Preserving History: The CCIVS Archives

In 2022, a working group started working together including the CCIVS Director, Secretariat, and three former executive board members of CCIVS. Since this date over 7 workshops have taken place in the CCIVS archives, which allowed us to look back on the history of the organisation – projects, teams, achievements, challenges, networks, and volunteers – since its founding in 1948.

A Thorough Beginning

The archives workshop allowed us to check, organise and clean CCIVS’s archives, to prepare the steps for making a donation to a public archives space. We were supported in our work by the Archivist of the PAJEP a public programme in Paris collecting NGO’s archives and now by the Archivist of La Contemporaine (Library, Archives, Museum) in Nanterre. Whilst looking for the right place to donate the archives we also clarified the UNESCO capacity to host CCIVS’s archives. 

Historical Insights and Ideological Foundations

There have been many gems appearing in the archives, which has allowed us to better understand the CCIVS over the years and to admire the determination and dedication of the volunteers and staff who ensured that 75 years later the organisation still exists. 

We also see that there have been recurring debates over the years, with the same questions coming time and time again on the table some of these related to finances, some on programmes and structure. One point that started as early as the 50s was the question of regionalisation, by 1967 CCIVS had established a regional office in Rosario Argentina CENTROSEV. In the words of Rao Chelkani (former CCIVS President) in 1999 ‘CCIVS is not a Coordinating Committee, it’s in fact the regions which should form the Co-oordinating Committee and not the Co-oordinating committee which set up the regions. At the same level, the Secretariat should reflect the international composition and the CCIVS should not be a centralised structure’. 

We also found how CCIVS supported the creation of a UN body for international volunteering, through the end of the 60s into the 70s CCIVS was heavily involved in discussions to create a UN volunteer organisation, the role of CCIVS was to be the Clearing House of Volunteers for Development, however clear ideological differences arose and the board of CCIVS decided to stop cooperation with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV).

In 1969 we found a discourse by Peter Kuenstler of the UN Division of Social Affairs. In his address to COCO XVI GC titled “COCO – Peter Pan?”, Kuenstler poignantly described CCIVS’s origins: “The committee came into being with UNESCO as its midwife and fairy godmother to strengthen and stimulate those bodies, rather few and scattered in the early days, who believed in the idea and practice of voluntary workcamps.”  Kuenstler also emphasized the organisation’s critical role in fostering unity and peace through voluntary service: “Voluntary service and workcamping have always been in the forefront of the peace-building movement. The challenge has become increasingly acute as humanity has mustered the ability to transcend physical limitations yet struggles to live peacefully. Peace, in its most positive and creative sense, is no longer a pipe dream but an urgent, practical necessity.”

The words are still just as relevant today…

The CCIVS Memory Project

Amid this work, the CCIVS Memory Project is being drafted with the support of the CCIVS Youth Committee. This endeavor aims to encapsulate the essence of CCIVS’s history, celebrating our legacy and the impact of international voluntary service through a curated collection of memories and milestones.

Continuous Engagement

The working group continues it’s dedicated work and steps towards finding the right ‘home’ for the archives, along with the ideas for a future project as mentioned above. 

We invite our members and friends to contact us with any ideas to support the implemention of the CCIVS memory project.