for their roles in the implementation process, and will help to ensure that laws and policies are more than just words on paper. In addition, stakeholders should provide for continuous monitoring of their implementation and be prepared to allow for changes to be made in the event that volunteerism laws or policies are not fully effective. Doing so will allow for the generation of “lessons learned” that might inform future volunteer initiatives.
V. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS
Two additional issues should inform consideration of a volunteerism law or policy initiative.
THE IMPORTANCE OF LAWS GOVERNING CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS
An often-neglected issue is the relationship of volunteerism to the laws governing formal not-for-profit organizations. Volunteerism is intimately related to the laws that govern CSOs; without an enabling legal environment that allows civil society in general to flourish, even the best volunteerism initiatives will not succeed. Civil society organizations are key institutions though which formal volunteerism takes place, and unless CSOs are free of burdensome and inappropriate regulations they will not be able to capitalize on volunteerism to support development.
Several countries provide examples of how volunteerism initiatives can fail to reach their fullest potential when civil society laws are not consistent with international standards governing fundamental human rights, such as the right to associate. For example, in the United Arab Emirates, a country with relatively restrictive civil society laws, an innovative and successful program to recruit volunteers from local universities and colleges was launched in 2007 (see page 7, above). However, the UAE’s civil society laws hindered the formation and operation of CSOs: registration of new CSOs was mandatory and difficult, government supervision over CSO activities was invasive, and serious criminal penalties could be imposed for even minor violations of the law. In the end, the volunteer recruitment program yielded many more volunteers than could be absorbed by the limited number of local CSOs able to form under these laws. The UAE’s experience is a reminder that without a positive and enabling legal framework for civil society, the potential of volunteerism initiatives will be severely reduced.
SITUATIONS IN WHICH VOLUNTEERISM LAWS OR POLICIES MAY BE INAPPROPRIATE
Policymakers should keep in mind that laws and policies on volunteerism should promote and protect volunteerism of all varieties. While it may be useful to promote specific forms of volunteerism, laws should not impede spontaneous initiatives, burden small CSOs, or dampen the volunteer spirit.
Indeed, in some circumstances it may be better not to pass a law or policy on volunteerism at all. Legislators should ensure that laws do not inadvertently restrict opportunities for the further development of volunteerism; as has been previously discussed, laws intended to encourage volunteerism in certain fields should be carefully drafted lest they foreclose other types of beneficial volunteerism. For example, governments in countries where formal volunteerism is not prevalent but in which informal, family and community-based volunteerism is common should be careful to protect existing practices while encouraging new ones. In South Africa, for example, laws have