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been designed to extend an existing societal practice known as ubuntu (caring for the wider community) rather than displace it.

Finally, in some countries where volunteerism is already strong and well-established, it may be better for government to avoid developing new laws or policies that might inadvertently hamstring volunteers and the organizations which make use of them.

Because civil society organizations are often active hosts of volunteers, it is important to consider the legal environment for civil society. Volunteerism initiatives will be more successful and easier to administer when civil society organizations are free of inappropriate restrictions on their activities. Finally, policymakers should be careful to avoid the trap of overregulation in some circumstances it may be better not to pass a law or policy at all than to risk adoption of rules that may hinder volunteerism.


Achieving the MDGs by 2015 is a task for everyone, and voluntary action will be critical. UNV believes that supportive laws and policies is a key to engaging people to contribute to peace and development through the powerful and inclusive force of volunteerism.

Volunteerism laws and policies are employed by governments around the world to support a variety of goals, including mobilizing citizens to support development, channeling volunteer effort into specific priority areas, creating disaster response mechanisms, promoting national citizenship and civic engagement, and economic development. Achieving these goals may be made difficult by potential legal and cultural obstacles as well as problems stemming from poor volunteer infrastructure. In order to design volunteerism laws and policies that are tailored to local needs and potential obstacles, governments should conduct participatory needs assessments that allow input by civil society, individual volunteers, and other interested stakeholders.

Indeed, participatory processes are essential not just in the needs assessment stage but during the drafting and implementation stages as well. By allowing citizens to have a voice, governments encourage a sense of ownership and a commitment to the success of new law or policy initiatives. The most successful volunteerism initiatives have operational plans which detail specific activities, goals, responsibilities, and deadlines for all stakeholders, including government and volunteer organizations. Governments have often turned to national coordination bodies or specialized implementing agencies to ensure that laws are effective in the way that drafters intend. To ensure the continued success of new laws or policies, governments often provide for continuous monitoring and improvement plans.

Volunteerism laws and policies can be an important driver of economic, social, and political development so long as they are carefully designed and targeted to address local needs and goals. There is no single method of promoting volunteerism that will work in all places, but UNV hopes that by providing examples from around the world, this Guidance Note will be a useful guide for stakeholders considering the adoption of new volunteerism initiatives in their own countries, as well as for regional and global policy-makers. As you move forward, UNV invites you to share your practice experiences and lessons learned from this Guidance Note with us.


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