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Democracy and volunteerism: A viewpoint
09 January 2009

Democracy and volunteerism are perhaps the most fundamental components of the United Nations system and the development of humankind.

Democracy was created for international peace and security, hence improving friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equality and self actualization. Democracy is the only way to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character. It is crucial in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.

Volunteerism aids democracy as it increases access to opportunities and services. It leads to better delivery of services, greater inclusion and participation in development, and the mobilization of communities.

For society to function properly there has to be both democracy and volunteerism as each aspect acts as a catalyst of the other. In democracy, leaders volunteer to serve people; and in volunteerism people volunteer to serve people. Both their primary goals are to improve the living conditions of the nation at large.

Both give forums for the active participation of people, freedom of speech, freedom of expression and mutual understanding of the societal issues that exist. People are not discriminated against based on race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth. There is social inclusion for all people that exist in society.

People who bear the fruits of volunteerism and democracy are all people, including people at the grassroots level, because there is active participation of people from the top to the bottom.

Democracy and volunteerism are peace-building mechanisms. They act as early warning systems as inhabitants can identify societal problems before they spiral out of control. This helps to build legal and human rights institutions as well as fair and effective governance and conflict resolution mechanisms.

This is possible because there is careful and participatory planning, coordination among various stakeholders, sustained commitments by democratic leaders, volunteers and society at large - hence more sustainable peace.

According to democratic peace theory, democratic states don’t attack each other. As more countries democratize this will pave a way for volunteerism and this will also reduce conflict between tribes, ethnic groups and family members and hence lead to a peaceful society.

This will increase the number of volunteers who want to serve humankind and who can focus more on developmental issues rather those humanitarian issues, hence improving the living conditions of the majority of people. This will also accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

To achieve the Millennium Development Goals there has to be volunteerism and democracy in order to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.