Agenda 2030 adopted - now it's time for volunteer action!

E-SDG-Poster A4 noc w250On 25 September 2015, the 2030 agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) became a reality.

There was great excitement in New York over the adoption of the new 2030 agenda during the post-2015 Sustainable Development Summit. Pope Francis, Malala Yousafzai with a group of girls from different countries, Heads of State from around the globe, civil society representatives and ordinary citizens witnessed the adoption of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that will focus sustainable development policies around the world in the next 15 years. Welcoming the new agenda, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon stressed that the true test of commitment to the new goals will be implementation, and called for a renewed global partnership (video).

Critical voices were also heard: Amnesty International's Secretary General Salil Shetty, for instance, urged the world community to address counterproductive policies and practices that exacerbate discrepancies and foster insecurity, if the promises of the new agenda are to be kept (video).

Thanks to the collective efforts of volunteer organizations, volunteer groups are mentioned as stakeholders in their own right in the Summit Outcome Document in the context of the means of implementation for the agenda. Read why volunteering matters for the SDGs and what roles volunteers can play in the new framework.

What is the unique contribution of volunteering to international development?

VSO and the Institute of Development Studies are delighted to announce the publication of the IDS Bulletin* 'What is the unique contribution of volunteering to international development?', based on the research findings from the Valuing Volunteering research.

It reviews the findings from Valuing Volunteering in the context of broader academic debates on these issues and covers a variety of different themes such as; what's different about how volunteers work, the impact of politics and ethnicity on volunteering, the dynamics of formal and informal volunteering, and, how participatory practice can strengthen the role of volunteering in sustainable development.

You can download the full Bulletin or individual chapters at: From January 2016 all Bulletin articles will be open access.

One of the peer reviewers for the Bulletin, Professor Matt Baillie Smith, has also written a blog post, 'Volunteering for Development Research: time for a rethink,' to coincide with its publication, as part of the blog series on the IDS website. Please visit the IDS website to read Matt's post and contributions from our other bloggers.

* The IDS Bulletins are academic journals that bring together the latest thinking and research on development issues, to inform the work of development practitioners, policy makers and researchers. The Bulletin is the flagship publication of the Institute of Development Studies.

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".

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)

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.

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.