Parlamentarians to help create a positive environment for voluntary participation in society
01 October 2004
Geneva, Switzerland: The 111th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has marked the occasion to launch a Guidance Note on “Volunteerism and Legislation” jointly prepared by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), IPU, and the UN Volunteers (UNV) programme.
Speaking to over 300 members of parliament from around the world, the President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Paez Verdugo, opened the session by referring to the resolution adopted by the IPU Assembly in 2001 in Havana regarding the commitment on the part of member parliaments to work towards enhancing the legislative framework for volunteering. IPU Secretary General Anders Johnsson said: “This book is aimed at providing parliamentarians with a tool to ensure that national legal frameworks facilitate volunteerism. The importance of volunteer work cannot be understated. It involves all groups in society. It is an important development factor and therefore a very important resource for the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals.”
UNV Executive Coordinator, Ad de Raad, who was part of the podium for the launch said: “UNV recognizes the importance of parliaments and parliamentarians in promoting and supporting democratic processes. The full engagement of citizens is a vital part of well-functioning democracies and volunteering, down the ages, has always proven to be a significant channel for such a participation.” Ibrahim Osman, representing IFRC, said: “Volunteering is at the heart of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies all around the world. This guidance note will help to bring together their work with that of parliaments at a critical time in the building of recognition of civil society contributions to all forms of national development.”
Following the interventions of speakers from the podium, Members of Parliament from a number of countries took the floor to express their support for the initiative and their satisfaction with the results: Burkina Faso congratulated the authors of the Report and said that there is a real need to facilitate volunteerism in the country. The Republic of Korea said the publication was well prepared and will be very useful in helping to strengthen relations between governments and civil society. Germany stated that this was an important contribution to a very important issue and will be of benefit to all those engaged in promoting volunteerism and to legislators seeking to support them. Greece was happy to see this excellent publication and cited the tremendous experience of volunteers at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens to underscore the value of volunteers in democratic societies. Algeria felt that the publication should strengthen links between parliaments and volunteers which is of some significance given the great need to support organizations involving volunteers in development. By the same token volunteers have a role in supporting the efforts of parliaments to work for the betterment of societies. Italy also emphasized the usefulness of the report and alluded to the courage and commitment of volunteers in situations of crisis as in Iraq. Ireland considered this to have been a tremendous project and congratulated all involved. Syria congratulated the authors for the Guidelines which, it felt, would encourage legislators to consider volunteer related issues laid out in the document.
About Volunteerism and Legislation
The Guidance Note addresses issues concerning the contribution of citizens to development, safety and social growth, and highlights the desirability of recognizing, valuing and promoting voluntary action by citizens in every country. The introduction to “Volunteerism and Legislation” emphasizes that: “Volunteering is a nursery for good citizenship. It helps build strong and cohesive communities. It teaches people to be responsible citizens and schools them in the process of democratic involvement. It promotes trust and reciprocity, which are essential to stable societies.”
“Volunteerism and Legislation” also raises principle considerations of any legal framework, including recognition of the legal status of volunteers; the treatment of certain aspects of volunteerism under labour, social-welfare and tax laws; the relationship between volunteers and volunteer-involving organizations; and legal provisions for the further development of volunteerism. It also respects the fundamental role of parliaments to enact laws and to impact directly on policies that support and promote improved livelihoods for all citizens, especially the more disadvantaged members of society.
The International Year of Volunteers (IYV) 2001 highlighted the existence of an enabling framework for volunteering as being one of the more important determinants of a flourishing volunteer movement. A growing number of countries, both industrialized and developing, have adopted or are considering adopting national legislation on volunteering.
As part of its recognition of the importance of the International Year of Volunteers (IYV), the Inter-Parliamentary Council in April 2001 adopted a resolution at its 168th session in Havana urging Parliaments and their members around the world to identify policies which might be adopted to encourage volunteerism and to establish a legislative framework supportive of voluntary action from a good governance perspective.
In response to this resolution, IPU agreed with IFRC - the largest global network of volunteers - and with UNV - the focal point for follow-up to IYV 2001 - to prepare a Guidance Note on “Volunteerism and Legislation” for use by parliamentarians around the world.
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