The fifth of December is International Volunteers Day – an opportunity for volunteers and organizations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work among their communities.

On this day ABV would like to thank all of our volunteers for their efforts over the past year, but more than simply acknowledging their work and altruism, we would like to make it clear that they are a critical pathway for change in our region.

By its very nature, volunteerism is an important vehicle for sustainable development. In the words of the United Nations ‘volunteerism strengthens civic engagement, safeguards social inclusion, deepens solidarity and solidifies ownership of development results.’ As such the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly recognises volunteer groups as stakeholders to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs have been described as a global ‘plan of action for, people, planet and prosperity’.

According to the United Nations ‘volunteers can provide technical support and enhance capacity in all thematic goal areas’. Corporate volunteers are also acknowledged as being valuable to achieving the goals; ‘corporate volunteers can play a particular role… by making their expertise available to public institutions as well as to fragile communities.’

ABV’s recent annual report illustrates the genuine changes to which our volunteers have contributed in our region, by providing examples of individuals who have benefited, directly or indirectly. A Rabaul small business owner able to send his kids to university, disadvantaged young people in Hanoi able to gain employment, and Cambodian women able to start their own micro-businesses. These are just some of the genuine positive changes ABV was able to identify last year.

In just the last year our volunteers provided training and mentoring to more than 200 organisations, including over 140 small business. The number of people who have benefited from the work of our volunteers over the years runs into many thousands.

In 2018 and beyond ABV will be leveraging the Sustainable Development Goals’ emphasis on volunteering, as well as its emphasis on engaging the private sector, two ABV strengths, to build our partnerships, grow our programs, and deepen our impact.

Clearly our volunteers have had, and will continue to have, an important role in bringing about positive change in our region, and to achieving the sustainable development goals.

Photo: ABV staff and volunteers at a Canberra street stall 5/12/17
Photo credit: Phil Kingsman

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