United Nations Volunteer (UNV) Programme
Volunteerism is a powerful force that engages people in working toward peace and development. In the words of former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan,
“At the heart of Volunteerism are the ideals of service and solidarity and the belief that together we can make the world a better place. In that sense, we can say that volunteerism is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about”
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development. Volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens, and by purposefully creating opportunities for participation.
UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for recognition of volunteers, working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing an increasing number and diversity of volunteers, including experienced UNV volunteers, throughout the world. UNV embraces volunteerism in its diversity as well as the values that sustain it: free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity.
Based in Bonn, Germany, UNV is active in 140 countries. It is represented worldwide through the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and reports to the UNDP Executive Board. UNV works in close collaboration with governments, civil society and other United Nations Organizations, Funds and Programmes, as well as many Volunteer-involving organizations and networks.
Each year, UNV provides a channel for more than 7,000 skilled professionals from 160 different countries to engage as UN Volunteers in some 140 developing countries. Since starting its operations in 1971, the UNV Programme has mobilized more than 30,000 UN Volunteers to serve the causes of peace and development. Reaffirming the programme’s commitment to promoting south-south cooperation, the majority of these UN Volunteers are nationals of developing countries. Possessing a university education or advanced technical training as well as several years of work experience, they support the activities of UN Agencies and other partners in 115 professional categories including such diverse areas as health, humanitarian relief, peace-building, human rights, electoral supervision, HIV/AIDS, education, ICT, income generation, gender mainstreaming, environmental management and urban development.
Working towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals is a particularly important facet of the UNV Programme which seeks to harness the ingenuity, solidarity and creativity of millions of ordinary people through Voluntary action. To reinforce its focus the UNV Programme has developed the “Volunteerism to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targets grant facility” to be executed in each country.
International and a National scheme
There is an International and a National scheme under the UN Volunteers programme. A UNV assignment varies from 3 months to 2 years or more. Visit www.unvolunteers.org to become involved in the international programme or contact the local UNV Office for the national programme or to request the assignment of a volunteer, either international or national, to your organization.
Part of UNV’s resources comes from country and regional funds provided by UNDP. Other significant sources include the regular programme budgets of UN agencies, contributions from host Governments, special purpose grants by donor Governments and the UNV Special Voluntary Fund. Contributions to UNV's Special Voluntary Fund and other funds exceed $17 million annually.
In supporting Volunteerism for Development, UNV also coordinates the contributions of thousands of people who volunteer online, and manages a global Volunteer portal, www.onlinevolunteering.org, that serves as a resource for the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of Volunteer action.
Volunteers from all over the world are helping organizations serve developing countries, without leaving their own communities. These Online Volunteers (OVs) translate documents, write articles, research data, build web sites, mentor young people, design logos, and engage in many other projects to benefit organizations serving people in the developing world. OVs are volunteers without frontiers.
Corporate/Private Sector Programme
Additionally the Corporate/Private Sector Programme, provide strategic advice to clients, which can be small- and medium-scale enterprises (SMEs), trade and industry groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as government policy makers and institutions strengthening private sector development.
The assignments can last from one week to a maximum period of three months and volunteers receive an allowance to cover their costs. In general, their mission expenses are covered by the sponsoring companies/organizations. Clients cover local transportation and interpretation fees if needed.
They bring a wide range of competencies and technical expertise such as planning, engineering, financial management, industrial design, product development, food processing, marketing, quality control, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), waste management etc.
The UNV "Transfer of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals (TOKTEN)" programme, on the other hand, provides an official framework and multidimensional and multisectoral umbrella to facilitate the return of motivated and talented expatriate nationals men and women for short-term assignments to support the development efforts in their countries within an enabling environment guided and supported by the UN System. Following the UN System approach of building self-reliance, the UNV TOKTEN programme will focus on capacity building of the national government and UN agencies at the country level through transfer of knowledge of expatriate national Volunteers.
TOKTEN Volunteer assignments are usually for short terms, ranging from about two weeks to three months, depending on the needs of the recipient institution and availability of the Volunteer. Flexibility of the duration of the assignment might be considered to meet a specific country’s context.
International Volunteer Day
In addition to this ongoing work, UNV organizes an annual event which focuses the eyes of the world on Volunteering. International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (IVD) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1985.
Held on December 5th, IVD provides an opportunity for Volunteer-involving organizations and individual Volunteers to work together in projects and campaigns promoting their contributions to economic and social development at local, national and international levels. By merging United Nations support with a grassroots mandate, IVD is a unique opportunity where governments, government agencies, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, community groups, the private sector and Volunteer-involving organizations can work together to attain common goals.
The General Assembly also proclaimed 2001 the International Year of Volunteers (IYV). The idea for an IYV at the beginning of the 21st Century was to stimulate national and international policy debate and to advocate for the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of Voluntary action.
The UNV Programme was designated as focal point for the follow-up to the IYV and IVD by the United Nations General Assembly.