UN Volunteers
in 2021
from 2020
UN partners host
UN Volunteers
International volunteers
National UN
International UN
International UN Volunteers
come from the Global South
160 Countries where UN Volunteers are deployed
Countries where UN
Volunteers are deployed
Average age
Average age of
UN Volunteers

UN Volunteers are strength in diversity globally

UN Volunteers making a difference


In 2021, as a common service to the United Nations, UNV deployed 10,921 UN Volunteers, a 15 per cent increase over 2020. Volunteers supported 56 United Nations entities in 160 countries and territories. Africa saw the largest number of UN Volunteers (up 9 per cent over 2020). Latin America and the Caribbean followed (up 36 per cent). Other regions also benefited from a growing number of volunteers including Asia and the Pacific (up 16 per cent); Arab States (up 18 per cent); and Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (up 9 per cent).

The total number of UN Volunteers increased by 15 per cent during 2021. In contrast, the total number of months volunteered grew at the slightly lower rate of 13 per cent. The difference shows that UNV is responding to changing needs across the UN system for more agile and shorter assignments.

The number of national UN Volunteers continues to exceed the number of international UN Volunteers (59:41 per cent). This trend has two drivers: the increased focus of UNV on supporting national capacities at the country level and the impact of pandemic-related travel restrictions.

Among international UN Volunteers, 66 per cent were from the Global South, reflecting the increased representation of nationals of those countries in the United Nations

The average age of UN Volunteers in 2021 was 34, with 33 per cent under 30 years of age and 1 per cent over 60 years of age. UNV deployed 1,348 UN Youth Volunteers, including 205 UN University Volunteers.

The average age of UN Volunteers in 2021 was 34, with 33 per cent under 30 years of age and 1 per cent over 60 years of age.

UNV continued to nurture and scale the volunteer categories it most recently introduced. In 2021, 15 partners in 47 countries hosted 990 UN Community Volunteers — half of them women; the highest number were deployed in Bangladesh. The number of UN Expert Volunteers increased by 58 per cent to 444. This highlights the significant demand for people who have high-calibre, specialized expertise requested by UN partners. These experts served in 82 countries with 30 host United Nations entities. Colombia was host to the highest number; there, 87 UN Expert Volunteers supported eight UN partners. Meanwhile, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) increased its deployment of Refugee UN Volunteers to 27.

UN Volunteers are persons with disabilities
UNV engaged 157 UN Volunteers with disabilities in the United Nations system. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) deployed the single largest group, working with 65 UN Volunteers, while an additional 92 UN Volunteers worked in association with 19 other United Nations partners. In the UNV talent pool, 4,384 candidates who self-reported disabilities were available for online and on-site volunteer assignments.
of UN Volunteers are women

Gender parity and partnerships for SDG5

After reaching gender parity among UN Volunteers in 2019, the proportion of female UN Volunteers increased to 53 per cent in 2021. But this global average conceals a regional disparity: the ratio of women exceeded 50 per cent in all regions except Africa. UNV is working to reach gender parity in Africa and efforts are showing promise. On the African continent, 46 per cent of UN Volunteers were women, a marked increase from 40 per cent in 2018. In contrast, among UN Volunteers serving in Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, 69 per cent were women, while that figure was 67 per cent in Latin America and the Caribbean. Going forward, UNV will focus its targeted approach to achieving gender parity across all regions, volunteer categories and United Nations partners.

System-Wide Action Plan on Gender

UNV increased its performance against the United Nations UN System-Wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women from 69 per cent in 2020 to 88 per cent in 2021. For the first time, UNV is meeting or exceeding requirements for all indicators it is reporting.
Local volunteers mobilized in the last four years in partnership with UNV

UNV as a catalyst in communities

UNV and its UN partners mobilized almost 420,000 other volunteers in Argentina, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cameroon, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, India, Kazakhstan, Sri Lanka and Venezuela. This brought the cumulative number of local non-UN Volunteers mobilized during the last four years to 1,663,729.
Partnerships between local volunteer groups and UN entities facilitated by UNV in 2021 include:

Youth empowerment: In India, UNV and UNDP collaborated to deploy 371,025 volunteers across 58 districts to strengthen Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and the National Service Scheme. These volunteers organized on-site and online events to raise awareness around COVID-19, youth, women, environmental issues and other themes. Their efforts engaged over one million young people.

Pandemic response: Partners relied on volunteers deployed through national volunteer infrastructure established with UNV support. The National Volunteer Programme in Mali, established with the contribution of UNDP, mobilized 1,210 national volunteers, 60 per cent of them women, for COVID-19 response.

Child protection: In Kazakhstan, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) collaborated with the government on a volunteer effort, coordinated with UNV support, that targeted the involvement and training of young people. The scheme mobilized 1,803 online civil society volunteers for preventing bullying in schools and raising awareness on children’s rights, environmental issues and disaster risk reduction.

Where and how volunteers serve


Online volunteering

The persistence of COVID-19 through 2021 continued to impact UNV. Because travel restrictions and lockdowns remained in place, UNV experienced a strong demand for digital solutions. More UN Volunteers asked to contribute remotely. This was also reflected in the United Nations system, where demand for online volunteering solutions increased by 24 per cent, from 2,048 in 2020 to 2,546 in 2021.

Demand for online volunteering solutions increased
by 24 per cent.
Examples of how UN system partners tap into online volunteer support include:

Data analysis: The UNDP Bureau for Policy and Programme Support requested 615 online volunteers, through 39 assignments, to assist with data analysis and research collection relevant to the UNDP-UN-Women COVID-19 Global Gender Response Tracker. These volunteers assisted in three ways: monitored government responses to the pandemic; provided guidance for policymakers; and offered evidence for advocates seeking to ensure gender-sensitive COVID-19 policy responses.

DEEP technology: The UN Development Cooperation Office engaged 35 online volunteers to organize and tag more than 30,000 pages of reports using DEEP technology. Their efforts supported three United Nations country teams in developing common country analyses for Somalia, Ghana and the Central African Republic.

iDiaspora digital platform: The International Organization for Migration sought 61 online volunteers, through 11 assignments, to bolster the iDiaspora digital. They created original content and updated resources, developed outreach strategies and provided translations. Their efforts contributed to increased visibility, partnerships, capacity-building and accessibility.

Covid-19 response


Civil society volunteers shared social protection and nutrition information in Peru

UN Volunteers bolster response to COVID-19

Member States reported that volunteers played an integral role in the effective management of the COVID-19 crisis through prevention, mitigation and delivery of basic social services. The national health policy in Iraq emphasizes community and volunteer participation for emergency preparedness. In 2021, volunteers distributed COVID-19 informational materials and personal protective equipment to five million people across five provinces.

In Tunisia, volunteers raised awareness of the pandemic for two million people. In Guatemala, volunteers distributed food boxes to families, and in Namibia, volunteers were involved in sensitization efforts as part of the National Response Mechanism.

Volunteerism ensures no one is left behind. Feedback documenting the positive contribution of volunteerism emphasized its contribution to the inclusion of vulnerable and marginalized groups. Volunteers in Thailand focused on serving women and children. They began a nutrition programme for children through the Village Health Volunteer System. As well, volunteers implemented and promoted women’s empowerment by collecting and analysing data on the root causes of inequalities. In Peru, UN Volunteers coordinated the work of 1,635 civil society volunteers to share social protection and nutrition information; this effort involved sending 149,000 text messages and making 47,000 phone calls to the targeted population of refugees and internally displaced persons.

UN Volunteers served with the World Health Organization in 2021

In the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of UN Volunteers with the World Health Organization increased by 34 per cent to 368.

In Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Guinea, Madagascar, Malawi and other countries, UN Volunteers served as Africa Women Health Champions and helped to promulgate critical health messages about COVID-19, cholera and Lassa fever and to strengthen national emergency preparedness systems. In Egypt, UN Volunteers with the Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office provided technical expertise on mental health and psychosocial support, increased surge capacity, supported community engagement and helped to manage consignments of COVID-19 vaccines.

UNV promotes volunteering for SDGs

SDGs and volunteeering

UNV promotes volunteering for SDGs

Member States and volunteering

Volunteerism is an effective way for Member States to engage people and implement the 2030 Agenda.

UNV supports Member States in using their Voluntary National Reviews to capture the contributions of volunteers to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Forty-two reviews were presented at the 2021 High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. Of these, 61 per cent recognized the positive contributions of volunteering to the SDGs, compared to 58 per cent in 2020. UNV provided technical assistance to 22 Member States for data collection and analysis.

Of 42 reviews, 61 per cent recognized the positive contributions of volunteering to the SDGs.

Drawing from the Voluntary National Reviews, local volunteers contributed to the achievement of the SDGs in three areas: volunteerism ensures no one is left behind; volunteers raise awareness; and volunteering bolsters the national response to COVID-19.

Voluntary National Reviews

Volunteerism is an effective way for Member States to engage people and implement the 2030 Agenda.

The value of volunteerism

In Madagascar, volunteers explained the causes of environmental degradation and climate change in communities across 22 regions. Cyprus highlighted that the key to implementing the SDGs is found in its long-term, integrated policy framework for civil society, active citizenship, volunteerism and non-governmental organizations. Norway reported on the creation of the new municipality of Asker, guided by the SDGs to ensure the relevance of the goals in the local context. The new authority will engage residents, businesses and voluntary organizations in finding solutions and taking action at the municipal level to address issues of global relevance.

Based on data from 7,590 volunteer reports in 2021, UN Volunteers, in their opinion, mostly contributed to:
Peace, justice and strong institutions
Good health and well-being
Gender equality
Partnerships for the goals
Reduced inequalities
UNV extended technical and knowledge support to develop policies and legislation on volunteerism and its integration into the 2030 Agenda in 15 countries. They include: Bangladesh, Cameroon, Congo, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, India, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Nepal, Nigeria, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

To strengthen volunteerism at the country level, UNV provided technical and financial support in the development of the national volunteer and internship framework and implementation plan in Malawi. The framework establishes parameters and enhances awareness. It explains the benefits of volunteering and internship programmes and describes how they foster socioeconomic development at national and community levels.

Member States are supported in developing programmes, policies and legislation that promote volunteerism and volunteer action.

Cumulative number of volunteer schemes (online, on-site, regional, national, subregional, youth) supported by UNV
Cumulative number of Member States partnering with UNV to develop their policies and legislation on volunteerism
Knowledge Portal on Volunteerism

Exchange of knowledge on volunteering

UNV continued to share best practices with the United Nations Office for South-South Collaboration. UNV also expanded the Knowledge Portal on Volunteerism with a section dedicated to specific evidence and best practice ideas offered by partners. These two efforts support a South-South exchange of knowledge and experiences around volunteering, both nationally and internationally, among countries of the Global South.

UNV continued to share best practices with the United Nations Office for South-South Collaboration.
Percentage of United Nations partners reporting a positive contribution of UN Volunteers to their mandate

Via the Knowledge Portal on Volunteerism, UNV organized 16 webinars and online discussions on topics related to the integration of volunteerism into Voluntary National Reviews. The most viewed section of the portal is the Volunteering Database, in particular the section on measurement, followed by the evidence library.

The United Nations system is supported to deliver on the 2030 Agenda through the engagement of UN Volunteers and the integration of volunteerism.

Evidence base on volunteering

UNV promotes volunteering for SDGs

Statisticians were trained in 2021 by ILO and UNV

UNV provided Member States with the tools and means to measure and better understand the scale, scope and contribution — both social and economic — of volunteering to development.

