Highlight 31/2023 – The Art of Volunteerism in pursuit of Sustainable Development
Thet Thu Thu Htet, 18 October 2023
In the journey towards a more advanced society, after boundless exploitation followed by negative repercussions including unpredictable and unprecedented challenges, people became aware of the significance of sustainability. Accordingly, great importance is now attached to crafting the Global Agenda in more sustainable ways. Cognisant of the concept with roots extending over four centuries, the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 defined “sustainable development” with greater specificity in the 2030 agenda, identifying 17 Goals at its core. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a universal, inclusive and nestled nature, are an urgent call for actions by all countries and the pathway forward is metaphorically a marathon that may seem impossible until it is done.
With that being the case, it is necessary to implement the SDGs with renewed impetus, through synergized efforts and concrete measures. The convening of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summits with the participation of Head of States / Governments reflects the high-level priority and cooperation afforded to the sustainability agenda in the global context and should lead to more integrated and cohesive approaches to achieving the SDGs.
Besides the roles of Governments, International Organizations and Regional Organizations, voluntary participation is also crucial to achieving the aimed goals. As John C. Maxwell said, “teamwork makes the dream work.” Furthermore, volunteerism acts as a vehicle for sustainable development through its powerful, cross-cutting, pragmatic and far-reaching role in realizing the SDGs. Related to the SDGs, the involvement of volunteers in addressing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in supporting national responses and recovery and advocating for regional partnerships, is a sort of holistic approach for the betterment of people and planet.
Historically, the evolution of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) also added value to volunteerism and according to the annual report of UNVs in 2022, 55 UN partners hosted UNVs with the deployment of 12,408 volunteers in 166 countries and territories.
Notwithstanding the advantages and nobleness of volunteerism, the competences of volunteers are still limited and overruled in some cases which could lead to despondency and lack of willingness. Considering the challenges of volunteering and the pros and cons of being a volunteer, the sharing of experiences and best practices, plans to promote volunteerism and volunteer exchanges as well as training courses to develop skills and relevant competencies for volunteers through relevant volunteering programs and initiatives should be more enhanced. Additionally, mainstreaming the work of volunteers into the framework of policies and in decisions of policy makers will maintain the crucial role of volunteerism and foster complementarities. Furthermore, creating a conducive environment for volunteers by Governments and policymakers will also offer solutions to the potential disadvantages of volunteering.
Thet Thu Thu Htet, Highlight 31/2023 – The Art of Volunteerism in pursuit of Sustainable Development, 18 October 2023, available at www.meig.ch
The views expressed in the MEIG Highlights are personal to the authors and neither reflect the positions of the MEIG Programme nor those of the University of Geneva.