REPORT on the role of volunteering in contributing to economic and social cohesion
10.3.2008 - (2007/2149(INI))
Committee on Regional Development
Rapporteur: Marian Harkin
MOTION FOR A EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RESOLUTION
on the role of volunteering in contributing to economic and social cohesion
The European Parliament,
– having regard to the Fourth Report on Economic and Social Cohesion (COM(2007)0273),
– having regard to Decision No 1904/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 establishing for the period 2007 to 2013 the programme Europe for Citizens to promote active European citizenship,
– having regard to Decision No 1719/2006/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 15 November 2006 establishing the Youth in Action programme for the period 2007 to 2013,
– having regard to Council Decision 2006/144/EC of 20 February 2006 on Community strategic guidelines for rural development (programming period 2007 to 2013),
– having regard to Council Decision 2006/702/EC of 6 October 2006 on Community strategic guidelines on cohesion,
- having regard to Resolution 2006/C 297/02 of the Council and the Representatives of the Governments of the Member States, meeting within the Council, on implementing the common objectives for participation by and information for young people in view of promoting their active European citizenship,
– having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled Promoting young people's full participation in education, employment and society (COM(2007)0498),
- having regard to the Communication from the Commission entitled The demographic future of Europe – from challenge to opportunity (COM(2006)0571),
– having regard to Recommendation 2001/613/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 July 2001 on mobility within the Community for students, persons undergoing training, volunteers, teachers and trainers,
- having regard to its resolution of 13 March 2007 on corporate social responsibility: a new partnership,
– having regard to the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the contribution of volunteering to economic and social cohesion (CdR 254/2007),
– having regard to the Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on Voluntary activity: its role in European society and its impact (2006/C 325/13),
– having regard to the Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on the role of voluntary organizations - a contribution to a European society (98/C 180/10),
– having regard to Articles 158 and 159 of the EC Treaty,
– having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,
– having regard to the report of the Committee on Regional Development (A6‑0070/2008),
A. whereas it is reliably estimated that in excess of 100 million EU citizens volunteer,
B. whereas the initial findings upon implementation of the UN Handbook on Non-Profit Institutions (NPIs) are that the economic contribution of NPIs is on average 5% of GDP and that, even conservatively estimated, volunteer time accounts for more than one quarter of this figure,
C. whereas volunteering is a major force nurturing civil society and strengthening solidarity – one of the core values of the EU – as well as an essential component in supporting community development programmes, in particular in those Member States that are now emerging from a post-communist transitional period,
D. whereas a recent study of organisations involving volunteers across Europe demonstrated a high level of added value: for every EUR 1 organisations spent on supporting volunteers, they received an average return worth between EUR 3 and EUR 8,
E. whereas the very significant contribution of volunteering to building up social capital needs to be fully recognised,
F. whereas sustainable funding, especially funding for administrative purposes, is of fundamental importance to voluntary organisations and to voluntary work in general,
G. whereas the recent report from the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions identified social capital as a key element in developing policies to foster rural economic development,
H. whereas a recent study into a successful urban programme in Aarhus made the central point that local citizens and voluntary effort were crucial to the successful implementation of the programme,
I. whereas volunteering not only has a measurable economic value but may also lead to significant savings for public services; whereas, in this context, it is important to ensure that voluntary activity is additional to public services and not a replacement of them,
J. whereas volunteering contributes to the personal and social development of the volunteer and has a positive impact within the community, for example, on interpersonal relationships,
K. whereas volunteers play an important role in achieving the Lisbon Strategy goal of socio-economic cohesion by contributing to financial inclusion, for example, by establishing credit unions which are regulated and not for profit financial cooperatives, run and governed by volunteers,
L. whereas the corporate social responsibility of companies is both an important business driver and represents an essential element of the European social model,
M. whereas there is a link between volunteering and sustainable development,
N. whereas it is important to promote and support best practices in volunteer management amongst organisations involving volunteers,
