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..."

Mr. O'Brien represented volunteer groups also at a side event on 'Leaving no one behind: The perspectives of African Parliamentarians, Civil Society and Volunteer Groups for a transformative Post-2015 development agenda', held in New York on 18 February 2015.

The event, organized by Beyond2015, Participate, VSO, The Seed institute and others with support from UN-NGLS and UNV, was focused on conveying the African perspective to the post-2015 development agenda to make it truly transformative and inclusive. H.E. Ambassador Macharia Kamau, from Kenya, co-facilitator of the intergovernmental negotiations, attended the event and stated that the SDGs should have ambition, urgency, be transformative and universal, and that a paradigm shift is required to implement this agenda successfully. He stated that there are five key areas of importance, namely people, planet, prosperity, partnership and participation.

Speaking as a panellist, Mr. O'Brien presented the numerous critical and unique ways in which volunteering contributes to sustainable development. He called on Member States to include the support and recognition of volunteerism in the Declaration, and for volunteer groups to be included as a named partner in development in any list of actors, alongside civil society organizations, the private sector and others, noting that volunteers are not referenced in the current version of the Elements Paper.