Frequently Asked Questions

 June 2015


Q: What is the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015?

The State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015 is the first global review of the power of volunteer voices to help improve the way people are governed. Drawing on evidence from countries as diverse as Brazil, Kenya, Lebanon and Bangladesh, the UN report shows how ordinary people are volunteering their time, energies and skills to improve the way they are governed and engaged at local, national and global levels. Better governance at every level is a pre-requisite for the success of the new set of targets for future international development, the Sustainable Development Goals, which are due to be agreed at the United Nations in September 2015.


Q: Why does the report focus on governance?

Governance – the way those in positions of power relate to citizens - is critical to the success of global development. With the new Sustainable Development Goals due to be agreed at the United Nations in September 2015, the topic of governance needs to be a priority as it is can be a key enabler or a barrier to successful development. The aim of the report is to spark a global conversation about the role volunteers can play in helping to improve governance globally. The report also highlights the need for more research into this area that is currently under-researched.


Q: What are the headlines of this report?

  • Volunteers are acting as champions of change worldwide – opening doors for people to take part in decisions that affect their lives and urging those in power to listen and respond to their needs.
  • Volunteers are working with governments and civil society organisations to hold those in power to account, to influence policies and laws and promote the rights of those who are left out of development decisions.
  • Development efforts to date have left many people behind and need to be re-thought. As the world’s governments prepare a new roadmap to overcome global poverty, volunteers can be catalysts for a fairer and more equal world – if they’re invited to the table.
  • Governments need to go beyond the rhetoric of participation and take concrete steps to help the world’s volunteers actively contribute to the decisions that affect people’s lives.


Q: What is the report’s call to action?

Governments need to take concrete steps to help the world’s volunteers actively contribute to the decisions that affect people’s lives. The report calls on governments to:

  • Engage more volunteers in the process of crafting policies and putting them into action
  • Integrate volunteers formally into national development frameworks and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) strategies
  • Enact laws and policies to provide the necessary ‘enabling environment’ for volunteers to operate.
  • Engage more volunteer women, youth, and marginalised groups in local and national decision making

The report also calls on private sector and civil society leaders to do more to incorporate the contributions of volunteers, especially those from under-represented groups.


Q: What examples does the report draw on to make its points?

The report uses a number of case studies from all over the world to make its points. The following are a selection of key examples:

India – Citizen voices help change the law on violence against women following the gang rape and murder of a woman student on a bus in New Delhi in December 2012.

Brazil – Volunteers lead the way in fighting corruption in local government through Social Observatories where municipal spending is closely monitored. According to a Brazilian news report (Veja, 2013 they have collectively stopped the embezzling of close to US$100million from public coffers.

Chile – A rural women’s network has joined forces with a global network and become a policy insider, worked from the inside to avert a change in the law on the patenting of seeds they felt would harm their interests.

China – Chinese citizen volunteers have changed policies on the monitoring of pollution by doing their own monitoring of dangerous smaller air particulates 

Middle East and North Africa – Volunteers have contributed to changes in the law in several countries giving women married to foreign nationals the legal right to pass on their nationality to their child.

Kenya – The country has pioneered the innovative use of crowdsourcing of information about post-election violence to map the situation in the country enabling a more effective response.

Bangladesh – Volunteers globally and in-country galvanised around the development of an Accord laying out common standards for the treatment of factory workers following the collapse of the Rana Plaza factory in Bangladesh in April 2013.


Q: How was the report compiled?

A UNV research and writing team led the development of the report, supported by an internal advisory team and an external advisory board drawn from within the United Nations and peers on volunteerism (academics and practitioners). Specific activities included:

  • Literature review focusing especially on governance, volunteerism, the global context and issues of post-2015 development
  • Consultations across UNV on volunteerism and governance issues
  • Review of research papers commissioned from a range of researchers globally, including regional scans of key governance issues and volunteer actions, individual case studies and papers on specific topics arising from the scans
  • A limited number of key informant interviews


Q: How/where is the report being launched?

The report will be launched first at the United Nations Headquarters in New York on June 5, at a gathering of stakeholders. UNDP Administrator Helen Clark will give the opening statement. The report will then be rolled out at regional events in Nairobi, New Delhi and Panama City, focusing on regionally relevant angles.


Q: What is the remit of United Nations Volunteers?

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development. Volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.

UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for recognition of volunteers, working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing an increasing number and diversity of volunteers, including experienced UN Volunteers, throughout the world. UNV embraces volunteerism as universal and inclusive, and recognizes volunteerism in its diversity as well as the values that sustain it: free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity.

Based in Bonn, Germany, UNV is active in around 130 countries every year. UNV, with Field Units in 86 countries, is represented worldwide through the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and reports to the UNDP Executive Board.


Q: What does ‘volunteering’ mean?

The terms ‘volunteering’, ‘volunteerism’ and ‘voluntary activities’ refer to a wide range of activities, including traditional forms of mutual aid and self-help, formal service delivery and other forms of civic participation, undertaken of free will, for the general public good and where monetary reward is not the principal motivating factor (UNGA 2002 (A/RES/56/38), available at: , last accessed 15 May 2015).