VSO influences policy at national, regional and international levels. We bring the experience of volunteers, partners and marginalised people to decision makers.
We achieved salary reform for Cambodian teachers. In Zambia we are working towards legislation that will give marginalised people, including women, improved rights over their land. Around the world, our work amplifying the voices of the poorest is making change happen.
Find out about:
- Making the case for UK Aid
- VSO and the Sustainable Development Goals
- Parliamentary volunteering
- How to meet your MP (in the UK)
- Other ways you can make change happen
Making the case for UK Aid
Since 2015, the UK has committed to spending 0.7% of its Gross National Income (GNI) on international aid, less than a penny in every pound of national income. For this tiny percentage of GNI, UK aid has an enormous impact - it saves a life every 2 minutes, and has a positive impact on millions of lives around the world. UK Aid in 2016 has:
- Saved thousands of lives by helping to eradicate the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and preventing it spreading to other countries
- Vaccinated over 67 million children to stop them dying of preventable diseases
- Allowed 11.3 million children across the world go to school
- Helped create over one million jobs across 70 developing countries
- Enabled 162 million people to vote in freer, fairer and more democratic elections
This is an immense achievement that everyone should be aware of - yet it is rarely talked about in mainstream media. Parts of the UK media are stepping up their attacks on UK aid and calling for the budget to be refocused or be radically reduced.
VSO’s volunteers, partners and the communities see the impact of UK aid every day in the communities where we are working. We believe that our returned volunteers, who have first-hand experience of the impact of aid are in a uniquely powerful position to advocate and raise awareness about the progress they have seen to the UK public.
Stories directly from our volunteers who have seen aid in action:
Fighting poverty isn’t easy, but it’s working thanks to UK Aid
Bill Carr, 67, has been watching the attacks on UK Aid from his placement in the north of Pakistan with concern. He explains the difference he’s seen it make with his own eyes.
Why I think we’ll all be worse off if we abandon overseas aid
Tom Legge, 35, from London is a VSO volunteer currently on placement in the north of Ghana. He thinks the current attacks against UK Aid fail to look at the benefit it has to the UK, as well as to people in less well-off countries.
From anger to action: How to stop 200,000 needless maternal deaths
After a 40-year career in the NHS in the UK, Phil Heywood, 72, is volunteering his skills to help tackle maternal deaths in Myanmar. He explains the global injustice of maternal deaths, and what is being done about it through UK Aid.
Meet your MP
If you live in the UK, VSO can help you contact and meet your political representatives. You can help increase political will to tackle poverty by sharing your experiences and concerns with them.
Hundreds of VSO volunteers and supporters contact their representatives about international development issues. For example, in the build-up to Parliamentary debates on the 0.7% foreign aid expenditure target. They also strengthened VSO’s Women in Power campaign, fighting for women's empowerment.
Remember: your local MP exists to represent you. Make sure they hear your story.
Find your MP and their contact details.
For more information and guidance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
VSO and the Sustainable Development Goals
We used our networks to influence the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This is an ambitious set of goals and targets that will guide global development until 2030.
We worked hard to make sure that the SDGs recognised:
- that achieving gender equality and women's rights is central to reducing poverty
- that people must be engaged in their own development
- the unique role that volunteers can play in achieving the SDGs
VSO's programmes are aligned to many of the SDGs. We are supporting volunteers, partners and communities to hold leaders accountable to their commitments.
Find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals.
We support Parliamentarians to volunteer through short-term, high-impact placements. VSO matches them to programmes where they can make the best use of their skills and expertise.
Since 2005, almost 50 Parliamentarians from the UK have taken part in the programme. They include:
Kate Green MP, Shadow Minister for Disability
Volunteered with the National Union of Disability Organisations Rwanda (NUDOR), and the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD), helping them raise disability issues with the Government.
I learnt as much from my visit as the knowledge I was able to share with my hosts about the UK. Indeed, many of the issues we face are the same in both countries – the stigma and social isolation faced by disabled people, the poor health, educational and employment outcomes they experience, and worries about assessments for benefits and support.
Alastair Carmichael, former Secretary of State for Scotland
Part of a VSO project in Cameroon working for Aide Legale Liberale, an organisation which aims to provide free legal representation for those who would otherwise not be able to afford it.
In the course of Thursday alone we saw orphans driven from their homes by relatives; widows deprived of their property rights on inheritance; a victim of assault in police custody; a human rights activist who had got on the wrong side of a powerful local man beaten and shot for his pains; representatives of minority ethnic communities suffering discrimination and persecution and much more besides.
Worked with Parliamentarians across Southern Africa to help them argue for evidence-based policies on issues of sexual and reproductive health and child marriage.
Hon. Beatriz Chaguala MP, from Mozambique, was so inspired by Baroness Barker’s training on child marriage that she replicated the training in her own community, working with over 600 communty leaders to raise awareness about the harmful impact of early and forced marriage.
All across the developing world, there are thousands of people with great ideas trying to do good work. But it's only when the voluntary sector, those who are in elected positions, civil servants and professional agencies all work together [that] you get lasting change. Politicians very rarely get the chance to talk to people and share experiences and learn from one another. It is immensely valuable.
Completed two placements as a Parliamentary Volunteer with VSO in the Philippines. Lord McConnell helped Beyond 2015 (a coalition of Filipino campaign groups) influence the build-up towards the Sustainable Development Goals.
During my time in the Philippines I have seen the importance of organisations such as VSO and Beyond 2015. They work with Filipino volunteers and civil society to make sure this is a locally led effort. I want the negotiations about future development goals to include these local voices.