The UN Volunteers (UNV) Programme in South Africa

21 Sep 2016

The UN Volunteers (UNV) Programme in South Africa


The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is the UN organization that contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for recognition of volunteers, working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing an increasing number and diversity of volunteers, including experienced UN Volunteers, throughout the world.

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme was created by the General Assembly (GA) in 1970 through GA resolution 26/59; which proclaims the decision to:“... establish within the existing framework of the United Nations, with effect from 1 January 1971 an international group of volunteers, the members of which shall be designated collectively and individually as United Nations Volunteers”.


Administered by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and works through its Country Offices around the world, UNV’s initial role was to mobilize volunteers to provide professional support to UN partners in various programme countries. Since then, UNV’s mandate has evolved to being an important part of peacekeeping and also promoting the recognition of volunteerism worldwide.

UNV has shown its value in the UN system in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, along with important involvement in youth and inclusion, throughout peace and development efforts of the United Nations.

The work of the UNVs in South Africa

Volunteering in South Africa is an integral part of the culture rooted in social, cultural, and community daily practices of belonging and caring for one another. Which is understood through Ubuntu - I am, because of you. These expressions and values of volunteerism of giving of oneself for the benefit of others are embraced within the United Nations definition of volunteerism as acts of one’s own free will for common good or community well-being.

UNV Programme in South Africa

The UNV programme in South Africa stems from UNDP – South African government cooperation agreement signed in 1994 to provide development assistance. This was followed by the recruitment of almost 200 UN Volunteer electoral observers who participated in the historic election that marked the end of apartheid. In 1995, UNV and UNDP engaged Government in dialogue to support the health sector reform programme and to address the acute shortage of medical doctors in the rural areas, through the recruitment of UNV medical doctors.


Total number of UNVs in South Africa

As of May 2016, there are currently 22 UNV volunteers (5 national and 17 international) serving in South Africa. The 22 UNVs are currently hosted among 6 UN agencies namely: UNV/UNDP (2); UNHCR (9); UNFPA (1), UNEP (1); UNODC (1), OHCHR (1). While the 7 are hosted under UNV/UNDP support to the health sector programme in Limpopo Province.


How the UNV programme contributes to United Nations Strategic Cooperation Framework (UNSCAF)

The South Africa- United Nations Strategic Cooperation Framework (UNSCF 2013-2017) is the overall framework developed in 2012. The UNSCF is based on a common understanding of the strengths of the UN system and its comparative advantage in adding value to Government’s objectives and priorities as reflected, in the New Growth Path (NGP), Government’s National Development Plan (NDP): Vision 2030, the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and targets.

The contributions of UNV programme to the implementation of the United Nations Strategic Cooperation Framework (UNSCF 2013-2017) are made through various UN Agencies that have engaged UN Volunteers to provide technical support in implementation of their respective Country Programme Action Plans (CPAPs). The UNV support to the UN agencies and government of South Africa has been two fold at strategic policy and implementation levels based on the UN support and engagement with government of South Africa mainly on upstream and down-stream policy advisory services and impartial collaboration to develop local institutions and entities.

The UNV doctors programme:

The UNV doctors’ project is a partnership between the province of Limpopo, department of Health and UNDP aimed at improving access and quality of health services delivery. The project which is now in its fourth phase began in 1997, have facilitated the recruitment and deployment of over 150 UN Volunteer specialized medical doctors in 16 hospitals in the rural and most deprived areas of Limpopo province.


How to become part of the UNV team

Everyone can contribute their time, skills and knowledge through volunteer action, and their combined efforts can be a significant force for achieving peace and development. The decision to serve as a UN Volunteer, at home or abroad, is based on a commitment to the United Nations and to the UN’s contribution to peace, development and human rights in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As a UN Volunteer you have the extraordinary opportunity to create beneficial change that positively impact on people's lives. As a UN Volunteer, your role is that of both a facilitator and catalyst by being creative and entrepreneurial in finding ways to develop capacity and to promote and foster volunteerism - both within and beyond the formal framework of your assignment.


Volunteer with us!

The UNV programme maintains a database of volunteers in various professional fields and encourages all those interested in volunteering to register.


Eligible and interested persons should register in the UNV Roster through and click "How to Volunteer" and follow the instructions therein.


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