February 1, 2018
JICA Research Institute (JICA-RI) Visiting Fellow Yasunobu Okabe (Professor, Tohoku University) and Research Fellow Mayuko Onuki are working on the JICA-RI research project “Contributions of International Volunteers in Bringing Change to Developing Countries and Shaping a Global Civil Society,” and presented their research findings at International Volunteer Cooperation Organisations’ Conference (IVCO) 2017, held from Oct. 22 to 25, 2017, in Seoul, South Korea.
Leaders of organizations that run international volunteer programs from various countries gather annually at IVCO to share insights and best practices. For 2017, the International Forum for Volunteering in Development (Forum) and the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) jointly hosted the Conference under the theme “Implementation of the SDGs through Transformative Partnership in Volunteering.” About 150 people from 39 countries participated.
On Oct. 23, the participants discussed the definition and significance of transformative partnerships under the sub-theme “Partnership as a strategic driver of change.” The sub-theme of the following day was “Innovative Funding and Diversification.” The participants discussed the importance of innovation in funding. On the 25th, discussion centered on ways to measure and evaluate the contribution of volunteer programs to development, with the sub-theme “Knowledge and Solutions.”
Breakout sessions on the third day included case study research sessions under the shared theme of “Partnering to Demonstrate Success Towards the SDGs.” In the “Rethinking of Volunteerism,” session, Okabe gave a presentation on his research, titled “Diffusion of International Voluntary Service: U.S Peace Corps, Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers, and Korea Overseas Volunteers.”
He first introduced the establishment of government-initiated international volunteer programs in Japan and South Korea, their expansion, background and history, as well as the impact of the U.S. Peace Corps (USPC) that was launched in 1961. He also spoke about the impact of the Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCV), which began in 1965, on the Korea Overseas Volunteers (KOV) that was launched in 1990. In addition, Okabe compared and contrasted the international volunteer programs of the three countries and described the mutual links.
KOICA’s Kim Byung-gwan, Director General for Multilateral Cooperation and Humanitarian Assistance Department, who is familiar with the background of the establishment of KOV, offered comments regarding Okabe’s presentation, which led Okabe to visit KOICA on Oct. 26. This resulted in an interview with Kim regarding the background of the establishment of World Friends Korea (WFK), which consolidates the international volunteer programs conducted by each of South Korea's governmental agencies.
“Forum Research Day” was held on the 26th to formulate the contents of research team activities in preparation for IVCO 2018 and to enable researchers to interact with each other. Onuki participated in the gathering and exchanged opinions.
The JICA-RI researchers later commented that participation in IVCO, with international volunteer organizations gathered together from around the world, provided a beneficial opportunity to learn about the connections between research and policy, as well as international trends, and to share the knowledge and experience of each country related to the issues they are facing.