Today's world faces a critical decrease in the diversity of animal and vegetal species, together with the fast reduction of forest extension, water supplies, and air quality; natural resources decrease rapidly and pollution increases, provoking difficulties for the life of existing living species. The challenging events regarding this unbalanced relation with the environment (such as climate change, natural disasters and the fight for resources) are tightly related to present economic and social systems that produce social inequalities, conflicts and difficulties for human beings all over the world. Only through a change in global and local policies and the active participation of all members of civil society will it be possible to address the challenges that this situation brings. This is why IVS organisations identify the work for sustainability and environment among their priorities.
IVS focuses on the work towards sustainability through two main approaches: local actions, taking into account the needs of local communities with the support of international volunteers (environmental actions in workcamps or mid and long term voluntary service activities, inclusion activities and methodologies); and through the coordination of global campaigns which allow for all organisations to make and show a bigger impact, thus helping in advocating on the most relevant issues.
IVS organisations have defined that barriers to equal access to resources and to participation in the world are among the global challenges on Sustainability and Environment. Other fundamental challenges are: the need to change practices and habits even within IVS to achieve a change towards sustainability; the improvement of the footprint of IVS and the raise of awareness on the situation of the environment and its social consequences; the need of systems of coherent and sustainable financing, and the need for the involvement of all partners and stakeholders towards the overcoming of these challenges. The 10 year strategic plan for IVS 2011-2021 envisages:
International Voluntary Service contributing to a sustainable world, where there is a balanced coexistence between people and nature, and where conditions for health, well-being, peace and social justice are achieved and maintained for the future.
A. Voluntary service activities contributing to social transformation for sustainability
IVS is an actor which can provide action and reflection for the change of the present model of unsustainable development. The active involvement of the IVS organisations and networks in collaboration with diverse stakeholders bring positive change and improvement of local realities which further reflects in the global context.
There is an existing need to continue with our actions on environment, social inclusion, participation and peace; it is necessary to link them with other initiatives of stakeholders that work in the same direction: fair trade, ecological production and consumption, ethic banking, etc., supporting those internal and external initiatives that increase equality and access to resources and to participation.
Finally, the internalisation of the change towards sustainability within the IVS organisations and networks, improving the environmental and social footprint of their activities, daily work and approaches to volunteering shall be a priority, and may become an educative example for other sectors of society.
B. Increase capacities and knowledge about education for sustainability and sustainable development
IVS organisations and networks have developed an expertise throughout the years on environmental work and education for sustainability, which can be spread and shared with other members, organisations, communities and stakeholders. At the same time, there is still a strong need to globalise and increase capacities and knowledge concerning these issues. For this, internal expertise, external experts and specialised organisations should be encouraged to participate in programmes on capacity building for sustainability and environment education.
The potential of IVS, as a non-formal education tool, must be used to extend knowledge and capacities on education for sustainability. Its capacity to reach local communities, as well as thousands of volunteers, many of them young people, who later could act as multipliers, makes IVS a key actor to address these challenges. Therefore, education for sustainability activities within IVS projects should be extended to the highest number of projects possible.
C. Solid partnerships with stakeholders to achieve sustainable models of society
The concept of sustainability itself involves a variety of approaches and highlights the fact that consistent changes can only be achieved by means of cooperation among all stakeholders in society. It is extremely important to network and participate in international stakeholder events on the work for sustainability and environment, and to increase and improve relationships with the main actors in order to develop actions together.
D. Common policies for effective coordination and global actions for sustainability
Along with interesting and powerful actions carried out by national organisations and international networks on an individual basis, there is an important need to cooperate on a global level in order to increase the social impact of our work and to attain a common position and capacity for advocacy. Coordinated actions within IVS organisations will also facilitate the possibility to learn from one another's experiences and therefore improve the quality of the work and its impact. Through cooperation there is also the possibility to identify the weaknesses of IVS organisations and networks concerning environment and sustainability, and to try to address them with a strategic approach.
This cooperation should come through various strategic actions such as: the opening of spaces for collaboration, and/or the strengthening of the existing ones (Global Meetings, General Assemblies of the CCIVS, international events) and the support and extension of the existing global campaigns on environment and sustainability.