Together with its partners, UNV Turkey supported the UNDG post-2015 national consultations and facilitated stakeholder engagement to increase recognition and integration of volunteerism in national policies and discussions.
The consultation process was led by the Office of the UN Resident Coordinator in cooperation with the UNV National Coordinator recruited specifically to support the UN system in this endeavor. The Ministry of Development contributed to the process by supporting regional meetings through its Regional Development Agencies (RDAs).
The national consultations report "Development Agenda of Turkey for Post-2015" contributes to the implementation of a people-centred approach to development and to increasingly engage the peoples of the world, since it is clear that development can only be achieved and sustained through participation of all societies and communities.
The concept of volunteerism is mentioned in the report on page 73: "young people should be provided with informatics entrepreneurship, technology and leadership and volunteerism training to prepare them better for life."
The themes discussed in the consultations were those identified in the outcome document of the Rio+20 "The Future We Want'' (inequalities, health, education, growth and employment, environmental sustainability, food security and nutrition, governance, conflict and fragility, and population dynamics) plus a tenth one: "Early childhood development". Leadership on each theme was entrusted to a UN agency in line with its respective mandate.
In cooperation with UNV Turkey, the Turkish GSM-Youth Services Centre organized the Life-long Volunteering Conference in recognition of volunteering as a life-long learning tool and to promote an enabling environment and infrastructure for youth volunteering. More than 100 representatives of volunteer organizations and the public sector met in Ankara in June 2013, voicing concerns and proposals regarding volunteering in the Turkish national context. The volunteering practitioners participated in many interactive sessions to bring forward their concerns and collect their inputs.
Conference participants developed a joint declaration highlighting the importance of volunteering in tackling the emerging issues prioritized during the post-2015 National Consultations in Turkey. The declaration "Volunteering for the World We Want" underlines five areas where volunteering can make a powerful contribution: social inequalities, edu-cation and youth employment, personal development, active citizen participation and local development. The document cites: "As the new development framework, which will influence the lives of young people for the coming decades, takes shape, we foresee a future in which all individuals embrace a shared com-mitment to voluntarily contribute, within their capacity and regardless of their background, to the pursuit of the common good and to the ide-als of harmony and peace."
Cem in Istanbul: One person, one step
Cem demonstrates how the volunteerism can bring about self-transformation in one person, which leads to multiplier effects among peers in the larger community.
“How can you be a good person although you come from Istanbul?” It was an innocent enough question posed by a little girl to Cem Arslan (23) during a math class in 2010, but it was a turning point in his life. Cem was then a volunteer teaching at a local school in eastern Turkey. The girl’s question, according to Cem, not only encapsulated the cultural and social prejudices of people in the east and the west of Turkey towards each other, but, also mirrored his own deeply-rooted ones.
Cem’s volunteering history began early as a high school student in 2005, when he was a group leader for disabled children from the Netherlands who were performing in Istanbul. It was however his teaching experience in eastern Turkey which opened his eyes to the existing personal prejudiced beliefs. It was time of profound personal growth and of realization of his misguided beliefs. “I realized I had to do my bit to change those perceptions. I promised to the girl and her family to tell their story and about the life in the East to everyone I meet, in order to break their misconceptions,” Cem explains.
One way by which he has kept this promise since is by dedicating himself to bring people together through volunteering. Cem is now a firm believer that volunteering changes people because it provides opportunities to see another as an “equal” rather than “the other”. When the eastern province of Van was affected by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake in 2011, Cem mobilized a group of friends in Istanbul to collect hundreds of gifts, packed in shoeboxes, to donate to the children in the affected areas.
Cem started another initiative in his university in 2012, Ozyegin University in Istanbul, to mobilize students for community action by matching them with local civil society organizations. Over 400 volunteers — mainly students and a few staff members — have since been mobilized to support 13 local groups. This initiative has clocked in over 5000 hours of volunteering, and is beginning to see multiplier effects among Cem’s peers. Many who have participated have moved forward to create their own volunteer projects. One of his peers, for example, is helping the university promote education for disadvantaged children in rural areas.
Cem is working as a UN Volunteer in Istanbul with a UNDP-Cisco programme which provides ICT education to enhance employment opportunities for disadvantaged youth. He coordinates more than 80 volunteer trainers across the country within the Cisco Academy network.