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Volunteerism: A path to strengthen social cohesion?

Volunteerism has been widely recognized as an essential way of community-building, sharing knowledge and learning good practices. When a citizen volunteers to offer its time and expertise in favor of the community, he or her contribute to creating new social dynamics that allow building trust and tolerance within a society.

Since the past years, the United Nations have repeatedly recognized the value of volunteerism to achieve development. In this sense, UN Volunteers stated that: “Volunteerism is an important vehicle for sustainable development. Volunteerism lets people and communities participate in their own growth. Through volunteering, citizens build their resilience, enhance their knowledge base and gain a sense of responsibility for their own community. Social cohesion and trust is strengthened through individual and collective volunteer action…”

Volunteerism generally operates under a win-win and horizontal logic. One the one hand, volunteers might acquire a feeling of doing something good to the community as they gain awareness of different realities. On the other hand, organizations enjoy the expertise of volunteers and can use it to carry out actions and projects. In this sense, volunteerism is a necessary tool to implement national and global strategies to improve our communities. The UN is aware of the importance of enhancing voluntary services, therefore, the General Assembly adopted in November 2015 the Resolution “Integrating volunteering into peace and development: the plan of action for the next decade and beyond?”

Furthermore, Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) also know about the positive impact of volunteerism and they encourage it through different actions. For instance, IFP’s member from Seychelles, the Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles (CEPS), created the Youth Volunteers Programme. Which objective is “to encourage and motivate volunteerism as a fundamental value and a way of giving back to the community.” Also, another IFP member, the Slovenian Global Action platform (SLOGA), coordinates the International Education Week, an event that gathers together different stakeholders to debate about inequalities and sustainable development. Within the event, SLOGA involves young volunteers and encourage them to participate in different development projects. Additionally, IFP’s French member, Coordination Sud, animates volunteer work by providing a search engine in their website to explore volunteer opportunities within several NGOs.

As the ones shown below, there are many other examples of how National Platforms contribute to reinforce bonds within a society by using volunteer services. The IFP applauds these initiatives and encourages its members to continue in this path to strengthen social cohesion through volunteerism.