The UN Secretary-General’s Synthesis report on the post-2015 sustainable development agenda (A/69/700) recognizes volunteering as a “powerful and cross-cutting means of implementation” for the SDGs. It highlights the role of volunteerism in expanding and mobilizing constituencies, engaging people in planning processes and localizing the agenda by providing new spaces of interaction between governments and people for concrete and scalable action.

By mobilizing capacities and extending the reach of action, volunteers can facilitate and support people’s engagement in planning, implementing and monitoring the SDGs, bridging social capital and strengthening social cohesion. They can:

  • provide technical support and enhance capacity in all thematic goal areas, such as for example sustainable livelihoods, health, education, employment, environment, gender, or youth;
  • facilitate new spaces for dialogue and action; reach out to people, including those marginalized or difficult to reach; bring people’s voices and knowledge into collective actions – to help leaving no one behind. This is crucial to build ownership and localize the SDGs;
  • raise awareness or champion changes and inspire others, to facilitate durable changes in mindsets and behaviors;
  • help measuring progress on SDG implementation through collecting data, providing expertise and supporting participatory forms of planning and monitoring

Potential activities for volunteers in the context of the SDGs

Volunteers can:

  • raise awareness about the 2030 agenda through local campaigns and creative approaches, including in remote areas and with marginalized populations, to contribute to SDG domestication (all Goals);
  • deliver technical expertise to complement essential basic services in the thematic areas of the so-called “MDG unfinished business” (Goals 1 – 5), where they are lacking or where they are insufficient, as well as in other areas (for example, Goals 6, 7, 13-15);
  • model behaviors and attitudes, helping the agenda to be truly transformational, and enhancing knowledge and willingness to contribute to SDGs locally (for example, Goals 5, 6, 12, 13, 16);
  • mobilize people to develop a sense of opportunity and ownership with regards to the challenges they are facing, to leverage collective action and engagement across all Goals during planning, implementation and monitoring phases (Goal 17);
  • develop skills across different goal areas through transfer of knowledge and experience, while facilitating the dissemination of local expertise (for example, Goal 8 and all Goals);
  • collect data, assess SDG progress and leverage local expertise through participatory forms of monitoring, local outreach and dissemination of tools such as the MY World 2030 survey (Goal 17 and all Goals).

Overall, by increasing people’s engagement and community action, volunteerism fosters local ownership for development solutions, builds resilience and strengthens preparedness – therefore supporting the achievement of all Goals.

Volunteer groups can also play a significant role by brokering engagement and connecting governmental strategies and initiatives with complementary, yet essential, community voluntary action (all Goals). Combining the action of international, national and community volunteers into a ripple effect can increase outreach and multiply results across all goal areas.