Professor Lester Salamon

Salamon’s keynote address kickstarted a day of fascinating discussions, ranging from the descriptive (defining, measuring and quantifying volunteering – Salamon’s statistics, for example, did not include help in the home) to the prescriptive (should volunteering be, like charity, a private affair? should there be state involvement in volunteering? why should volunteering replace the state?…). The summit of Eastern Partnership countries was meeting in Warsaw today (indeed, EESC President Staffan Nilsson participated in and spoke at the summit). Reflecting that partnership, the conference also heard from representatives of volunteer organisations in the Eastern Partnership countries and their participation added a particular¬†element of consideration in the prescriptive context – for what if the state lacks the resources to intervene in a ‘Nordic’ way? What if a society must rely on volunteering (and on philanthropy more generally)? On one thing I think all participants were in complete agreement; volunteering should not be discouraged and therefore should be facilitated. For, as the EESC’s President, Staffan Nilsson, neatly put it (returning hot foot from the Eastern Partnership summit for the closing session), volunteering is a sort of ‘societal glue’. The President of the Various Interests Group, Luca Jahier, and his Polish colleagues who chaired the panels, Krzysztof Pater and Marzena Mendza-Drozd, are to be commended for an excellent conference.