The Malta Independent 24 January 2022, Monday

Consultation process to reform VO sector, meet the needs of voluntarism launched

Shona Berger Saturday, 4 December 2021, 12:29 Last update: about 3 months ago

The Office of the Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (OCVO) has launched a consultation process, VO Plus, with the aim of reforming the sector and ensuring it meets the present and future needs of voluntarism in Malta.

The launch, which was held on Saturday at the President’s Palace, was held under the patronage of the President of Malta George Vella. Minister for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing Julia Farrugia Portelli, Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima, PN MP Kevin Cutajar and other members were present during the launch.

Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations (VOs) Jesmond Saliba (below) introduced the launch by giving an overview of what needs to be done to move this sector forward.

This is a sector that plays an important role in the full development of Malta, he said. The starting point of any reform is the motivation to help the sector grow into a sustainable one. The determination to protect the sector against those who want to abuse it is also crucial, Saliba said.

“The voluntary sector must continue being recognised as an important pillar in society and eliminate the narrative of amateurism. We need to give the VOs the strength and tools they need to be able to function properly. The process of change needs to go beyond legislative change and we need to navigate the sector in a collective manner,” Saliba said. 

He noted that this sector has undergone an evolution and is a growing sector, saying that as it currently stands, a total of 1,702 active voluntary organisations are registered with OCVO. These VOs are divided into 14 generic categories and 67 other more specific categories.

These result into a wide range of VOs that offer high-level services and important threads that shape the social fabric of this country.

Saliba said that for this reform to be possible, the organisation needs to work hand in hand with Malta’s Council for the Voluntary Sector and other stakeholders.

“We need to offer guidance to prepare the sector to make the leap in quality, and we are currently undergoing a National effort to safeguard the voluntary sector,” Saliba said.

Whilst highlighting aspects of the ‘VO Plus’ convention, Saliba said that this will bring the voluntary sector together by evaluating and understanding how to serve this sector in a better manner.

“We need to understand and value how the sector is serving the country. Through research with the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, we will work on anticipating the needs of the country. We will also create a mechanism for the sector to be respected in the formulation of what is Malta of today and tomorrow. We must build a sustainable sector because Malta must get what it deserves,” Saliba said.

President of Malta George Vella praised this important step forward for the voluntary organisation sector, saying that the reforms embrace social, economic and OCVO regulations.

Speaking highly of Saliba’s dynamic approach which is taking this sector forward, Vella said that this is a sector of committed people who are willing to give a substantial amount of their time, not to get paid, but to see and fulfill their beliefs.

“1,702 registered voluntary organisations is no joke. Despite the size of this country, the registrations highlight the high percentage of people who in one way or another are devoting themselves to volunteering. These people work and affect the sectors in our society. Therefore, strong volunteer care is needed,” Vella said.

These reforms should be a means of improving the sector by making it more comfortable and sustainable for organisations. This all depends on the dialogue that takes place with all stakeholders. Dialogue is the basis for inclusive and broad reforms,” Vella added.

“We need to start talking more about what already unites us in this country, rather than solely focusing on what divides us,” President Vella added.

Minister for Inclusion and Social Wellbeing Julia Farrugia Portelli noted that this reform is a step forward to achieving a regulated operation.

She said that voluntary organisations play an important role in society as they are strong contributors to Malta’s economy. Consequently, research will be carried out to make this value known in society.

Parliamentary Secretary Clifton Grima praised the recognition that is visible by the OCVO to take this sector a step forward towards the right direction through the implementation of reforms. For anything to remain relevant and valid it cannot remain static. Therefore, these reforms are of crucial importance to strengthen this sector and keep the organisations relevant in society, Grima said.

On his part, PN MP Kevin Cutajar noted that the Opposition has been asking for such a reform for a very long time as several voluntary organisations have shed light on the fact that this sector faces unneccesary bureaucracy.

He noted that such reforms are crucial and said that, in the coming days, the Opposition will be announcing a number of proposals related to this sector.

“We want to contribute to this change. However, we must be careful not to repeat the same mistakes that have been made in the last few years as they have only put a strain on VOs,” Cutajar said.

He appealed to all stakeholders to come forward and voice their opinion or idea as discussions on the matter are of crucial importance to move this sector forward.

Chairman of the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS) Noel Camilleri also highlighted that it is time to give the sector the tools it needs to strengthen all VOs and to show valuable recognition.

“We must not forget small voluntary organisations as they will be lost. Some VOs have flourished and become an extension of the government through agreements but others have not been given the recognistion they deserve despite the hard work they do,” Camilleri said.

By means of a virtual message, Permenant Secretary Matthew Vella said that we need to have a society where which the person is at the centre.

Days like today recognise the important work that is carried out by VOs. The agreements made by the government with various VOs also recognise their importance, Vella said.

Meanwhile, the Dean of the Faculty for Social Wellbeing, Andrew Azzopardi mentioned a number of voluntary organisations and highlighted their importance.

“Do you imagine living in a society without voluntary organisations?’, he asked.

“What is being announced today is a very important but serious step forward to the right direction because it will unite the determination of these organisations with what they would like to achieve. Together with various stakeholders, including political structures as well as the University of Malta, we will begin to discuss a way forward,” Azzopardi said.





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