27th International Conference
of the Red Cross and Red Crescent

 

VOLUNTEERING 2000

CHALLENGES FOR THE RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT IN STRENGTHENING CIVIL SOCIETY

Organisers : International Federation, Sudanese Red Crescent, Swiss Red Cross and Finnish Red Cross

Introduction -- This is a summary of the workshop held as part of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement's 27th International Conference, held in Geneva. Further information about individual contributions to the workshop can be found in separate papers.

Professor Helmut Anheier, London School of Economics Professor Anheier's presentation was based on a ten-year study of the non-profit sector in 22 countries world-wide for Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US. In North America and Western Europe, employment in the non-profit sector is growing rapidly, much faster than the underlying level of employment across all sectors. This expansion is largely being fuelled by a large increase in the fee income of non-profit organisations. The growth of fee income may fundamentally change the nature of non-profit organisations. If the work of volunteers is given an economic value, the study found that the value of volunteer work has remained almost static over the last ten years. In comparison with the growth of the sector, this indicates a declining level of volunteering. By contrast, in developing and transitional economies, the third sector is much smaller. It faces problems of legitimacy and recognition, and resource development.

Professor Kelevi Kivistö, President of the Finnish Red Cross Professor Kivistö's presentation built on Professor Anheier's by attempting to describe in more detail the nature of the third sector. He expanded on a description of the third sector in different types of political economies. The trend towards a more liberal type of society in social democratic countries is forcing the third sector to take over what were formerly government responsibilities for social and health care. Volunteering has also changed its nature. People wish to make less commitment to a single organisation. In Finland people are more reluctant to become members, and when they volunteer, they do so for shorter periods. How should NGOs adapt and respond to these new demands?

Questions and Answers: Some key issues were raised by questions from the audience. The third sector is diffuse and not defined clearly. Is it possible to identify in which parts of the third sector volunteering has increased or declined? In Denmark, there are increasing demands for volunteers to become more 'professional'. This requires a greater investment in volunteers. Is there any evidence to suggest that the quality of volunteer work is increasing? The foregoing discussion does not seem relevant to some countries in which there is both no government provision of health and social care services, and in which there is no freedom to associate, preventing the formation of volunteer groups and NGOs. The concept of volunteering in Africa is quite different to that in Europe. Anyone who gives up their free time has to return to his or her family with something to show for it, particularly when there is always work to do in the household and on the land. The increasing 'professionalisation' of volunteers is also being seen in Switzerland. Is it the duty of volunteer organisations to refuse to take on the additional responsibilities being forced upon them by a retreating state? Volunteering in the Sudan, Omer Osman, Secretary General Sudanese Red Crescent Mr Osman gave a very interesting presentation about volunteering in Sudanese society. In a country faced with many problems, both natural and man-made, volunteering, in the form of 'nafir' is a well-established tradition. 'Nafir' is a Sudanese word describing self-help and community support both in times of crisis, and for celebrations such as weddings. In the Sudanese Red Crescent, volunteering follows the more structured and formal pattern common in Red Cross and Red Crescent organisations around the world. A key issue raised by Mr Osman's presentation is how formal and informal forms of volunteering can be reconciled. Dr Nenad Javornik and Dr Slobodan Lang, Croatian Red Cross Described the problems faced during a difficult ethnic conflict, and the role of volunteers and civil society. During the Bosnian war, the people of the Balkans faced extreme difficulties and hardship. Dr Lang appealed for specific actions to strengthen civil society and reduce the impact and possibility of ethnic conflict. Guido Münzel and Carinne Bachmann, Swiss Red Cross Mr Münzel and Ms Bachmann described the process of preparing for the Swiss Red Cross contribution to the International Year of Volunteers 2001. In Switzerland, about 24% of the population engages in voluntary work of one form or another. Switzerland is, however, facing similar problems to other developed countries, such as a fall in volunteering, and changing values and motivations. International Year of Volunteers is an opportunity to raise awareness and renew interest in volunteering. To prepare, the Swiss Red Cross brought together people from several large volunteering organisations and established a temporary organisation to co-ordinate the preparations for IYV 2001.

 

 

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© 1999 | French (homepage) |
Workshops

The International Criminal Court

Volunteering 2000

People On War

Widowhood and armed conflict

Working in partnership

The humanitarian challenge of small arms proliferation

Fight against AIDS in developing countries

Ensuring respect for International Humanitarian Law

The SIrUS Project and reviewing the legality of new weapons

Use and development of SPHERE standards

Health and first aid training