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The Sustainable Development Goals: Why Volunteering Matters

In September the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), effective in January 2016. Promoting volunteering and civic society in UN development goals is not a new phenomenon, but the SDGs recognize civic engagement and volunteering in a new way. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon underscored this point, saying “Volunteerism can help to expand and mobilize constituencies, and to engage people in national planning and implementation for sustainable development goals. And volunteer groups can help to localize the new agenda by providing new spaces of interaction between governments and people for concrete and scalable actions.”

With the adoption of these goals, the UN is recognizing that in terms of development, governments cannot act alone and that civic society and volunteering therefore plays an important role. This importance of can also be emphasized by the inclusion of Volunteer Groups and Non-governmental organizations as named stakeholders in the High Level Political Forum.

The SDGs will be met through the global, national and local efforts of governments, nonprofits and volunteers.  Some volunteers will appreciate knowing how their work – such as assembling hygiene kits, tutoring a child, or preparing tax returns for a low-income worker – plays a part in global change.

Here are a few examples of how volunteering benefits the individual and how volunteering contributes to global sustainable development:

  • Volunteering contributes to people developing or enhancing ownership and awareness about difficult challenges, and pushes for collective action and attitude changes in many global issues
  • Volunteering can enhance trust among diverse groups and helps build and bridge social capital.
  • Working with people towards a common goal can help eliminate societal and cultural barriers and create cohesion
  • Volunteering builds resilience and preparedness through concrete community action, enhancing knowledge and a sense of responsibility for one’s community
  • Volunteering is a skill-builder in many different areas, and improves your employability, knowledge and experience.
  • Volunteering further contributes financially to society. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on volunteering, the financial value of the result is four dollars.

For more information on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and volunteering, please explore these links: