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Northumbria University research on the marginalisation and vulnerabilities of Global South volunteers has enabled improvements in organisational practices. As a result, a series of resolutions adopted by the United Nations (UN), and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, have prioritised volunteer safety and well-being.



Millions of humanitarian volunteers are operating within increasingly fragile situations, complex emergencies, or protracted conflicts. A lack of knowledge about these volunteers and their potential vulnerabilities increases the risk of this work.



The researchers co-designed and conducted the Global Review on Volunteering in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, working across 158 countries. As part of the review over 600 volunteers, staff, and stakeholders took part in surveys and interviews. Analysis identified key failings of existing volunteering practices and strategic priorities for policy development.



Following the publication of the Global Review, the UN issued UN Resolution 70/129 ‘Integrating volunteering into peace and development’ which specifically drew upon the report to set policy priorities for the next decade.

The Global Review has directly impacted how the Red Cross and Red Crescent International Movement develops and implements policies to protect volunteers globally. In 2015, 169 National Societies signed the 32IC/15/R5 Resolution on The Safety and Security of Humanitarian Volunteers.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Sudanese Red Crescent, efforts and progress have been made in providing volunteers with access to psychological first aid and psychosocial support. The Swedish Red Cross has established phased training for volunteers.


More information 

Institution: Northumbria University

Researchers: Professor Matt Baillie Smith, Dr Aisling O’Loghlen

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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Enhancing policies at the UN and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to improve volunteer support mechanisms and protections.  Last accessed on: <date>