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The Power of Volunteering Draws Global Attention

Take a moment to consider that: 

In Syria, volunteers for the Syrian Red Crescent have formed the basis for the majority of aid distribution in besieged cities and for people displaced by war. In western Africa, local volunteers have risked their lives to care for people stricken with Ebola virus disease, or to bury the dead, only to face stigmatization in their communities. Along the Mediterranean coast, volunteers have saved lives by helping people to shore, performing first aid, bringing blankets and warm food. In Mongolia, volunteers help young people develop livelihoods.

This is but one of many powerful passages from the new, comprehensive, Global Review on Volunteering. The report from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) was released on International Volunteer Day, just after the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing volunteering as a powerful means for implementing the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

I am thrilled with the positive steps the UN and others are taking to integrate and elevate volunteers in advancing the common good. The IFRC report, however, challenges some common assumptions and points out deficiencies that will need to be addressed to fully realize volunteers’ ability to impact the Sustainable Development Goals. It calls for greater attention to the impact of economic crises and greater mobility of people, the emphasis on cost-effective service delivery (and the risk of exploiting volunteers as cheap labor) and sustained conflict and violence, particularly in the Global South. Without more research and resources to understand and address the context in which volunteering occurs, the IFRC contends that volunteering is likely to be “mainstreamed and absorbed in ways that diminish the distinctive contributions it could make.”

The Global Review on Volunteering is inspiring and insightful. I urge you to download the report here; learn about IMPACT 2030, a global coalition that aims to channel the power of employee volunteers in pursuit of the SDGs; and learn more about the UN’s activities through these links: