The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. UNV has been active in Sri Lanka since 1974, working with partners to integrate qualified, highly motivated and well-supported UN Volunteers into developmental programming while promoting the value and recognition of the work of volunteers. UNV’s vision is a world where volunteerism is recognized within societies as a way for all people and countries to achieve peace and sustainable development.
Sri Lanka has a long and rich cultural history of volunteerism molded by socio-cultural practices, infused within almost all aspects of human activity. It has largely taken the form of donation of labour (commonly known as “Shramadana”) and traditional knowledge that has permeated Sri Lankan communities. Diverse ethno-religious traditions in the country has embodied diverse notions of volunteerism, giving rise to many forms of volunteer practices.
Volunteers contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals by facilitating the implementation of the 17 thematic areas. Volunteers raise awareness and become leading examples of individuals who proactively take forward the development agenda while inspiring those around them.
Volunteerism makes specific contributions by generating well-being for people and their communities. Sri Lanka is a country with high levels of pervasive social infusion of volunteer culture. It is an expression of human relationships. The values of solidarity, reciprocity, mutual trust, belonging and empowerment is embedded within the practice of volunteerism in Sri Lanka.
The United Nations began its work in Sri Lanka in 1952. On 14 December 1955, Sri Lanka was admitted as a member state of the UN. For more than sixty years, the UN, in partnership with the government and people of Sri Lanka, continues to work to ensure that all Sri Lankan people enjoy better living conditions. Collectively and through its 23 specialised agencies, funds, programmes and offices in Sri Lanka, the UN addresses the needs and creates opportunities for the poor, the most vulnerable and the young.
The UN has cultivated broad and wide ranging partnerships – with the Government, civil society, the broad NGO community, bilateral donors, and international financial institutions – to address a multitude of challenges, both in long term development, and during times of emergency.
Moving forward, the UN strives to support the Government of Sri Lanka to achieve sustainable and inclusive economic growth, with equitable access to quality social services, strengthened human capabilities and reconciliation for long-lasting peace.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs, also known as the Global Goals) were adopted on September 25th 2015, as a framework towards ending poverty, protecting the planet and in ensuring prosperity for all. The 17 Global Goals and their 169 targets are a part of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development, which will guide policy and funding for the next 15 years.
Volunteer groups are explicitly mentioned as stakeholders in the 2030 Agenda. As many of the 17 goals call for long-term attitude and behaviour changes, volunteers are important within this development agenda; they facilitate changes in mindsets raising awareness or championing those changes and inspiring others.
V-Force is an initiative of UNV Sri Lanka which aims to bring together individuals who are passionate about volunteering. Initiated as part of the tenth anniversary celebrations of the International Year of Volunteers (IYV+10) in 2011, V-Force recently exceeded the milestone of 8000 active volunteers who render their services for projects carried out by various UN agencies.The new Sustainable Development Agenda identifies volunteer groups as distinct actors that implement progressive change. V-Force provides a space for interaction between individuals passionate about volunteering and UN Agencies, while leveraging the energy of volunteers to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.Volunteerism is a two-way street, as volunteers find the experience personally rewarding and beneficial while giving back to their community. By actively being a part of events and activities within the UN, V-Force volunteers strengthen work-specific skills including project coordination, management, teamwork and effective communication. Further, V-Force also provides the volunteers with an insight into the development sector.Since its inception, V-Force volunteers have proudly supported a number of UN initiatives including the World Conference on Youth, Twinning Schools, V-Awards, International Youth Day, UN Day and OPA Conference, amongst many other resourceful projects. Recently, the V-Force model has been adopted by UNV Country Offices in Bolivia and Bangladesh, a testament to the model of V-Force and the effectiveness of it.
In 2014 UNV Sri Lanka, in partnership with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Social Empowerment and Welfare, established the first National Volunteering Secretariat (NVS). The main objective of the NVS is to provide a conducive and enabling environment that encourages existing volunteering initiatives to flourish while making new ones emerge.
Another area of work is youth engagement and empowerment. To identify the distinctive contributions of youth volunteering for peace and development, in 2014 UNV Sri Lanka conducted the research report “Sri Lankan Youth: Volunteering to Make a Difference”. The report aimed to reveal the opportunity that youth volunteerism brings to empower communities and instigate change in societies.
V-Awards is another nation-wide event organized by UNV Sri Lanka, recognizing individuals who make extraordinary and selfless contributions to society and rewarding the most outstanding volunteer at national level. It is conducted once every two years and thanks to the partnership one of Sri Lanka’s leading trilingual media organisations, previous editions of V-Awards have reached over 7 million people.
In 2016, UNV together with UNDP, supported the Public Representations Committee (PRC) on Constitutional Reforms. UNV assisted and facilitated the PRC by operating as the first line of filtering, reviewing and electronically archiving submissions made by the public.
This report highlights the achievements in 2019, and the strong partnerships we have in advancing our mandate. Specific contributions of UN Volunteers are showcased in the five pillars of the Sustainable Development Goals : People, Planet, Prosperity, Peace, and Partnerships. The report also includes statistical and financial reporting and a chapter on ‘promoting volunteering for the 2030 Agenda’. Our 2019 results are testimony to the work of all our UN Volunteers, former and current, who have served for peace and development with over 54 UN partners throughout the globe.