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What is the United Nations Volunteer Programme? Learn about volunteering for the United Nations!

Are you passionate about working for the United Nations and improving peoples lives by doing development work? You can do so by joining the United Nations Volunteer programme. The United Nations Volunteer programme allows you to volunteer in the comfort of your home through the volunteer online programme, or volunteer abroad if you enjoy travelling like me and finally volunteer in your own country. This article will explore what it means to become a UN Volunteer and specifically define what it means to volunteer abroad, online and become a national UN Volunteer in your home country.

Volunteer abroad with the UN

Are you ready to become an international UN Volunteer?

You can contribute your time, skills and knowledge through volunteering with the UN. This is an opportunity to create a positive impact and be a significant force for achieving peace and development. Make a difference to the lives of many!

The first step to volunteer abroad with the UN is to determine whether you meet the minimum requirements. If this is the case, register your profile in the Unified Volunteering Platform. Then, you may apply for assignments that are in high demand or even in highly specialized areas.

Volunteering abroad is an unbeatable opportunity to serve as a global citizen. International UN Volunteers promote peace and development in communities around the globe, while upholding the ideals and aspirations of the United Nations.

International UN Volunteers come from 160 countries, representing diverse cultures and countries. They bring a wide variety of perspectives and approaches, which lend a dynamism to the volunteering assignment.

Your international UN Volunteer assignment will enable you to make a lasting impact. It can create a ripple effect that extends far beyond the immediate results of your efforts – both for the people you serve and yourself.

International UN Volunteers are entitled to certain allowances to support their assignment. Allowances are in no way to be understood as a compensation, reward or salary in exchange for the volunteer work. The purpose of allowances is to enable UN Volunteers to sustain a secure standard of living during their assignments.

International UN Volunteer assignments may generally run from three to 12 months, with the possibility of extending contracts up to a maximum period of four years. UN Youth Volunteers may serve from six months to two years, and UN University Volunteers from three to six months.

Why volunteer abroad?

As an international UN Volunteer, you will learn about different cultures and languages, expand your networks and gain unmatched professional and life experiences. Working in another country gives you the opportunity to step outside your comfort zone, to learn new approaches to tasks and problems and to operate in different environments.

You will enter the singular domain of global citizenship. Facing challenges together with community members and fellow United Nations workers often creates lasting bonds.

After volunteering abroad, you can be sure that your curriculum vitae will stand out. Employers appreciate the ability to adapt, to think outside the box and to embrace diversity. The enriching professional and life experiences you have gained through volunteering will not go unnoticed.

Volunteering abroad is an unparalleled opportunity to do something meaningful and to support peace and development initiatives in countries that need them most. By giving back, you will gain an incredible sense of fulfilment, and will reap the dividends for the rest of your life.

International UN Volunteers support local volunteer initiatives, strengthen community capacities, foster ownership and sustainability of development activities and contribute toward the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

You will engage actively with United Nations development and peacekeeping partners and within communities, responding to development priorities and needs in countries facing poverty and socio-economic challenges, humanitarian crises, conflict and post-conflict situations or experiencing fragile peace. Through your expertise, you will enable the effective delivery of programmes and mandates of our partner United Nations entities.

Volunteer in your Country with the UN

Would you like to contribute to your own country and work with others like yourself who have a desire to accelerate your nation’s development and promote peace? As a national UN Volunteer serving with a United Nations entity, you will make a positive impact on your homeland, while working alongside people from around the world, including international volunteers and other United Nations professionals.

Why volunteer in your country with the UN?

National UN Volunteers are invaluable assets to the work of the United Nations, particularly at the community level where they usher in greater ownership of programmes and projects.

Would you like to contribute to your own country and work with others like yourself who have a desire to accelerate your nation’s development and promote peace?

As a national UN Volunteer serving with a United Nations entity, you will make a positive impact on your homeland, while working alongside people from around the world, including international volunteers and other United Nations professionals. As a citizen, you can share your knowledge of local languages and culture and bring an insider’s understanding of social and economic conditions.

Join the United Nations Volunteer programme now and help your country move faster towards reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.

What exactly does a national UN Volunteer do?

National UN Volunteers may frequently have many roles. The types of activities in which national UN Volunteers engage may include:  

  • Strengthening the capacities of local communities, so they can participate effectively in development activities and gain access to government services;
  • Fostering social inclusion and the empowerment of marginalized communities and persons;
  • Encouraging national and local volunteer initiatives; and
  • Promoting sustainability and local ownership of development and peacebuilding activities.

The beauty of this is that the volunteers themselves gain valuable experience and enrich their own skills and development. That is why volunteering is often described as a win-win situation.

  • National UN Volunteers are entrusted with a wide variety of roles and their duty stations range from capital cities to remote villages.
  • There is no typical profile for a national UN Volunteer. Each national UN Volunteer assignment is unique, and each has its own specific requirements.
  • The minimum age for a national UN Volunteer is 18. UN Community Volunteers do not require academic or professional experience. However, for other national UN Volunteer categories, the assignment may request higher education and professional competency. Kindly refer to the Description of Assignment for details.

  • Becoming a national UN Volunteer is also possible for non-nationals residing legally in the host country with the status of refugees or stateless persons (if this is permitted under national laws).

  • National UN Volunteers receive a volunteer living allowance to sustain a basic, adequate and safe lifestyle. This allowance is adjusted based on national UN Volunteer category and may vary from one location to another, depending on local living costs. However, all national UN Volunteers in the same category (Community, University, Specialist, Expert) in the same location receive the same allowance A one-time Entry Lump Sum helps volunteers meet initial expenses upon commencing duties of their assignment. National UN Volunteers who need to move to take up their role in a new duty station will receive funds in support of their travel.

Volunteer Online with the UN

Have you considered dedicating your skills and expertise virtually to advance global peace, development and humanitarian efforts. Through the Online Volunteering service of the United Nations Volunteers programme, you can connect with UN entities, governments, public institutions and civil society organizations. Find out more on how to become an Online Volunteer and help tackle today’s sustainable development challenges.

Why volunteer online?

  • Through Online Volunteering, you can contribute your skills and expertise towards achieving sustainable human development efforts of organizations around the world.
  • You can get first-hand practical experience with organizations working in the development sector.
  • You can also extend your network among different organizations and make invaluable connections.
  • Online Volunteers are not under contract with the UNV programme or the engaging organization and are not affiliated with either of them.
  • Furthermore, Online Volunteers do not receive any volunteer living allowances or any other kind of financial compensation or benefits.
  • For each Online Volunteering assignment, a maximum of 25 Online Volunteers can be engaged for up to 20 hours per week and for a maximum of 12 weeks.

Online Volunteering: how does it work?

  • Non-profit organizations working for peace and development – UN agencies, governments & public institutions, and civil society organizations – register their organization details.
  • UNV reviews and approves the registration of eligible organizations.
  • Organizations complete an online form explaining what they need from online volunteers.
  • UNV provides guidance and support on how to best organize online collaboration.
  • UNV reviews the descriptions of assignments and publishes them if they meet the criteria.
  • Volunteers find assignments of their interest and apply.
  • Organizations select the volunteers they want to engage.
  • Volunteers and organizations collaborate online.
  • Volunteers and organizations provide feedback on their collaboration.
  • Organizations issue an electronic certificate of appreciation to their volunteers.


ALSO READ: COP27 and the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)

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