2.4 Youth volunteering at national level
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Programme Youth Rules (Mladi su zakon) is a national youth volunteering programme established in 2010 by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It aims to encourage young people to join, actively participate and conduct small initiatives that can change and improve their quality of life in the local context. Through these activities, young people can organize spaces for leisure time in local communities, conduct environmental campaigns and activities, actions aimed at fostering humanity and solidarity, tolerance, security, intergenerational cooperation and entrepreneurship of young people. The programme covers youth volunteer projects, large volunteer actions, national and international volunteer workcamps in Serbia.
Each year, more than 40 organizations and 1.500 young people across the country are involved in the programme in more than 60 local municipalities. It is coordinated by Young Researchers of Serbia - Volunteer Service of Serbia and selected Resource Centres (see Glossary) across the country.
Since the beginning of the programme, more than 1800 youth volunteer projects have been financed and implemented by youth associations and informal youth groups. These have contributed to arranging premises for the youth in local communities, undertaking environmental actions, fostering humanitarianism and solidarity, understanding, tolerance, security, intergenerational cooperation and entrepreneurship of young people. These projects have shown that young people recognise issues in their communities, that they want to be involved and help in resolving them.
In addition, 30 youth work-actions have been organized, and over 2.000 volunteers from more than 27 countries and more than 1600 young people from Serbia have donated more than 200.600 volunteer hours in 217 international volunteer camps since 2014 with the support of Young Researchers of Serbia.
Symbolically, each year on the International Volunteers Day, 5 December, the programme Youth Rules celebrates the accomplishments made in the previous year.
Additionally, an online volunteer platform - volonterinamrezi.rs (volunteers online) launched under the working plan of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, and has been managed by UNICEF Serbia in cooperation with the Young Researchers of Serbia. It started in 2020 in response to the crisis caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and it has continued to connect young people across the country with organisations, institutions, sports associations and local self-governments, providing both online and offline volunteering opportunities.
Within the “Youth Rules” program, the call for the financing of youth volunteer projects is published annually. During 2019 and 2020, 300 projects, in which 5.000 volunteers from all over Serbia took part were supported. Through the call for 2021, 135 youth volunteer projects throughout Serbia were planned to be supported in the amount of up to RSD 42.000 per project, and a total of up to RSD 5,67 million.
Official statistics on the level of annual participation of young people in volunteering in the Republic of Serbia is not available. The Ministry of Youth and Sport conducts annual Survey on Position and Needs of Youth in the Republic of Serbia (Položaj i potrebe mladih u Republici Srbiji) covering some questions regarding youth volunteering (see Chapter 1/1.6 Evidence-based youth policy/National Statistics and available data sources).
The Ministry of Youth and Sport conducted the Survey on Youth Activism and Awareness in the Republic of Serbia 2016 (Aktivizam i informisanost mladih u Republici Srbiji), declaring that 24% of interviewed youth participated in some form of voluntary activities in 2016. Compared to the previous years, this number differs from 31% in 2014 to 22% in 2015.
According to the Survey on Youth Activism and Awareness 2016, the activities took place in:
- charity work (35,6%),
- social responsibility and contribution to the community (26,8%),
- acquiring new skills and knowledge (18,2%).
Additionally, 10,1% of young people said that they volunteered because they had had free time, while 7,6% of young people volunteered in order to get recommendations for future jobs.
Organisations in which young people so far had the opportunity to volunteer are mostly charity (27%), civil society (25%), institutions such as health centres, youth, cultural and similar centres (18.5%), sports organisations (12.7%), youth offices (11.8%).
The support to volunteers is specified in the Law on Volunteering. Volunteers are not allowed financial compensation or other material benefits from volunteering. But the organisation or institutions engaging volunteers need to provide them with the following benefits which are not considered to be financial compensation mentioned above:
- working clothes and means and equipment for personal protection of volunteers;
- travel, accommodation, food and other expenses arising from the volunteering services and activities;
- medical examinations needed for volunteering;
- preparatory training for conducting volunteering services and activities;
- insurance premiums paid in the event of an injury or professional illness during volunteering, or financial compensation for insurance for damage incurred in the organizer of volunteering or a third party;
- payment of pocket money, in case of long-term volunteering (see Chapter 2/2.1 General context/Main concepts). The amount of pocket money may not exceed 30% of the net amount of the minimum monthly full-time salary in the Republic of Serbia. The payment of the pocket money is determined by the contract on volunteering.
The main mechanism for monitoring and ensuring the quality of youth volunteering programmes, projects and schemes is the monitoring of the number of young people participating in volunteering projects and programmes, as well as the existence of national registry of volunteering programmes/projects and their organisers.
The Law on Volunteering defines responsibilities of both the Ministry of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Affairs and the organisers of volunteering programmes/projects. The Ministry is responsible for keeping the records of volunteering organisers and prescribing the application contents for the organisers of volunteering. The volunteering organiser is obliged to register any voluntary activity that is to be conducted for the first time.
The Ministry of Youth and Sport is also involved in youth volunteer activities monitoring. It conducts surveys and annual research on the position and needs of young people, together with the research on the implementation of the National Youth Strategy (Report on the implementation of the National Youth Strategy in the Republic of Serbia 2015-2020). These surveys and reports are not targeted only/directly at the youth volunteering activities, but they cover relevant questions for monitoring and measures development. According to the Research on the position and needs of young people in Serbia 2020, most young people - 89% are not familiar with the Youth Rules programme; 69% of young people stated that they hadn’t participated in any volunteer activities so far, while one-third of the respondents who had volunteered, stated that they had received written confirmation of their volunteer work.
The Law on Volunteering specifies that the volunteering organiser is obligated to provide the volunteers with a written confirmation of their volunteer work, upon their request. This confirmation consists of:
- volunteer personal information,
- volunteering organiser information,
- a brief description of volunteering services and activities,
- a period of volunteering and
- information on preparatory training for conducting volunteering services and activities.
Initiatives in the field of youth volunteering at national level do not identify specific target groups within the youth population.