UNV and the China Volunteer Federation recently brought a group of Middle Income Countries (MICS) together to debate the merits of Volunteering for the Sustainable Development Goals (#V4SDGs). A consensus emerged among the countries participating that international volunteering can take on completely new significance for the MICS as volunteer providers.
Engaging each other's social programmes through volunteer exchanges generates a better cultural understanding and can help efficiency and effectiveness on both sides through the cross fertilization of relevant and tested ideas and concepts. Some will venture to suggest these south-south exchanges are more relevant than north-south exchanges in the current age of universality and need for global citizenship. Joint volunteer deployments will give MICs from the Global South greater visibility and voice, as well as access. Last and by no means least, is the perception that trade follows friendship and that friendship needs to be created, grown and maintained by engaging in each other's societies.
The above trends create new volunteer spaces and opportunities, especially if we place the creation of global social capital, global citizens and global understanding higher on the agenda than immediate development impact and capacity development.
This is hard work, as the last 30 years of development programming have created the conviction that tax-payers' interests are safeguarded only when short term gains can be presented as significant development results, creating a value for money equation.
However, we have learned from the last 15 years, and the MDG era, that development achievements need to be seen in the prism of slightly more long term and in larger societal impact dimensions. The new Global Goals are a universal agenda, forcing us to think of the whole planet, not just the developing countries of the global south. Maybe this will allow as to develop a new vision on the functionality of volunteering in an interconnected and interdependent world.