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

Volunteers and volunteer groups mentioned in the Zero Draft of the outcome document of the post-2015 UN summit

zerodraftThe Zero Draft of the outcome document of the UN Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, recently released by the President of the UN General Assembly, contains two mentions of volunteers and voluntary groups.

This is an important achievement of volunteer groups, who have taken an increasingly active role in positioning volunteerism in the new agenda and given statements at every interactive dialogue held as part of the intergovernmental negotiations for the post-2015 agenda.

While governments remain the main responsible for achieving the agenda, the Zero Draft underlines the importance of upscaling multi-stakeholder collaboration to ensure that implementation leaves no one behind. Participatory and inclusive approaches should however be further stressed.

The document also calls for the development of qualitative indicators that allow measuring achievements for all population groups, including the most vulnerable, in all geographical areas, and for strengthening statistical and other related capacities to do so. Language on action at local level should be strengthened for the agenda to take root.

"Ours can be the first generation to succeed in ending poverty; just as we are the last to have a chance of saving the planet."

The draft outcome document, entitled 'Transforming our world by 2030 - a new agenda for global action', recalls the foundations of the United Nations and compares the adoption of the post-2015 agenda to the adoption of the UN Charter 70 years ago, which responded to the call of "We the peoples". In fact, the document is referred to as a "charter for people and planet in the twenty-first century".

Related articles: Ambitious and gender focussed: VSO's response to first draft of Sustainable Development GoalsBeing ambitious with SDGs, still time to get it right | Draft SDGs are step in the right direction

UNV and volunteer groups will continue positioning volunteerism in the new agenda at the next key post-2015 events:

Volunteer Groups call for a participatory approach to SDGs follow-up & review

The fifth session of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda (New York, USA, 18-22 May 2015) focused on how to organize the follow-up and review of the agenda and its goals, including the role of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF). The UN Technical Support Team (TST) shared a document listing a number of existing review mechanisms. In continuity with the presence of volunteer representatives throughout the negotiation sessions, Volunteer Groups made a statement at the interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders.

In view of the next session in June, The Zero Draft of the post-2015 development agenda will be released early June 2015. VIOs will have the possibility to comment and further position volunteering.

samuel  mensah baah speakingInteractive dialogue with Major Groups and other stakeholders

Mr. Samuel Mensah-Baah, VSO Regional Director for West and Central Africa, spoke on behalf of Volunteer Groups and called on the UN system and Member States to adopt a "strong participatory, bottom up approach to review & follow-up" of the post-2015 framework and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). He stated that "in this respect, the UN and Member States should embrace the powerful and practical role that Volunteers, Civil Societies and Active Citizens can and do play as conveners of people's participation, especially extending development to the hard to reach and often unaccounted populations in remote parts of the world." (Mr. Mensah-Baah's full statement)

Take volunteer action for the SDGs and compete in the Peoples’ Voices Challenge!

peoplesvoices10-300x101The People's voices challenge is the new platform for the Global Conversation on the post-2015 agenda. Building on the experience of MY World and the wider post-2015 dialogues, this initiative aims to engage people in a more active way towards the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In particular, it calls for using the peoples' voices collected so far to remind world leaders and policy-makers what's at stake, and for taking action in preparation for the implementation of the SDGs. Volunteering is one of these actions!

The initiative also features a number of awards, some of which can be of special interest for volunteers: one is to honor longstanding contributions to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) through volunteer action, others focus on best communications and outreach efforts regarding the MDGs and the Global Conversation.

Therefore take action! Think about ways to communicate the new SDGs and foster citizen engagement, including volunteer action, in planning, implementing and monitoring the goals. You can use the data collected from the Global Conversation to present people's voices to decision-makers and the general public.

Join the competition for the people’s voices award in the dedicated category for volunteerism, or on best communications and outreach efforts regarding the MDGs and the Global Conversation.

UNV supports the People's voices challenge as a strategic partner of the UN Millennium Campaign.

German VIOs ask their Government to support positioning of volunteerism in the post-2015 agenda

In a letter addressed to the German Federal Chancellor Mrs Angela Merkel, the German Association for Learning and Helping Overseas (Arbeitskreis Lernen und Helfen in Übersee e.V.) asked its Government to support the views on volunteerism and volunteer groups recently expressed by the UN Secretary-General in the current negotiations on the post-2015 agenda. In his recent Synthesis Report on the post-2015 agenda, Mr Ban Ki-Moon has in fact recognized volunteerism as a "powerful and cross-cutting means of implementation" that can help "to expand and mobilise constituencies, and to engage people in national planning and implementation for sustainable development goals", and volunteer groups as able to "help to localize the new agenda by providing new spaces of interaction between governments and people for concrete and scalable actions".

The letter specifically requests the German Government to back these statements, both at national and international level, in the current negotiations phase taking place until July 2015. It also requests to back it up later on in the next phases of sustainable development goals (SDGs) planning, implementation and monitoring. The ultimate aim of this effort would be to strengthen global civil society change processes by acting in solidarity, as a way to implement a new universal agenda that seeks to eliminate poverty and combat inequality in every country.

Read the letter: in English | in German (original text)

The German Association for Learning and Helping Overseas (Arbeitskreis Lernen und Helfen in Übersee e.V., AKLHÜ) counts over 70 member organizations. This letter follows a similar initiative by the Kenya VIO Network, equally aiming at advocating for a new role for volunteers and volunteer groups in the post-2015 agenda with and through their government, to ultimately influence the outcomes of the ongoing intergovernmental negotiations and position volunteerism as a key mechanism for national SDG plans.

