International Volunteer Day: IFRC’s new report on volunteering highlights the need to better protect, promote and recognize local humanitarian volunteers

Published: 5 December 2015

Geneva, 5 December 2015 – The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) today released its Global Review on Volunteering report, the largest study ever undertaken of its kind. More than 600 people from 158 countries were interviewed or surveyed, including volunteers, managers, staff and external experts. The report was launched in Geneva during the 20th session of the IFRC General Assembly, where Red Cross and Red Crescent leaders from almost every country in the world are meeting to discuss and tackle today’s most pressing humanitarian issues.      

According to Mr Tadateru Konoé, IFRC President: “This report is unique in that it foregrounds the voices of volunteers and those that support them. It also covers so many countries across the world providing a truly global perspective on the trends, challenges and opportunities facing volunteerism.”

“IFRC is the largest humanitarian network in the world - volunteers make up 98 per cent of our base. Volunteering is at the centre of our organization and this study is a testament to the gravity with which we believe in and support volunteering. It represents a critical milestone in our knowledge and understanding of how to strengthen volunteering,” said Mr Konoé. 

Conducted by the IFRC and the University of Northumbria, the research highlights that local humanitarian volunteers are often exposed to greater risks today, operating in highly dangerous locations. The scale of humanitarian need around the world is expanding significantly, emerging from environments that are so dangerous and complex that few organizations can act within them.

Around the world more than one million Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers are working in countries where there are situations of conflict or violence, including many thousands who are regularly on the front line.

“Local volunteers in these contexts bring considerable advantages, they understand the complexity of the situations and know how to manoeuvre and get things done. However, the work of these volunteers comes with considerable risks,” explained Mr Konoé.

Over the past two years, nearly 50 Red Cross and Red Crescent local aid workers, including volunteers, have died in the line of duty. The report shows that in the years leading up to 2014, around 60 per cent of Red Cross Red Crescent aid workers killed were in natural disasters; whereas in the last 2 years, 80 per cent of fatalities have been as a result of conflict or violence. In addition to fatalities, many more have been injured or put under such extreme psychological stress that they require significant and advanced support for many years.

“Humanitarian need is likely to continue to outstrip the global capacity (or will) to fund the required response.  Investment in volunteering is therefore one of the most effective ways, or sometimes only available option, for responding to this need,” said Mr Konoé. 

The report emphasizes the urgent need for the profile of local volunteers to be raised within conflict settings as well as at global level, accompanied by better resourcing and appropriate safety and security measures, such as advanced training, strong management support, psychological care during and after the event, insurance or other safety net provisions and assistance in building community acceptance for their role. 


For more information or to set up interviews please contact:

  • Benoit Carpentier, team leader, public communications and outreach,

Mobile: +41 792 132 413   +41 792 132 413, Email:

  • Reeni Amin Chua, senior communications officer,

Mobile: +41 797 086 273   +41 797 086 273, Email :