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Volunteerism and Sustainable Livelihoods: An extract from the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report

06 July 2013

On  the first Saturday in July, we mark the International Day of Cooperatives  to showcase the role cooperatives play in sustainable social development around the world.  This year, the focus  of the International Day is on the contribution cooperatives mark in building resilience in societies in times of economic, social and environmental crisis.  

When many financial institutions are failing, financial cooperatives have demonstrated their strength, benefitting their members, employees and customers. At a time when many societies around the world are confronting food crisis, agricultural cooperatives have demonstrated their importance to achieving food security, improving the productivity of farmers by facilitating access to markets, credit, insurance and technology.

Cooperatives have also shown their relevance after disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis and floods, when they have shown their ability to mobilize solidarity for reconstruction situations. Furthermore, cooperatives were recognized by Rio+20 for their role in sustainable development in the context of environmental crisis.    

While cooperatives can exist in all social strata, these core values can make cooperatives ideal for providing goods and services to the poor, excluded and marginalized sectors of society. In short, they are major resources for empowerment and participation of people in their own development and that of their society. In so doing, cooperatives help individuals, families and communities build resilience, especially in times of crisis.

To mark the International Day of Cooperatives, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launches an extract from the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR), Volunteerism and Sustainable Livelihoods. The report, in keeping with many development experts, defines a livelihood as sustainable when it can cope with, and recover from, stresses and shocks and maintain or enhance its capabilities and assets, both now and in the future, while not undermining the natural resource base.

This SWVR extract focuses on the role of volunteer action in promoting sustainable livelihoods.

Cooperatives allow members of the community, particularly the income poor, to gain access to various capital assets in their societies as volunteers. Cooperatives provide social resources, based on the trust, mutual understanding and shared values.

Cooperatives can also provide awareness and participation in political processes. Volunteer-based associations impart key civic skills to citizens, such as organizing collective actions and advocating for issues.  

To learn more, read Volunteerism and Sustainable Livelihoods: An extract from the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report.
UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)