New partnership between UNV and VSO: Promoting volunteering to empower local communities in driving the development agenda
Bonn/London – A new partnership between the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and VSO, announced today, will maximise the potential of volunteering to help citizens drive development forward themselves.
The UNV-VSO partnership aims to increase the positive impact that volunteering can have on empowering marginalised communities. It will build partnerships at the country level to support research, promote volunteering and help undertake advocacy to create enabling legislation for volunteerism. By sharing knowledge, the two organisations aim to build good practice in volunteering, promote innovation and amplify the voice of volunteers and grassroots organisations in decision-making about development.
UNV and VSO are concerned that the very people that development aims to support are often far removed from decision-making about poverty reduction. By working together, the organisations hope to help put the voice of marginalised communities at the heart of development, from grassroots to international levels. VSO works in over 30 countries with local partners to support the work of over 250,000 local volunteers, in addition to international volunteers sharing their skills.
Andrew Mitchell, UK Secretary of State for Development, will give the keynote speech at an event today to celebrate the new partnership. An expert panel will then examine the vital role that volunteering can play in promoting active citizenship and people-centred development. This debate is critical at a time when the world is grappling with questions about how to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and is debating what the future international framework for effective development should look like.
Both UNV and VSO believe that the needs and aspirations of marginalised people themselves need to be the starting point for international efforts to reduce poverty, and that fostering citizen action on the issues through volunteering is a key engine for change.
Marg Mayne, VSO Chief Executive, said:
"This new partnership is very exciting. It will help promote and strengthen volunteering for development, increasing the participation and engagement of marginalised communities in decisions which affect their lives. With over 50 years of experience in this area, we know how active citizenship can help ensure that poor and marginalised people take ownership of development and make it work for them.
"The result is development that is truly people-driven, locally owned and sustainable. As we grapple with development approaches in the run-up to 2015 and beyond, it's important that the role of voluntary action is fully appreciated and harnessed.
"Volunteering is much more than a cost-effective and sustainable way to deliver services. It brings people together to drive meaningful changes in society and shape debates and decisions that have a profound impact on their lives."
Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of UNV, states:
"This partnership agreement gives formal acknowledgement of our strong, long-term working relationship with VSO and provides a framework for collaborative work on global advocacy and research on volunteerism for development and peace. It also provides a practical on the ground collaboration in developing countries."
UNV will launch in the UK the first State of the World's Volunteerism Report (SWVR), which promotes a better understanding of civic engagement by demonstrating its universality, scope and reach and by discussing new trends in volunteerism in the twenty-first century. The report examines important contributions in diverse fields such as sustainable livelihoods, social inclusion, social cohesion and disaster risk reduction. The SWVR also provides an alternative vision of a better society and considers how to take volunteerism forward.
The event, Framing the future of development: putting people first, takes place at the Royal Society's Kohn Centre, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, from 2-5pm on 18 April.
The line-up of speakers includes:
Keynote speech by the Secretary of State for Development, Andrew Mitchell; Marg Mayne – Chief Executive, VSO; Flavia Pansieri – Executive Coordinator, UNV; Roy Trivedy – Head of Civil Society Dept, DFID; Justin Davis Smith – Chief Executive, Volunteering England; Danny Burns – Team Leader Participation, Power and Social Change team, IDS.
Journalists are welcome to attend the invitation-only event. Those wishing to do so should contact VSO or UNV on the numbers below to confirm a place.
VSO is different from most organisations that fight poverty. Instead of sending money or food, we bring people together to share skills and knowledge. In doing so, we create lasting change. Experienced VSO volunteers work to address the forces that keep people in poverty – from education and health through helping people learn the skills they need to make a living. In doing so they invest in local people, so the impact they have endures long after their placement ends.
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism. UNV is inspired by the conviction that volunteerism can transform the pace and nature of development and by the idea that everyone can contribute their time and energy towards peace and development. With partners, UNV advocates for volunteerism, integrates volunteerism into development planning and mobilises volunteers. The enormous potential of volunteerism is an inspiration to UNV and to volunteers around the world.
For more information please contact:
Steve Ballinger, VSO Media Manager, +44 (0)20 8780 7632 or +44 (0)7500 918478
Jennifer Stapper, Chief, Communications Section, UNV, +49 (0) 15201522181