Published on 5th December 2013
A worldwide task force has marked International Volunteer Day by releasing a major joint statement calling on governments and international policy makers to recognise the contributions of volunteers to sustainable development. The volunteer sector’s involvement in the UN’s post-2015 Sustainable Development progress is “long overdue”, VSA CEO Gill Greer says.
The Volunteering Task Force was convened by the United Nations Volunteers in September this year, for the first time bringing together volunteer organisations working in international development and NGOs involving volunteers in local community development. (Download a pdf of the Volunteering task force joint statement for IVD2013)
They include VSA, Cuso International, VSO International, World Association for Girl Guides and Girl Scouts, and YMCA.
The Joint Statement released by the Task Force notes that Volunteers “choose to give their time and talents because they share a commitment to human wellbeing. Collectively they have contributed to the Millennium Development Goals, building human and social capital and contributing to inclusive economic growth.”
“We have to do development differently”, says Greer, and look at “people-to-people development, not just government-to-government”.
The Task Force will present a unified “voice” as volunteerism joins the nine UN “major sector” stakeholders contributing to discussions on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals.
Greer says there is also growing recognition of the huge amount of work already done. In its 50 years of operation, VSA has sent more than 3,000 volunteers on international assignments.
Today, VSA volunteers are exposed to the reality of poverty behind the Pacific picture-postcard: the schools without trained teachers, books or desks, regions with few hospitals often with scarce medical supplies. “I see every returned volunteer as an advocate, not just for VSA, but for development and a fairer world for everyone.”
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also applauded volunteers today, noting especially the importance of youth. “There are more than 1.2 billion youth in the world today, with incredible potential to tackle challenges and act as agents of change,” he said. This is certainly true in the Pacific, where over half of the population is under the age of 24.
“Volunteerism is a two-way street,” he concluded, “even as volunteers help generate positive change for others, their own lives are often transformed by the act of volunteering itself. On this International Volunteer Day, let us renew our commitment to offering young people diverse and meaningful volunteer opportunities to become active and confident contributors to global change.”