To this end, building upon fieldwork conducted in 2019 and 2020 in Senegal and Ukraine, UNV and the International Labour Organization (ILO) published a new volunteer work measurement guide. As well, they developed a course for national statistical offices on how to measure volunteer work. The first cohort of 30 statisticians, largely from the Global South, were trained in 2021.

Volunteerism is promoted and its value advanced by engaging with Member States, civil society and academia in research, public dialogue, documentation and dissemination.

Cumulative quadrennial number of Member States contributing research and knowledge products to the Plan of Action

Launch of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report

UNV promotes volunteering for SDGs

Building Equal and Inclusive Societies

In December 2021, UNV launched the fourth edition of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report: Building Equal and Inclusive Societies. It considers the time before and during COVID-19 while also looking beyond it. The document considers research on volunteering and draws upon case studies in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East and the Commonwealth of Independent States. It also offers a multi-country examination and advocates for continued investment in quantitative and qualitative data on volunteering.

The report examines how volunteering can advance inclusion by reducing the barriers facing marginalized groups seeking volunteering opportunities. Those barriers can take many forms, including physical, informational and gender-specific obstacles that primarily impact women.

The report examines how volunteering can advance inclusion by reducing the barriers facing marginalized groups seeking volunteering opportunities.

UNV continued to strengthen the evidence base on volunteering for the SDGs and engaged on this evidence with Member States and civil society. This emphasis builds upon the Plan of Action to Integrate Volunteering into the 2030 Agenda and the Call to Action on volunteering in the Decade of Action. Since the plan of action process was concluded in 2020, no further technical meetings and consultations took place with partners.

Therefore, less research and fewer knowledge products were pursued for the plan of action process than originally anticipated. Instead, in 2021, UNV engaged partners in technical consultations around the preparation of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report.

Building Equal and Inclusive Societies. Visit website

UNV grows through experience and partnerships

UNV at 50: Development and key achievements (1971-2021)

UNV grows through experience and partnerships


On 2 December 2021, a special commemorative session of the UN General Assembly marked the fiftieth anniversary of UNV. During those years, UNV has deployed over 70,000 UN Volunteers to serve in humanitarian assistance, development cooperation and peacebuilding.

UNV was formally created by UN General Assembly resolution 2659. The resolution noted that volunteering "constitutes an important factor in ensuring the increased effectiveness of collective efforts necessary for a better society".

UN Volunteers deployed: 41
UN Volunteers deployed: 10,921
Focus: Engineering, agriculture, health services
Focus: Work with 56 United Nations entities
Enduring tie: UNV has always supported the three founding pillars of the United Nations — peace and security, human rights and development.

In 1971, UNV began sending UN Volunteers into the field to assist with United Nations activities focused on engineering, agriculture and health services. A small team of technicians and engineers were the first volunteers to be dispatched, building drinking wells in Yemen Arab Republic (now the Republic of Yemen). That infrastructure was vital for a country emerging from eight years of civil war. Other volunteers soon followed to assist in Chad and East Pakistan (today Bangladesh).

That initial cadre of a few dozen grew steadily to an annual count of more than 600 volunteers by the end of the first decade, about 1,800 by the end of the first quarter of a century, and close to 11,000 at the half-century milestone.

In the 1990s, UNV intensified its work in disaster risk reduction and post-disaster recovery. In response to global and regional pandemics – including HIV/AIDS, Ebola and, most recently, COVID-19 – UNV has intensified its work in health care and disease prevention.

In what was a major shift for the organization, UNV began its involvement in electoral support beginning in the early 1990s. Since then, UNV has been a significant part of almost every United Nations peacekeeping operation.

