Comhlámh was delighted to participate in the 2016 regional EU meeting of the FORUM conference, which was recently hosted by FK Norway. The 3-day conference on volunteerism and reciprocity in the era of the Sustainable Development Goals was opened by the Norwegian State Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Tore Hattrem, who emphasized the importance of volunteerism in building social capital for inclusive, egalitarian development.
The conference included discussion on e-learning, an overview of research that is aiming to document statistical information on international volunteering across Europe, and the role of volunteering sending agencies in responding to current situation of refugees and asylum seekers in Europe. Comhlámh’s Volunteer Charter was specifically discussed and welcomed by participant organisations as an excellent tool for volunteer preparation and training, and one that is of relevance across Europe. There was a thematic focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with detailed presentations from a number of countries around their national implementation strategies. The potential for the SDGs to play a transformative role in society over the coming years was very much highlighted by FK Norway, with the specific role of volunteers in their achievement being formally recognised. A specially commissioned paper on reciprocity in international volunteer cooperation was presented by Benjamin Lough of the University of Illinois, followed by a panel discussion on whether reciprocity genuinely adds value for partners and for volunteers.
The very though-provoking conference raised a number of questions for us to consider in the Irish context: how can we support and promote volunteer action for the achievement of the SDGs? What is the specific role of VSAs in realising the goals, both domestically and internationally? And how can we work towards incorporating a greater level of multilateral reciprocity into our work, which is very much in keeping with Target 17.6 of the SDGs around enhancing global partnerships for sustainable development? We look forward to working with Code signatories on these issues over the coming months.
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