International Year of Volunteers

Since the International Year of Volunteers (2001), a great number of documents have been devoted at UN and EU level to the definition of volunteering. These often abstract definitions and strategies have helped local decision-makers understand the significance of the area. The information contributed to the development of country-level development plans and the launching of local grants or specific programmes.


  • According to a declaration by the Commission of the European Union in a paragraph of the Treaty of Amsterdam of 1997: “The Commission appreciated the contribution made by voluntary service activities to social solidarity, in particular the exchange of experience and information, and the participation of young and old in voluntary activities.” [4] Volunteering was typified then, according to which the document distinguishes between formal volunteering, that is, organisation-wide, and informal, that is, directly provided to individuals. Another noteworthy document is the working paper of 2004 for the staff of the European Commission. According to an analysis by BARTAL, Anna Mária and her co-author [5], the working paper focused on strengthening youth volunteering based on a preliminary survey. In this, the concept of volunteer service is separated from the definition of volunteering. This means that any voluntary commitment can be considered as volunteering. Volunteering is characterised by the work material “as being open to all, unpaid, self-directed, non-formal learning activities, a self-training and self-developing activity that provides added social value. Volunteer services, as part of volunteering, have additional criteria such as fixed duration, clear tasks, contents, structures and frameworks. Volunteers are entitled to adequate social and legal protection” [6]. The document identified volunteering as informal, while volunteer services as formal.
  • The 2006 document of the European Economic and Social Committee [EESC] entitled ‘Volunteering: its role in European society and its effects’  [2006/C 325/13] [7] is defined as being voluntary, open to all, it is unpaid, voluntarily undertaken, educational in nature (categorised as non-formal learning) and has an added social value. The Commission drew attention to, inter alia, the “need for reliable, comparable figures at European level on the scale, significance and socio-economic value of volunteering”  [8], adding that the statistical offices of all EU Member States should have this information. The Commission considers it important to use a uniform definition, but notes that it is advisable to give volunteering a broader interpretation because of its colourful appearance. The ILO (International Labour Organisation) has also influenced the measurement of the value of volunteering as a result of international cooperation within the framework of the European Year of Volunteering, with the Central Statistical Office launching the second survey on representative volunteering in the world. As a result, in 2012[9]and then in in 2016[10] a detailed report on the national scale of volunteering was provided.
  • In Hungary, in 2005, the basic rules for volunteering in the public interest were defined at legislative level [11].By law, anyone over the age of 10 may be a volunteer if they perform activities appropriate to his age, physical-mental, and mental status. Volunteering is only what someone does for the benefit of the community, not for their own benefit or that of their family, without direct consideration. The law excludes the possibility of volunteering at for-profit organisations.
  • Shortly afterwards, the European Council, on a proposal from the European Commission, declared 2011 the European Year of Volunteering [[12]. It did so ten years after the International Year of Volunteers in 2001.

This article based on the following document: This article based on the following document: Practical Guide for the Establishment and Operation of Volunteer Programmes at Institutions : abridged English version