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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki


2. Voluntary Activities

2.1 General context

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  1. Historical developments
  2. Main concepts

Historical developments

Prior to 1900, volunteering was mainly associated with the idea of charity expressed in the religious environment. The Catholic Church of Luxembourg would implement social activities with the (non-paid) help of the community. With the adoption of the 1868 Constitution, freedom of association was acknowledged to all citizens. Since then, citizens are allowed to group together to promote social, cultural, humanitarian, sport and religious activities. In this period, some important non-profit organisations were created: the Federation of Cultural Organisations in 1863 (now Union Grand-Duc Adolphe) and the Federation of Firemen in 1883 (SPES, 2010).

The 20th century was characterised by a rapid development of the non-profit sector and organisations in Luxembourg. The first social, non-profit organisations involving volunteers were the Red Cross (founded in 1914) and Caritas (founded in 1932). Additional non-profit organisations were created in the mid-1960s and subsequent years from a need to help the disabled and elderly people, migrants, the third world, etc. (SPES, 2010).

The post-war era was characterised by a general improvement of the volunteering infrastructure. The structure of volunteering organisations improved greatly, and paid staff was also employed. Furthermore, volunteers became professionalised through numerous training opportunities offered by the associations. In addition, for greater transparency and protection of volunteers' rights, volunteering associations were required to offer contracts to the volunteers.

The period around the turn of the millennium was marked by the adoption of relevant laws for the development of the volunteering sector, such as the amendment of the 1928 Law on Non-Profit Organisations and Foundations in 1994 (loi du 21 avril 1928 sur les associations et les fondations sans but lucrative, telle qu’elle été modifiée par les lois des 22 février 1984 et 4 mars 1994, Texte coordonné du 4 mars 1994), the 1999 Law on Voluntary Service (loi du 28 janvier 1999 concernant le service volontaire) and the 2007 Law on Youth Voluntary Service ( loi du 31 octobre 2007 sur le service volontaire des jeunes). The International Year of Volunteers (2001) provided an important impetus to volunteering in Luxembourg: a volunteering agency, a higher council for voluntary work and a website for volunteering were created in the following years. Furthermore, the official Charter of Volunteering (Charte du Bénévolat) was published in Luxembourg (SPES, 2010).

Main concepts

Luxembourg has no official definition of youth volunteering. However, a distinction is made between 'bénévolat' (French term for voluntary activities) and 'volontariat'. The Luxembourg Charter of Volunteering gives the following definition of 'bénévolat' (French term for voluntary activities) by defining a person doing volunteering work: 'The volunteer engages of completely free will, without being paid in terms of money, into an action serving another person or the community. Volunteering is a commitment of free will and unpaid, offered by persons which act for the interest of other persons or for general interest in the frame of a structure going beyond mutual aid in the family or the circle of friends.' The concept of volontariat was defined by the 1999 Law on Voluntary Service  (Art.2). It encompasses activities that are different from the 'bénévolat' insofar as the volunteer engages in a well-defined project within a given period of time (between 3-12 months). Voluntary service is strictly regulated by the 2007 Law on Youth Voluntary Service. Specifically, voluntary service is a full-time activity, not paid, of general interest and based on the volunteer's personal decision of free will. (Art. 2, 3). A large number of voluntary activities in Luxembourg take place in community life (sports clubs, music societies, youth organisations, scouts movement, etc.) without a legal framework that defines objectives, contents, age limits and the period of the voluntary activity. Rules and regulations are not defined by law, but by the organisations themselves, so that the degree of political regulation is rather low. Persons participating in voluntary activities in these organisations are usually not paid, and the voluntary activity is often a secondary occupation in addition to a paid job or school attendance. These forms of engagement show a high diversity with regard, for instance, to the kinds of activities or the amount of invested time.