International Volunteer Day 2021: From theme to significance, here’s all you need to know

The day celebrates the work of volunteers, at the local, national and international levels and towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals

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Every year, the world observes International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development on 5 December to recognise and promote the contributions of volunteers around the world. The day celebrates the work of volunteers, at the local, national and international levels, towards the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Also known as International Volunteer Day (IVD), the occasion is marked by both individual volunteers and organisations. The United Nations General Assembly mandated observance also encourages governments to support volunteer efforts.


This year the theme for the day is “Volunteer now for our common future”. It seeks to inspire people to work for the betterment of the planet. The United Nations Volunteer Program (UNV) coordinates the IVD programme each year to recognise the work being done by volunteers across the world.

Benefits of volunteering

Research shows that — compared with people who never volunteered — the odds of being “very happy” rose by seven percent among those who volunteer monthly and by 12 percent among those who volunteer every two-four weeks.

Volunteering also helps keep people develop a solid support system and stay in regular contact with others. This mitigates the risk of social isolation, stress and depression in many volunteers.

As per the United Nations website, International Volunteer Day provides an opportunity for people to promote volunteerism across the world. IVD encourages individual volunteers, organisations, and communities to boost their contributions towards the development and betterment of the world at both the grassroots and international levels. The day is also observed by civil societies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the private sector.

About 70 percent of volunteer work happens informally between people and communities and does not involve any organisation.


The UN General Assembly invited countries to observe IVD in 1985 under resolution 40/212 . It also urged the governments to take necessary steps to spread awareness about the importance of volunteer services and encourage more people to offer their services as volunteers.

On 20 November 1997, the UNGA proclaimed 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers (IYV) under its resolution 52/17 to facilitate the work of volunteers and promote volunteerism.

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