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Brussels, 25 February 2014
EU Aid Volunteers: the initiative takes shape
"EU Aid Volunteers" is a practical programme to train and deploy volunteers in humanitarian projects. Envisaged by the Treaty of Lisbon, the programme will match the interest of Europeans who want to roll up their sleeves and make a difference for the victims of disasters, with humanitarian organisations' need for well-trained, motivated volunteers to assist in their operations.
Trained volunteers will have a variety of options: from performing online tasks from home, through work at the offices of humanitarian organisation inside the European Union, to deployment to EU-funded humanitarian operations around the world.
Intensive preparation has been going on since 2011 to make sure that "EU Aid Volunteers" will fit seamlessly among existing volunteering schemes and will be a real, practical asset to humanitarian organisations, motivated Europeans and the victims of disasters who will benefit from their assistance. The programme has gone through three preparatory phases, through which 270 "pilot volunteers" have been deployed to projects in 44 countries: including Haiti, Uganda and the Philippines. Volunteers have come from 30 different countries; their experience and that of the organisations hosting them has served as the basis of the Commission's work on the programme.
How will it work?
Based on a regular assessment of needs, the Commission will publish calls for proposals for deployment of volunteers and for capacity-building of hosting organisations to ensure sustainable impact of the EU Aid Volunteers locally.
Certified humanitarian organisations will identify suitable humanitarian projects and apply for EU grants to deploy EU Aid Volunteers. Around 170 organisations will be certified to participate in the programme. The sending organisations will deal with the selection, recruitment and deployment of volunteers, while hosting organisations will receive them and benefit from their work.
Volunteers will be trained and their readiness for deployment will be tested. Where needed, the training will include apprenticeship placement at the headquarters of the humanitarian organisation before going to the field.
Volunteers who want to make a difference without travelling abroad will also be welcome: online volunteers will support humanitarian projects with tasks that can be done from a computer.
A network will be created, so that all EU Aid Volunteers and other stakeholders can interact with and support each other before, during and after deployment.
The new legislation also envisages the training of local staff and volunteers in countries hit by disasters, where the EU Aid Volunteers will work.
Who will benefit from the initiative?
EU Aid Volunteers will get professional training and experience in the field, while humanitarian organisations and disaster-stricken communities will get more and better-trained volunteers.
From 2015 to 2020, there will be 18,400 opportunities to participate in the programme: available to Europeans who want to be EU Aid Volunteers, but also to NGO staff and volunteers from third countries.
Candidates will need to be over 18 years of age and be citizens of EU Member States, acceding and candidate countries, potential candidate countries, partner countries of the European Neighbourhood Policy, or countries included in the European Free Trade Association. Other Europeans will also be able to apply, subject to bilateral agreements with their countries.
The initiative will welcome volunteers with a variety of profiles: newcomers who want to gain experience in the humanitarian sector, experts in any field connected to humanitarian aid, or retired citizens who want to put their knowledge to good use. The training and deployment will depend on each candidate's skills. Inexperienced volunteers will not be sent to projects where security is a concern.
In the scheme's first five years, there will be around 4000 deployment opportunities for EU citizens to countries affected by disasters and a similar number of opportunities for non-EU citizens. Except for field work, around 2000 apprenticeships will be offered at humanitarian organisations inside the EU.
Another 10 000 people are expected to engage as 'online volunteers' - helping out with translations, graphic design, computer support and other tasks.
What are the next steps?
As mandated by the Treaty of Lisbon, the Commission has presented a draft regulation on "EU Aid Volunteers", which has received the support of the European Parliament on 25 February 2014. Pending approval at the Council of Ministers, the new legislation is expected to enter into force in April this year.
The budget for the initiative is €147.9 million from 2014 to 2020. It will be used for the training, apprenticeship placements and capacity building (81.3 million), for deploying EU volunteers (€60.9 million) and for support measures such as network and communication.
The coming months will see the preparation of the programme's practical launch such as the training programme, the certification process, the capacity-building and technical assistance for the future sending and hosting organisations.
The first opportunities to select, train and deploy volunteers are expected in 2015.