Minister Kitt announces establishment of Volunteer 21: an initiative supporting Irish volunteering in development
The Minister of State for Development Cooperation, Tom Kitt, announced today - UN International Volunteer Day - the establishment of a new initiative to support volunteering in development.
The new initiative, titled Volunteer 21, will coordinate activities in the area of volunteering and support for development workers.
A new unit is being set up within Development Cooperation Ireland to streamline and modernise the support to be provided in the future by Ireland for volunteers and development workers, building in particular on the remarkable achievements of APSO over the past three decades.
A Volunteer 21 Website will also be established to act as a hub for information sharing and exchange in relation to volunteering opportunities.
To mark the new initiative, Minister Kitt said that €1m was being set aside as a Volunteer Challenge Fund to support new collaborative ventures between NGOs and Development Cooperation Ireland with the aim of building links between Ireland and the developing world through volunteers.
‘The approach which I am announcing today,' the Minister told an audience of development workers in Dublin, ‘reflects my strong belief that there is, in Irish society, untapped energy and goodwill which can be mobilised in an effort to help the world's poorest people.'
‘There has been a perception, in my view a grossly unfair one that many Irish people, and particularly young people, have become more materialistic and self-absorbed as a result of the ‘Celtic Tiger' era. Events such as the Special Olympics give a lie to this. But there is a need for entry points for those interested in this important work and willing to make a contribution. People who wish to offer their skills and talents as volunteers should be given practical support and I would like to facilitate them. They need access to the options for volunteering which are out there and will also benefit from guidance and advice.'
Minister Kitt was addressing a Seminar on the changing role of the development worker in the 21st Century organised by Comhlamh.
Note for Editors:
Amongst the range of issues which this new Volunteer 21 Unit will be focussing on will be:
- The management of ongoing personnel co-funding arrangements for NGO and missionary development workers. This amounts to some €10 million annually.
- Management of a consolidated register of specialised and skilled volunteers for assignment with NGOs or, as appropriate, with partner Governments and agencies. A specific focus will be to work with the Irish private sector to identify and harness potential in sectors such as IT and communications, where Ireland has a depth of world-class talent, and to match these to real needs in Development Cooperation Ireland's programme countries and elsewhere.
- The development of strategic partnerships with key relevant stakeholders in the sector, including, on the global level, the United Nations Volunteers, at the EU level, other member States and the Commission, and, nationally, organisations such as Comhlamh and Dochas.
- Consideration of the feasibility of an intern programme within Development Cooperation Ireland, which might link relevant third level institutions in Ireland with Development Cooperation Ireland's work in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Volunteer 21 will also seek to explore how the Government can best support similar internship programmes being implemented by NGOs.
- A stock-take of existing and new opportunities for volunteering in the development sector. While these are numerous and increasing, information is not being captured in any one place and it is important that this should be done.
- Exploration of the potential for more proactive engagement in specific areas where volunteerism has a role, including possible provision of funding or advisory / technical support for volunteering initiatives.
The ‘Volunteer Challenge Fund' will support specific collaborative programmes with a number of partners from the not-for-profit sector, with the purpose of aligning volunteerism with ongoing efforts to achieve strategic programme objectives. There will be a focus on the building of alliances at the international, regional, national and local levels. Outcomes could include direct volunteer placement or volunteer-related capacity-building, research, disseminating information and experiences, providing preparation and training to volunteers, including in developing countries, and forging new partnerships at all levels.
Under the auspices of Volunteer 21, in early 2004, a multi-stakeholder Conference will be organised on the theme of ‘Development Volunteering in the 21st Century'. The conference will explore further ways in which Development Cooperation Ireland can update and modernise the concept of volunteering. It will provide a basis for bringing forward a detailed Volunteerism Strategy for Development Cooperation Ireland.
The Volunteer 21 web portal will be linked to the main Development Cooperation Ireland site, to serve as a hub for the sharing and exchange of information on volunteering initiatives and opportunities in Ireland and internationally.
For further Information on Development Cooperation Ireland go to: www.dci.gov.ie