As a lifelong believer in the transformative power of volunteering, I have consistently sought to promote the vital work of volunteers and represent their interests at both Irish and European level.
To that end, I co-founded in 2007 the European Parliament Volunteering Interest Group to ensure that volunteering stays firmly on the EU policy agenda. The Interest Group meets on a regular basis and its members take follow-up action on priorities for volunteers and voluntary organisations.
The signature achievement of the Interest Group to date was persuading the European Commission to designate 2011 the European Year of Volunteering (EYV 2011). This was a hugely positive end result to the campaign I spearheaded at European level in conjunction with the EU Volunteer Alliance of over 30 Voluntary Organisations across the EU. EYV 2011 was a celebration of their combined commitment, drive and support for the estimated 100 million volunteers across the EU - including over 1.5 million volunteers in Ireland.
The policy recommendations arising from EYV 2011 can be found in the Policy Agenda on Volunteering in Europe (P.A.V.E) - a ground-breaking document which provides recommendations for a more efficient and effective European policy framework to support and promote volunteers, volunteering, volunteer-involving organisations and their partners.
During EYV 2011, I was proud and fortunate to contribute to the first ever report on volunteerism produced by the United Nations. I was also invited to attend the meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York where it was presented, and a subsequent conference in Bonn, Germany.
I was prouder still that my efforts during EYV 2011 were recognised at the MEP Awards of that year, where I was presented with the "Outstanding Achievement" MEP of the Year award.
Volunteer Measurement Project:
An ongoing issue that received prominence during EYV 2011 was the European Volunteer Measurement Project (EVMP).
This hugely important project, which I have actively promoted for a number of years, calls on EU Member States to adopt the use of the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work and the United Nations’ Handbook on Non-Profit Organisations with a view to making available comparable statistics and data providing a clear picture of the significant contribution made by volunteering and of the needs of volunteers and providers throughout the European Union.
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