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Report of the United Nations Secretary General A/60/128: Follow-up to the Implementation of the International Year of Volunteers

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United Nations A /60/128

General Assembly Distr.: General
18 July 2005
Original: English
05-42849 (E) 180805
Sixtieth session
Item 64 of the provisional agenda*
Social development, including questions relating
to the world social situation and to youth, ageing,
disabled persons and the family
Report of the Secretary-General
Follow-up to the implementation of the International Year
of Volunteers
The present report is submitted in response to General Assembly resolution
57/106 entitled “Follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers”, in which the
Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report to it at its sixtieth session on the
implementation of that resolution, which provided an overview of the actions taken
during the International Year and presented conclusions and recommendations for
For the period since 2001, it is clear that the momentum built up over the
course of the International Year has continued to provide the stimulation behind a
vibrant volunteer movement. Most of the recommendations proposed by the General
Assembly in resolution 57/106 are being taken up by Governments and the United
Nations system, as well as by other stakeholders from civil society and the private
sector. There are, however, wide variations in trends between countries and regions
and this unevenness needs to be addressed if volunteerism is to realize its full
potential for contributing to many of today’s global challenges.
Volunteerism, when properly channelled, is a powerful force for the
achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. The present report highlights
for further attention by Governments and other actors, the principal areas where,
building on the achievements of the International Year, the environment for
expanded and diversified levels of volunteerism can be strengthened.
* A/60/150.
** The late submission of the present report was due to the need to ensure a comprehensive
verification of inputs from a very broad range of stakeholders.

2 A/60/128
Paragraphs Page
I. Introduction …………………………………………………. 1–4 3
II. The changing environment ………………………………………. 5–7 4
III. Progress in implementation ……………………………………… 8–42 5
Recognition ……………………………………………… 9–14 5
Promotion ………………………………………………. 15–20 7
Facilitation ………………………………………………. 21–27 8
Networking ……………………………………………… 28–29 10
Bringing volunteerism into the mainstream ………………………. 30–33 11
International forums ……………………………………….. 34–36 12
United Nations system ……………………………………… 37–42 13
IV. Conclusions and recommendations ………………………………… 43–55 14

3 A/60/128
I. Introduction
1. In its resolution 52/17 of 20 November 1997, the General Assembly
proclaimed 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers in recognition of the
valuable contribution of voluntary action in addressing global issues. The four
objectives of the Year were the enhancement of volunteerism in all its forms in
terms of recognition, promotion, facilitation and networking, with a view to
generating increased awareness of the achievements and further potential of
volunteer activity; encouraging more people to volunteer; and channelling resources
to augment the effectiveness of participation through volunteerism by all segments
of the population. The United Nations Volunteers was designated as the focal point
for the Year’s preparation, implementation and follow-up.
2. To assist in preparing for and implementing activities for the International
Year, some 123 national committees and scores of local, regional and state
committees were formed. The Internet played a crucial role in disseminating
information about the Year and engaging large numbers of stakeholders at all levels.
By the end of 2001, measures had been taken or were under consideration in every
part of the world to enhance the environment for voluntary action. In its resolution
56/38 of 5 December 2001, the General Assembly recommended ways in which
Governments and the United Nations system could support volunteering. In its
resolution 57/106 of 26 November 2002, the Assembly inter alia reaffirmed the
important role of volunteerism for meeting the goals set out in the United Nations
Millennium Declaration and at other major United Nations conferences, summits
and special sessions and their follow-up meetings. In the same resolution, the
Assembly requested the Secretary-General to report to it at its sixtieth session on the
implementation of that resolution.
3. The present report considers progress made in following up on the immediate
outcome of the International Year of Volunteers in the main areas highlighted in the
two General Assembly resolutions mentioned above from the perspective of the
Year’s four main objectives. It also considers how to bring volunteerism into the
mainstream and its inclusion in deliberations at international forums and the work of
the United Nations system. The report concludes with some recommendations for
the future. It is based on a global survey commissioned by the United Nations
Volunteers as part of its functions as the focal point for follow-up to the
International Year, covering a range of stakeholders from Governments to the
United Nations system, civil society, parliamentarians, the media, academia and the
private sector. The United Nations Development Programme, through its country
offices, played an important role in the collection of information from developing
countries. An Internet survey was also conducted to solicit information from the
general public.
4. The report takes into account the outcome of a number of conferences and
workshops that have taken place since 2001 on the topic of volunteerism. In
addition, the report has benefited from a network of contacts with the volunteer
community in developing countries built up by the United Nations Volunteers both
in the period immediately leading up to the International Year and subsequently, and
with networks of partner organizations, most notably the European Volunteer
Centre, the Inter-American Development Bank, the International Association for
Volunteer Effort, the International Business Leaders Forum, the International

