In an increasingly volatile world, volunteers remain a cornerstone of humanitarian aid, yet their role and the nature of volunteering are undergoing significant transformation. Jagan Chapagain, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, provided an introspective look into the changing dynamics of volunteerism in disaster response during an engagement with the World Economic Forum.
According to World Economic Forum, Chapagain, who started his journey as a volunteer in Nepal, detailed the burgeoning pressures faced by aid organizations amid escalating disasters. These organizations strive to maintain a robust volunteer workforce in the face of intensifying climate-induced events.
The Secretary General highlighted the operational hurdles faced by the IFRC, which necessitate strategic allocation of resources to diverse emergencies across the globe. The Red Cross, with a footprint in nearly every nation, is bound by the expectation to respond regardless of the disaster’s prominence in international media. Lesser-known crises often deplete local capacities swiftly, demanding rapid and resourceful responses.
Emphasizing the pivotal role of domestic volunteers, Chapagain revealed the IFRC’s strategic shift toward enhancing local volunteer mobilization. This approach is designed to reinforce domestic capacities within their 191-member network, optimizing the localized response to crises, as evidenced by the 2.5 billion volunteers mobilized during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Addressing the shift in volunteer demographics and preferences, Chapagain acknowledged the necessity for organizations to adapt to the aspirations of a younger, tech-savvy generation. This demographic seeks flexible and efficient volunteering opportunities, differing markedly from traditional models. IFRC aims to facilitate a platform conducive to self-organization and virtual engagement, thereby aligning with contemporary expectations.
Furthermore, Chapagain touched on the untapped potential of retired individuals, who constitute a wealth of experience and motivation for impactful volunteering later in life. This segment of the population is positioned to contribute significantly, particularly in mentoring roles and systems development within the humanitarian sphere.
The IFRC and the World Economic Forum have recently fortified their partnership, underscoring a commitment to enhance cooperation and dialogue, which is paramount in the context of the evolving landscape of global volunteering.
*Some quotes have been lightly edited for brevity.