The pivotal role of volunteering in a transformative development agenda
The High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development is an annual gathering meant to review progress on the 2030 Agenda based on voluntary reviews submitted by UN Member States. The theme for this year, “Eradicating poverty and promoting prosperity in a changing world,” will mostly focus on poverty alleviation and strengthening global partnerships for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The SDGs are not business as usual for development cooperation and aid financing. The Agenda 2030 recognizes that financial institutions and national governments need to facilitate people’s engagement, especially locally, for real sustainable development for all.
Volunteer groups and associations, with their ability to self-organize, can help expand and mobilize constituencies, and engage people in national planning and implementation for the SDGs. The current development agenda puts a premium on locally-led initiatives and recognizes volunteerism as a pivotal instrument to increase civic engagement, social inclusion and solidarity.
While "localizing" the SDGs, volunteer groups are critical to the design, implementation and evaluation of the development path taken by their communities. Local volunteers have an in-depth knowledge of local settings, where political, economic and social characteristics are key to put in place sustainable programmes that allow people to enjoy fulfilling and prosperous lives.
The set of Goals to be reviewed at this year’s High-Level Political Forum are Goals 1, 2, 3, 5, 9, 14 and 17. The event is taking place in New York, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), between 10 and 19 July.
Among the 44 Member States that have submitted their Voluntary National Reviews (VNR) on their progress towards the SDGs, Cyprus, Denmark and Portugal have included the promotion of youth volunteering as an important pillar of their programmes to enhance participation and social inclusion. In turn, Costa Rica mentioned corporate volunteerism as one means to achieve SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production, whilst Belgium noted that sending volunteers abroad can facilitate knowledge exchange. Malaysia also mentioned volunteers in one of its programmes, and Jordan explained how they consulted with volunteer groups to prepare the VNR and the country's SDG roadmap. Finally, Slovenia highlighted volunteering as a powerful means of implementation of SDG 1 on eradicating poverty through the involvement of volunteers in social security programmes, also acknowledging the powerful connection between volunteerism and youth empowerment.
Overall, UN Volunteers mostly contribute to Goals 5 on gender equality, 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions, and 17 on global partnerships. We see this in our UN Volunteer surveys and reflected in many descriptions of assignments with our UN partners. On the ground, UN Volunteers very often facilitate participation and equal access to justice and services, ensure public access to information, strengthen public institutions, advocate for non-discriminatory laws, promote peace, form multi-stakeholder partnerships at every level, and serve as vehicles of knowledge in North-South, South-South, and triangular cooperation.
In the framework of the High-Level Political Forum, UNV will participate in the side event "Harnessing the Power of Volunteering to Achieve the 2030 Agenda" organized by the International Forum for Volunteering in Development. The event will explore the role of volunteers in SDG implementation, and how governments, civil society and the UN system can create a conducive environment for volunteering and ensure that volunteers make the greatest possible contribution to the eradication of poverty and the promotion of prosperity.
Nadeen Al Hadidi, a UN Volunteer serving with UNICEF in Jordan, will give her account of what it means to be a volunteer in the Middle East, an experience that comes with both challenges and opportunities.
Below are some specific examples of UNV and UN Volunteers’ contributions to SDGs.
HIGH-LEVEL POLITICAL FORUM 2017: LIVE COVERAGE ON VOLUNTEERISM AND SDGS
The role of volunteerism in SDGs implementation is recognized and anchored in high level UN documents: The UN General Assembly Resolution that established the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (A/RES/67/290); the Plan of Action for Integrating Volunteering in the Next Decade and Beyond (A/RES/70/129); and the UN Secretary-General’s Synthesis Report on the post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda (A/69/700).