National Forum on Volunteerism and Cambodian Millennium Development Goals
7-8 September, 2011. Phnom Penh
On the 7-8 September the National Forum on Volunteerism and the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals was held in Phnom Pen. It brought together over 300 participants, including international and local volunteers from across Cambodia, volunteer agencies, government, development partners and the private sector. The main goal of the Forum was to share experiences, to discuss challenges and opportunities and to develop recommendations.
Discussions held in the Forum were summarized in this Statement and Recommendations paper, which we hope will be used for advocacy efforts by all stakeholders with the aim of ultimately affecting policy decisions at the highest level in Cambodia.
The Forum Statement emanates from small group discussions around the following development topics:
– Volunteerism in the area of Education and Health
– Volunteerism and Livelihood Development
– Volunteerism and Governance, Civic Engagement and Gender
– Volunteerism and Youth Development
– Volunteerism and Environment and Disaster Relief
It is acknowledged that Volunteerism brings enormous benefit to development and offers great potential for accelerating the achievement of Cambodian Millennium Development Goals.
There is an increasing awareness in Cambodia, especially in youth, of the value of volunteering as a career path; for networking; as work experience and for developing leadership skills. Many volunteers are mobilized into the community, including from Phnom Penh to the provinces, by local volunteering organizations. International volunteer’ numbers are also increasing in the country as awareness of the potential for institutional capacity development increases by host organizations. Further corporate volunteering is now beginning in Cambodia, as a Corporate Social Reasonability activity.
Given this emerging recognition of the value of formal volunteering, and increase in numbers, there are some clear challenges.
Financial pressure to earn money for themselves and their families creates an obstacle for many potential volunteers. With a majority youth population, many of whom are now looking for work, there is pressure to get a job from an early age. Volunteering is increasingly recognized as part of the career path, but the pressure to use time to earn money is strong, especially from family.
There is uncertainty about the operating environment. Volunteering in cooperation with commune council chiefs is common, but the district and provincial level coordination is difficult and in some cases, has even hindered efforts. There is no consistent message across the country on activities that are allowed and those that aren’t, which meant limited resources and volunteer time is wasted and volunteers are confused and de-motivated.
Where legislation exists, the local authority is not clear. This includes the concern above and also discrimination against women, people with disabilities, and minority ethnic and religious groups. Minority groups, including girls, who volunteer in rural and remote areas, are at increased risk and the local authorities could protect and support them, to further develop an enabling environment and diversity in volunteering.
Finally, where there are increasing numbers of willing volunteers to undertake activities in areas such as health, civic engagement, and disaster response, funding and in-kind support (equipment, materials) are required to undertake projects.
Finally, there is need to undertake wider promotion across the community which would mean Volunteerism is better understood and valued and the choice to volunteer would receive greater support and respect. Wider promotion would also serve to further increase numbers and would bring different skills and experience.
- Support the establishment of a national service centre that will disseminate information about volunteering opportunities and information to develop an enabling environment.
- Provide incentives to volunteers. Value and recognize volunteer work, e.g. through instituting a National Volunteer Award, including in specific categories, like ‘village volunteers’, ‘female volunteers’ and etc.
- 3. Facilitate volunteer work at both international and national levels.
- Facilitate mapping of volunteers across Cambodia, especially at local and village levels.
- 5. Integrate Volunteerism into educational programs, especially University level programs.
- Create volunteering opportunities within government institutions.
- Using a consultative process, develop policies and improve legislation to create enabling and supportive environment for volunteering.
- Provide clear and transparent information to local authorities, on what volunteer activities are allowed and those that are not permitted.
- Increase support and simplify approval process for volunteer programs at local level.
- Local authority to ensure safety and security of volunteers in remote areas
- Reinforce legislation that will eliminate discrimination based on ethnic origin, skin color, gender, religion and disabilities.
- Promote training and encouragement of volunteering at all levels.
- Increase government’s contribution, including in-kind support to volunteer projects.
- Raise awareness, including among illiterate people in communities through radio programs promoting Volunteerism and civic engagement.
- Promote good governance – bottom-up participation of people in decision-making processes through volunteering time to get involved in their communities.
- Listen and act to the voices of volunteers.
- Promote nationwide volunteering actions, e.g. national campaign on voluntary non-remunerated blood donation.
- Deliver on promises. Implement existing mechanisms and work with all stakeholders.
Civil Society Organizations and Volunteer Agencies:
- Create more opportunities for volunteer work based on local need which contributes to the Cambodian Millennium Development Goals.
- 2. Campaign on Awareness-raising about value of and opportunities for volunteering.
- Value and recognize volunteer work, time and contribution.
- Provide adequate support to volunteers, including insurance and safety and security arrangements.
- Provide pre-departure training and capacity development support to volunteers before leaving for the community. Provide training support during the assignment and before the volunteers finish their assignment.
- Provide support in volunteer resettlement and reintegration after they finish their assignment, such as facilitating finding jobs
- Plan and get approvals for the volunteer project before arriving in the community.
- Provide more opportunities to volunteers to network and voice their concerns and challenges.
- International Volunteer organizations to use participation in the CCC Good Governance program as a criteria for selection of organizational governance (in selecting host agencies).
- Develop policies that ensure equal treatment and same safety and security measures for staff and volunteers.
- Volunteer agencies to coordinate and cooperate with each other, including sharing information about their activities and placements.
- Develop best practice manual for Cambodia on volunteering policies and practices.
- Work toward an accreditation system for formal volunteering agencies in Cambodia.
- Provide funding to volunteer programmes.
- Provide technical and capacity building support to volunteer programs.
- Integrate volunteerism into existing and new sectoral development strategies.
- Encourage and motivate volunteering through trainings.
- Direct funding support to initiatives of volunteers during their assignments.
- Promote volunteering opportunities and regional volunteer exchange programs.
- Cooperate with civil society and government agencies in creating volunteering opportunities, including internships or apprenticeships.
- Promote skills-based corporate volunteering to support civil society organizations. Encourage the workforce to do voluntary work or ‘lead by example’.
- Promote volunteerism as a means for implementing ‘CSR’ (Corporate Social Responsibility).
- Develop policies, which integrate volunteerism. Consider sustainability rather than ‘quick fix’ or publicity interventions when undertaking corporate volunteering.
- Support awareness-raising about volunteerism.
- Provide incentive/support to volunteers, like community internship program. Value and recognition of volunteers (e.g. by providing letters of recommendation to volunteers)
- Collaborate with the government on developing technical skills of volunteers. Use volunteerism as a tool for promoting opportunities and meeting the labour market gap in science and technical skills.
Proposed Mechanisms for implementation
(provisional and non-exhaustive list)
– Volunteerism is part of the National Youth Policy (one of 12 strategies). Make use of existing implementation strategy for NYP and relevant indicators to monitor the implementation of the Forum recommendations;
– National Committee (comprising government agencies, VolCam and other partners) to follow up on the implementation of recommendations
– VolCam to increase activities on awareness raising about volunteerism and promote implementation of other recommendations
– MOEYS to take lead and promote the implementation of the recommendations for the government, including raising them during inter-Ministerial and similar meetings