No better time for volunteerism and yet so much can be done

Full Text Sharing

Probably there has not been better year for the promotion of volunteerism around the world than the current one.

Indeed it was a remarkable year from many points of view for strengthening volunteerism or service as it is often referred to in some countries.

With the publication of the latest Global Report on Volunteerism, one Resolution at the United Nations General Assembly, a Global Action Plan and a series of research papers proving the effectiveness of volunteerism in peace and development, volunteerism has been very high on the policy making agenda throughout 2015.

Interestingly the year was key for the development sector also for some other reasons, primarily for the endorsement of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs that are offering new global benchmarks to fight poverty and inequalities in the next decade.

What really counts is that now everybody realizes that volunteerism plays a big part in the overall efforts of making the SDGs a true, tangible reality for the millions of persons still neglected in their poverty.

This is the reason why the celebrations of this year International Volunteer Day, IVD, held on the 5th of December entitled The world is changing. Are you? Volunteer!" rightly highlighted that every single citizen of this planet should contribute, participate and have a role in the implementation of the SDG roadmap.

It is such no brainer that the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saidVolunteerism can help to expand and mobilize constituencies and to engage people in national planning and implementation for sustainable development goals”.


The United Nations Resolution, “Integrating volunteering into peace and development: the plan of action for the next decade and beyond” not only strongly encourages member states to mainstream volunteerism in their national anti poverty plans but also encourages a deeper support to invest in research on volunteerism to fully leverage the added value of grassroots actions taken by local communities.


Nepal, one of the countries with the highest level of social capital in the world, can offer fantastic examples on how volunteerism can create social cohesion, bring down the levels of inequalities and overall contribute to the wellbeing of local communities.


It was not a coincidence that VSO and the Institute of Development Studies, probably the most prominent research centre on development in the world, chose Nepal among other few countries where to conduct the empiric research project Valuing Volunteering.


The final outcomes of this groundbreaking research is a publication entitled “Volunteerism in Sustainable Development 2015” that underlines that paramount is not “just what volunteers do but how they support change that makes their contribution unique” especially when they succeed in “extending” and complimenting existing public services.


Here we have a caveat: oftentimes volunteers, who can help their organizations, reach out the hardest to reach, (the findings also confirm the ability of volunteers to get embedded into the local communities, becoming an important component of the local “eco-system”) can be “confused” as a mere manpower force that, while compensated below the market rates, are still not considered that different from other paid workers.



In country like Nepal is important to recognize the contributions of informal and unstructured forms of volunteerism rather than just highlighting what has been done by persons that in certain cases, are not even comfortable call themselves “volunteers” because they feel the terminology is just a shortcut unfair work treatment.


Considering the impact of volunteers during the earthquakes, the Government of Nepal should integrate in its draft national policy that still wait for approval, the role of the “citizen volunteer”. Imagine a Natural Disaster Corps, formed by trained and well equipped volunteers. In Italy, for example, the so called Civil Protection, made by volunteers, offer invaluable and essential contributions in time of natural emergencies.


While it is important to reckon with the work done by organizations promoting volunteerism all over the country, including the international sending organizations, we should not forget that often change at local level happens in silent and out of any limelight.


We are also in the dire need of coming up with a new policy frame regulating the role of “temporary” international volunteers that are technically illegal: it is absurdity to deny a phenomenon that is not only impossible to stop but also stupid.


Instead we need to work in partnerships to find innovative ways to leverage the contributions of international volunteers making sure that as advocated by many child protection organizations like Next Generation Nepal, Umbrella Foundation and Forget me Not, international volunteers should not be allowed to serve in local orphanages.


As controversial as this position might look like, there are pieces of research that highlight how international volunteers in the sector of child protection are often exploited and end up be part of the problem rather than contributing towards a solution. On this regard a national conversation must be held.


Volunteerism is for all. During last week, the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was also celebrated with a focus on empowerment. Volunteerism can offer that empowerment platform to showcase that everybody, including persons with disabilities, can serve and play an active role at community level.


To harness volunteerism in Nepal, we need to invest in its “infrastructure”.


The National Development Volunteering Service should be upgraded in a full agency from just being a service oriented program of the National Planning Commission. Sri Lanka shows how to invest resources in the sector as it boosts a National Volunteering Secretariat under its Ministry of Social Services, Welfare that coordinates the entire sector.


This was possible thanks to the support, technical and financial of United Nations Volunteers, UNV whose office in Nepal is very well positioned to work at policy level.


Last but not the least, we should refrain from the temptation of considering volunteering just something for the youths. Its inclusiveness and openness are what make the sector so unique and transformative.













Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

Add new comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.