UN development goals should ‘recognise volunteer efforts’, conference told

Member states meet in New York to discuss approach to issues such as health and education

UN headquarters in New York: James O’Brien of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Ireland has called on all UN member states to recognise the role volunteers can play in achieving an equal society free from poverty by 2030. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters.

UN headquarters in New York: James O’Brien of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Ireland has called on all UN member states to recognise the role volunteers can play in achieving an equal society free from poverty by 2030. Photograph: Carlo Allegri/Reuters.

 

The contribution of volunteers to development work and recognition for the work they carry out in communities at home and abroad must be considered in the post-2015 UN development goals, a conference in New York has heard.

James O’Brien of Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Ireland said all UN member states should recognise the role volunteers can play in achieving an equal society free from poverty by 2030.

“Volunteers of all kinds, from Irish people sharing their skills overseas to people working in their own communities, will be central to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, ” said Mr O’Brien.

“When volunteers are properly trained, supported and matched to a job that they can do well, they can be a powerful element in fighting poverty. We need governments to agree on a framework that recognises and supports the work of volunteers.”

He was speaking during negotiations on a political declaration for the upcoming Sustainable Development Goals, which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) - eight targets introduced in 2000 aimed at halving extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, and halting the spread of HIV-Aids by 2015.

Representatives of governments from around the world have gathered at UN headquarters in New York this week to meet civil society groups and negotiate the political declaration which is to guide the world’s economic, social and environmental development from 2015 to 2030.

The political declaration will be presented to member states as a guide to help set the Sustainable Development Goals on issues such as health, education and gender equality next September.

“For too long the contribution of volunteers to development delivery has remained largely invisible,” said Mr O’Brien.

He warned that without support from governments and civil society, the contribution from volunteers could become “disjointed” and “unconnected”.

“One lesson that we have learned as an organisation is that volunteerism is a double-edged sword,” said Mr O’Brien. “When volunteers are properly supported by government and civil society, and integrated into development planning, they can be an indispensable ingredient in sustainable development.”

Negotiations around the Sustainable Development Goals, which are being led by representatives from Ireland and Kenya, will culminate in September when UN member states are expected to adopt the new targets for the period to 2030.