O. whereas volunteering leads to the direct involvement of citizens in local development, and thus can play an important role in the fostering of civil society and democracy,
P. whereas in the abovementioned Council resolution on active citizenship the Council encourages greater participation on the part of young people in civic life, participatory structures and voluntary work,
Q. whereas demographic change in Europe means that there is now a large number of older potential volunteers,
R. whereas volunteering can have a positive effect on people's health; whereas this health benefit can be enjoyed by people of all ages and can help prevent physical and mental illness,
S. whereas volunteering has a role to play in underpinning local development initiatives and in facilitating the successful implementation of a number of Community-funded initiatives, such as the LEADER Programme, INTERREG and the PEACE Programme,
1. Encourages Member States and regional and local authorities to recognise the value of volunteering in promoting social and economic cohesion; furthermore, encourages them to work in partnership with voluntary organisations and to follow meaningful consultation with the voluntary sector to develop plans and strategies to recognise, value, support, facilitate and encourage volunteering; also urges the Member States to create a stable and institutional framework for the participation of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in public debates;
2. Calls on the relevant Commission experts to make a clearer distinction between voluntary organisations and NGOs, whose activities are not organised on the same voluntary bases, and calls for a comprehensive pan-European investigation into the nature, level and internal mechanisms of social participation, including voluntary participation and funding for this purpose;
3. Calls on Member States and regional and local authorities to make real efforts to help voluntary organisations to access sufficient and sustainable funding for both administrative purposes and projects, without excessive form-filling, red-tape or bureaucracy, while maintaining the necessary controls on the spending of public money;
4. Urges Member States and regional and local authorities to support the creation of volunteer emergency services in every locality in order to ensure a rapid response to natural disasters and accidents;
5. Draws the Commission's attention to the fact that the partnership principal enshrined in both the Community strategic guidelines for rural development (programming period 2007 to 2013) and the Community strategic guidelines on cohesion is not always adhered to at national level and therefore urges the Commission to take the appropriate administrative and institutional steps to ensure that its own policies, procedures and protocols are actually observed and enforced during Structural Fund consultations negotiations and subsequent operations;
6. Recommends that all Member States produce regular NPI "satellite accounts" and calls for the inclusion of volunteer work in these satellite accounts so that policy makers can take account of NPIs in their policy formulation; calls on the Commission to consider how volunteering might be included as a special category in the statistical accounts of EUROSTAT;
7. Strongly supports the view that volunteering and voluntary activity should not take the place of paid work;
8. Calls on the Commission to work towards putting in place a system for all Community funds whereby volunteer activity can be recognised as a contribution to co-financed projects and to devise mechanisms whereby voluntary work can be suitably costed; welcomes efforts by some Directorates-General of the Commission to adopt a more flexible approach to the acceptance of voluntary work as a contribution matching Community funding in joint-funded projects;
9. Calls on the Commission to promote opportunities for older volunteers and to develop a Seniors in Action Programme for the increasing number of very experienced senior citizens who are willing to volunteer that might run in parallel with and complement the abovementioned Youth in Action Programme and furthermore to promote specific programmes for intergenerational volunteering and for mentoring;
10. Encourages Member States to promote and to facilitate volunteering within all Communities, both real and virtual, such as family volunteering or volunteering in marginalised groups or groups that might not traditionally volunteer and to stress the great importance of organising voluntary work so as to ensure that it is compatible with family and professional life;
11. Encourages companies and other private-sector operators, as part of their corporate social responsibility strategy, to financially support initiatives promoting and enhancing volunteering and urges Member States, in the context of corporate volunteering, to provide incentives for the private sector to fund and support the voluntary sector, thus helping to ensure the transfer of corporate skills and know-how from the private to the public sector and also improving the quality of life at local level by encouraging self help in the resolution of local problems;
12. Calls on the Commission to increase the recognition of volunteering as an appropriate activity through which to acquire competences and skills through YOUTHPASS with a linkage to EUROPASS, while ensuring that volunteering is not seen as an alternative to formal training but a complement to it; furthermore calls for national and local measures to increase the mobility of volunteers;
