This OpEd originally appeared in Embassy Magazine, December 3, 2015.

In September, world leaders committed to 17 Global Goals to sustainably end poverty, fight inequality and injustice and address climate change over the next 15 years. To determine the Global Goals, the United Nations undertook a rigorous and inclusive decision-making process, ultimately identifying 169 targets for the global community to measure success. The new sustainable development agenda provides a strong framework for global peace and development efforts for all people and all countries, regardless of economic or social status.

The Global Goals require significant collective response and reaching them may seem daunting, particularly for the average individual. We are far more likely to see the groundswell needed to meet the Global Goals if people understand how they can be a part of reaching them.

This work cannot be accomplished in isolation. Volunteerism offers a powerful and realistic means to achieve the Global Goals. Volunteers are recognized as being at the heart of achieving the goals – through direct implementation, by sharing their skills, through engagement with communities and individuals in their work, and by providing the link between governments and citizens so there is accountability and transparency in our efforts.

December 5 is International Volunteer Day. Together with other members of Canada’s Volunteer Cooperation Agencies (VCAs), including Canada World Youth, CECO, CESO-SACO, SUCO, Crossroads International, Lawyers without Borders, Veterinarians without Borders, Youth Challenge International, and World University Services Canada, I understand and value the contribution and commitment volunteers make as they work to build a more equitable and sustainable world. Thanks to the support of the Government of Canada and of hundreds of thousands of Canadians, these organizations build a more connected world by sharing skills and tackling development challenges through the power and dedication of our volunteers. Together, we work towards a world where each and every person has the opportunity to reach their full potential regardless of where they were born. 

Canadians bring a wealth of knowledge and specialized abilities to volunteerism, yielding strong impacts within the Global Goals. Their valuable professional expertise strengthens public institutions and supports fragile communities; they deliver specialized services, transfer their skills and expertise, and foster exchanges of good practices; they serve as brokers of engagement, connecting strategies and initiatives with complementary and essential community voluntary action. Through groups like the Volunteer Cooperation Agencies, thousands of skilled volunteers have committed to sharing their expertise with partners around the world.

And the benefits come back to Canada in multiple ways – our volunteers often return from their placements as a different people, having found deep personal meaning and new professional challenges in their experience.  Friendships, careers, and stronger communities are all part of the volunteer experience.

As we celebrate the 2015 International Volunteer Day, we share in the knowledge that, through volunteering, we can deliver strategic responses to development issues so we all play our part in achieving the Global Goals.


Evelyne Guindon, Chief Executive Officer, Cuso International