Comhlámh (pronounced ‘co-law-ve’, Irish for ‘solidarity’) is a member and supporter organisation open to anyone interested in social justice, human rights and global development issues.
Who We Are
Comhlámh was set up in 1975 by Irish returned development workers, who defined the organisations principle objective as, “to enable persons who have rendered services overseas in developing countries upon their return to Ireland to bring to bear their own particular experience in order to further international development co-operation.”
Membership was subsequently extended to all those who see their work in a global perspective and support our aims. Comhlámh members have always seen overseas development work and volunteering as part of a broader commitment to global development and solidarity. Many of the causes of global inequality, poverty and oppression have their origin in the industrialised countries and can be addressed by education and action.
Comhlámh now considers the stakeholders that we work with as our community, which is made up of our members, development workers, volunteers, sending organisations and those interested in development and global issues.
Our community is made up of our members, volunteers, development workers and volunteer sending agencies.
Members of Comhlámh pay an annual membership fee because they believe in, actively engage, deliver and support the work of Comhlámh. Members are typically volunteers, returned development workers and activists who believe that the causes of global inequality, poverty and oppression have their origin in the industrialised countries and can be addressed by education and campaigning.
They see continuous engagement as an essential element of the volunteering continuum and draw on their personal experiences to fuel that engagement. Membership benefits include copies of publications, events and discounts on courses and events. Members can also be those seeking a career in development, students studying development issues or other courses with application in a development context.
Volunteers – are people who are making the informed decision to work overseas for a period of time, from days to years, in a voluntary capacity.
They come to Comhlámh to:
- learn more about volunteering and development issues
- meet and network with other people; and
- up-skill and learn about how they can encourage more reflection on development issues amongst their family, friends and colleagues.
Development workers – are those people who have worked overseas in a professional capacity.
They come to Comhlámh to:
- get support;
- have an opportunity to voice their concerns about their placements
- identify how development effectiveness can be achieved beyond overseas development projects;
- network outside of their own workplace;
- hear about the latest academic contributions;
- share their experience with other like minded people; and
- think about their own future direction within the sector.
- Volunteer Sending Agencies (VSAs) – are organisations that facilitate international volunteer placements in developing countries. Volunteers have a specific role to work with a host community in order to further sustainable development and respond to humanitarian / emergency situations. Comhlámh will support VSAs delivering responsible, responsive volunteer opportunities through our Code of Good Practice for Volunteer Sending Organisations. This focuses on the involvement of the three main stakeholders in the overseas placement: the sending agency, the host partner and the volunteer. The Code reflects key values with regard to volunteering, partnership, quality, security, encouraging volunteer attitudes, sustainability, solidarity and the importance of contributing to development.
There is a broader constituency of people supportive of Comhlámh’s work and activities. They engage with us on development issues, global justice, social justice and human rights (for example 2,500 elink subscribers, attendants at the First Wednesday Debates). They have the potential to become more engaged as part of our community and ultimately as members.
Our vision is of development workers and volunteers working in solidarity for a just, equitable and sustainable world, locally and globally.
We are motivated by the following values.
More than ever a critical voice is needed to challenge the stereotypes of the Global South and to question the dominant narratives of our time. We aim to be a critically reflective voice, speaking out on areas where we have experience and insights informed from experiential learning and partnerships with civil society in the Global South. We don’t have all the answers so we actively encourage people to question.
Authenticity / integrity.
Society is crying out for integrity from all our institutions, whether public, private sector, not-for-profit or faith-based. We strongly believe in what we do: we work with conviction, in a manner that is open, honest and inclusive in our dealings with our partners and stakeholders. We aim to ensure what we do is in keeping with our values.
We strongly believe that the current economic model is unjust, oppressive and exclusionary and needs radical change. We commit ourselves to work for social justice where there is greater fairness in terms of outcomes in society, with a genuine respect for diversity and greater popular participation in decision-making.
We believe that all are equal, but require differing supports to ensure effective participation in all aspects of society.
Activism / empowerment.
Society needs a critically engaged citizenry. We believe that we all have a voice and that with skilful facilitation and support, people can be helped to take action on the world about them. An active citizenry needs time for conscientization1 but also the skills and experiences of taking action. Through our rootedness in development education practice, we facilitate the agency of our members and the wider community of volunteers and development workers in our sector.
We value the diversity of opinions and perspectives in all the working groups and membership groups we operate through: we believe in working slowly to ensure that all are heard and that decisions taken respect the views of all. We will redouble our efforts in the coming years to ensure that perspectives from migrants and refugees from the Global South inform our perspectives.
Civil society is under increasing pressures to demonstrate its legitimacy as a separate and independent space of reflection and action. Comhlámh provides such an independent space for reflection, discussion and action on any areas of work that members choose to engage with.
We have seen too much burn-out of committed volunteers and development workers: we are committed to providing a supportive environment and supporting members and those we work with the skills and practices that will sustain them in their work.
At a time of great questioning of the legitimacy and credibility of not-for-profit organisations, we re-commit ourselves to the highest standards of governance, operating out of a culture of maximum transparency and openness and engaged with all relevant codes of practice on governance.
The current fossil fuel economy and the pursuit of endless growth are not sustainable: there is a need for a dramatic reduction in consumption in the Global North to prevent runaway damage occurring from climate change. We are committed to acting in ways that are congruent with this.
- Conscientization focuses on achieving an in-depth understanding of the world, reaching new levels of awareness of oppression and becoming part of the process of changing the world.
Our mission is to nurture, guide and mobilise development workers and volunteers to work for social justice locally and globally.
Our strategic objectives
Objective 1 – Inform
We will work to promote international volunteering that strengthens the public’s ownership of the development agenda and builds awareness of the necessity of tackling poverty and exclusion in all their forms.
Objective 2 – Educate
We will provide training and education that support good practice in international development work and volunteering.
Objective 3 – Support
We will lead the ongoing development and implementation of good practice standards for volunteer sending agencies (VSAs), to ensure responsible, responsive volunteering at all stages of the volunteer continuum.
Objective 4 – Nurture
We will provide a supportive environment for those we work with to help sustain them in their work.
Objective 5 – Innovate
We will contribute to and lead the development of research, policy and practice on volunteering for international development, which will inform our advocacy work.
Objective 6 – Activate
We will provide a dynamic space for our membership to take action for change on a range of global justice issues.
You can read “Mobilising for a socially just, equitable and sustainable world: Strategic Plan 2017-2021” online below, or download to your device/browser by clicking here.
Comhlámh is a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. Comhlámh is a registered charity (CHY7680) and company limited by guarantee, and is governed by a Voluntary Board.