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

IAVE issues call to action to ensure that volunteering is seen as a strategic resource to achieve the SDGs

At its ongoing 23rd World Volunteer Conference on “Volunteering, Today’s Imperative”, the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) calls on governments at all levels, NGOs and the business community to work together to ensure that volunteering and the role of volunteer groups are:

  • prominently included in all relevant United Nations resolutions and reports related to the Post-2015 Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs);
  • stated as an integral part of all global, national and local action plans supporting the SDGs, and included in any measurement and accountability mechanisms established to monitor progress achieving the SDGs; and
  • a priority for investment to strengthen and maximize the impact of volunteering as a form of civic engagement, which fosters a sense of responsibility for and connection with people and the planet.

Read the Call to Action  |  Endorse the Call to Action  |  IAVE 23rd World Volunteer Conference website

United Nations high level leadership publicly acknowledge volunteers’ contribution to sustainable development

The President of the UN General Assembly called for recognition of volunteerism at the High-level Stocktaking event on the Post-2015 Development Agenda: Contributions to the Secretary-General's Synthesis Report. This event was organized by the outgoing President of the UN General Assembly, H.E. Mr. John W. Ashe, to provide the Secretary-General, member states, UN agencies and other stakeholders with a final moment of joint reflection, review and assessment of all inputs received through the different streams of the post-2015 process.

20140912 SGandPGA w250In the presence of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and of senior executives from several UN agencies, the President of the UN General Assembly (PGA) publicly acknowledged in his opening address the role of volunteers and their contributions to sustainable development by saying: "...Policy makers should explore new ways of engaging civil society in the design of development and other policies. To ensure wide "buy-in" of the post-2015 development process, we have to provide opportunities for people to exercise their right to be included in decision-making and build an inclusive approach for implementation. Attention also needs to be paid to volunteers and community organizations/cooperatives who can make significant contributions to implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteering allows people to work side-by-side on the post-2015 agenda and is integral to participatory democracy. Volunteerism needs to be recognized by local authorities and at different levels." (see opening session video at 8':17'' or read the Statement)

At the end of his term, Ambassador Ashe is leaving behind a documented legacy of the most critical inputs that have emerged during the post-2015 process. The high-level event aimed to inform the Synthesis Report that the Secretary-General will deliver by end of this year for discussion by the UN General Assembly.

AdjmalPGA w250The day before, Adjmal Dulloo, a volunteer representing the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (FORUM), had given a speech on behalf of the Post-2015 Volunteering Working Group at the Interactive Meeting between Civil Society and Member States, organized by GA President Ashe as a prelude of the High-level stocktaking event.

In his speech, Mr Dulloo highlighted the important role that volunteers can play in contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and stressed that local bodies, national governments and international policy-makers need to recognize the contributions of volunteers to sustainable development. He also called on the Secretary-General to include volunteerism in his synthesis report as a complementary means of implementation.

UNV-VSA panel at SIDS conference agrees: volunteerism strengthens partnerships to achieve sustainable development goals

UNV VSA panel SIDS Apia Samoa 20140902Speakers on the panel discussion jointly hosted by UNV and the Volunteer Service Abroad (New Zealand) in Apia, Samoa, agreed that volunteerism strengthens partnerships aimed at achieving sustainable development goals. The panel discussion was held during the Third Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), which drew more than 3,000 participants to the South Pacific and whose outcome document recognizes the relevance of civil society role in sustainable development.

SIDS are a group of small island countries that face particular challenges for sustainable development in view of their unique and particular vulnerabilities to the rising sea levels caused by climate change. The SIDS Conference acknowledged in its outcome document the need for broad-based participation and capacity development for the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), recognizing the relevance of civil society's role.

Two small but significant achievements towards advancing the integration of volunteerism in development policies and programmes were reached during preparatory regional fora of Youth and of Major Groups and other stakeholders, where volunteerism was recognized in their respective outcome documents.

During the panel discussion, held on 3 September 2014, speakers emphasized that volunteering is an effective avenue for creating constructive partnerships between nations, communities and individuals and between governments, civil society and the private sector. They also underlined that the role volunteerism plays in making development genuinely people-centred should be properly recognized.

"Volunteerism has a critical role in providing people and communities a possibility to directly engage in their own development and at the same time have on impact on the global development results," says panelist Ulla Gronlund (Finland), UNV Programme Officer in Fiji.

Civil society supports volunteer role for development after 2015

Less than 500 days ahead of the new development agenda, the 65th UN DPI/NGO Conference on "2015 and beyond: our action agenda" (New York, 27-29 August 2014) gathered thousands of civil society partners from all over the world and provided them with a timely opportunity to deliver a collective statement on the proposed Sustainable Development Goals before the start of the negotiations later this month.

