Voluntary citizen participation is an essential part of civil society, which in turn is a key contributor to sustainable development, human rights, good governance and social justice. 2011, the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, saw an upsurge of such action in different forms in many countries around the world.Looking back on 2011, CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation and United Nations Volunteers have combined to analyse contemporary trends in voluntary action and make recommendations for policy-makers, civil society, and volunteer involving organisations, in our new publication, Broadening Civic Space through Voluntary Action.
The publication concludes that policy-makers, donors, NGO leaders, and others involved with civil society should see volunteerism as a valuable part of a spectrum of participation and social activism. This encourages an understanding that people volunteer for a diversity of reasons, in a range of ways, and in service of a variety of goals. The publication argues that these key stakeholders need to take on board a broad understanding of what constitutes voluntary action. This broad understanding should include a range of possibilities from formal volunteering roles in various kinds of organisations, to less formally constituted service for the community, online volunteering and individual moments of activism.
This publication has identified a need for new responses, driven by lessons from recent mass citizen actions, the CIVICUS Civil Society Index (CSI) research findings and trends in volunteerism. It has suggested possible pathways for strengthening both non-formal voluntary action and organised civil society; as well as enhancing the link between the two. The objective of this new joint UNV-CIVICUS publication is to promote further discussions and enhance development of innovative practices.