4 A/60/128
Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the Inter-Parliamentary Union
and the World Alliance for Citizen Participation.
II. The changing environment
5. The environment for an expansion of volunteerism worldwide is as favourable
as it has ever been. The concept of a global society is emerging, with shifting
relationships between the North and the South, most notably away from the giver
and receiver model. Opportunities for citizens to be engaged through voluntary
action at the local level and have their action recorded and recognized are steadily
expanding. Acceptance is spreading for the idea that all people have a right to
development and that active participation through volunteerism is one important
avenue for exercising that right. New communication technologies make it ever
more possible to build contacts and support networks among individual volunteers
and organizations that involve volunteers on a local, regional and global basis. In
this connection, the value added by partnerships between Governments, civil society
and the private sector is increasingly an important feature of the development
6. On the other hand, poverty, inequality and insecurity are as acute as at any
time in history, with reports in some quarters of declining levels of trust and respect
between people both within and between countries. These are, in fact, two sides of
the same coin. Never have opportunities for the expansion and diversification of
volunteerism been greater, while the need for action in this area by Governments
and the United Nations system has never been more pressing. The present report
provides evidence of the beginning of a trend towards a greater recognition on the
part of Governments and other stakeholders of the value added by volunteerism and
of the need to ensure a favourable environment within which voluntary action can
flourish. It also highlights the fact that much greater effort is called for.
7. The report should be read bearing in mind that preparations for the
International Year of Volunteers were at an advanced stage when the United Nations
Millennium Declaration was adopted by all Member States in September 2000.
Hence, the context provided by the Declaration and by the Millennium Development
Goals was not made explicit in the International Year’s objectives nor, indeed, in
planning for the Year. Nonetheless, in the implementation of and follow-up to the
Year, there has been a growing acceptance of the notion of linking volunteerism to
addressing the aspirations of the Millennium Declaration, in terms of
pronouncements at global, regional and local levels as well as through action at all
levels. Indeed, it is barely conceivable that the Millennium Development Goals will
be achieved without the efforts, creativity and solidarity of many millions of
ordinary citizens through voluntary action. The General Assembly, in its resolution
57/106, anticipated this development by recognizing that volunteer contributions
would help to achieve the goals and objectives set out in the Millennium
Declaration and by requesting that the Secretary-General factor such contributions
into his reports on the implementation of the Declaration.

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III. Progress in implementation
8. Determining trends in levels of volunteering with any great precision remains
a challenge. Measurement is still largely limited to a number of industrialized
countries, although steps are now being taken in a few developing countries to
produce statistical data. The picture is mixed. In many countries it is clear that some
high-profile events, such as the response to natural disasters, including the
December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and a number of major sports occasions such
as the 2004 Olympic Games, have raised the profile of volunteering and encouraged
more people to become actively engaged. In other cases, the United Nations itself
has been instrumental in keeping volunteering at the forefront of the development
agenda. The HIV/AIDS pandemic appears to have catalysed voluntary action from
communities in support of victims and their families. There is growing evidence of
steady improvements in access to information about opportunities to volunteer,
while online volunteering and employee volunteering in the private sector are
beginning to demonstrate their potential for attracting far larger numbers of people
into volunteer activities. On the other hand, there are also signs that in some
countries the lack of promotion of volunteerism by the Government and disinterest
on the part of the media and other potential stakeholders, have conspired to limit the
expansion of the volunteer base.
A. Recognition
9. Public awareness and recognition of volunteer actions and of the contribution
of volunteerism in general continues to grow. It is being stimulated in many
countries by International Volunteer Day, which is itself becoming a well-
established and supported global event in many parts of the world, with ever
strengthening links to the Millennium Development Goals. Conferences, seminars
and press releases in major newspapers are often a feature of the Day. For
International Volunteer Day in 2004, for example, national newspapers in Indonesia
carried public service announcements on volunteering; the principal newspapers in
Israel and the Palestinian Authority issued special editions; a book on volunteerism
was launched by the Secretariat of the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Bangladesh;
and speeches were given by senior government officials in many countries,
including Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Ghana, Honduras, Japan, Lithuania,
Mauritius, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Peru and South Africa.
10. Other examples abound of providing recognition. The International Year of
Volunteers national committee of Togo has established a memorial to volunteerism
and a street in Maputo was named Rua dos Voluntarios. National volunteer days
have been declared for 11 June in the Sudan and 10 July in Tunisia; special weeks of
volunteers have been instigated in Hungary, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation;
a Year of the Volunteer was designated in Thailand in 2002 and in the United
Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2005; and summer volunteer
campaigns have been initiated in Viet Nam. Australia introduced in 2005 a Pride of
Australia medal to honour outstanding volunteer achievement; Italy has created an
Oscar of Volunteering award ceremony; annual presidential volunteer awards were
introduced in Honduras and Mexico; and a Sharjah Voluntary Award is the first of
its kind in the United Arab Emirates.

