REGIONAL, NATIONAL, OR LOCAL?
Laws, regulations, and policies can be adopted at the regional, national, or local levels. While laws and policies governing volunteerism are most commonly adopted at the national level, there are prominent examples of local governments adopting well-received volunteerism laws or policies as well. In addition, in some parts of the world, such as the European Union, decisions affecting volunteerism can be made at the regional level that are legally binding on all members states. There are benefits and drawbacks associated with each potential focus of regulation that policymakers should consider before moving forward to the drafting stage.
REGIONWIDE LAWS AND POLICIES
Policies at the regional level are usually adopted by multilateral institutions or groupings of states, like the European Union (EU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the League of Arab States. Regional schemes to promote and facilitate volunteerism are normally non-binding on the member governments, but they can be useful in generating political will and overcoming indifference to or outright rejection of volunteerism- enabling legislation in the domestic context. The European Union, for example, has long encouraged the development of volunteerism laws and policies within its member States; from as early as 1997, the EU “recognize*d+ the important contribution made by voluntary service” and “encourage*d+ the… exchange of information and experiences as well as… participation of the young and elderly in voluntary work.”xvii Several times since then, EU institutions have studied volunteerism issues and made recommendations to the member States concerning legislative and other actions that they could take to promote volunteerism. Most recently, the European Parliament’s March 2008 ”Report on the Role of Volunteering in Contributing to Economic and Social Cohesion” called on Member States to “introduce VAT exemptions for voluntary organizations on purchases related to their objectives.”xviii The EU’s consistent attention to this issue has no doubt contributed to the success and diversity of volunteerism laws and policies in Europe; similar efforts are now being piloted in the League of Arab States and the ECOWAS and may lead their member governments that have not already done so to consider adopting national laws. When the Russian government failed to pass legislation to support volunteerism in the wake of IYV 2001, the City of Saint Petersburg enacted a Decree on Social Volunteering Promotion in 2008. The decree establishes a “Coordination Council” of more than 700 local CSOs, churches, and city government agencies to provide social services to Saint Petersburg residents.
NATIONAL LAWS AND POLICIES
Policies at the national level are usually developed to introduce a comprehensive package of measures that should be taken by the government and/or civil society to promote volunteering. These policies emphasize the general principles of volunteering and give direction to support the development and promotion of volunteerism. National policies may also aim to promote volunteering in particular fields – youth, education, culture, social welfare, health, and so on – and they are often utilized to promote cooperation between state institutions, civil society, the private sector, and volunteers. Finally, national policies may implement funding schemes and targeted trainings for volunteers working in specific fields.