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Governments Must Do More to Support Volunteers, Says U.N.

UNITED NATIONS, Jun 5 2015 (IPS) - Volunteers are increasingly essential to ensuring government accountability and effectiveness – but their vast potential is untapped and undervalued, a new United Nations report has found.

The State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015, produced by the United Nations Volunteers programme, is the first global review of evidence around the contribution of volunteers to better governance, a prerequisite for the success of the new Sustainable Development Goals to be agreed at the U.N. in September.

The report shows how ordinary people are volunteering their time, energies and skills to improve the way they are governed and engaged at local, national and global levels.

Speaking at the launch of the report in New York, United Nations Development Programme Administrator Helen Clark said: “The potential of volunteers to help create truly people-centred development is enormous, but, as yet, far from fully tapped. Volunteers have a critical role to play in representing the voices of those who are often excluded from development decisions, including women and other groups who may be marginalised.”

More than one billion people volunteer globally, most of them in their own countries. The report highlights the work of Brazilian citizens monitoring city contracts for corruption who saved millions in public funds; and the global movement to secure an agreement to regulate conditions for garment workers following the 2013 Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh.

The report holds up examples of countries providing a supportive environment for volunteers, including Peru, Mozambique and Norway. These countries have passed laws and set up frameworks to help citizens volunteer.

However, other governments are failing to recognise and harness the potential of volunteers to boost development. The report calls on governments to “go beyond the rhetoric of participation” and take concrete steps to help the world’s volunteers actively contribute.

The report recommends that governments must engage volunteers more actively in the policymaking process, and engaging more volunteer women, youth and marginalised groups in local and national decision making.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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