“What the world needs now is solidarity. Only with solidarity we can defeat COVID-19 and build a better future ”. With these words, António Gutierres, Secretary General of the UN, called on the international community to join forces and face the pandemic that has put human life, the world economy and the social and political stability of many countries in jeopardy.
The pandemic has exposed the weakness of health systems, the lack of foresight and response to a crisis, and in general the fragility of the social, political and economic spheres.
On the other hand, we have seen how all kinds of false news, rumors and information about the disease have spread that are not only confusing and creating greater uncertainty for citizens, but are even endangering health and human life and even generating situations of hatred and discrimination.
In this sense, and despite misinformation, xenophobic and racist reactions, and even suspicions and dialectical confrontations between States, solidarity little by little makes its way from the communities.
While the quarantine has been lengthening over time, making social inequalities increasingly evident and the countries’ lack of economic and health resources to withstand this crisis and serve the entire population, solidarity citizen initiatives and volunteering are they have multiplied from all corners of the globe and are increasingly relevant. Paradoxically, the globalized world in which we live and that has spread the COVID-19 disease, has also allowed millions of people to connect, empathize and become aware of the difficult social situation.
From barter spaces to the organization of brigades to deliver food and necessities, young and old have mobilized and have arrived, where institutions sometimes do not do so due to lack of capacity and resources.
In this context, once again volunteer networks have been key to complement actions already implemented by States, NGOs and international cooperation.
Especially in health promotion, with support for different tasks such as the production and distribution of sanitary and personal protection material, but also in issues such as caring for the environment, social inclusion, risk and disaster management, among other areas, volunteering has a very important role.
An interesting example of volunteering as a tool to build a stronger civil society is the ABS project on the implementation of the Nagoya protocol in indigenous communities in Ecuador. Thanks to the creation of volunteer networks that were generated as part of the strengthening of local governance, during the health emergency caused by COVID-19, community activities were monitored through the Internet and prioritized together with local councils, protocols to contain and mitigate the spread of the virus through the use of technological means.
These types of actions were coordinated by Ecuadorian authorities and facilitated by the support structures created by the United Nations Volunteers who work with the United Nations Development Program. It is a sign that volunteer networks allow the relationship with local governments to be more fluid and that public policy effectively responds to people’s needs..
Although it is difficult to quantify the contribution of volunteering with data, a report prepared by the United Nations Volunteer Program (UNV) ‘Report on the State of Volunteering in the World 2018’, stated that, in the world, formal volunteer personnel It would equal 109 million full-time workers. If these full-time volunteer workers constituted a country, “Volunteeria” staff would be the fifth largest on the planet, which would be roughly the number of people employed in Indonesia.
For many countries, volunteering represents a driving force for peace and development. This is the case of Kenya, which in 2017 carried out an investigation carried out by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection to determine the contributions of voluntary work in the country, discovering that it represents 3.66% of its GDP.
It should also be considered that the contribution of informal volunteering represents 70% of the total. For this reason, the Global Technical Meeting, which was held in July this year with the theme of ‘Reimagining Volunteering for the 2030 Agenda’, addressed among its main topics how to make formal and informal volunteering better connect, in addition to demonstrate the contribution of volunteering as an accelerator of the Sustainable Development Goals due to its distinctive characteristics of promoting human connections, increasing solidarity, promoting the exchange of experiences and learning, etc.
Considering this impact and that countries cannot substitute for public investment in the generation of resilience, political leaders and decision makers must better understand the relationship between volunteering and community resilience so that voluntary action has the best opportunity. to contribute to the collective and public good.
With its flexibility, availability, and speed of action, volunteering can help communities better recover, learn, transform themselves as part of the process, and innovate through self-organization and building stronger relationships that enhance trust and confidence. social cohesion.
It can also contribute enormously to national development priorities and plans, especially those concerning the traditionally excluded or most disadvantaged population groups.
Perhaps, in light of recent events, we can see in a short time how different mechanisms are put in place in different parts of the world so that volunteering is considered a strategic axis in responding to the great challenges that we face as humanity.
The probable appearance of new pandemics, disasters, climate change, armed conflicts, social crises, gender violence, discrimination and inequality will require a strong and prepared social fabric, in which volunteering would be a fundamental support for countries to be resilient.