13. Calls on the Commission and the Member States to investigate the delay in the adoption of the proposed European Charter on Volunteering which should define the role of voluntary organisations and lay down their rights and responsibilities; recommends annual peer-reviews to assess voluntary work undertaken by Member States and within specific sectors and organisations;
14. Recommends the Commission and the Member States to establish a European database providing basic data on volunteer organisations as well as details of best practises, something which would provide helpful guidelines for improving volunteering systems;
15. Calls on the relevant authorities to ensure that volunteers are adequately covered by accident insurance and personal liability insurance in respect of their voluntary activities and that any agreed outlay by volunteers in respect of their voluntary activities is also covered;
16. Calls on the Commission, the Member States and regional and local authorities to promote volunteering through education at all levels, creating opportunities for voluntary activity at an early stage in the education system so that it is seen as normal contribution to community life and to continue to promote such activity as students grow older, to facilitate "services learning" where students work with voluntary or community groups in partnership as part of their diploma or degree course, to encourage links between the voluntary sector and the education sector at all levels and to promote volunteering and recognize learning in volunteering as part of life long learning;
17. Calls on the Commission to investigate the creation of a legal basis in Community Law for the exemption of voluntary organisations from VAT on purchases intended for the accomplishment of their objective and the exemption of donors from tax on donations for voluntary work purposes;
18. Calls on Member States, while respecting the principle of subsidiarity, to establish a sustainable volunteering infrastructure to deal with issues such as core funding for voluntary organisations;
19. Recommends that 2011 be declared the European Year of Volunteering;
20. Recognises the diversity of volunteering in the Member States but nevertheless encourages Member States and regional and local authorities, whenever possible, to learn from one another through the exchange of best practices;
21. Calls on the Commission to introduce support schemes to set up more efficient systems of cooperation and networking between voluntary organisations and to strengthen international volunteer exchange schemes which could in certain cases contribute to achieving Millennium Development Goals; particularly calls for the establishment of programmes to assist in restimulating voluntary activities in Member States where voluntary activity has come to be associated with actions of a compulsory nature;
22. Recommends the promotion of cross-border voluntary projects;
23. Calls on the Commission to be sympathetic to the situation of volunteers in all areas of policy and legislation;
24. Calls on relevant local and regional stakeholders, voluntary organisations and the media to provide adequate information to citizens about opportunities to volunteer, accompanied by suitable training, with special emphasis on vulnerable and marginalised groups within society and the needs of remote and inaccessible regions;
25. Urges the Commission, alongside Plan D for Democracy, Dialogue and Debate, to put in place a Plan V for Valuing, Validating and ensuring the Visibility of Volunteers;
26. Calls on the Commission to review its visa policy for third-country participants in recognised EU volunteer programmes with a view to introducing a more liberal visa regime in particular as regards volunteers from countries neighbouring the EU;
27. Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Committee of the Regions and the European Economic and Social Committee.
-  OJ L 378, 27.12.2006, p. 32.
-  OJ L 327, 24.11.2006, p. 30.
-  OJ L 55, 25.2.2006, p 20.
-  OJ L 291, 21.10.2006, p 11.
-  OJ C 297, 7.12.2006, p. 6.
-  OJ L 215, 9.8.2001, p. 30.
-  OJ C 301 E, 13.12.2007, p. 45.
-  OJ C 325, 30.12.2006, p 46.
-  OJ C 180, 11.6.1998, p. 57.
-  Eurobarometer Report. Social Reality Stocktaking, February 2007.
-  John Hopkins University Report Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering,. September, 2007. www.jhu.edu/ccss
-  Volunteering works, Institute for volunteering research and volunteering, England, September 2007.
-  See Mandl, I., Oberholzner, T., & Dörflinger, C. European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions. http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/pubdocs/2007/18/en/1/ef0718en.pdf
-  Vestergaard Poulsen, L. From Deprived Neighbourhood to Sustainable Community English Summary. The Urban II Programme in Aarhus 2002-2007.
-  See The Health Benefits of Volunteering - A Review of Recent Research (Corporation for National and Community Service, 2007)
-  See Civil Society as a Partner in European Union Structural Funds. European Citizen Action Service. November, 2004.
Volunteering makes an invaluable contribution to society. Involvement in Voluntary activities is a tangible expression of participatory democracy and there is a strong link between volunteering and active citizenship.
