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International Volunteer Day: A Call to Action

Every year on December 5th, the United Nations observes International Volunteer Day. This day celebrates and recognizes the efforts of volunteers worldwide who dedicate their time and energy to various causes. 

Moreover, the celebration is also a platform to raise awareness about the value of volunteering. It highlights how volunteers contribute to peace and promote economic and social development globally, inspiring more people to volunteer, to give back, and to create a positive impact.

As we explore the importance of International Volunteer Day, we must remember that every act of volunteerism can spark significant change, no matter how small.

Featured in: December - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of International Volunteer Day

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On December 17, 1985, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 40/212, establishing International Volunteer Day (IVD). The first celebration of IVD took place on December 5, 1986. Since then, the event has recognized the value and potential of volunteerism worldwide. 

The UN also made other resolutions to acknowledge and promote volunteerism. These include the 2001 International Year of Volunteers, a communication network, and recommendations for governments and the UN in 2001. 

By 2002, the General Assembly created United Nations Volunteers (UNV) to maximize International Volunteer Day's potential. 

In 2008, it decided to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers during two plenary meetings of the sixty-sixth session in December 2011.

It promotes volunteerism to achieve peace and the UN’s sustainable development goals and encourages governments, non-governmental organizations, and private sector entities to participate in IVD celebrations. 

IVD has evolved significantly over the years, particularly during the International Year of Volunteers in 2001, which recognized the contributions of millions of volunteers worldwide. 

The themes of IVD have varied, reflecting the changing global context. In 2023, the theme is “solidarity through volunteering.” 

Finally, we should acknowledge the contributions of former United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar and General Assembly President Jaime de Pinies in launching IVD.

Related Read: National Volunteer Month, Volunteering Facts and Statistics.

The Cause and Its Challenges

volunteering during the pandemic
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International Volunteer Day is a United Nations-supported initiative recognizing invaluable volunteer contributions worldwide. The celebration also identifies their obstacles, including resource scarcity and a lack of recognition.

For example, volunteering can be challenging due to limited resources, including funds, materials, and equipment. Even intangible resources like time, specific skills, and knowledge can take much work. 

The lack of recognition can also become an obstacle for volunteers, who often respond to crises like economic stresses, pandemics, and natural disasters. Despite the significant risks they face as first responders, their efforts often go unnoticed, leading to burnout and demotivation.

Why International Volunteer Day Matters

To be considered a volunteer, the International Conference of Labour Statisticians (ICLS) says the person should be of working age and have performed at least an hour of unpaid and non-compulsory work to produce goods or services for others. 

According to the 2022 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report1, there are 862.4 million people who volunteer in a month. The economic value of all full-time work is equivalent to approximately 61,000,000 workers monthly.

Volunteering builds a sense of unity and belonging among diverse groups, creating a world where everyone feels they belong. 

Moreover, studies suggest that regular volunteering2 can add years to one's life, improve overall functionality, and even stave off depression.

Furthermore, volunteering can enhance career prospects. Studies say volunteers are 27% more likely to find employment after being out of work.

Read more: Volunteering Facts and Statistics.

Efforts and Initiatives

cleaning plastics on beach
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Volunteerism is a global phenomenon that involves organizations, governments, the United Nations system, and communities. 

The UN Volunteers program collaborates with other UN agencies to promote volunteerism on a global scale.

They are mainly focused on global peace and development initiatives, and their International Volunteer Day campaigns highlight the efforts of local volunteers who help in crises and risk reduction. 

Likewise, the Peace Corps is another program that sends volunteers to over 60 countries to work on social and economic development projects. 

Habitat for Humanity's Global Village program also uses voluntary services to address housing issues and promote community development worldwide.

Meanwhile, the Australian Volunteers Program is a government-backed initiative that sends skilled professionals to developing countries to promote sustainable development and build capacity. 

The European Solidarity Corps also allows young people in Europe to volunteer or work on projects that help communities across the continent. 

How to Get Involved and Support International Volunteer Day

volunteer at work
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  • Participate actively in local volunteering opportunities. To begin with, one could search for aligned local initiatives, like neighborhood clean-ups, tree planting, or helping homeless shelters.
  • Donate funds to legitimate organizations working with volunteers.
  • Celebrate volunteers and their tireless work on social media platforms. You can also share online your volunteering experiences to raise awareness and motivate others to follow suit. Our giving back quotes and social work quotes might inspire some ideas, and feel free to share our images.  
  • Start a small, meaningful project of your own.
  • Use your skills to support a cause you cherish. Volunteer organizations need people for various tasks, from administrative support to hands-on assistance. 
  • Support volunteering works by offering your workplace or properties as a venue for their activities.
  • Organize an informational session about volunteering at your local community center.
  • Invite friends and family to join you in volunteering events. You can also inspire the younger generation to be youth volunteers.
  • Encourage governments through letters or other means to inform them about the importance of volunteering and the need for policy change. 
  • Provide mentoring to first-time volunteers or those interested in volunteering.

Conclusion: International Volunteer Day

International Volunteer Day promotes and celebrates volunteer work. It pays tribute to those who selflessly give their time and effort for the benefit of others and highlights the importance of empathy and collective action in bringing about positive societal change.

During International Volunteer Day, we recognize volunteer contributions and motivate others to take up volunteerism.

As we celebrate this day, we should reflect on the importance of volunteerism and its role in building a better future. Let us volunteer our time or resources to charitable causes or spread awareness about important issues on social media. 

International Volunteer Day FAQs

1. What is International Volunteer Day?

This observance celebrates the power and impact of volunteerism in creating positive change in communities worldwide.

2. When is International Volunteer Day celebrated?

It is celebrated on December 5th every year.

3. Why is this day important?

It highlights the contributions of volunteers in addressing social, economic, and environmental challenges, promoting peace, and fostering sustainable human development.

4. How can I support this day?

You can volunteer your time, skills, or resources to local charities, nonprofit organizations, volunteer-involving organizations, or community projects. You can also support volunteer efforts.

5. What are the benefits of volunteering?

Volunteering not only helps others but also provides personal growth and fulfillment. It allows you to positively impact, gain new skills, expand your network, and contribute to creating a more inclusive and equitable society.


United Nations Volunteers (2021). 2022 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report. Building equal and inclusive societies. Building Equal and Inclusive Societies


Yeung, J. W. K., Zhang, Z., & Kim, T. Y. (2017). Volunteering and health benefits in general adults: cumulative effects and forms. BMC Public Health, 18(1). 

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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