I. IDENTIFYING THE GOALS OF AND POTENTIAL CHALLENGES TO VOLUNTEERISM LAWS AND POLICIES
The most successful initiatives to promote effective laws and policies begin with a clear consideration of the goals to be achieved and the challenges that may stand in the way of reform. A well constructed needs assessment process conducted in a participatory and democratic manner can help policymakers to set relevant and timely goals and spot potential obstacles before new laws or policies are drafted.
COMMON GOALS OF VOLUNTEERISM LAWS AND POLICIES
Below, several of the most common goals of a volunteerism law or policy are considered.
MOBILIZING CITIZENS TO ACHIEVE DEVELOPMENT GOALS
One of the most common goals of volunteerism laws and policies is to mobilize citizens to support social, economic, and political development through their own initiatives and organizations (i.e. without government channeling into specific priority areas). For example, Egypt’s “Sailing the Nile for the Millennium Development Goals,” a joint initiative of the Egyptian National Council for Childhood and Motherhood, Egyptian and international NGOs, private companies, and the UN, draws on traditional elements of Egyptian culture and society to raise public awareness of the Millennium Development Goals as well as the importance of volunteerism. The Egyptian government has opted to raise awareness of the role that Egyptian CSOs can play in supporting development generally rather than directing or channeling volunteerism toward specific government priority areas. As Hesham El Rouby, Chairman of the Egyptian CSO “Youth Association for Population and Development” said in 2007, the effect of this program has been to transform the public understanding of volunteerism:
The word volunteerism in Egypt used to mean either volunteering in the military or to ‘volunteer’ donations, but I see advancements in its definition as it has become associated with development. All the work that took place within Sailing the Nile for the Millennium Development Goals… was based on that.vii
SUPPORTING GOVERNMENT PRIORITY AREAS
In contrast to the general mobilization of citizens to support development, some countries choose to use volunteer initiatives to address specific government policymaking priorities. For example, Burkina Faso’s Law 31 of 2007 created a National Volunteerism System that was explicitly intended to reduce unemployment by creating a mechanism for professional training.viii Similarly, South Africa’s National Guidelines on Home-Based Care and Community-Based Care (2001) considers volunteerism as part of a national effort to alleviate severe burdens on the formal health care sector stemming from the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the rapid aging of the population. The policy established incentives for volunteers responding to community and family health care needs, thereby helping to channel volunteer efforts into the health care sector.