Most voluntary activity takes place at a local or regional level and partnership is a key instrument in ensuring the meaningful involvement of voluntary groups. The synergies created by genuine partnership add real value to all outcomes. Indeed the principle of partnership is very clearly articulated in the Regulation laying down the general provisions on the ERDF, ESF and Cohesion Fund.
At local/regional level, voluntary activity facilitates the involvement of local actors who become empowered through participation involvement and action. This empowerment enhances self confidence and motivation and in a regional context can contribute significantly to a regional identity.
At national level this empowerment can shift the relationship between the citizen and the state from that of a client - patron situation to one where citizens through collective action have a meaningful role to play in making a positive contribution to the life of the Community. It is worth noting that such outcomes while generally seen as positive are not always welcomed by those 'in authority'. There are a number of reasons for this not least the fact that participatory procedures can be viewed as challenging the status quo and can sometimes prove inconvenient. A recent study by ECAS (European Citizen Action Service) on the involvement of civil society organisations in eight new Member States illustrates that the situation regarding partnership is unsatisfactory. This 'Illusion of Inclusion' needs to be addressed if the partnership principle as supported by all EU institutions is to be respected. Indeed, the White Paper on European Governance advocates "a stronger engagement of people and grass root organisations in local democracy" in a multilevel partnership. For many people participation in a voluntary organisation may be their only experience of democratic processes outside of the normal electorate framework and the relevant authorities should facilitate this involvement.
According to the Commission communication on promoting the role of voluntary organisations it is estimated that in the EU. 15 between one third and a half of the population are involved in some type of voluntary activity, and while numbers and types of activity vary in different countries there are in excess of 100 million citizens engaged in voluntary activity in the EU 27 . Therefore at a European level the promotion of volunteering through Community policies, the support of voluntary action using European funds, and the recognition of and commitment to voluntary activity at European level will help to establish direct links between citizens, their communities and the EU.
One of our greatest challenges is to manage the process of globalisation in particular where citizens perceive that decisions affecting their future are taken at a distance from them and where there is a sense of having little or no control over unfolding global events. Volunteering can be viewed as an antidote to some of the negative effects of globalisation where citizens are not simply consumers but where they can act as a catalyst for change by influencing local action to improve their economic circumstance and improve the quality of life of their community. In doing so they can promote a sense of place and a sense of connectedness. Equally, volunteers can add value to the positive impacts of globalisation e.g. by engaging in e-volunteering or virtual volunteering. Virtual volunteering means volunteer tasks completed in whole or in part via the internet. It permits voluntary action by those who because of time
constraints, personal preference, a disability or home based obligations are unable or
unwilling to volunteer on site. Volunteers who travel abroad to volunteer contribute significantly to intercultural dialogue and understanding as do immigrants who volunteer in their "new" community.
At a personal level, volunteering promotes a sense of personal worth alongside a sense of connectedness to others. Volunteering is perhaps our most sustainable form of renewable energy.
For the purpose of this report I will define volunteering using the following criteria:
1) Volunteering is not undertaken for financial reward, i.e. it is unpaid
2) It is undertaken of one's own free will
3) It brings benefit to a third party outside the circle of family and friends
4) It is open to all
There are a number of different types of volunteering and these broadly include mutual and or self help, philanthropy or service to others, campaigning and advocacy and participation and self governance.
The European Voluntary Service E.V.S. is a particular type of voluntary service and is promoted by the European Commission under the 'Youth in Action Programme 2007-2013'. This allows young people the opportunity to express their personal commitment through unpaid and full time voluntary activities in a foreign country within or outside the EU.
In very many, although not all cases, volunteering plays a significant role in the creation of Social Capital. Volunteering often acts as the catalyst for associational activities and hence the building of social capital particularly in rural or economically deprived areas. Social Capital is difficult to define, but it certainly includes the following elements, trust, co-operation and sharing, social networks, participation in shared norms of behaviour, a sense of commitment and belonging. Social Capital is a latent resource residing in the relationships within and among groups.
