Yesterday, 600 MEPs voted in favour of the regulations establishing the EU Aid Volunteer Programme. The programme is ‘under construction’ and Comhlámh has been playing a role in ensuring that good practice standards are included within this. Comhlámh’s head, Mark Cumming describes the process.
The Lisbon Treaty envisaged the creation of an EU volunteer programme that would represent the solidarity of European peoples with countries of the Global South. ECHO, the humanitarian aid service of the European Commission, has taken the lead in this initiative and is planning a phased roll out of this programme over the coming 2 years.
Comhlámh has been working as part of a consortium led by People in Aid, Bioforce and France Volontaire in developing the standards and certification process that sending organisations would need to achieve before they could participate in the programme. The programme will be open to EU NGOs to apply for certification and avail of funding to recruit, train, place and receive home volunteers. These will work within humanitarian and disaster risk reduction/mitigation programmes of both international and national host organisations.
Over the last two days I have been working alongside 50 other EU, Kenyan, Ugandan, Indian and Vietnamese organisations discussing the progress being made on the certification process and proposals for pre-departure and in-country training. What appears evident from the work done to date is that those who have already been involved in the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice will have a significant part of the work done on the road to being compliant with the emerging standards being developed. This is positive news and presents opportunities for Irish organisations. Working with this programme will involve working in consortia with other EU organisations to make applications together for funding to take part in this initiative.
The wider challenge going forward is ensuring that the initiative isn’t presented as being about Europeans going to the global South and filling ‘skills gaps’ present in local organisations. The ‘saviour’ mentality is ‘old hat’ and belongs to another era. Solidarity and a recognition of the interconnectedness of our global society with values of social or global justice underpinning the initiative will need to be emphasised and brought out by the NGOs taking part. To this end and as with the Comhlámh Code of Good Practice it is good to see that volunteers are to be supported on their return to Europe to get involved in work for global justice. Ensuring this comes about will require close follow-up over the coming year as ECHO finalises its preparations for the programme.
Watch this space, or get involved in the conversation at here.