6 A/60/128
11. Print and broadcast media coverage of voluntary action has grown steadily in a
number of countries since 2001. There are now television talk shows in some
countries, such as Albania, Spain and the United Kingdom; radio programmes are
broadcast in Cameroon, Israel, Jordan, Senegal and the Sudan; documentary films
have been made in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago; and national media campaigns
have been held in Mexico and Zambia. Some countries, including Bolivia, Brazil,
Kazakhstan and Uruguay, are seeing an increasing amount of radio and television
time dedicated to discussions of voluntary action.
12. The Indian Ocean tsunami disaster gave further impetus to growing news
coverage in recognition of the close to 1 million individuals who volunteered in
support of relief efforts. Progress is also being made on the qualitative front, as
media coverage increasingly links volunteerism to development issues. There are
also visible trends in some countries of a move away from depicting volunteering as
a charitable act of giving towards a concept of reciprocity, with benefits accruing to
the person undertaking the voluntary act as well as to the target person or group.
Stereotyping of volunteering, however, is still a feature of the media in many
countries with some confusion with regard to definitions and motivations.
13. Research is important in order to establish culturally sensitive definitions of
volunteerism, to determine its scale and characteristics and to assist in the
development of policies that recognize and support voluntary action. Research on
volunteerism undertaken since 2001 in developing countries and countries with
economies in transition, however, is still a very small proportion of the totality of
research on voluntary action. As a result, the specific features of voluntary action in
many parts of the world and issues specific to concerned countries, continue to be
poorly reflected. There have, however, been some noteworthy exceptions in the
period after 2001. Research in Mauritania on volunteering in the national context
will serve as a comprehensive reference document and tool for future action; in
Albania, a book was published on volunteerism as a multifunctional element of
national society; the legal framework for volunteering was the subject of research in
Croatia; the first national survey in Mexico was sponsored by a civil society
association that promotes volunteerism; and a number of Governments, including in
the Czech Republic, Germany, Ghana, Hungary, Indonesia, Spain, Switzerland and
Thailand, are also supporting research into volunteer issues.
14. One important development was the publication by the United Nations in 2003
of the
Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts .1
This calls on national statistical offices to prepare a “satellite account” on the non-
profit sector, including the value of voluntary action, as part of their regular
economic data gathering and reporting. The United Nations Volunteers is
collaborating with the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University
to implement the volunteer component of the
Handbook . The significant advance in
the quality of basic information on volunteerism around the world that should result
from this exercise is expected to help considerably to increase awareness of the
economic contribution of volunteerism and to facilitate the formulation of
appropriate and supportive policy frameworks.

7 A/60/128
B. Promotion
15. An important feature of the International Year of Volunteers was the effort
made to promote volunteerism among the broadest possible cross section of
societies. This point was originally made by the General Assembly at its twenty-
fourth special session, held in Geneva in 2000, which called for the promotion of the
contribution that volunteerism can make as an additional mechanism for social
2 There is a growing recognition that volunteering, if properly supported,
can empower those involved in terms of acquisition of skills and experience,
satisfaction from being actively engaged and the potential benefits derived from
building up reciprocal arrangements. This has given rise to a variety of efforts to
promote and facilitate voluntary action among specific segments of the population.
16. The segment of the population most consistently targeted has been youth,
especially school and university students, in part because in many countries young
people make up a large proportion of the population. From a national perspective,
promoting volunteering among youth is a means of creating a sustainable volunteer
culture and combating negative images of young people. Some Governments have
sought to incorporate volunteering by young people into social policy.
17. Volunteerism is a key element in the Youth National Strategic Plan of
Mozambique; in China, the Go West Programme has been sending student
volunteers to the poorest areas in the west of the country since 2003; university
students in Bolivia are mobilized to work in municipalities throughout the country
within the framework of the country’s Strategy to Fight Poverty; the Governments
of Brazil and the Russian Federation provide official support for major volunteer-
related events such as Global Youth Service Day; and official assistance for
supplying, building and renovating premises for use by volunteer youth groups is
provided in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Peru and Rwanda.
The Syrian Arab Republic held its first symposium on promoting volunteerism
among school students with support from Junior Chamber International in 2005.
Also in 2005, the Sudan held its first National Symposium on Volunteering for
Peace and Development, focusing on local volunteer activities in the peace process.
At the regional level, the European Union and the United Nations Volunteers
manage a joint initiative in the Balkans, which supports exchanges of young
volunteers among countries of the region helping to promote peaceful coexistence.
18. While youth has been a primary focus of attention for many countries, there
have been some examples of attention to other social groups. In Guatemala, the
focus has been on supporting voluntary associations of indigenous women; in
Bolivia and Luxembourg, efforts have been made to integrate people with
disabilities into voluntary work; and in Viet Nam, the National Coordination
Committee on Disability helped to organize a conference on volunteerism in
vocational training and employment for disadvantaged children. The European
Volunteer Centre met in Romania in 2005, focusing on the theme “Volunteering for
all ages: summit of generations”, with the participation of 10 countries discussing
approaches to addressing volunteer needs of different age groups. Over 10,000
volunteers work with the Correctional Service of Canada helping offenders to
reintegrate by bridging the gap between the institution and communities.
19. For many disadvantaged segments of the population, however, serious
challenges remain. On the side of the individual, for whom finding paid work is

