Peace and volunteerism are integrated – peace can be achieved through volunteerism in the same way that volunteerism can avoid conflicts. Volunteerism has been recognized not just as an essential element of peace but of sustainable development. The United Nations, through the UNGA Resolution ‘Integrating volunteering in the next decade’ in 2012, suggested integrating volunteering efforts in peace building as we advance.
Undoubtedly, volunteers play a critical role in weaving peace within communities and nations. Volunteers are at the forefront, immersed in the needs of people, and keeping the government accountable to its citizens through advocacy and lobbying. These volunteer engagements are essential as peace building requires that people know their history, engage in today’s world, and plan for the betterment of the next generations.
Volunteers advocate for the needs of their communities, foster relationships, and fill in the gaps and loopholes. All of which contribute to avoiding conflict and maintaining peace. Also, volunteerism builds mutual trust and reciprocity among people.
Volunteers also form a community in which they agree to advocate for the exact cause and the interest of everyone. This community is a product of social cohesion, an essential mechanism for avoiding conflict and/or managing the post-conflict period. According to the ‘State of the World’s Volunteerism Report’ in 2011 of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), the stronger the connection and social cohesion is, the less likely conflict and disagreement will arise.
Examples of community building from volunteerism are:
1. Inter-religious participation in festivals of Hindus and Muslims in India, where they connect and exchange each other’s food.
2. Youth exchanges between India and Pakistan create a sense of connectedness between nations.
3. Cultural exchange visits during the 2008 post-election violence in Kenya where media stations and blog sites called on the Kenyans to unite and reach out to one another, broadcasted for free.
4. The intervention of neighborhood volunteers in Kwanza led to the surrendering of illegal weapons.
Another example is the Kup Women for Peace (KWP) in Papua New Guinea, which aimed to end the decades of tribal fighting. KWP volunteers visited communities and talked to people – knowing their stories, aspirations, and strong desire for peace. The volunteers then shared this with warring tribes.
The KWP efforts can also be seen today in the AKLATAN of Ambisyon Philippines. AKLATAN is created to educate kids and the youth about peace using youth created and produced books and storytelling. Each story captures the importance of peace and its role in development and engages the kids and youth to be advocates of peace at a young age. Aside from books, Aklatan is also training youth from different regions of the Philippines to become advocates of peace.
Moreover, the presence of volunteer groups also educates, encourages, and promotes growth among the youth. Marginalized youth and those who were part of armed groups before were given an opportunity to become a volunteer in Liberia, a project of the National Youth Service Programme (NYSP) in collaboration with the UNV in 2007. It showed that volunteerism quickly helped the youth integrate into civic life, and NYSP volunteers picked up and improved leadership and conflict management skills.
Volunteerism is an effective and cost-free mechanism for integrating peace and development between communities and nations alike. Due to this, countries such as Bangladesh, India, and Thailand, recognize its role at the core of “community policing.” Other countries are also trying to establish, promote, and strengthen volunteerism, especially among youth.
This article is written by Clarisse Joy “Clary” Mañabat, in support of AKLATAN.
AKLATAN is Ambisyon Philippines’ flagship project on development awareness through education. Throughout its activities, AKLATAN hopes to empower, educate, and engage educators-advocates for development.
Learn, volunteer, and donate to Aklatan through their Social Media Channels below.