The document Social Capital - 'The Missing Link' notes that "natural capital, physical or produced capital and human capital have traditionally been seen as constituting the wealth of nations and forming the basis for economic growth and development. It has now become recognised that these three types of capital determine only partially the process of economic growth because they overlook the way in which the economic actors interact and organize themselves to generate growth and development. The missing link is Social Capital" 
Various studies have shown that volunteering as an integral part of Social Capital plays an important role in reducing economic disparities.  In particular a study entitled 'Social Capital in the European Values Study Surveys' draws the conclusion that "Social Capital in terms of active volunteering work is positively linked to regional economic growth". Similarly, 'A survey of socio-economic disparities between the regions of the EU.' by Daniel Moucque makes the point that Social Capital is an important factor in reducing regional disparities.
Contribution of Volunteering to Economic Cohesion
Volunteering supports the Lisbon Objectives by:-
1) Promoting employability
Volunteering plays an important role in gaining skills, and improving the employability of the volunteer. Volunteers gain a very wide range of skills and competences. According to the Commission in its most recent communication on promoting young peoples full participation in education, employment and society, voluntary activities provide a valuable non formal learning experience which enables young people to acquire skills and facilitate their transition from education to employment. Furthermore the spring European Council 2005 concluded that "greater ownership of the objectives of the new Lisbon Agenda on the ground was necessary involving regional and local actors and social partners" It also reiterated that the Strategic Guidelines recognise the importance of this involvement. It is important to note that while volunteering is an important instrument to promote employability, it must not be exploited as an alternative employment measure. Volunteering is also a means of life long learning.
Through volunteering the most vulnerable groups in society are empowered to transform their lives, get actively involved in society and through acquired skills and competences, get access to better paid jobs or find a path back to education.
2) Promoting social inclusion
As an informal and non-formal learning experience volunteering offers real opportunities to those excluded from the formal education system and also the long term unemployed. Available research data suggests that people who have been involved in volunteering are less likely to be unemployed. Given that nearly one- in- six young people in the EU are early school leavers and one- in- four young adults(ages 25-29) has not completed upper secondary education level, the skills obtained by volunteers can prove to be extremely valuable in accessing employment and promoting social inclusion.
The Economic Value of Volunteering
According to the John Hopkins University Report, 'Measuring Civil Society and
Volunteering', released on September 25th 2007, the Non Profit Institutions N.P.I sector contributes about as much to gross domestic product in a wide range of countries as do the construction and finance industries and twice as much as the utilities industry. This means that it accounts for 5-7% of the GDP in the countries surveyed. These findings emerge from data generated by official statistical agencies in eight countries, (Australia, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, France, Japan, New Zealand and the United States). It is worth noting that twenty additional countries, both developed and developing, have committed to issuing these satellite accounts and a number of others are about to begin implementation. This clearly indicates that more and more countries are recognising the importance of including volunteering in their National Accounts.
Contribution of Volunteering to Social Cohesion.
Volunteering plays a major role in promoting social cohesion. At a European level volunteering translates European Values such as solidarity, social cohesion and inclusiveness into practice. Engagement in volunteering enables people to regain a sense of purpose and responsibility and structure in their lives.
Volunteering across the generations.
Volunteering increases the connectedness of young people to their community By handing back responsibility to young people - it allows young people to do something for themselves.. Older people who volunteer can make a contribution drawing on their experience and expertise. Due to demographic changes, elder volunteering is a huge untapped resource residing in our communities. When young people and older people engage in local activities volunteering is a means of bringing the generations together, where they can learn from one another and enhance mutual understanding.
Volunteering in divided societies.
In Northern Ireland volunteers in many cases supported by PEACE or INTEREG funding have played a key role in reconciliation and peace building. Volunteers from different social and political traditions and religious backgrounds have worked together on concrete projects and through these activities have helped to rebuild bonds of trust between divided communities. Similar outcomes have occurred in Cyprus and the Baltic States.
Volunteering can promote integration and intercultural dialogue.
Volunteering facilitates migrants and third country nationals to become involved in local communities. It also facilitates intercultural dialogue and exchange of experience and can also be an instrument whereby young people who volunteer abroad gain a positive experience of diversity and therefore contribute to the prevention of discrimination and prejudice.
Volunteers contribute directly to cultural development.
Voluntary activity ensures an increased number of opportunities for cultural expression and participation.
In the Parliament our role should be to add value where possible to the good work already underway in Member States. We need to ensure that Community policies, procedures etc are observed to create the synergies that will give added value.
