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05-03-2021 14:02

Report of the Commissioner for Volunteering and NGOs for the period 2013-2021-Public Consultation for the Development of a Strategy for Volunteering and Active Citizenship

The Commissioner for Volunteering and Non Governmental Organizations, Mr Υiannis Υiannaki, presented at a press conference, at the Presidential Palace, on Thursday, March 4, 2021, the launching of the Public Consultation for the development of the Strategy for Active Citizenship and Volunteering for 2021 – 2023, following the Council of Ministers’ decision. The procedure should be completed in September 2021, and submitted by the Commissioner for approval and implementation, to the Council of Ministers.

The consultation is built on the important work done so far by the Office of the Commissioner Volunteerism and NGOs over the last eight years. According to the report 2013-2021, which he presented at the press conference, and with the accreditation of International Organizations, such as the United Nations – Volunteering Sector, the European Commission and the Council of Europe, Cyprus is one of the few countries that has a comprehensive and innovative Third Sector Strategy Framework, which integrates the pillars of Volunteering, Active Citizenship, NGOs and Civil Society.

The main work of the Office includes the following so far:

  • Promotion of volunteering as a tool for personal development and as the best prevention tool against addictive substances, crime and delinquency.
  • Modernization of legislation with emphasis on financial transparency and good governance, participation in Parliamentary Committees contributing in this way to the improvement of legislation by submitting suggestions, approvement by the Council of Ministers of the Declaration of “Volunteer Rights and Responsibilities of the Volunteers’’, and the “Civil Society Policy Paper”, the creation of infrastructure such as the innovative “Volunteer House”, the creation of the Pancyprian Coordination Center for Humanitarian Aid, which is used in emergencies.
  • Establishment of the volunteer management protocol, which provides insurance to volunteers, making Cyprus one of the few countries that provide insurance, issue protocols, organize online volunteer training, and, when necessary, provide the necessary equipment.
  • The operation of the electronic platform “Prosfero” www.prosfero.com.cy which gives free access to NGOs, so that they can create an interactive means of communication with citizens.
  • Campaign with the promotion of video with emphasis on the possibilities that volunteering gives, especially to the new generation, in the empowerment of personal development with new skills and knowledge but also as the most important tool for prevention against drugs, alcoholism and the fight against crime.
  • Public Consultations of the President of the Republic with the Non Governmental Organizations were launched following decisions of the Council of Ministers, organizing three consultations with the participation of more than 300 organizations. “Citizen's Day” was established following a decision of the Council of Ministers and in this framework, the Office organizes the Informal Council of Ministers, giving the opportunity to citizens, with emphasis on the new generation, to attend the operation and decision-making processes of the Council and submit their suggestions and opinions to the President of the Republic, the Ministers and Deputy Ministers.

In collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports and Youth, the recognition of “Non-Formal and Informal Learning” is in the stage of the pilot implementation. It’s a main policy to recognize the skills and knowledge acquired in leisure and volunteering time. The handbook for teachers on active citizenship and volunteering was designed, which strengthens the efforts to implement actions for volunteering in schools. Establishment on an annual basis of the Active Citizen awards, with the aim of rewarding, encouraging and highlighting initiatives and achievements of citizens.

Collaborations were strengthened and memoranda were signed with Universities, the National Guard, the Advertising Control Agency and other agencies. In collaboration with the Cyprus Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the “Corporate Volunteering Guide for the implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility actions” was published. In collaboration with the Statistical Service of Cyprus, two surveys were conducted to record the levels of volunteering in our country, for the years 2015 and 2017.

The organization of the 1st International Conference “Act for Heritage” in Lefkosia, 24-26/ 0/2019, was successfully hosted, on the initiative of the Commissioner for Volunteering and NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in cooperation with the Council of Europe and with the support of the European Union.

At international and European level, two visits were made to Brussels, where meetings with competent Commissioners of the European Commission and the Council of Europe were held, as well as a visit to the European Union Crisis Management Centre.

In the framework of tackling the pandemic, once again the important role of volunteerism was highlighted; it worked properly and in an organized manner, resulting in more than 8,000 actions by hundreds of volunteers.

The contribution of volunteering to the pandemic and the way they were managed, resulted in receiving letters of congratulations by the United Nations (UN Volunteers) and relevant Commissioners of the European Commission. The practice of Cyprus in managing the voluntary work has emerged as a European Good Practice.

It is important to mention that in a Report of the Council of Europe it is stated that the institution of the Commissioner for Volunteering and NGOs contributes to the transparency and good governance of NGOs in Cyprus.

Once again, the Cypriot society responded immediately to the support of the people of Lebanon after the deadly explosion, with the immediate mobilization of the Cypriot society and all institutions, and in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office, almost 300 tons of dry foods were sent.

The voluntary program for the prevention of fires “Observer for Forests and Rural Observer areas” was implemented; it activates volunteers through organizations in cooperation with the competent State Services to enhance the observation of fire prevention issues.

The role of Local Authorities is equally important in strengthening the third sector at local level. The creation of the Office of Active Citizenship and Volunteering by the Municipality of Strovolos and then the Municipality of Athienou highlights their role.

Concluding the presentation, the Commissioner mentioned the next plans of the Office, which will be included in the Strategy for Active Citizenship and Volunteering 2021 -2023. These are the creation of a “Volunteer House” in the area of Saita and Kofinou,  the hosting in Cyprus of a European Conference on Active Citizenship and Volunteering at the end of 2021, the creation of an online electronic platform for the 17 Sustainable Development goals in collaboration with the Directorate General for European Coordination and Development Programs. In the field of education and in collaboration with the Pedagogical Institute in September 2021, an innovative program will be implemented for the 17 Sustainable Goals.

Organized groups and bodies on the consultation will be able to submit their suggestions and opinions based on the relevant documents on the website of the Office: http://www.volunteercommissioner.gov.cy/volunteer/volunteercommissioner.nsf/all/8DD468F8B45FEE42C225867D0039CB18?opendocument

The value of Volunteering is recognized over time, and is invaluable. For this reason, Cyprus has designed a comprehensive strategy plan, transforming the third sector and strengthening it with modern and integrated policies.

(EK/SCH)