Each year in October, International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum) holds its annual conference of International Volunteer Cooperation Organisations (IVCOs - a time for the international volunteering for development community meets to share, learn, inspire and collaborate. This year, two French-Canadian organisations, Oxfam-Quebec and SUCO, hosted the conference in Montreal with over 200 practitioners from 30 countries taking part under the theme Women and Youth: Bridging the Gap.
Canada recently joined Sweden and Norway in moving beyond gender mainstreaming to espouse an explicitly feminist framework. This framework seeks to achieve gender equality on the premise that empowering women and girls is the most effective way to target the root causes of poverty, inequality and exclusion.
Tangibly, this translates into projects and programs that have a transformative effect on women and vulnerable populations. Specifically, combating gender-based violence and improving public sector institutional capacity to deliver programs and policies that favour gender equality. It will also promote research, data collection, gender analysis and evaluation.
The conference highlighted the effectiveness of volunteering for development in building long-term local trust and respect with marginalised people, including women and youth, understanding their realities and needs and overcoming the power dynamics inherent in North-South relationships. In this way, volunteering for development is uniquely positioned to advocate and support inclusive development.
The conference also explored and workshopped innovative practice in youth volunteering for development with in-country young people, a model used by VSO and the UK government. The power of volunteering for development between other marginalised groups was another significant point of discussion, including LGBTQI communities, those living with disability, and Indigenous peoples. Indeed, Australia and Canada have already commenced a collaboration on Indigenous peoples, with many practises and learnings to be shared in this area.
On the final day of the conference, I was delighted to take over the role of Chair of Forum from Chris Eaton, Executive Director of World University Service of Canada (WUSC). Over the next two years, I intend to grow the community’s relevance by growing its membership - especially Global South organisations - and do more to support members by promoting increased connection and collaboration. This will include the launch of a new online platform, a new annual member data survey and practice guidelines.
I look forward to sharing many exciting updates with you about Forum’s activities as we continue to innovate, support one and other and maintain a global dialogue that will in turn, shape the future of the sector.