Agile Governance

Why we need to harness the power of volunteers

Maria Caspani
Journalist, Thomson Reuters Foundation
The Big Picture
Explore and monitor how Agile Governance is affecting economies, industries and global issues
A hand holding a looking glass by a lake
Crowdsource Innovation
Get involved with our crowdsourced digital platform to deliver impact at scale
Stay up to date:

Agile Governance

Many governments are failing to harness the untapped potential of volunteers, ordinary citizens who can shine light on injustice and hold those in power to account, the United Nations said in a report on Friday.

More than one billion people around the world volunteer their time to different causes – from helping during West Africa’s Ebola outbreak to scrutinising city contracts for corruption in Brazil, the U.N. said in the first global analysis of volunteers’ contribution to better governance.

Volunteering also helps marginalised groups such as women, youth and minorities have their voices heard, the report said.

In September, U.N. member states are expected to adopt new international development goals as the Millennium Development Goals expire. The targets should include volunteering as a way of improving governance locally and globally, said U.N. experts.

“Volunteers have been claiming rights and raised awareness among politicians. Any new development agenda must have space for civic engagement,” said the report’s author Amanda Mukwashi of United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

Over the past two decades, people have mobilised in the Middle East and North Africa to repeal laws that prohibit women from passing their citizenship to their children and have led to the amendment of legislation in several countries like Egypt and Algeria, said the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2015.

The public outrage that followed the gang rape and murder of a young female student in India in 2012 forced the government to respond and hold those responsible to account.

Huge participation in last year’s climate march in many cities worldwide raised awareness about the urgency and importance of combating global warming, said the report.

Despite positive examples, too many governments are failing to acknowledge and leverage the potential of volunteers in their development plans, said UNV.

“Change will occur with greater civic engagement broadening the number of people who have voice, who can participate and who can hold governance actors to account,” Richard Dictus, executive coordinator of UNV, said in a statement.

This article is published in collaboration with The Thomson Reuters Foundation. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Author: Maria Caspani is a journalist at the Thomson Reuters Foundation, covering humanitarian crisis and women’s rights.

Image: The feet of visitors are seen from below as they make their way along a translucent walkway. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque.

Don't miss any update on this topic

Create a free account and access your personalized content collection with our latest publications and analyses.

Sign up for free

License and Republishing

World Economic Forum articles may be republished in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License, and in accordance with our Terms of Use.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Agile GovernanceCorruptionEconomic Progress
World Economic Forum logo
Global Agenda

The Agenda Weekly

A weekly update of the most important issues driving the global agenda

Subscribe today

You can unsubscribe at any time using the link in our emails. For more details, review our privacy policy.

How true strategic foresight can help companies survive and thrive

Amy Webb

January 31, 2024

About Us



Partners & Members

  • Join Us

Language Editions

Privacy Policy & Terms of Service

© 2024 World Economic Forum