Comhlámh (pronounced ‘co-law-ve’, Irish for ‘solidarity’) is a member and supporter organisation open to anyone interested in social justice, human rights and global development issues.
Who We Are
Comhlámh was set up in 1975 by Irish returned development workers, who defined the organisations principle objective as, “to enable persons who have rendered services overseas in developing countries upon their return to Ireland to bring to bear their own particular experience in order to further international development co-operation.”
Membership was subsequently extended to all those who see their work in a global perspective and support our aims. Comhlámh members have always seen overseas development work and volunteering as part of a broader commitment to global development and solidarity. Many of the causes of global inequality, poverty and oppression have their origin in the industrialised countries and can be addressed by education and action.
Comhlámh now considers the stakeholders that we work with as our community, which is made up of our members, development workers, volunteers, sending organisations and those interested in development and global issues.
Our community is made up of our members, volunteers, development workers and volunteer sending agencies.
Members of Comhlámh pay an annual membership fee because they believe in, actively engage, deliver and support the work of Comhlámh. Members are typically volunteers, returned development workers and activists who believe that the causes of global inequality, poverty and oppression have their origin in the industrialised countries and can be addressed by education and campaigning.
They see continuous engagement as an essential element of the volunteering continuum and draw on their personal experiences to fuel that engagement. Membership benefits include copies of publications, events and discounts on courses and events. Members can also be those seeking a career in development, students studying development issues or other courses with application in a development context.
Volunteers – are people who are making the informed decision to work overseas for a period of time, from days to years, in a voluntary capacity.
They come to Comhlámh to:
- learn more about volunteering and development issues
- meet and network with other people; and
- up-skill and learn about how they can encourage more reflection on development issues amongst their family, friends and colleagues.
Development workers – are those people who have worked overseas in a professional capacity.
They come to Comhlámh to:
- get support;
- have an opportunity to voice their concerns about their placements
- identify how development effectiveness can be achieved beyond overseas development projects;
- network outside of their own workplace;
- hear about the latest academic contributions;
- share their experience with other like minded people; and
- think about their own future direction within the sector.
- Volunteer Sending Agencies (VSAs) – are organisations that facilitate international volunteer placements in developing countries. Volunteers have a specific role to work with a host community in order to further sustainable development and respond to humanitarian / emergency situations. Comhlámh will support VSAs delivering responsible, responsive volunteer opportunities through our Code of Good Practice for Volunteer Sending Organisations. This focuses on the involvement of the three main stakeholders in the overseas placement: the sending agency, the host partner and the volunteer. The Code reflects key values with regard to volunteering, partnership, quality, security, encouraging volunteer attitudes, sustainability, solidarity and the importance of contributing to development.
There is a broader constituency of people supportive of Comhlámh’s work and activities. They engage with us on development issues, global justice, social justice and human rights (for example 2,500 elink subscribers, attendants at the First Wednesday Debates). They have the potential to become more engaged as part of our community and ultimately as members.
Our vision is of volunteers and development workers working in solidarity for a just, equitable and sustainable world
The core values in achieving our vision and which underlie the overarching purpose of Comhlámh are:
- Solidarity – unity that produces or is based on a community of interests, objectives, and standards and results in mutual support within this community.
- Sustainability – the long-term maintenance of well being which includes the concept of protecting and managing resources responsibly.
- Justice – the upholding of what is just, especially fair treatment and due reward in accordance, with honour, standards, and law.
Other values which are fundamental to our vision and objectives are:
- Equality – equal rights for people regardless of what factors they might have that are different. Equality states that because they are human they must be equal.
- Diversity – encompasses acceptance and respect, understanding that each individual is unique, and recognising our individual differences.
- Independence – not to rely on or be controlled by others; self-subsistence or maintenance; direction of one’s own affairs without interference, that is, self-governing.
- Transparency – ensure all relevant information is fully and freely available to the public.
- Accountability – liable to be held to account and be answerable for one’s actions.
Our mission is to foster good practice and critical engagement in volunteering and action for development.
Our strategic objectives
1. Be the leading independent voice and source of information on volunteering for development in Ireland;
We will contribute to providing the Irish development sector with:
- a clear understanding of the statistics, profile and needs of development workers and volunteers, and
- the role of quality volunteering and development education in development effectiveness.
2. Strengthen our role and position as coordinator and advocate of good practice in volunteering for development;
- We will encourage the development sector to ensure responsible, responsive volunteering by;
- ensuring the development of a code of practice with a robust audit system and volunteer charter, and
- increasing the number of signatories implementing the standards.
3. Promote and support volunteers and development workers to critically engage in volunteering and action for development;
- The critical voices of our community will be aware of development issues and are empowered, informed, given space in society and contribute to a broader understanding of the impact of individual and state choices and actions on global development.
4. Grow and engage our members and network to create societal and attitudinal change on development issues
- We will grow our membership base and provide avenues for expression of opinions, experiences and proposals by our community to ensure they are active in bringing about societal and attitudinal change on development issues.
Comhlámh is a company limited by guarantee and not having a share capital. Comhlámh is a registered charity (CHY7680) and company limited by guarantee, and is governed by a Voluntary Board.