UN Volunteers in Sri Lanka, working with key stakeholders to promote volunteerism.
UN Volunteers in Sri Lanka, working with key stakeholders to promote volunteerism.

Facilitating dialogue on volunteerism and inclusion in Sri Lanka

The Ministry of Social Empowerment and Primary Industries of Sri Lanka collaborated with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme to develop the country's National Policy on Volunteerism. The policy will enable national-level engagement in the promotion, mobilization and coordination of organized volunteering in the country. This step has placed Sri Lanka at the forefront of countries with a framework to recognize the contributions of the volunteering sector to the overall development of the country.

Volunteerism is a significant part of Sri Lankan culture. In the World Giving Index published in October 2019 by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF), Sri Lanka ranked number one in time volunteered

Sri Lanka has the highest rate of volunteering in the world. Each year an average of around seven million people volunteered their time, nearly half of those aged over 15 in the country. ---CAF World Giving Index

Following the approval of the National Policy on Volunteerism, UNV identified the need for an Action Plan to ensure smooth operation and implementation. UNV collaborated with the platform Unlocked.lk to engage key stakeholders and facilitate dialogue.

Through Unlocked.lk, contributors can either introduce points for debate or contribute to ongoing discussions. This approach enables stakeholders to consider different perspectives and identify implementation gaps. Ideas are then collated and recommendations fed into the National Action Plan that supports Sri Lanka’s vision for volunteerism. 

The dialogue on Unlocked.lk focuses on four central areas: 

  1. The Role of Volunteerism – Volunteerism plays a fundamental role in connecting and linking like-minded people who consider volunteering a key priority. It also acts as a catalyst for social integration and cohesion. Volunteer actions contribute to achieving the SDGs and take center-stage in the socio-economic development of Sri Lanka. It is imperative to explore and tabulate the exact contributions made by the volunteering sector to the development of the country.
  2. Inclusivity of Volunteerism – Ensuring that volunteering is inclusive of persons with disabilities and marginalized groups such as youth and women would have a positive impact on them, while also contributing to the development of volunteering in Sri Lanka. Therefore, it is fundamental that a National Action Plan addresses means to ensure inclusion.
  3. Coordination and Mobilization of Volunteers – Volunteer contribution requires an organized system of linking volunteers and assignments. The National Policy on Volunteerism seeks to establish a National Volunteering Secretariat, which would act as the central volunteer coordination body for the country. Therefore, it is important to incorporate effective methods and systems of coordinating and mobilizing volunteers into the National Action Plan.
  4. Recognizing Volunteer Efforts – Volunteerism contributes significantly to the economic, social and cultural development of Sri Lanka and a large portion of such volunteerism stems from individual volunteer efforts. The country is rich in community volunteers who selflessly work for the betterment of the society, often best described as ‘unsung heroes’ of their communities. This calls for the recognition of volunteer efforts on a national level to encourage and motivate volunteers. Therefore, it is vital that the National Action Plan includes a systematic approach to the recognition of the nation’s volunteers.

Below are some of the articles shared by UN Volunteers on Unlocked:

UNV has been active in Sri Lanka since 1974, working with partners to integrate inspiring volunteers who contribute towards the country’s peace and development.