8 A/60/128
often a priority concern, the contribution voluntary action can make to enhance job
prospects is not always obvious. For organizations that involve volunteers, these
segments of society may be perceived as problematic and not worth an investment
of time and effort. Exclusion from opportunities to volunteer follows exclusionary
patterns experienced in other areas. Governments need to be aware of such
tendencies and prepared to take measures to address them.
20. Ready access to information on how and where to volunteer is invaluable as a
means of extending the base of volunteerism and, in this context, the spread of
information and communications technology is a great asset. The number of
countries that have created online databases and websites listing volunteer
opportunities is growing steadily. Since 2001, these have included Albania,
Argentina, Australia, Bhutan, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic,
Ecuador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico,
Nicaragua, Pakistan, Paraguay, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, the United Kingdom, the
United States of America, Uzbekistan and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of). Such
facilities are proving to be highly effective in reaching segments of the population
that, because of lack of mobility and other factors, were previously excluded from
participating in voluntary action.
C. Facilitation
21. Advances since 2001 in the recognition and promotion of voluntary action
have been backed up by efforts to facilitate volunteerism through the establishment
and strengthening of human and physical infrastructure. There is a growing
appreciation of the need to structure and support volunteers in a more professional
way, leading to a broader acceptance of the notion of fostering systems of volunteer
management. Jamaica has supported the creation of a national registry of volunteers,
which is used to record and recognize volunteer contributions. In Colombia, the
government department concerned with coordinating the country’s solidarity
economy has been tasked with facilitating voluntary action. A National Network of
Organizations Promoting Volunteerism has been established in Japan, supported by
the Government, volunteer-involving organizations, the private sector and academia.
The training of managers in public and private sector volunteer programmes is
becoming more widespread, although civil society organizations involving
volunteers appear less inclined to take up the challenge, with financial
considerations often cited as a major constraint. Systems of self-support through the
development of partnerships and networks around volunteering are also spreading in
both industrialized and developing countries, promoted by Governments and by
civil society organizations. The creation of the “Mesa de Voluntariado” in Ecuador
and the “Feria del Voluntariado” in Guatemala are examples of efforts by volunteer-
involving organizations to enhance mutual assistance at the country level.
22. Private sector involvement in volunteering is a growing phenomenon in
industrialized countries and is starting to make headway in developing countries as
notions of corporate social responsibility take hold. Involvement ranges from
employer-supported volunteer schemes and funding for volunteer projects, to
building partnerships around volunteer-focused government and civil society
initiatives. In some developing countries, such as Ghana, India, Lebanon and
Nigeria, there are positive trends with evidence of companies considering
philanthropic activities as social investment. A contributory factor to the

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considerable progress being made in Brazil and the Philippines in this area is the
presence of business-supporting organizations, respectively the Ethos Institute and
the Philippine Business for Social Progress, with an interest in corporate social
responsibility. In Jamaica, a government-supported association works with
community groups and the private sector to mobilize volunteers to help identify and
implement microlevel projects.
23. It is still largely the case, however, that while employees in developing
countries often display strong traditions of undertaking voluntary work in their
communities, long-term formal employee volunteer programmes have still to take
hold. Where they do exist, they tend to be encouraged by multinational companies
from developed countries. In some industrialized countries, local networks of
businesses, known as corporate volunteer councils, have been formed to share
effective practices and address community needs through workplace volunteering.
There are lessons to be learned in this respect for developing countries. Given the
very significant benefits to all stakeholders of enhancing relationships between
businesses and the societies in which they operate through the promotion of
volunteerism, this is an area of focus that requires more attention from Governments
and other stakeholders.
24. Volunteering in the public sector is less visible except in relation to disaster
situations such as floods and earthquakes, when there is normally a broad-based call
for volunteers to assist. Large numbers of people in developing countries, however,
are engaged in social and welfare services under local government administration in
such fields as health, education and other welfare services for the infirm, older
persons and people with disabilities. Economic cut backs in some of the poorest
countries have seen voluntary associations and individual volunteers help to keep
schools, clinics and day-care centres open. In addition, democratic processes in
some countries have given rise to the formation of national consultative groups,
which usually operate on a voluntary basis.
25. Investment in physical infrastructure is one very concrete expression of
official support for volunteering. A range of actions have been taken since 2001 in
many countries, including the creation of presidential agencies for volunteerism,
national volunteer agencies, national volunteer centres and networks of regional and
local volunteer centres. National volunteer centres have been established in
Madagascar and the Russian Federation and a volunteer development centre has
been set up in Indonesia. Civil society has also been active in establishing volunteer
centres in such countries as Cape Verde and Egypt, while a volunteer information
and communication technology centre was created in Jordan.
26. National legislation on volunteering was identified during the International
Year of Volunteers as an important determinant of a flourishing volunteer
movement. Since 2001, significant pieces of legislation supportive of voluntary
activity have been passed or are being formulated, in particular Eastern Europe and
Latin America, two regions where the movement towards democratic processes
continues. In Albania and Mozambique, laws were passed dealing with the
relationship between volunteers and volunteer-involving organizations; and legal
provisions now exist for the further development of volunteerism in Argentina,
Colombia, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Peru, the Russian Federation and Uruguay.
Laws were enacted on volunteering by youth in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the
Czech Republic. In Poland, a law will enable non-governmental organizations to

