This week, the United Nations General Assembly approved a resolution to bring volunteering into the international development agenda.

The resolution, “Integrating volunteering into peace and development: the plan of action for the next decade and beyond” presents a plan for volunteers to contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which cover everything from eradicating poverty to protecting the environment, empowering women and girls, and promoting good health and education.

VSA volunteers like Kate Kanshaw in Samoa make a real difference in the lives of people in The Pacific

VSA volunteers like Kate Kanshaw in Samoa make a real difference in the lives of people in The Pacific

UN Volunteers (UNV) will oversee the action plan, which will make volunteering a key means of delivery of the SDGs, and will monitor the impact of volunteering on achieving them.

This resolution followed the official launch, in September, of the SDGs. Unlike the Millennium Development Goals that they replace, the SDGs apply to every country, and every person, whether they live in Auckland or Addis Ababa, so all governments will be required to report on their own progress on the goals.

As Chair of the Post-2015 Volunteering Working Group, our Chief Executive Gill Greer was quoted in the official fact sheet about the resolution:

“At home and across borders, volunteers are at the very heart of sustainable development. Individually and collectively, they not only provide essential services: they build capacity and enable social cohesion. They facilitate the active participation that the new agenda needs. Volunteerism connects people and transforms lives, so that no-one is left behind."

Volunteers contributed a huge amount to the successes that were seen under the MDGs, so being recognised formally as they carry on that work is testament to their impact. Now, for Volunteer Service Abroad, the challenge will be to retain the increased visibility of volunteering and integrate the new SDG agenda into our work, in line with partners' priorities.

Volunteer Steve Hales in Tonga with his counterparts Teviita and Eva

Volunteer Steve Hales in Tonga with his counterparts Teviita and Eva

The resolution is the result of extensive work by advocates within an international group of volunteering organisations, including VSA’s CEO Gill Greer – this work led to volunteering being directly mentioned in the SDGs.

In addition, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, which came out of the Financing for Development conference in July this year, also endorsed volunteers as part of an “enhanced and revitalized global partnership for sustainable development, led by governments, [which] will be a vehicle for strengthening international cooperation for implementation of the post-2015 development agenda”.

Gill says this news is particularly apt as International Volunteer Day is on 5 December. “We know that volunteers work with partners to deliver the kind of person-to-person development that has a profound impact. This work has a ripple effect, changing the lives of volunteers, the people they’ve worked with, and the wider community, long after the volunteers return home.”

Volunteer Olivia Benton Guy in Bougainville with her counterpart Priscilla

Volunteer Olivia Benton-Guy in Bougainville, with her counterpart Priscilla