International Volunteer Day: an overview
The late United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Anan, and late UNV Executive Coordinator, Sharon Capeling-Alakiya, at an event marking International Volunteer Day in 2001.

An overview of International Volunteer Day (IVD)

International Volunteer Day, commonly known as IVD, is celebrated on 5 December every year. It started as an international observance mandated by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985. It is a day where volunteers are acknowledged and the spirit of volunteerism is promoted at the local, national and international levels.

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme joins IVD celebrations with UN Volunteers and all volunteers around the world – amplifying the importance of people-led solutions to our common challenges. 

Over the years, IVD has evolved and become a bigger event than before. Volunteers increasingly find novel ways to revel the occasion.

By combining United Nations support with a grassroots mandate, the day is a unique opportunity for people and volunteer-involving organizations to work with government agencies, non-profit institutions, community groups, academia, and the private sector – to further weave together values of compassion and solidarity.


The History of IVD

1985: The United Nations General Assembly invited Governments to observe the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development on 5 December annually (resolution 40/212 of 17 December 1985) and urged them to raise awareness of volunteer service so more people in all walks of life offer their services as volunteers, both at home and abroad.

1997: The General Assembly, in its resolution 52/17 of 20 November 1997, proclaimed 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers (IYV) to further recognize volunteers, facilitate their work, create a communication network and promote the benefits of voluntary service.

2001: The General Assembly adopted a set of recommendations on ways in which Governments and the United Nations system could support volunteering and asked that they be given wide dissemination (resolution 56/38 of 5 December 2001).

2002: The General Assembly, in its resolution 57/106 of 22 November 2002, called upon the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme to ensure that the potential of International Volunteer Day is fully realized.

2008: The General Assembly decided on 18 December 2008 that on or around 5 December 2011, two plenary meetings of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly should be devoted to the follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers and the commemoration of its tenth anniversary (resolution 63/153).

UNV campaigns

UNV coordinates a campaign to promote IVD every year, building on the impact volunteers have in communities, nationally and globally for peace and development.

IVD for partnerships

Through the years, IVD has been used strategically – many countries have focused on volunteer contributions to achieving sustainable development and its set of time-bound targets to combat poverty, hunger, disease, health, environmental degradation, and gender equality.

The organization of IVD events is generally the result of a partnership between the UN system, governments, volunteer-involving organizations, and committed individuals that include – media, academia, foundations, the private sector, and recreational organizations, among others.

Read more on International Volunteer Day.