Between February 6 to 10 was held the second Arab International Conference on Volunteerism in Hammamet, Tunisia. Organised by the International Union of Websites, at the event participated more than 50 representatives of different volunteering organisations such as Algeria, Yemen, Kuwait, Iraq, Morocco, Palestine, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon and Mauritania. Additionally, volunteers also participated by sharing their experience,  daily difficulties and their concerns as well, including how to commit the youth in voluntary actions.

On the first day of the forum, different political leaders and authorities, the mayor of the district of Al-Dawha of Bethlehem (Palestine) who spent 20 years of his life in prison is an example of it, trainers and direct executives of entities, such as Mr. Riad Issa of Volunteers without Borders (Lebanon) and Mr. Fnyees SMDA Alajmo (Kuwait), shared their thoughts on the values which volunteering express, the role of civil society and the voluntary sector required in each country, as well.

On the following day, Ms. Mojca Zerovec, the Ministry of Public Administration of Slovenia informed about the support which her government offers to the entities. Furthermore, Lluc Martí, coordinator of Fundació Catalunya Voluntària (FCV) shared his personal experiences both as a volunteer and programmes coordinator and pointed out some features of the volunteering culture in Catalunya. He also contribute with his view regarding the issues which until that point generated more interest as the incentives that organisations can offer to youth without volunteering experience  to make them adhere, how to achieve more impact, which are the benefits of collaboration and network working between the organisations or the reasons which explain the existence of programs and opportunities for international volunteering in Europe.

During the afternoon, volunteers of all delegations were the one of having the word in order to exchanges good volunteering practices in those fields of humanitarian and social aid, childhood education, the environment and others.

Participating in the forum has allowed us as organisation to meet extraordinary and committed people with their community that, despite diverse professions, ages and life experiences, have in common a great passion for volunteering. We have also had the opportunity to clearly witness that volunteering it is a relevant part of the culture and tradition of the Arab countries.

Moreover, we also discovered in which direction the different entities, regions and leaders of volunteering are aiming to arrive and for which reasons they want to associate with others from Europe and further parts of the world and, finally, which type of volunteering is currently taking place in countries where there is a conflict and bloody situation such as Iraq, Yemen or Palestina. We got to know what in the religious texts is being said says about volunteering, as well.

The forum was a great occasion to establish a first contact with volunteering groups from Mauritania, Yemen and Kuwait and also to personally invite some entities to be part of the first international forum in Europe dedicated to volunteering in Arab world, which will take place in Barcelona and Vilanova i la Geltrú from April 29 to 4 May. This activity is promoted and organised by Fundació Catalunya Voluntària.

In this next forum we are counting on the participation of the volunteering organisations leaders from 17 Arab countries, among those who have already confirmed their attendances are Yemen, Kuwait, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Sudan, Egypt, Palestine and Oman. This will be an event never done before and we are willing that it will be the beginning of new exchanges opportunities and partnership between the organisations of both regions and also the participation of Catalan youth in volunteering actions in the Arab countries.

We will keep you informed.

Lluc Martí