Bev Russell has been a member of the UN Volunteering Methodology Panel for over almost two decades. In 2002, the UNDP commissioned a paper on the Contribution of the South African Volunteering Sector To Sustainable Development.

There is little doubt that volunteerism contributes significantly to sustainable development in South Africa, as it does throughout the world. Much has been documented on the importance of volunteering actions during South Africa’s political transition. Not only was volunteerism a mobiliser of social capital in the struggle against Apartheid and a safety net through which marginalized communities supported each other, but it was also an important economic generator. Since South Africa’s democratic elections in 1994, the face of volunteering has changed substantially. Unfortunately, too few resources have been geared towards understanding, nurturing and growing volunteering as an essential tool in our sustainable development toolkit during the last decade.

Sustainable development is about creating an environment in which people can develop their full potential and lead productive, creative lives in accordance with their needs and potential. True development therefore expands peoples’ choices, which in turn allows them to lead lives they value, in a way that does not compromise the future potential of the planet. Fundamental to enlarging these choices is building human capacities. This paper looks at how volunteering in South Africa helps to unlock the creativity of people to contribute to helping themselves and society in general in sustainable human development.

Read the full paper here