Changing patterns of state funding for international volunteering

FORUM Discussion

As governments reach towards the United Nations’ target of investing 0.7% of GNP on development aid by 2012, most donor and “emerging donor” countries fund international volunteer service (IVS) programs as one component of bilateral aid. To the degree that volunteers are able to provide technical assistance to low-income countries, international volunteer service (IVS) is considered a legitimate form of in-kind development aid, as well as a human resource to help administer development assistance programs. Although government funding of IVS programs remains a slight portion of all official development aid (ODA) spending, it appears to be growing in many countries—as illustrated below.

The ensuing discussion focuses on how the structure of government funding for international volunteer service may affect the priorities of development-focused IVS programs. Specifically, we examine how government agencies through which an IVS program is administered may influence the degree to which it reflects a dual domestic and international development agenda. We further discuss whether IVS programs’ future funding base may be dependent on their ability to meet multiple –and sometimes divergent—priorities of governments. We propose that continued government funding may be contingent upon a program’s ability to align itself with both a soft power and smart aid approach.