We should encourage the development of civil society and of participative democracy thereby facilitating citizens to become part of that process and consequently giving real meaning to the aim of bringing Europe closer to its citizens. The promotion, support and facilitation of volunteering and voluntary action, accompanied by the growth of social capital will prove to be an invaluable tool in achieving those outcomes.
-  Council Regulation (EC) No 1083/2006 of 11 July 2006 laying down the general provisions on the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and the Cohesion Fund and repealing Regulation (EC) No 1260/1999. Article 9. OJ L 210, 11.7.2006, p. 38.
-  See Harvey, B. July 2004. 'The illusion of inclusion' Access by NGOs to the structural funds in the new member states of eastern and central Europe. Report for the European Action Service.
-  See Harvey, B. July 2004. 'The illusion of inclusion' Access by NGOs to the structural funds in the new member states of eastern and central Europe. Report for the European Action Service.
-  See the Commission's White Paper on European Governance COM(2001) 428 final, Brussels, 25.7.2001. p. 11, 3.1.
-  Harvey, B. July 2004. 'The illusion of inclusion' Access by NGOs to the structural funds in the new member states of eastern and central Europe. Report for the European Action Service.
-  See Communication from the Commission on promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe. (1997)
-  See Communication from the Commission on promoting the role of voluntary organisations and foundations in Europe. (1997). p. 4.
-  See Eurobarometer Report. "Social Reality Stocktaking" (February 2007)
-  Measuring volunteering, A Practical Toolkit. Independent Sector and United Nations Volunteers.
-  Grootaert, C. "Social Capital: The Missing Link". Social Capital Initiative Working Paper No. 3. The World Bank (April 1998).
-  See Zak and Knack - Trust and Growth.
See Fukuyama's Study on Trust, (1995)
See Knack and Keefer (1995,1997) Paper on Social Capital.
See Sonja Mikkelsen, Manager, Urban programme II Aarhus, Denmark "A model for developing deprived neighbourhoods.
-  See Van Schaik, Tilburg University. "Social Capital in the European Values Study Surveys".
-  Daniel Moucque is with Directorate General for Regional Policies at the European Commission. He was editor of the sixth periodic report and one of the co-authors of the First Cohesion Report.
-  COM(2007)498
-  Council Decision No 2006/702/EC of 6 October 2006 on Community strategic guidelines on cohesion. Recital No. (7). OJ L291/12
-  Final Report CEV General Assembly 23.03.07. (Paris, France)
-  COM(2007) 498
-  John Hopkins University Report, 'Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering'. September, 2007. www.jhu.edu/ccss
RESULT OF FINAL VOTE IN COMMITTEE
Result of final vote
Members present for the final vote
Alfonso Andria, Emmanouil Angelakas, Stavros Arnaoutakis, Elspeth Attwooll, Rolf Berend, Jana Bobošíková, Victor Boştinaru, Antonio De Blasio, Petru Filip, Gerardo Galeote, Iratxe García Pérez, Eugenijus Gentvilas, Pedro Guerreiro, Gábor Harangozó, Marian Harkin, Jim Higgins, Mieczysław Edmund Janowski, Rumiana Jeleva, Gisela Kallenbach, Tunne Kelam, Evgeni Kirilov, Miloš Koterec, Constanze Angela Krehl, Jamila Madeira, Mario Mantovani, Sérgio Marques, Miroslav Mikolášik, James Nicholson, Jan Olbrycht, Maria Petre, Markus Pieper, Pierre Pribetich, Wojciech Roszkowski, Elisabeth Schroedter, Grażyna Staniszewska, Catherine Stihler, Dimitar Stoyanov, Margie Sudre, Andrzej Jan Szejna, Lambert van Nistelrooij, Oldřich Vlasák
Substitute(s) present for the final vote
Brigitte Douay, Den Dover, Emanuel Jardim Fernandes, Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg, Vladko Todorov Panayotov, Zita Pleštinská, Miloslav Ransdorf, László Surján, Iuliu Winkler
Substitute(s) under Rule 178(2) present for the final vote
Janelly Fourtou, Zdzisław Zbigniew Podkański