In Europe, one in five people over the age of 16 is involved in a voluntary activity (1). Often supported by civil society organisations, volunteers play a key role in shaping our societies and responding to societal challenges. During crisis situations, as demonstrated by the reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic and to the war in Ukraine, volunteers are often at the forefront of the emergency response and provide essential services to those in need. Furthermore, volunteering is an example of active participation in shaping our societies, a key component of democratic life.
In order to examine and reaffirm the societal contribution of volunteers, on 7 July 2022, the Civil Society Organisations' Group of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) will host a conference entitled Volunteers – citizens building the future of Europe, in Gdańsk, Poland. This conference is a part of a three-day mission to Gdańsk - the European Capital of Volunteering 2022.
The mission is being organised in liaison with the Centre for European Volunteering (CEV), the City of Gdańsk, the National Freedom Institute – Centre for the Development of Civil Society of Poland, the Gdańsk European Solidarity Centre, the Gdańsk Museum of the Second World War, the Gdańsk Regional Volunteering Centre, the Polish Scouting and Guiding Association and the Scouting Association of the Republic of Poland.
Outline and objectives
The conference will bring together volunteers, researchers, representatives of national and European civil society organisations and public authorities, in order to discuss and share experiences in the following areas:
- Trends in the development of volunteering in the European Union;
- Public authority support for organisations and volunteers;
- New forms of volunteering.
The aim of the conference will be to:
- Restate the important social and economic role of volunteering and to highlight that, while volunteering should not replace the basic tasks of governments, volunteers can play an effective part in responding to growing societal challenges by meeting social needs rapidly and efficiently;
- Create a platform for the exchange of views between stakeholders from the global and European levels, as well as from various EU Member States, especially from civil society organisations. Particular attention will be paid to the Polish experience, which is in some areas unique among EU Member States;
- Publicise the EESC study New trends in the development of volunteering in the European Union, published in December 2021.
- Follow up on the EESC opinion Volunteers – citizens building the future of Europe, adopted in December 2021, which aims to promote better recognition of volunteering by EU authorities, to underline the importance of long-term support for volunteers at the EU, national and local levels and to promote 2025 as the European Year of Volunteers.
The EESC has previously contributed to the topic of volunteering in Europe through, inter alia:
- its 2006 opinion on Voluntary activity: its role in European society and its impact;
- the 2011 Group III Conference in Warsaw, as part of the European Year of Volunteering and its 2012 opinion on EU Policies and Volunteering;
- its 2013 opinion on Statistical tools for measuring volunteering.
Registration and practical information
The conference will be an in-person event only.
Simultaneous interpretation will be available from and into English, French and Polish.
(1) Eurostat (2015), "Social participation and integration statistics".