Regional Launch of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2018 for Asia & Pacific
Every three years UN Volunteers produces the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, a flagship UN publication designed to strengthen understanding on volunteerism and demonstrate its universality, scope and reach in the twenty-first century.
10 December 2018 – United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launched a flagship report, the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2018: The thread that binds, as part of the global celebrations of International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2018. This was the Asia-Pacific regional launch of the report which addressed the key findings on how volunteerism is connecting individuals, empowering youth and enabling everyone to take action to build resilient communities.
The United Nations Resident Coordinator a.i. and Representative of Food & Agriculture Organization Ms. Nina Brandstrup, UNV Regional Manager for Asia and the Pacific Ms. Shalina Miah, UNDP Country Director & Heads of UN Agencies Mr Jorn Sorensen graced the occasion.
The eminent panelists comprised of Emeritus Professor of the University of Colombo Prof. Siri Hettige, General Secretary of Sarvodaya Dr. Vinya Airyaratne, Director of National Secretariat for the Elderly – Ministry of Social Welfare & Housing Mr M. Ramamoorthy, Actress Ms. Pooja Umashanker, Asst. Treasurer of Sri Lanka Girl Guides Ms. Prarthana Liyanage, Previous V-Awards Finalist Ms. Sharmini Perera. The members of the National Steering Committee on Volunteering for Sri Lanka including volunteers and Volunteer Involving Organizations participated in the regional launch.
International Volunteer Day (IVD) is celebrated every year on 5 December to recognise volunteers worldwide who contribute to making their communities more resilient against natural disasters, economic stresses and political shocks. This year’s theme – Volunteers Build Resilient Communities – combines the recognition of volunteers with concrete evidence from the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) 2018.
Conducted triennially, the SWVR is the first global review that draws on original research in 15 communities across five continents, including Asia and the Pacific region, to understand how communities themselves view volunteering as strengthening as well as hindering community resilience in different ways. Over 1,500 participants took part in focus groups, key informant interviews and policy discussions in countries as diverse as: Guatemala, Bolivia, Netherlands, Greece, Egypt, Sudan, Burundi, Tanzania, Malawi, Madagascar, Russia, China, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The report, UNV says, is to provide an alternative vision for government and their development partners – one where the contribution of volunteerism as a property of resilient communities is maximized.
According to the report, more than one billion people volunteer globally, the majority of them working in their own countries in the most difficult of circumstances. Considering the hours they contribute, this is the equivalent to over 190 million full-time workers. This global volunteer workforce, or “Volunteeria” as the report calls it, exceeds the number of people employed in six of the 10 most populous countries.
Since 2008, 68 more countries found to have introduced or updated policies, legislation or other measures specific or relevant to volunteering globally, including Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Japan, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.
Shalina Miah, Regional Manager Asia & Pacific, United Nations Volunteers, Thailand, stated that “In the Asia and Pacific region, there are 28.7 million full time equivalent volunteers. Looked at another way, if every person who volunteered, volunteered for one hour per week, then around 1.15 billion people would be actively involved – a huge resource for peace and development.”
In Asia and the Pacific region, there are nearly 29 million full-time equivalent volunteers, ranking as the world’s 2nd highest number of full-time equivalent volunteers. This means there is great potential to draw on local volunteers’ support in facing peace and development challenges in Asia Pacific.
As volunteers are active in every major shock and stress experienced by communities, decision-makers need to better understand the relationship between volunteerism and community resilience so that voluntary action has the best opportunity to contribute to the collective and public good. In Sri Lanka 92 youth have been trained on youth and peacebuilding. Subsequently, these volunteers have reached more than 1900 community members to empower them on peacebuilding in Sri Lanka. Over 22 community engagement programmes on youth and peace have been successfully rolled-out in 4 provinces (Eastern, Northern, Central and Southern).
In Maharashtra, the western region of India, local volunteers, mobilized 16 community youth volunteers to work with her in stopping outward migration and displacement of the Katkaris. The volunteers have helped more than 5,000 tribal villagers to link with existing employment generation schemes in their districts and get employed in the same village without forcing them to migrate elsewhere.
The three atolls of Tokelau – Fakaofo, Nukunonu and Atafu – are another example. They are a few of the remotest places on the planet. UN Volunteers here have been working towards the protection of these fragile ecosystems and helping the small nation of Tokelau become self-sufficient in its energy needs. They have conducted assessments such as the Vulnerability Reduction Assessment to ensure that the atolls have sustainable food security, and strong mitigation capabilities to adapt to climate change
The significance of the SWVR 2018 launch and the panel discussion in Sri Lanka showcases the key findings and perspectives of the global research – the importance of volunteerism in community resilience building – were reflected according to pressing issues and priorities in Sri Lanka and the Asia-Pacific contexts. It also addressed critical support required in creating and enabling environment for volunteering to flourish.
From the panel discussion, key recommendations include:
Providing adequate support and resources to volunteers, moving away from coping to preventing and adapting to shocks
Ensuring access to volunteering opportunities and moving beyond a ‘project by project’ approach and including those preferring to work informally.
Promoting the principle of ‘leaving no one behind’ by supporting equal distribution of volunteer labor and impact.
Community leaders should be open-minded and proactive in mobilizing voluntary action and front-line leaders must optimize volunteer opportunities.
More precise action should be taken to facilitate support for marginalized communities around the world.