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Empowering Youth through Volunteerism

Betaf Elementary School students learn proper hand washing from Nelson Semriyanto Dudung, a university volunteer in Papua, Indonesia. (Alexandra Buftic, 2010)Betaf Elementary School students learn proper hand washing from Nelson Semriyanto Dudung, a university volunteer in Papua, Indonesia. (Alexandra Buftic, 2010)Youth Volunteers using theatre to teach about the MDGs in Palestine (UNV, 2009)Youth Volunteers using theatre to teach about the MDGs in Palestine (UNV, 2009)
24 January 2013

Bonn, Germany: Today exists the largest generation of young people ever known.  Technologies like social media and mobile phones have created a generation that is better connected than ever before, awakening in them a new sense of power and potential.  Recent events like the Arab Spring have shown that young people are providing the energy, creative ideas and determination to drive reform, and demanding institutions that are more responsive to their needs and aspirations.

But young people also face challenges.  Social exclusion, lack of rights, gender-based violence, poverty and many other issues must be overcome before young people are able to fully exercise their potential.  Volunteerism is one powerful way for them to gain a strong sense of civic engagement and bring about positive transformational change in their communities.

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme has been promoting the role of youth in development since 1976, and it has extensive expertise in youth volunteer placement.  Many UNV projects already involve a large number of young people.  In 2011, 23 per cent of all UN Volunteers and 62 per cent of all UN Online Volunteers were below the age of thirty.

During his announcement of his Five-Year Action Agenda on 25 January 2012 the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on UNV to create a specific youth volunteers programme. Since then, UNV has been engaging with youth-led networks, international volunteer sending organizations, national volunteering and civil society organizations, and UN agencies to develop the UN Youth Volunteers Programme.  The programme aims to purposely ensure leadership of youth volunteerism within the UN and enhance global partnerships with youth volunteering partners through three pillars:

Global advocacy and partnership: Youth volunteerism needs promotion at the local, national, regional and global level, especially where the capacity of young people to contribute to society in a meaningful way is under-valued, or where volunteerism itself is uncommon, mistrusted or misunderstood.  Under this programme, UNV will engage with volunteer sending organizations, civil society, governments and other UN agencies to promote active participation of youth as volunteers in the peace and development agenda such as the Rio+20, MDGs and post-MDGs agenda.

UN Youth Volunteer modality: Existing UNV volunteering modalities already mobilize a large number of young people.  Under the youth modality, however, young people will be engaged as more than just participants and/or beneficiaries of volunteerism programmes. They will be active youth citizens, empowered for peace and sustainable development through a programme that is specifically targeted to their needs and strengths.

Capacity development: In order for youth volunteerism programmes to be implemented in a way that can bring the greatest benefit to society and the volunteers themselves, government, volunteer involving organization (VIO), private sector and civil society policies and practices should be enabling and accessible.  Legislation should provide mechanisms for volunteerism and recognition of volunteer rights, training and skills development should be made part of volunteer programmes, and dedicated budgets should underpin youth programmes.

As such, the programme will strengthen national and regional capacities including policy and legislative frameworks for governments, civil society and other partners to develop and sustain youth volunteer schemes, through technical assistance, knowledge-sharing and collaborative programming.

UNV is currently deploying 87 international youth volunteers to 50 developing countries.

For more information, please visit: www.unv.org/what-we-do/youth.html

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)