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UN Volunteers and PNVB volunteers work side by side to clean up the town during International Volunteer Day in Burkina Faso. (Philippe Pernet, 2010)

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UNV in Africa

Volunteerism for Peace and Sustainable Development The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that supports sustainable human development globally through the promotion of volunteerism, including the mobilization of volunteers. UNV serves the causes of peace and development by enhancing opportunities for people to participate in their own betterment. UNV is impartial, inclusive and embraces voluntary action in all its diversity. UNV is committed to the values of free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity, which are the foundation of volunteerism. UNV delivers peace and development results through volunteerism. To this end, UNV partners with civil society, UN entities, Governments and the private sector to advocate for volunteerism, integrate volunteerism into development planning and mobilize volunteers. The enormous potential of volunteerism is an inspiration to UNV and to volunteers around the world. UNV directly mobilizes more than 6,800 UN Volunteers every year nationally and internationally. They come from 159 countries to serve in 127 countries in over 100 professional categories. Over two thirds of these

“Many youth around the world volunteer in their communities, thereby making tangible contributions to peace and development. Civic engagement is central to building cohesive communities and to promoting young people’s integration into society. Greater efforts should thus be made to guarantee that young women and men have the opportunity to participate in these types of activities.� Joint Statement by Heads of UN entities for the launch of the International Year of Youth, 2010 volunteers come from developing countries, and more than 30 per cent volunteer within their own countries. During 2012, some 1,257 UN Volunteers from outside of the African continent were assigned to UN development and peace activities within Africa. At the same time, 662 African UN Volunteers contributed their skills and expertise in other regions of the world. Also notably, there were 2,611 African UN Volunteers engaged within Africa, which is the highest regional representation among UN Volunteers.

To help abolish female genital mutilation (FGM) in Sudan, UNV engages community volunteers who involve women, girls, men and older boys in peer education within local communities through sports and other activities. (Blazej Mikula, 2008)

“We identified problems affecting our community, then we mobilized the community to address the deficits. For example, we offer study circles where skills can be gained and activities planned in HIV/AIDS awareness, conservation farming, livestock rearing and marketing. We are proud to say we have been successful and are open to the world to come and learn from us.” Youth Group Leader Joseph Banda, Zambia

This overview summarizes UNV activities in Africa, highlighting UNV’s support in Africa to youth volunteer initiatives, peace building and community-based climate change adaptation. Expanding Youth Volunteering UNV promotes youth volunteerism as a peoplecentred resource for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development. Through greater citizen participation, youth volunteering facilitates access to work and contributes to forming young leaders. In 2012, 966, approximately 14% of all UN Volunteers, were between the ages of 21 and 29. Not a new development, to further strengthen its focus on youth, UNV launched the Youth Volunteering programme in 1976. Since then, UNV has partnered with ten universities including Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Uganda and Japan to provide an opportunity for youth to realise their full social, economic and human potential. These volunteers gain a strong sense of civic engagement to bring about transformational change in their communities.

Supporting Regional Youth Volunteer

Initiative in Africa

UNV and the African Union Commission are partners in policy and advocacy on youth volunteering and infrastructures at national and regional levels in Africa. Throughout this partnership, UNV has advised the African Union on the establishment of a youth volunteer corps which brings together young people from the AU’s 54 member states to share their skills, knowledge and creativity to strengthen Africa’s relevance in a globalized world. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and UNV are partners in a volunteer programme which provides West African citizens, particularly youth, with opportunities to engage in peacebuilding and development activities through volunteerism in Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia and Sierra Leone. In 2012, UNV and AUC signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to collaborate and strengthen national and regional capacities for the development of youth volunteering programmes throughout the continent.

Youth Volunteer Initiative in Africa In Burkina Faso, Togo, Mali, Cape Verde, Niger and Senegal, UNV is supporting national governments and civil society partnerships to mobilize youth volunteers to work for the achievement of the MDGs in the areas of education, health, environment and economic development. In Rwanda, a joint youth programme, partly funded by the Japanese Government, promoted the rights of Rwandan youth and adolescents, and encourages them to take a responsible role in their society. The programme works with youth from 10 to 24 years old on policy development which empower adolescents and youth to think critically, understand their rights, and express themselves freely. The Asia Youth Volunteer Exchange Programme in Zambia, funded by the Japanese Government, mobilizes the skills of Asian volunteers and is an excellent example of South-South cooperation. This programme provides a mechanism for volunteers from Asia to work in Africa and transfer skills and knowledge in the agricultural and private sectors, especially to small to medium scale farmers.

Community members sell surplus white maize or ‘millies’ at Ondangwa Open Market in Namibia. The maize was produced as part of a Community-based Adaptation project. For the first time, group members had surplus yields to market and generate income. (Tuhafeni Nghilunaye/Creative Enterprise Solutions, 2010)

Supporting Community-Based Adaptation


UN Volunteers mobilized over 5,800 local community volunteers, helped 49 NGOs/ community-based organizations (CBOs) partners develop project ideas and proposals and introduced innovative monitoring practices for sustainable community-driven adaptation projects in seven countries including Niger, Namibia and Morocco. UN Volunteers also trained Community-Based Adaptation Self-Help Group coordinators, conducted vulnerability reduction assessments, monitored and evaluated community projects, and developed knowledgebased management products. Of note is Namibia, where one community began an agriculture project to improve their own food security and boost incomes through growing staple foods such as pearl millet, maize and sunflowers.

“By participating in UNV workshops, I learned a lot about my region from the elders and from discussions with the villagers. It also helped me understand the value of solidarity and collective work. I appreciate meeting people and partners who are supporting local development in the oasis. I now want to help more and more towards better conditions in the village.” Saadia Ihihi, Community Volunteer in Morocco

In Juba, South Sudan, UN Volunteer Naofumi Ikeda (Japan), a UNHCR Associate Protection Officer, is conducting registration interviews for refugee families coming from South Kordofan State in Sudan. (UNV, 2012)

“Peacebuilding is relationship building... A Sudanese colleague said to me that my presence, as a volunteer, gives a morale boost, encouragement and hope for people in South Sudan.” Tomohiro Yamanaka, UNV/UNDP in South Sudan

Peace Building Though the ‘Blue Helmets’ are the face of UN peacekeeping missions, they cannot operate without substantial civilian support. UN Volunteers make up a significant proportion of that support, working in a wide scope of functions, and can constitute up to a third of a peacekeeping mission’s international civilian component. UNV has been supporting the work of the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) in wartorn and post-conflict areas since 1992. To date, more than 14,000 UN Volunteers have served in more than 40 different peacekeeping and political and peacebuilding operations. In addition, UNV supports the significant substantive and logistical support for the electoral process especially in fragile post-conflict environment. In 2012, 2,137 African UN Volunteers served in UN peacekeeping missions including major peacekeeping missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.

Since 2007, the Japanese Government has funded the programme for Human Resource Development in Asia for Peacebuilding, where UNV has deployed skilled, trained and committed citizens from Japan and other Asian countries in the areas of conflict prevention and recovery, peace building and humanitarian assistance, and peacekeeping. A total of 113 UN Volunteers has served in this programme in 32 countries including Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Liberia, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Tanzania, to name but a few since 2007. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that promotes volunteerism to support peace and development worldwide. Volunteerism can transform the pace and nature of development and it benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer. UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for volunteerism globally, encouraging partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing volunteers. UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

For more information about UNV, please visit

UNV in Africa: Volunteerism for peace and sustainable development  
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