10 A/60/128
develop closer working relationships with the public administration and provide
new opportunities for the non-profit sector to diversify its human resource base. In
Benin, a law on decentralization encourages the promotion of volunteerism and
community initiatives.
27. Other legislation has covered a wide range of issues, including recognition of
the legal status of volunteers in Australia, Belgium and Canada; regulating
volunteering in France; dealing with the status of volunteers under labour laws in
the United States; dealing with social welfare issues in Italy and Thailand; and
creating tax incentives in Algeria, Lebanon, Mauritius, Spain and Togo. In
Indonesia, a service visa was introduced to permit volunteers from outside the
country to receive tax and customs benefits. Immigration regulations for foreign
volunteers have been eased in Brazil, Canada and South Africa. Notwithstanding
these encouraging examples, there is still much to be done. Indeed, there is a need
for changes in some existing legislation that has a negative impact on volunteering,
including barriers to international volunteering schemes. In recognition of the
importance of the topic and the interest of a growing number of countries, in 2004
the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red
Crescent Societies and the United Nations Volunteers prepared and disseminated
widely in various languages a
Guidance Note on Volunteerism and Legislation .
D. Networking
28. General Assembly resolution 57/106 called for the development of a global
Internet volunteer resource website. Launched on 5 December 2002, the World
Volunteer Web portal (, plays a pivotal role in
encouraging global sharing of information about how volunteerism can contribute to
economic and social development. One success indicator is that in 2003, the first
year of the website’s existence, over 300,000 network organizations and individuals
from almost every Member State visited the site, viewing some 1.5 million pages. In
2004, the number of visits to the site by organizations and individuals, as well as
pages viewed, increased by over 25 per cent. Monthly newsletters, introduced in
2004, have over 20,000 subscribers from every part of the world and the number is
rising. Google, the world’s most popular Internet search engine, regularly indexes
information published on the portal’s news service, taking the website to a far wider
global audience.
29. With support from OneWorld (, a civil society news portal
with a network of over 1,500 organizations, the World Volunteer Web portal
launched a first online discussion forum on volunteering and environmental
sustainability, enabling around 700 people from over 100 countries to share ideas on
the topic. Discussions on other Millennium Development Goals and volunteerism
are planned in partnership with the Millennium Campaign. The Volunteer Web
portal also serves as a global networking hub for International Volunteer Day
national focal points, promotes sharing of best practices and provides guidance on
the organization of related events and campaigns. Steps have been taken to establish
a platform that will accommodate regional portals, enable online volunteers to
become involved in building the site and facilitate interactive services to allow users
to contribute. A regional website has also been developed by the Inter-American
Development Bank, through its Inter-American Initiative on Social Capital, Ethics
and Development, containing best practices and related news on volunteerism.

11 A/60/128
E. Bringing volunteerism into the mainstream
30. One important recommendation to have emerged from the International Year
of Volunteers was to integrate volunteerism into national development planning.
This is already the case in countries such as France, Luxembourg, Spain and the
United Kingdom. Among countries with economies in transition, the Czech
Republic and Hungary already consider volunteerism as integral to their
development efforts. Bolivia is an example of a developing country whose economic
and social planning reflects the contribution of voluntary action. Other countries
moving ahead in this area include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana,
Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand. A major constraint continues to be the
limited availability of specific data on volunteer contributions. The preparation and
dissemination in 2001 by the United Nations Volunteers of a toolkit on measuring
volunteering, now translated into a number of languages, has assisted several
developing countries to move ahead with both national and local studies on the scale
and profile of volunteering. An important development in efforts to raise the profile
of volunteerism was the issuance in 2003 by the United Nations of the
Handbook on
Non-Profit Institutions in the System of National Accounts
,1 which includes a
section on volunteering. The
Handbook is being used in 43 countries, 9 of which are
the subject of a joint pilot initiative, led by the United Nations Volunteers and Johns
Hopkins University, which focuses on the volunteer component of the
Handbook .
31. References in national Human Development Reports to volunteerism are an
indicator of the extent to which volunteerism is entering the mainstream of
development thinking. Examples where this has occurred subsequent to 2001
include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, Egypt, Honduras, India (at the
state level), Indonesia, Serbia and Montenegro (Kosovo), the Philippines, South
Africa and Yemen. Such formal recognition of the value added of volunteerism and
its incorporation into mainstream advocacy and policy instruments, needs to be
extended to many other countries.
32. Progress has been less than satisfactory in raising awareness in donor countries
about the link between what is generally seen in donor countries as a valuable social
and economic contribution to society and as local traditions of voluntary self-help
and mutual aid in developing countries and countries with economies in transition.
For the latter, volunteerism represents a vast untapped constituency in support of
development efforts that is worthy of donor support. One example where the link is
being made is the Southern Africa Capacity Initiative, an initiative led by the United
Nations Development Programme in nine countries seriously affected by
HIV/AIDS, which is supported by major donors. For the first time, a key initiative
of the international community has as one of its principal components the
mobilization of domestic volunteer resources to augment and strengthen local
capacity, in this case to address a serious pandemic.
33. All donor countries send their nationals overseas as volunteers through
programmes managed by both the Government and the private sector and a few,
including Ireland, Luxembourg, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, are now
mobilizing exchange of volunteers among developing countries. However,
volunteering abroad by nationals does not generally form part of official
development aid policy frameworks. In this regard, the example of Japan, which
revised its Official Development Assistance Charter in 2003 to include provision for