UNV has always nurtured a diverse and inclusive volunteer community.
  • The ranks of women, thin in the beginning, are now at parity with men at the global level. Women have also increasingly assumed a wider array of assignments across different countries and settings.
  • UNV has diversified its volunteer base through special initiatives, such as disability inclusion. Over the past decade, UNV has been intentional in providing opportunities for persons with disabilities to contribute to the work of the United Nations through volunteerism.
  • The first refugee volunteers served in 1974, and their participation has steadily increased. In 2018, UNV introduced a Refugee UN Volunteer category as a pilot initiative with UNHCR.
  • Since its inception, youth – those 18-26 years of age – have been a steadily growing segment among UN Volunteers.

Today, three significant changes display the adaptability of UNV. First, more than 80 per cent of UN Volunteers come from the Global South. As well, there are more national than international volunteers. And finally, a steadily growing number of global citizens contributes to peace and development as online volunteers.

At the heart of volunteerism are the ideals of service and solidarity and the belief that together we can make the world better. In that sense, we can say that volunteerism is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about".
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan speaking during the 2001 opening ceremony for the International Year of Volunteers.
50 year anniversary book. Read here.

UNV financial reporting for 2021

UNV grows through experience and partnerships

$270 million
Total financial value of UNV activities

In 2021, the total financial value of UNV activities amounted to $270 million, an increase of $32.6 million, or 13.7 per cent, from $237.4 million in 2020.

UNV continued to monitor its costs and align them with financial resources and future projections. Correspondingly, the total cost from core, extra-budgetary, cost recovery funds and the Special Voluntary Fund (SVF) increased by only 5 per cent in 2021.

Contributions from Member States that are not earmarked form the bedrock of the UNV institutional budget. Member States, in 2021, contributed regular resources to UNV through UNDP amounting to $8.6 million. This was consistent with the annual average during 2018–2021 of $8.67 million. It represents a 15 per cent decrease compared with the annual average from 2014–2017.

UNV continues to rely on the SVF for research on and promotion of volunteerism, emergency and crisis response, and innovative solutions. In 2021, contributions to the fund came from nine donors. They include: Bangladesh, China, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Switzerland and Thailand. Individual donations were made through the Digital Giving platform. The total amount contributed was $4.8 million, inclusive of interest. More than 97 per cent of SVF contributions came from three donors — Germany, Switzerland and France.

Examples of what the SVF funded in 2021 include:
  • Research and production of the triennial 2022 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report;
  • Final year of the UNV Digital Transformation project;
  • COVID-19 Response Mechanism, deploying over 100 SVF funded national volunteers to support inter-agency coordination, information management, joint UN programmes and public health work;
  • Support to re-deploy 11 national UN Volunteers from Afghanistan to international UN Volunteer positions in regional offices of UNV as well as with UN Women.
Million in 2021
Compared to 2020
Contributions to the UNV Full
Funding programme

Contributions to the UNV Full Funding (FF) programme amounted to $25.1 million in 2021. This was an increase of 21 per cent over 2020.

UNV continued to strive for organizational efficiencies by streamlining its recruitment processes and shortening deployment times. These remained stable for national UN Volunteers at 44 business days. International volunteers saw a minor decrease, from 76 to 74 business days compared to 2020. The speed of recruitment in many countries was slowed by a number of factors. The global pandemic and its associated international travel restrictions and domestic lockdowns were a major issue. As well, adjustments in United Nations and UNV administrative policies also hampered the speed of recruitment. But the new Unified Volunteering Platform (UVP), launched in October 2021, is expected to contribute to high quality and expedited deployment in the coming years.


Partnerships and new approaches

UNV grows through experience and partnerships

Fully funded UN Volunteers in 2021

Working together for UN Volunteers

UNV continued to partner with Member States on the mobilization of UN Volunteers through full funding of assignments for their nationals. To this end, UNV deployed 655 fully funded volunteers in partnership with the governments of 16 countries.

Those countries included: Australia, China, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Norway, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland

Of these, 89 per cent were international UN Volunteers, 41 per cent were UN Youth Volunteers, 72 per cent were women and 9 per cent were persons with disabilities. In addition to Member States, UNV partnered with volunteer involving organizations, private sector actors, academic institutions and foundations on the full funding of volunteer assignments. These partners included Cisco Corporate Philanthropy, King Mongkut’s University of Technology Thonburi in Thailand, and the PeaceNexus Foundation.