The strong presence of volunteer-involving organizations (VIOs) throughout the Conference clearly impacted its Final Declaration which calls on governments to “ensure that volunteerism and citizen engagement are incorporated in all global, national and local action plans for implementation of sustainable development and human well-being, to commit to the creation of an enabling environment for citizen engagement and voluntary action” and highlights that “it will be crucial that the voices and volunteer actions of ordinary people be at the very heart of accountability structures”.

Shaping the role of volunteerism in the next decade: UNV workshop at the 65th UN DPI/NGO Conference 29.8.2014

 MG 4622 large 250The new development agenda is less than 500 days ahead. At the UNV workshop on "Volunteering post-2015: telling the story of people's engagement", UNV and partner NGOs - the Post-2015 Volunteering Working Group, the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (FORUM/IVCO) and VSO - addressed the rationale and the opportunities for civil society to be an active player in the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Along with positioning the relevance of volunteering in the context of the post-2015 agenda, the workshop launched a global survey on a 10-year plan of action that integrates volunteering in peace and development in the next decade. The Zero Draft of this plan has been put together by UNV on mandate by the UN General Assembly.

The UNV workshop was part of the 65th UN DPI/NGO Conference on "2015 and beyond: our action agenda" (New York, 27-29 August 2014), the last opportunity for NGOs to deliver a collective statement on the proposed Sustainable Development Goals before the start of the negotiations in September 2014. The strong presence of volunteer-involving organizations (VIOs) throughout the Conference, active under the umbrella of the post-2015 Volunteering Working Group, influenced the Conference Declaration which includes important references to the role of volunteerism, participation and civic engagement for development after 2015.

500 days, 500 ways: UNV partners with VIOs to recognize volunteerism in the 500 days to the MDGs deadline

500ways-logoAugust 18, 2014, marked the 500 day milestone until the target date to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

To celebrate the event and to recognize volunteers contribution to development, UNV, VSO International, IAVE, VSA, AVI and other partners launched the 500 days, 500 ways campaign, which aims to give visibility to the action of volunteers for peace and development by featuring a volunteer story per day until 31 December 2015.

Volunteering helps attain development objectives in a sustainable way, because it durably influences the way people relate to their communities. It also provides opportunities for wider participation in development processes, including for those otherwise marginalized and excluded, and offers volunteers real-life experience as an additional asset.

UNV is therefore actively advocating for the integration of volunteerism in the new set of development goals that will succeed the MDGs, together with partner VIOs active in the post-2015 Volunteering Working Group.

All-MDGs thumbBy the way: did you know that the MDG icons, transcending language and culture and representing global symbols of the eight MDGs, were designed by a UN Volunteer?
Dirk Hegmanns (Germany) co-won the UNDP Administrator's Innovation and Commitment Award in 2005 for his design work as part of an MDG outreach campaign in Brazil.

Why volunteers are central to achieving sustainable development

Devex-screenshot w200Volunteers and volunteer groups need to be included in the creation and implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals if these are to be truly people-centric, writes Kate Cotton, global adviser, volunteering for development at the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). "This will in turn help to contribute to solutions that are sustainable and put people at the center of development cooperation," she notes. Read the full article

VSO is a member of the post-2015 Volunteer Working Group, established in 2013 following a dedicated UN Volunteers stakeholder meeting and the IVCO Conference. This Group aims to support the integration of volunteerism as an enabling factor for the implementation of the sustainable development goals.

The Post-2015 Volunteer Working Group has recently circulated to UN Member States an open letter that calls for the recognition of volunteer groups in development cooperation, and advocates for the inclusion of participation and citizen-led engagement in the post-2015 agenda. The Volunteer Group also proposed amendments to the Open Working Group's Zero Draft of the SDGs for Member States' consideration.

Volunteering for sustainable development: strengthening accountability of the post-2015 framework through citizen engagement

UNV side event at HLPF 3 July 2014On 3 July 2014, UNV hosted a side event to the 2nd meeting of the High Level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development on "Volunteer Action Counts for Sustainable Development: How to strengthen accountability of the post-2015 framework through citizen engagement". The event was organized in collaboration with VSO and IAVE, who participated together with a national UN volunteer from Haiti, and the Youth Volunteering Focal Point for Colombia Joven, a Presidential Programme of Colombia.

The discussion concerned measures to integrate volunteerism as a form of civic engagement at local level in the new sustainable development framework, and explored opportunities to strengthen its overall accountability through enhanced multi-stakeholder partnerships at national level.

Side event flyer and concept note - Twitter: #volunteerism #post2015 #HLPF