12 A/60/128
fostering participation of its citizens in volunteer activities in development abroad,
is encouraging.
F. International forums
34. General Assembly resolution 57/106 called on the Secretary-General to factor
volunteer contributions into discussions at major United Nations forums. There were
a number of opportunities after the International Year of Volunteers for volunteerism
to be included in discussions at such events. The Madrid International Plan of
Action on Ageing, 2002, adopted at the Second World Assembly on Ageing,
3 refers
to participation of older persons in volunteer activities as contributing to the growth
and maintenance of personal well-being and proposes action to facilitate such
participation. The Plan of Implementation of the World Summit on Sustainable
4 held in Johannesburg in 2002, includes volunteer groups among the
stakeholders for whom partnerships between Governments and non-governmental
actors need to be enhanced. The Plan of Action of the World Summit on the
Information Society,
5 held in Geneva in 2003, emphasizes how volunteering can be
a valuable asset for raising human capacity to make productive use of information
and communication technology tools and build a more inclusive information society.
The report of the World Conference on Disaster Reduction,
6 held in Kobe, Japan, in
2005, recognizes the importance of involving volunteers in strategies for disaster
reduction and proposes a number of recommendations, such as promoting the
strategic management of volunteer resources, involving volunteers in community-
based training initiatives and establishing or strengthening national, regional and
international volunteer corps.
35. Several other international forums have taken place building on the momentum
of the International Year of Volunteers. One example, at the global level, was the
108th Conference of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, held in Santiago in 2003, which
adopted a resolution on strengthening democratic institutions. The resolution
recognizes that volunteerism builds strong cohesive communities, encourages
participation in the democratic process and reduces social tensions by forging a
common view, and it encourages further support. The first International Conference
on Volunteerism and the Millennium Development Goals, held in Islamabad in 2004
with representatives from volunteer-involving organizations in the public and
private sectors, the media, civil society organizations and grass-roots activists,
explored the role of volunteerism in helping to achieve each of the eight Millennium
Development Goals and outlined actions needed to enhance the environment for
collective and individual volunteer support of the Goals.
36. At the regional level, the European Conference and Exchange Forum about
Volunteering (Eurofestation 2004), held in 2004 in the Netherlands during that
country’s presidency of the European Union, was attended by representatives from a
broad range of stakeholders in volunteerism. A European Roadmap to 2010 for
volunteerism was agreed at the Conference, targeted at the European Union and its
member States, as well as at the corporate sector and non-governmental
organizations. The Inter-American Development Bank has sponsored events on
social capital, ethics and volunteerism for development in Brazil, Chile, Peru and
Uruguay. The International Association for Volunteer Effort organized international
conferences in Seoul and Barcelona, Spain, in 2002 and 2004, respectively. In 2005,
an international forum was held in Beijing on volunteer service and the Olympics to

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launch that city’s organizing committee for the twenty-ninth Olympiad; an
international volunteerism congress was held in Madrid at which representatives
from international and European volunteer-involving organizations discussed ways
to promote and support volunteerism; and an international workshop was organized
in Ouagadougou by the Foundation for Political Innovation and the Institute for
Modern Africa to look at various themes for Africa, one being the economy of
G. United Nations system
37. Levels of awareness on the roles and contributions of volunteers within the
United Nations system have increased since the International Year of Volunteers,
although there is unevenness among the various organizations in developing a
proactive approach to recognizing and promoting voluntary action into mainstream
programmes. The Department of Peacekeeping Operations of the Secretariat, the
World Food Programme, the World Health Organization and the Office of the
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees have taken steps to sensitize their
staff, for example by distributing material and placing volunteerism on the agenda
of country and regional level meetings. Some websites, for example at the World
Food Programme, carry articles on voluntary action in their areas of specialization.
A number of organizations are actively participating at the country level in
International Volunteer Day and involve United Nations Volunteers when briefing
their staff. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has
carried out regional monitoring to gauge the extent to which there has been
voluntary participation of stakeholders. The United Nations Children’s Fund has
comprehensively researched the state of volunteering within its national committees
and plans to use the results to enhance the spirit of volunteerism.
38. Some United Nations organizations have prepared and disseminated
publications on volunteering within their specialized areas of competence. The
United Nations Development Programme, for example, dedicated in 2003 an edition
of one of its flagship publications,
Essentials , to synthesizing the main lessons
learned and recommendations made on volunteerism and development, with a view
to providing its country offices and headquarters easy access to the results of
evaluations on the topic. The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS has
produced and disseminated a publication on volunteering and greater involvement of
people living with HIV/AIDS. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization has disseminated reports about the role of participation of
volunteers in a major education programme. The United Nations Children’s Fund
has recognized ways in which volunteers contribute to that organization’s strategic
priorities. One noteworthy example of the United Nations taking volunteerism on
board was the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Department
of Peacekeeping Operations and the United Nations Volunteers in 2003, which
includes a note on guiding principles emphasizing the desire of the two entities to
work together to enhance an environment in which volunteerism is recognized as a
significant element in the success of the Department’s work. The note is serving as
an example for other United Nations organizations.
39. There have also been improvements in the support provided by the United
Nations system to volunteers. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization has developed a system to collect the thoughts of volunteers

