On 20 November 1997, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2001 the International Year of Volunteers (IYV), with the aim to enhance the worldwide recognition, facilitation, networking, and promotion of voluntary action and volunteer service in all its forms. IYV 2001 provided a valuable platform to highlight the contributions of volunteerism and volunteers to economic and social development worldwide.  

One significant outcome of IYV has been the global sharing of information on volunteer activities and issues through many channels. In this respect, the Internet has been key in providing a mechanism for both dissemination of information and networking experiences.

In 1998, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launched the IYV 2001 website. By the end of 2002, the site was the central hub of a global volunteer network that included some 50 national websites, 120 national planning committees, and 500 local, regional and state committees.

Demand to continue

In looking at ways to maintain and build on the momentum generated during IYV, UNV consulted with stakeholders throughout the world through surveys, workshops, and consultative meetings. A strong consensus emerged that maintaining a mechanism for networking and dissemination of information would be critical.

More specifically, stakeholders identified three key areas:

  • knowledge and resource management (policy, legislation, research, best practices)
  • news and information publishing (highlights of volunteer news from around the world)
  • interactive volunteer networking services (for organizations and individuals to engage)

During this consultative process, many partners from all over the world encouraged UNV to help develop a global volunteer information resource. This was also reflected in the resolution (A/RES/57/106) passed by the General Assembly in November 2002, which "invites the United Nations Volunteers to develop a global Internet volunteer resource based on the International Year of Volunteers website and on national websites with a view to enhancing network capabilities and to expanding information, knowledge and resource management, and encourages Governments and all stakeholders, in particular the private sector, to contribute on a voluntary basis to this initiative".

UNV launched the World Volunteer Web on 5 December 2002 as a global focal point for volunteerism. Both the website and the International Volunteer Day (celebrated every 5 December) have adopted the IYV logo as a symbol of IYV follow-up and as a modern manifestation of the goals of the Year.

Since its launch, the World Volunteer Web has grown substantially in its reach and constituency. With a continuously growing network and collection of resources, the website offers the volunteer sector an enormous potential to use it as a campaigning, advocacy and networking tool.

A number of organizations have come forward to partner with us to develop the World Volunteer Web into a true global clearinghouse for information and resources on volunteerism. We are grateful to them and invite the others to join too.

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