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

Financing for Development Conference closes with hooks for Volunteer Groups in implementing the post-2015 agenda

FfD3At the end of one week of negotiations, the Third International Conference on Financing for Development (FfD) adopted the Addis Ababa Action agenda. This document calls for "unlocking the transformative potential of people", and includes volunteers among the recognized stakeholders of the global partnership for sustainable development.

Although generic, this mention goes together with several hooks in the document regarding objectives for which the creative energy of volunteers will be crucial to achieve sustainable and inclusive outcomes. For example, behaviour change with regards to sustainable consumption is not likely to happen without grassroots awareness raising campaigns and non–formal education activities, which are most often carried out through local community volunteers (para 17). Volunteers are also precious for local level capacity building such as that needed in cities and settlements to adopt integrated policies and plans for disaster risk reduction (para 34).

At the FfD Conference, different representatives of Volunteer Groups participated to three side events:

In these contexts, they conveyed the message that traditional means of implementation such as financial aid and infrastructure development are "important but not sufficient" to bring about sustainable change. Volunteerism can complement them by facilitating the transformation of passive beneficiaries into empowered agents of change. They also stressed the importance to address common misconceptions about volunteers, maintaining that they are often undervalued as a resource and that they connect different realities both at national and at international level (North – South, South – South and South-North). The latter is particularly relevant for a universal agenda that is applicable in all countries and requires the energy and knowledge of all people.

The FfD Outcome Document provides an important reference for the Outcome Document of the September UN post-2015 Summit with regard to the means of implementation (MoI) and a revitalized global partnership for sustainable development of the post-2015 agenda and its goals.

As the clock ticks towards September, the final draft of the post-2015 Summit outcome document is being further discussed this and next week during the last two sessions of the post-2015 intergovernmental negotiations. Volunteer Groups will be there once again to keep positioning volunteerism in the final draft.

Volunteer Groups ask the UN to support effective engagement of all stakeholders in SDG progress review

At the 2015 meeting of the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), Volunteer Groups asked to be fully engaged as key HLPF partners and suggested ways to enable effective stakeholder engagement.  These requests are part of a Position Paper that Volunteer Groups submitted to the HLPF, along with a letter from the Chair of the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum), the Chair of the Post-2015 Volunteering Working Group and the World President of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE).

The Forum has met on 26 June-8 July in New York to debate on "Strengthening integration, implementation and review - the HLPF after 2015".

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.

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)