Volunteering as a form of cultural, social or environmental service; as personal or community experience; as opportunity to gain new know-how… The EU celebrated the “European Year of Volunteering Activities that promote active citizenship” in 2011, while the United Nations has published its “Resolution on the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteering”. It’s a topic that seems to return cyclically to the attention of the international organizations.A crucial task.
A high level of attention to volunteers and their potential contribution to society was shown for the first time in 2001. The UN document published for the decade reaffirmed this concept, but it also underlined the crucial role played by the various forms of volunteering in poverty reduction, sustainable development, healthcare, the fight against climate change, the prevention and management of disasters, social integration, humanitarian aid, peacemaking and the overcoming of social exclusion and hence of discrimination. This International Year offered the chance, and also the impulse, for a greater level of cooperation between governments, the UNO, civil society and partners in the private sector, with a view to promoting volunteer service at the global level. “Excellent, in fact, was the cooperation achieved – says the UN report – following natural disasters, such as the mud-slides and floods in south-east Brazil and the devastating earthquake that struck eastern Japan in March 2011”. The same goes for humanitarian aid in Haiti following the earthquake there and in response to other natural events in various EU countries. Of particular interest, too, is the growing link between the world of volunteering and sport, seen as a further means for the promotion of the ideals of peace”. The Olympic Games and the Paralympics are an example of this, in as much as national and international volunteers are involved in the organization and coordination of these events. The support of governments.
The resolution drafted by the UN also recognizes the importance of forms of mutual aid, self-aid and other types of civic participation, which have contributed to social and economic development to the benefit of society as a whole. For this reason the UNO is appealing to governments to integrate and insert volunteering in their political programmes and initiatives. In this regard the UNO is further encouraging states to promote the creation of information platforms at the international, national, regional and local level, and to take appropriate measures to improve the protection of volunteers. The UN’s final message wishes to be an appreciation of the activities performed hitherto, but also an exhortation to governments to do more “to support all segments of society, including women, children, adolescents, the elderly, people with disabilities, minorities, migrants and those who are excluded for social or economic reasons”. A proposal for 18-30 year olds.
Over the last ten years the volunteering sector has rapidly changed and the European Union has followed in the footsteps of the UNO precisely with the aim of promoting the various forms of volunteering, among youth but also among other groups of society. For example, the European Voluntary Service for Youth, active since 2007, was launched jointly by the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU member states. Its aim is to “support activities for youth in an informal manner and in a European dimension” by “fostering the acquisition of cultural and educational skills”. This project is aimed at young people between the ages of 18 and 30, for a period that may vary between 6 and 12 months. Through this experience the participants – says the Commission – will have the opportunity to gain a better knowledge of another country, another culture, another language, while also taking part in the realization of a specific project, useful for the wider community, through initiatives at the local level. The concept of European citizenship.
The programme is based on clear presuppositions and objectives. The first of these is to raise the awareness of young people in the concept of European citizenship, by involving them in the debate on the construction and future of the European Union, and by seeking to “encourage their active participation in democratic life”. Volunteers chosen for the programme are placed in contact with other cultures, histories and traditions with the aim of “developing mutual respect and the rejection of any form of discrimination”. This type of project, moreover, is particularly aimed at disadvantaged youth from deprived geographic, socioeconomic or cultural backgrounds, or at disabled youngsters. The European Voluntary Service forms part of the wider “Youth in Action” programme: for further info see the dedicated website: http://ec.europa.eu/youth/youth-in-action-programme/european-voluntary-service_en.htm