on 19–24 November 2014.

Lima Declaration calls for Member States to recognize volunteerism in the post-2015 framework

IMG 4290 p w250The International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum) of International Volunteer Cooperation Organisations (IVCO) closed today its annual Conference in Lima, Peru, with a Declaration calling for Member States to recognize volunteer groups as key partners and stakeholders of the post-2015 framework and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The Declaration also calls for ensuring an active role for citizens, including volunteers, in any accountability mechanism to monitor progress towards the SDGs; and affirms that "the full potential of volunteers to contribute to the achievement of the SDGs can be unlocked only by an SDG framework that explicitly recognizes and supports volunteerism". An Appendix to the Declaration details specific possible contributions to the proposed SDG framework.

In the picture: Chris Eaton, Executive Director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and new Chair of Forum, signs the Lima Declaration on behalf of WUSC (James O'Brien/VSO, 2014)

People’s engagement: the key to sustainable development

The experience gathered through the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals demonstrated that Governments alone cannot achieve sustainable development. Drawing on the assets and strengths of different actors, partnerships with civil society can facilitate participation and voluntary engagement, which in turn strengthen ownership, build individual capacity and help address challenges in a sustainable way.  

This is the main message from the high-level global meeting which concluded the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) Dialogues on the implementation of the post-2015 agenda which focus on the theme of ‘Partnerships with Civil Society’.  The UN Volunteers (UNV) programme co-leads these dialogues together with the United Nations Populations Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC) and the United Nations Non-governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS).  

RD photo p w250Richard Dictus, UNV Executive Coordinator, stressed in his speech at the high-level event that “the engagement of civil society in the post-2015 agenda needs to be articulated around three issues, notably space, capacity as well as trust and confidence. To deliver on a complex agenda, which spans across environmental, social and economic issues, inclusive opportunities need to be developed for all actors to engage in a complementary way and according to their area of expertise.” He also added that “volunteerism is a way to localize the Sustainable Development Goals because it provides new spaces of interaction between governments and people for concrete and scalable actions." He challenged participants to think outside the box and ensure that they are ready to explore new forms of engagement based on mutual accountability, including through leveraging new technologies.  

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Your voluntary engagement might sometimes go unnoticed to the world, but your actions count in the communities that have benefited from your hard work, and they certainly count to us.

Recognising the role of volunteers in achieving the Millennium Development Goals