Out of all fully funded UN Volunteers:






Persons with disabilities


Persons with disabilities

In 2021, Germany and Sweden provided additional contributions to fully fund national UN Volunteer assignments earmarked for persons with disabilities from programme countries. In 2021, this resulted in 38 new deployments of national UN Volunteers.

2021 result
Percentage of UN Volunteers reporting that their assignment enhanced their personal and professional development
2021 result
Percentage of UN Volunteers satisfied with their volunteering experience

UN entities hosting UN Volunteers

Download: UN entities hosting UN Volunteers 2021

Unified Volunteering Platform

Manual runs eliminated in 2021

UNV transforms digitally

UNV completed its digital transformation project 2019-2021, implemented with the financial support of Germany and from the Special Voluntary Fund. The project culminated in the launch of the Unified Volunteering Platform (UVP). It combines on-site and online volunteer service platforms and allows UNV to improve business continuity, transparency and internal accountabilities.

Given the extensive scope of work and technical complexities, the platform launch was delayed five months, from 1 May 2021 to 1 October 2021. Since the platform was released, it has been in a stabilization and bug-fixing phase. Additional functionalities also are being introduced. In the interim, UNV is providing dedicated support to all platform users. As well, UNV is pursuing necessary improvements to reach the envisioned efficiency gains in cost and operational speed, along with overall client satisfaction.

UNV continued to use robotic process automation and transitioned previously automated processes into the new system. This resulted in the elimination of over 30,000 manual runs in 2021. The result was a reduced transactional workload, freeing staff to concentrate on tasks of higher value.

The corporate service desk of UNV is supported by chatbots and other case resolution tools and self-service knowledge items; these result in strong efficiency gains. In 2021, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots handled over 250,000 enquiries around the clock. This represented an average of 680 per day – most of them from potential or active UN Volunteers. This represents an increase in enquiries of 60 per cent compared to 2020.

680 enquiries per day

UNV looks forward

The strategic direction for UNV during 2022–2025 has three clear objectives. The first is to support the people-centred United Nations system through the engagement of empowered UN Volunteers. The second is to ensure that UNV is fit for purpose and contributes to system-wide efficiency. And the third is to support the efforts of Member States and the UN system to integrate volunteerism into the 2030 Agenda.

Support the efforts of Member States and the UN system to integrate volunteerism into the 2030 Agenda.
The ambitions for 2025 are:
  • UNV proposes to expand the United Nations partnership base, deploy 50 per cent more UN Volunteers, aim for the full representation of all UN Member States, and ensure that the majority of UN Volunteers continue to be satisfied with their volunteering experience.
  • UNV also commits to reduce the time it takes to deploy UN Volunteers, make it more cost-effective for UN partners to engage UN Volunteers, expand the funding partnership base, and strive for gender parity and diversity among staff.
  • Finally, UNV proposes to ensure that 45 per cent of all Voluntary National Reviews report on the integration of volunteering into national plans, policies and strategies. It further proposes that one-third of all United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Frameworks (UNSDCFs) integrate volunteers and/or volunteerism as a means of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The results achieved and the lessons learned in prior years will serve to shape future efforts. UNV will focus on the following key priorities:
  • Maintaining the momentum in mobilizing both on-site and online volunteers, diversifying the UN partner base and widening integration of knowledge and evidence on volunteerism and volunteering into the UNSDCFs and Country Programme Documents of United Nations entities.
  • Optimizing the new UVP and the new Enterprise Resource Planning system (Quantum) being developed by UNDP. The ambition is to upgrade service delivery while ensuring efficiency gains and positive volunteer and UN partner experiences.
  • Continuing to invest in UNV staff and talent development. The goal for 2022 is to further strengthen and re-galvanize the global team and the United Nations community of practice on volunteerism.