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on the quality of their experiences. The Office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees has developed an internal volunteering policy and
established a volunteering focal point within its headquarters. The Department of
Peacekeeping Operations is encouraging individual United Nations volunteers to
participate in its training, learning and capacity-building initiatives.
40. At the level of targeted populations, several United Nations organizations are
mobilizing voluntary action through the projects and programmes they support. The
United Nations Human Settlements Programme, for example, encourages the
voluntary involvement of youth in running and managing projects through
organizing meetings, facilitating online discussions and undertaking peer-to-peer
training. The United Nations Development Fund for Women has focused on the
voluntary involvement of women through its national committees and through
programme initiatives. The United Nations Population Fund promotes young
peoples’ involvement as volunteer leaders in HIV/AIDS programmes. The growth of
new partnerships between United Nations organizations, volunteer-involving
organizations from the private sector, self-help groups and community and faith-
based organizations, is a positive sign that the United Nations system is moving
towards a greater encouragement of participation through voluntary action.
41. The United Nations Volunteers was requested in General Assembly resolution
57/106 to continue its efforts, together with other stakeholders, to raise awareness of
volunteerism, increase reference and networking resources and provide technical
cooperation to developing countries, upon their request, in the field of volunteerism.
An initial step taken by that organization after the International Year of Volunteers
was to broaden its approach beyond the placement of international and national
volunteers to encompass the promotion of all expressions of volunteerism for
development, including the mobilization of volunteers. This was in recognition of
the need to blend the ongoing work of managing volunteer assignments with
responding to the desire of Member States to see the momentum from the
International Year maintained and extended further.
42. The expanded approach has been characterized by action in four areas. The
first has been to stimulate and contribute to debate at the national and international
levels on the roles and contributions of volunteerism, with a view to increasing
awareness of the need for official support to voluntary action; the second has been
to develop and disseminate guidelines on a range of substantive volunteer-related
topics, including on volunteerism and capacity-building, the private sector,
infrastructure, legislation, youth, the Common Country Assessment and United
Nations Development Assistance Framework process and the Millennium
Development Goals; the third has been to encourage sharing information and
networking through the World Volunteer Web portal; and the fourth has been to
respond to requests from countries for technical cooperation in a range of fields
concerned with promoting volunteerism. Undertaking the above activities has been
facilitated by proactively building up partnerships with a broad range of
stakeholders from Governments to civil society and the private sector.
IV. Conclusions and recommendations
43. Four years on from the end of the International Year of Volunteers there
are reliable indications that the momentum built up over the course of a very

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successful International Year continues to provide the stimulation behind a
vibrant and expanding volunteer movement. Levels of awareness are growing
in many countries in all regions, which is expected to translate into increased
numbers of people participating in voluntary activity. Governments, the media
and the private sector are increasingly vocal in their support for volunteering.
Infrastructure is being developed to facilitate volunteerism, both in terms of the
human capital needed to recruit, train and support volunteers and in terms of
the physical structures to sustain and enhance those activities. The legislative
environment is becoming increasingly supportive of volunteering and the
contribution that volunteering makes to individuals and societies is increasingly
44. These global trends vary widely, however, between countries and regions. In
the least developed countries in Africa and in countries undergoing profound social,
economic and political change, volunteering is lower on the agenda of Governments
than in other parts of the world. In Eastern Europe and Latin America, recognition
of the potential of volunteering as an integral part of the democratization process is
growing. In a number of countries in these regions, the trend towards formalizing
the position and role of volunteers through legislation is becoming more
pronounced. In some cases, countries are moving beyond that stage and investing in
infrastructure such as networks of volunteer centres and improvements in volunteer
management capacity. The situation within the United Nations system is also a
mixed one. The present report has highlighted innovative and promising initiatives
on the part of some organizations but there is much to do to increase recognition of
the role of voluntary action within each organization’s area of specialization and to
develop strategies to build on this vast resource for peace and development. Overall,
the situation is one of commendable progress, but with much still to do.
45. Information on volunteerism drawn from various sources around the world and
the conclusions of the present report, point to several areas where further effort is
suggested, bearing in mind that the characteristics of volunteerism in any country or
region are very much a function of the local social, cultural and political context and
that there is no blueprint for action. In many of these areas, it would be desirable to
see greater support from industrialized countries where volunteerism is often
recognized and actively encouraged.
46. Further sustained effort is needed to increase awareness and recognition
among policymakers and planners in developing countries of the nature of voluntary
action within specific local contexts and of the contribution such action makes to
societies. This should help to ensure that suitable frameworks are put in place to
support and nurture volunteerism. Awareness-raising extends to donor countries,
which are urged to consider support to local volunteerism in overseas aid
programmes. It also extends to the private sector and to civil society organizations
that involve, or could involve, volunteers. The media, in particular, has a crucial
role to play and needs to be encouraged to learn from best practices in this area and
increase its involvement.
47. Research on volunteer-related issues in developing countries also needs to be
expanded considerably. Basic information is lacking on the scale of volunteering,
the different forms it takes, the impact of cultural, economic and social perspectives
and the nature of barriers to taking part in voluntary action that face some segments
of the population. Governments are encouraged to fund and generally support such

