Volunteering and civil society play a decisive role in the work to reach the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, this is often not acknowledged. Norec wants to change that.

At regular intervals, all the UN member countries present their Voluntary National Review. In this they report the progress they are making on the SDGs.

– Unfortunately, volunteering and civil society are hardly visible in these reports, despite the important work they do, explains senior adviser in Norec Mr. Helge Espe.

On Tuesday 2 February, Espe is speaking at the webinar “Reporting the impact of volunteering to achieve the Agenda 2030.” Here, the participants will learn about lobbyism, volunteering and the SDGs, and how the UN works with following up the goals.

– Norway has a long tradition of listening to civil society

The webinar is organised by the Voluntary Group Alliance (VGA), which Norec supports. VGA is a coalition of organisations that contribute to sustainable development through volunteering. Through supporting VGA, Norec wishes to contribute towards volunteering and civil society being more recognised as tools to reach the SDGs.

Espe has worked on multilateral cooperation the past 12 years and has broad experience from international development. He also has thorough knowledge of the UN system. Through the webinar, he will share experiences from Norway, but also share practical examples.

– There is little doubt that the UN has a cumbersome system with many challenges. Moreover, many countries view the UN as a platform exclusively for state actors, and it is not easy for civil society and volunteer organisations to be heard.

Espe believes the Norwegian experience could be useful for many:

– In Norway, we have a long tradition of including civil society. That is exactly what VGA is working for, and as a centre of competence, we are glad to share some of our experience.

Digital high level forum gives hope for change

This summer, the reports will be presented on the UN High Level Political Forum. Usually, this happens in New York. This year, as last year, the event will be digital due to the covid-pandemic.

Espe hopes that this digital format is the start of a lasting change:

– It is expensive and extremely resource-demanding to bring representatives from the volunteer sector around the world to New York to speak at the UN. Hopefully, it will be easier, not to mention cheaper, to get time to speak now when the meetings are happening online.

At the same time, Espe points out that it is also important for the volunteering sector to take part in the actual preparations of the reports.

– Here it is often very difficult for the volunteer organisations to be heard by the authorities, says Espe.

– It is mainly this aspect we will discuss on the webinar. It is important that all the work the volunteering sector is behind also is reported on to the UN, he finishes.


The webinar will take place on Zoom, Tuesday 2 February at 16:00 (GMT+1). You can register in advance here.