UNV and its partners have developed a number of tools that VIOs can draw from to develop their asks and positions. These are available, along with other relevant related resources, in the Resources section of this website.

Volunteer Groups ask Member States to look beyond traditional means of implementation to support people-led approaches to development

The fourth session of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda (New York, USA, 21-24 April 2015) focused on the means of implementation and global partnership for development. The session also hosted discussions about aligning the Financing for Development (FfD) process with the wider post-2015 process.

Representatives of Volunteer involving Organizations (ViOs) gathered in New York to participate in the April negotiations sessions and to meet in a side event on "The power of volunteerism as a cross-cutting means of implementation". The side event was organized by several members of the post-2015 Volunteering Working Group: CUSO International, the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (FORUM), Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) and the UN Volunteers (UNV) programme.

Volunteers stress the need for participatory and gender-balanced SDG monitoring

The third session of the intergovernmental negotiations on the post-2015 development agenda (New York, USA, 23-27 March 2015) focused on the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and their targets.

20150325 113535 Blanken w250As in the previous sessions of the negotiations, a representative of a volunteer-involving organization spoke at the interactive dialogue with Major Groups and other Stakeholders during the slot reserved for Volunteer Groups. Ms Elles Blanken, from Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), shared her perspective as a volunteer building capacity on gender equality in Papua New Guinea. Ms Blanken stressed the need for monitoring the SDGs through participatory processes, providing access to women as experts of their livelihoods. She also called on Member States to include qualitative measures that can document transformative change, with particular regard to gender issues: "... the collection and analysis of data must ensure participation of women, as well as the active citizens and civil society, including volunteers such as myself, that work closest to them. When measuring change, we should not only focus on numbers, but also – and maybe even more so – on the actual transformative change in communities, and in women's lives", she stated. "Qualitative indicators are challenging, but we cannot truly assess progress without them. Let's measure what is needed, so that we do not fall into the trap of just doing what is measurable." (Read Ms Blanken's full speech)

Volunteering to advance gender equality. New perspectives for the post-2015 agenda

CSW59 3961 c400Volunteerism can widen spaces for voice and action within the development process, including for young women and girls.

An expert panel discussion, organized by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme on the margins of the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59), explored the role of volunteerism in enhancing the accountability of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and advance gender equality. Representatives from UN agencies, Member States and volunteer-involving organizations focused on how volunteerism can help monitoring progress made affecting women's lives and empowering women through increased opportunities for civic engagement.

In the picture (left to right): A. Kabagabo, Regional Director for the Africa Region, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS); M. Toomey, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign; R. Kalapurakal, Deputy Executive Coordinator of UNVMinister R.J. Krapp, Head of Department for Economic and Financial Affairs at the Permanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations; M. Kovacevic, Chief of Statistics at the Human Development Report Office, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (UNV/Joel Sheakoski, 2015)

Volunteering can help rolling out large scale data collection efforts, and is also a way to actively engage women of all socio-economic backgrounds in participatory processes at local level. Such participation in local level planning, decision making and monitoring influences the way women position themselves in the public sphere, leveraging their voices and enlarging the spaces where they can act. Recent advances in technology also allow new forms of citizen action, combining onsite and online volunteering with unprecedented opportunities to enhance, aggregate and visualize data as well as share information about the results of volunteer action.

Event highlights

Volunteers ask to be a named partner in development

During the February session of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations, the post-2015 Volunteering Working Group reiterated at different meetings its request for the recognition of volunteerism and volunteer groups in the SDG Declaration.

2015-02-19-Interactive-dialogue w300On 19 February 2015, the co-facilitators of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations (Permanent Representatives of Ireland and Kenya) held an interactive dialogue with major groups and other stakeholders, which was very well attended by numerous civil society organizations, Member States and the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on Post-2015 Development Planning, Ms. Amina Mohammed. The February session of the negotiations focused on the elements to be included in the Declaration introducing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and providing the overarching vision for global development in the next 15 years.

Based on an Elements Paper on the Declaration circulated by the co-facilitators, the preliminary summary of stakeholder reactions included a strong reference to volunteer groups. It stated that "people's participation is a crucial means of implementation. Meaningful and equitable participation of CSOs and other stakeholders is necessary for formal mechanisms for planning, implementation and monitoring. To achieve this, the Sustainable Development agenda must create an enabling environment that ensures the free, active and meaningful engagement of volunteer groups, civil society and the private sector. Inclusive multi-stakeholder partnerships must be a key feature of implementation at all levels."

2015-02-21 OBrien speaking w300In his speech during the interactive dialogue, Mr. James O'Brien, a VSO Ireland member and Chair of the post-2015 Volunteering Working Group, requested to include volunteer groups as a named partner in development cooperation within the post-2015 Declaration. He called for a Declaration that recognizes and supports volunteerism because the post-2015 agenda is an opportunity to create an enabling environment at all levels to ensure that the work of volunteers has the greatest possible impact on sustainable development. Full speech - Irish Times article

In fact, the Secretary-General Synthesis Report refers to volunteerism in the context of investments to scale up capacities for sustainable development, and positions volunteerism as a cross-cutting means of implementation (The road to dignity by 2030: ending poverty, transforming all lives and protecting the planet, p. 36, para 131). Japan endorsed this vision by stating that it "does not support the widespread perception that the term Means of Implementation only means finance and technology. In our view the most important part of means of implementation are the good policies and widest possible engagement of all stakeholders to form a true global partnership. Stakeholders are national and local governments, parliaments, private sector, civil society and volunteers..."