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research, with assistance from the United Nations system as appropriate; civil
society organizations need to collaborate; and the academic community is urged to
undertake research that will help fill the knowledge gaps.
48. There have been important advances in recognition of the economic dimension
of voluntary action and this has, potentially, significant implications for the way that
volunteerism is perceived and the extent to which it is incorporated into the
mainstream of development planning. Actions to build up a knowledge base on this
subject and disseminate data should be vigorously pursued by Governments, with
support from civil society. At the same time, it is important not to lose sight of the
vital contribution volunteerism makes to the social fabric of communities and
nations, reinforcing trust and solidarity and offering one front in the fight against
49. Promotional work should continue and intensify, building on successful
experiences in the recent past. Governments, civil society organizations and the
media all have important roles to play. More efforts are needed to disseminate
information about the rich diversity of voluntary action, stressing the value of all
forms of voluntary participation, including mutual aid and campaigning alongside
service-oriented volunteer work. In this context, the linkages between volunteerism
at the national and local levels and efforts to achieve the Millennium Development
Goals need to be highlighted. Efforts to focus International Volunteer Day on the
Goals on the one hand and the growth of the World Volunteer Web portal on the
other, with the active support of the United Nations Volunteers, are positive
developments and should continue. The feasibility of periodic reviews of the global
status of volunteerism that would take stock and highlight major developments in
voluntary action around the world and provide inputs for United Nations
publications, might also be considered.
50. The present report has provided many examples of how voluntary action is
being facilitated at all levels. In many instances, the introduction of supportive
legislative and fiscal frameworks may play a critical role, either through the creation
of specific volunteering legislation or through ensuring that other legislation and
public policy is supportive of volunteering. Governments should be proactive when
considering the status of legislation in their countries as regards its impact on
volunteerism and civil society should be consulted when legislation is being
51. There are multiple needs, especially in developing countries, for human and
physical infrastructure to ensure all segments of the population have access to
meaningful and properly supported volunteer opportunities. In many cases, this will
require a political decision with financial implications. Governments might
consider, in consultation with civil society, the nature of infrastructure that will be
most effective in building up the potential for volunteerism in their countries. The
United Nations system has a role to play in the various sectors to help to plan for
and design appropriate infrastructure. Here and elsewhere, the private sector is
starting to expand its involvement in volunteerism in developing countries, building
on experience in industrialized countries; Governments have a role to play in
encouraging this trend.
52. The need to work towards a broad-based volunteer movement has been
highlighted. Young people are and will continue to be a priority in many countries.
This is understandable and every effort should be made to provide opportunities for

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youth to participate in the life of their society through volunteerism. However,
Governments, supported by the United Nations system, should recognize the needs
and potential of all segments of the population to participate through voluntary
action and should actively facilitate such action.
53. The present report has described advances made in networking activities,
including building partnerships and sharing good practices. Volunteer networks have
been established in a number of countries, but in many others there have been
difficulties in getting started. The United Nations Volunteers can provide support at
the country level, advising on such networking and facilitating appropriate
arrangements where desired. It can also continue to build up the capacity of its
World Volunteer Web with a view to using it as a tool to strengthen capacities at the
country level.
54. For the United Nations system as a whole, a sound step forward was taken
during the International Year of Volunteers with the issuance of a publication
Volunteering and the United Nations System , which looked at the broad
spread of volunteerism in its many and diverse forms throughout the system. The
findings, conclusions and recommendations in that publication are of concern to
most United Nations organizations. Since 2001, there are indications that United
Nations system organizations are increasingly recognizing, facilitating and
promoting volunteerism as an integral part of their work, but this trend needs to be
reinforced and broadened.
55. The International Year of Volunteers played a very important part in raising
awareness in many countries as regards the role and contribution of voluntary action
in almost every sphere of human development and led, in many cases, to the
introduction or strengthening of proactive approaches at the national level to
supporting voluntary action. These developments need to be sustained and extended
to cover all countries if the potential of volunteerism to help to meet the Millennium
Development Goals is to be fully realized. In that connection, the General Assembly
may wish to consider marking the tenth anniversary of the International Year of
Volunteers in 2011 as a means of taking stock of progress made over a decade of
follow-up to the Year, celebrating successes and considering the challenges that still
1United Nations publication, Sales No. E.03.XVII.9.
2See General Assembly resolution S-24/2, annex.
3See Report of the Second World Assembly on Ageing, Madrid, 8-12 April 2002 (United Nations
publication, Sales No. E.02.IV.4), chap. I, resolution 1, annex II.
4See Report of the World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa,
26 August-4 September 2002
(United Nations publication, Sales No. E.03.II.A.1 and
corrigendum), chap. I, resolution 1, annex.
5See A/C.2/59/3, annex.
6See A/CONF.206/6.