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Intercultural collaboration in international volunteering

Towards the development of a resource pack for hosting organizations and communities

“Let’s take the bold and transformative steps urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path!”


This is one of the main message of the Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDG’s) Agenda 2030 outlining the need for universal peace and the continuation of the fight against poverty and other pressing global challenges such as climate change and escalating global conflicts. The SDG’s outline a collective journey that involves all stakeholders from Global North and Global South countries, acting in partnership to transform our world for the better. A world where all people are safe and more resilient to the challenges faced.

The threat of humanitarian crises both natural and ‘human made’ are more prevalent now than ever before and affect millions of people all over the world and thus threaten the scope of achieving the SDG’s. Complex and protracted crises have become the norm in and across many fragile countries and regions. As a result, global humanitarian financing has surged from $2bn in 2000 to nearly $25bn in 2016, and continues to rise yet despite this growth, humanitarian assistance remains incapable of responding to all the needs. Humanitarian aid’s traditional rapid response model of getting in swiftly and exiting once the emergency is over does not fit the situation as it stands and a more sustained approach is needed if crises are to be diminished.

We need to be innovative in our ideas and responses and continue to work in solidarity with and not for affected communities.

We need to set out together and leave nobody behind, to work hand in hand toward achieving common goals the firm belief that every humanitarian intervention is mutually beneficial for all the parties involved. Each target reached in a country not only benefits the populations within that country but can bring “huge gains to all countries and all parts of the world[2]”. 

Heightened intercultural awareness and strategic efforts to work together could be the key toward reaching these global goals.

As stated in the UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), culture is a “set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and it encompasses in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, values systems, traditions and beliefs”.

Culture is considered at the heart of knowledge-based development[3] enriching humankind and enhancing solidarity. As a source of exchange, innovation and creativity, “cultural diversity is as necessary for humankind as biodiversity is for nature”[4]. It widens the range of options and nourishes creativity and innovative solutions coming out of genuine dialogue and exchanges among cultures.

These ideas of cultural richness and equal engagement on global challenges overcome the usual aid- approach and requires international volunteers as well as organisations running humanitarian aid or development projects to commit to intercultural collaboration in their daily work. This is needed now more than ever before!

Thanks to Volunteering in Humanitarian Aid (VolinHA) project, all the partners decided to develop a resource pack on intercultural collaboration in international volunteering for hosting organizations and communities. The result of more than one year of work within the project consortium gave value to each partner’s contributions and significant input and knowledge on the issue were discussed and exchanged.

The resource was a learning process for all the organizations involved and it will soon be available to other organizations involved in humanitarian and development cooperation hosting international volunteers.


Aine from Comhlamh and Daniela from Focsiv.


[1] Transforming our world: the 2023 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Resolution adopted by the ONU General Assembly on 25th September, 2015, pg. 1.

[2] Transforming our world: the 2023 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Resolution adopted by the ONU General Assembly on 25th September, 2015, pg 6.

[3] UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), Art. 3 – Cultural diversity as a factor in development.

[4] UNESCO Declaration on Cultural Diversity (2001), Art. 1 – Cultural diversity: the common heritage of humanity.