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Global assembly on measuring civil society and volunteering starts
25 September 2007

Group photo of the participants of the Global Assembly on Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering. (Photo: UNV)Group photo of the participants of the Global Assembly on Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering. (Photo: UNV)
Bonn, Germany: The “Global Assembly on Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering”, convened by the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies in cooperation with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the United Nations Statistics Division, was launched today at the United Nations offices in Bonn. 

Addressing the opening session, UNV Executive Coordinator Ad de Raad said, “This Global Assembly is one more milestone in the evolving acceptance of volunteerism as a significant force for economic and social development.  Policy makers need to have an appreciation of all aspects of volunteering if they are to take the phenomenon seriously and factor it into budgetary and other areas of decision making that have a bearing on civic engagement”.

Speaking on behalf of the United Nations Statistics Division, Herman Smith commended the progress made in putting in motion a process to improve data on the nonprofit sector, emphasizing “This work is more relevant than ever before.  We are committed to facilitate recognition of nonprofit activities in global statistics systems”.

Lester Salamon, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies, expressed his pleasure at the convening of this historic gathering of national accounts statisticians and civil society activists.  “Statistics, empirical data, are the lenses through which we see the world.  These determine what we see of the world and puts reality into focus.  The nonprofit sector and volunteering have long been the invisible subcontinent on the social landscape of our world.  This Global Assembly marks an historic milestone on the road to correcting this problem.”

Other speakers at the assembly today included the Director of the Statistics Bureau of the International Labour Organization, Director of the Statistics Division of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a representative of Germany’s Bertelsmann Foundation, senior statisticians from the United Nations Statistics Division and civil society representatives from North America, Europe, Africa and Asia.

This is the first-ever global assembly to assess progress being made in measuring contributions by civil society, volunteering, and philanthropy through the implementation of the United Nations Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions in the System of National Accounts.

Guidelines in the Handbook call on national statistics offices to prepare regular “satellite accounts” on the nonprofit sector, philanthropy and volunteering as part of their official economic data-gathering and reporting.  Already, 28 countries have committed to implementing these guidelines, including both developed and developing countries.  Eight of these countries have already produced the satellite accounts called for in the Handbook.

A new report from The Johns Hopkins University, which examines initial data from the completed satellite accounts and demonstrates the importance of nonprofit institutions, will be released at the meeting on Sept. 25. “Our analysis reveals that nonprofit institutions account, on average, for a substantial percentage of gross domestic product, which puts them ahead of the utilities industry and on a par with the construction and finance industries in these same countries,” noted Lester Salamon, report author and Director of the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies.

UN Volunteers is the focal point for volunteerism in the UN system. UNV pursues distinctive contributions to effective development by advocating the role and benefits of volunteerism for development, integrating civic engagement into development programmes and mobilizing volunteers.

For the editors:

The full text of the Johns Hopkins report, “Measuring Civil Society and Volunteering: Initial Findings from Implementation of the UN Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions,” will be available online at <> on Sept. 25. Reporters interested in receiving the report on an embargoed basis for stories to be published after 12:01 a.m. EDT on Tuesday, Sept. 25, should contact Mimi Bilzor at +1-410-516-8541 or <>

For further information and to arrange interviews, kindly contact:

Amina Said, <>, Tel. +49-228-815 2219 <>