From Seoul to Kathmandu: The Power of Volunteers for Development

From Seoul to Kathmandu: The Power of Volunteers for Development

by David Caprara
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.@IBMVolunteers: essential engagement in support of @UN @SustDev goals. #ibmcsr

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015 - 9:00am

CAMPAIGN: Employee engagement in communities


On the heels of the U.N.’s adoption in late September of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for 2030, an Asia Pacific volunteering alliance recently convened a forum for hundreds of youth and development partners from northeast Asia at the Korea Council on Foreign Relations in Seoul.

After the Seoul convening, which launched the Northeast Asia volunteering initiative, I travelled to Kathmandu to assess the progress of the South Asia APPDSA Alliance hub for volunteerism. Convened in Nepal just prior to the April earthquake that took more than 9,000 lives, the Alliance’s South Asia convening provided a ready base of volunteers to implement the Kathmandu Call to Action after the disaster struck and served as a springboard for Rise Nepal, a youth-led relief and rebuilding initiative. To date, more than 1,600 young Nepali volunteers have helped nearly 3,000 households with emergency provisions, including food, and medical and hygiene supplies, and have constructed around 600 transitional homes.

IBM Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs stepped in to provide IT support, equipping youths with software and other technology to facilitate their efforts to rebuild their nation beyond short-term earthquake relief. Since the recent adoption of Nepal’s new constitution, this support is being broadened to include young leadership training in citizenship and service addressing longer-term goals, including SDGs across the South Asia region.

A recent Gallup article noted the power of the more than one billion people around the world who engage in volunteer service and the need to marshal their efforts to help countries meet their SDG targets by 2030. Since the Seoul forum, efforts are underway across the Asia-Pacific region to step up specific volunteerism initiatives, provide technology that will further empower young volunteers, and document the results of ongoing environmental service projects such as the restoration of the Bagmati River in Nepal and counterpart efforts in Bangkok, Mongolia, and the Philippines.

The growth of such multi-stakeholder volunteering alliances, coupled with KOICA’s experience in forging volunteerism-based community outcomes measurably addressing poverty, hold great promise in marshaling requisite human capital and innovation to help achieve the next generation development goals.

David Caprara is a former national director of VISTA and Faith-Based and Community Initiatives at the Corporation for National and Community Service, he is an expert on related civic engagement and conflict resolution areas. A version of this article appeared previously on the Brookings Institute blog.

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Kristina Kloberdanz
IBM Headquarters, Corporate Responsibility