Since 2001, dozens of studies and research reports at the international and national levels have highlighted the importance of volunteerism as a driver of economic, social, and political development. As only one example, a 2002 UN General Assembly Resolutioni stated that volunteerism was a necessary component of “any strategy aimed at…. poverty reduction, sustainable development, health, disaster prevention and management, and social integration.” A 2008 Johns Hopkins University study echoed this conclusion and highlighted the economic impact of volunteerism, finding that “at least 12 percent of the adult population in *the 37 countries studied+ volunteers, representing the equivalent of 20.8 million, full-time equivalent workers, and making a $400 billion contribution to the economy.”ii More recently, the Secretary General of the United Nations issued a reportiii stating that “achieving the Millennium Development Goals will require the engagement of countless millions of people through volunteer action.”
As the link between volunteerism and social, economic, and political development has become clear, countries around the world have moved to create domestic legal and regulatory environments in which volunteerism can flourish. Policymakers have accordingly sought to promote laws and policies that support volunteerism for development goals. As with other laws and policies, there is no single solution that is appropriate for all countries and circumstances. Laws and policies must be carefully tailored to achieve specific goals and they must take account of local contexts, traditions, and needs.
Previous UNV guidance notes have explored the need for a legal framework for volunteerism and the areas of law that impact volunteers (Volunteerism and Legislation, 2004) as well as the need for a volunteer infrastructure and the methods by which such an infrastructure might be created (Developing a Volunteer Infrastructure, 2005). This Guidance Note builds on prior efforts, as well as an analysis of volunteerism law and policy initiatives globally since 2001, to provide a primer on the process of drafting and implementing volunteerism laws and policies that support social, political, and economic development. This note emphasizes an approach in which policymakers, civil society leaders, and other stakeholders:
Determine the these goals;
Embrace a participatory and open process for analysis, drafting, and implementation;
Draft laws or policies targeted to achieve the goals determined; and
Ensure that new laws or policies are effectively and sustainably implemented.
This holistic approach is most likely to yield successful volunteerism initiatives. By carefully considering and articulating the goals of volunteerism laws and policies, policymakers will ensure that their initiatives are targeted, timely, and calibrated to achieve measurable changes. Similarly, by taking the time to evaluate potential challenges to implementation of volunteerism initiatives, including cultural and legal obstacles as well as problems arising from poor volunteer infrastructure, policymakers can take steps to address problems and improve the likelihood of success for volunteer initiatives. Utilizing a participatory process throughout the analysis, drafting, and implementation stages will help to build support among all stakeholders and ensure that volunteerism initiatives are practical and maximally effective. Participatory processes that consider goals and challenges will lead to and reinforce targeted and well considered laws and policies. Finally, when policymakers take steps to implement and monitor volunteerism initiatives effectively and sustainably, they will be able both to ensure that individuals and