Road to Rio: People's voluntary involvement is key | Flavia Pansieri

04 Jun 2012

Volunteer in Sudan One of the local volunteers participating in the UNV Sudan supported Diversity campaign in Khartoum, Sudan. Photo: Ayman Suliman

Volunteering is a key driver of the changes needed in our societies to achieve sustainable development. If we - each one of us - don't engage, participate and be the change we seek, how can we expect to build a sustainable future for generations to come?

Every single person is acting for sustainable development, by helping friends and family, by recycling waste, by teaching the kids how to turn off the tap. Most people engage voluntarily without even thinking about it, just because they know it is the right thing to do. Some people volunteer further, and get involved in development or environmental action for a week, for a month, for a year. Their work, big or small, might sometimes go unnoticed to the world. But their actions count in the communities that benefit from their hard work.

That is where the power of volunteering comes in. Recent comparative international studies give an idea of the scope of volunteerism. For example, the Gallup World Poll (GWP) concludes that 16 per cent of adults worldwide volunteer for an organization. The Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project (CNP) finds that the number of volunteers contributing through voluntary organizations in 36 countries, taken together, would make the ninth largest country in the world in terms of population, with 140 million people. The CNP also finds that the economic contribution of volunteers in the 36 countries represents an average of 1.1 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in these countries. This amounts to 400 billion US dollars annually.

In June world leaders will be gathering in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20. This is the opportunity to build the future we want. For this historic gathering UNV has launched the Volunteer Action Counts campaign to make volunteering, citizen participation and civil society engagement a central part of that future.  UNV’s campaign gives people a chance to show what they are doing already, today, for the future of our planet.

All volunteers, communities and organizations can show what they are doing for sustainable development by getting volunteering actions counted on the campaign website. These will be presented at Rio+20 through a multimedia presentation showing the counted voices of volunteers worldwide.

Achieving sustainable development will require volunteers and people's participation at all levels. Let´s show that our actions count.

Talk to us: How are you volunteering to build a sustainable future? Tell the world on, Twitter (#ActionCounts) or Facebook.

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