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04/11/2011 Marian Harkin : "We still have a long way to go"

For Marian Karkin, Chair of the EP Interest Group on Volunteering, civil society bringing forward concrete proposals to the European Parliament and the Commission is one of the core priorities of the year. publishes an interview from their quarterly journal. Interview by Carole Ponchon.

35 millions of Europeans are sports volunteers and economic wise 85% of the economy of sport comes from the citizen (69%) and local authority (16%). How can volunteering in sport be part of a sustainable growth strategy?

Marian Harkin:
For any strategy on sport to be sustainable it must be rooted in the community because the local will feed into the regional, the national and the global. Volunteers are local, they are part of the community and their contribution is essential for the success of any sport strategy. I often describe volunteers as our most valuable source of renewable energy. The fact that their energy and commitment is renewable means that as long as they continue to volunteer any strategy or programme on sport will in fact be sustainable.

Early this year you let us know that promoting the social and economic power of volunteering will be the great challenges of the European Year of Volunteering 2011 (EYV 2011). Have these challenges been overcome yet?

Marian Harkin: As far as the challenge on promoting the social power or the social value of volunteering is concerned, we have made some progress. The Commission "tour" which visits each Member State serves to highlight the work of volunteering at a national level, to create awareness of volunteering activity and to celebrate the work of volunteers. Unfortunately, this is restricted to capital cities only, but within each Member State different voluntary organisations are taking the opportunity provided by the EYV 2011 to showcase their efforts and crucially to attract new members.

This think tank founded in 2007 focusses on the role of sport in European societies. It publishes a quarterly review on issues related to sport and citizenship.

There have been many events in Brussels and the biggest civil society event for the year was run by the European Youth Forum few weeks ago (7th-11th September). The EYV 2011 Alliance (an informal group of a growing number of European networks active in volunteering) is playing a major role not only in highlighting the work of volunteers but crucially in bringing forward concrete proposals to the European Parliament and the Commission.

As far as the economic value of volunteering is concerned we still have a long way to go. While the International Labour Organization and John Hopkins University have prepared a manual to measure volunteering we still have not persuaded Member States to use it. However, while we hope to make some progress in this area I do not see any final outcomes by the end of this year. This is a little disappointing but as long as 2011 acts as the catalyst we can and will continue in our efforts to have the manual adopted by all Member States in an effort to ensure good, robust and comparative data across the EU.


You did also wish the adoption of an EU Green Paper on Volunteering. Where are we at this stage?

Marian Harkin: As far as a Green Paper is concerned we are awaiting a Communication from the Commission. This was due in September. This would form the basis for any EU response.

As far as citizens expressing their will for such a paper, the Alliance has certainly reflected this view and are continuing to draft position papers to help influence both the Commission proposals and in the medium term the response from the European Parliament.

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