VSO currently has 22 governance programmes in Africa, Asia and the Pacific.

Governance is about power, relationships and accountability: who has influence, whose voice is heard, who makes decisions and how decision-makers are held to account. Good governance is an issue for all individuals, agencies and organisations (state, private sector and civil society) that hold power in making decisions affecting access to rights.

We aim to support the development of the governance systems, structures, policies and practice that empower disadvantaged people to participate in the decisions that affect their lives.

Areas of work

Access to justice and human rights

Although women make up half the population, they are systematically under-represented in decision-making processes at all levels and therefore less able to access justice and claim their basic rights. As a response to this, many of VSO’s country programmes address issues of gender equality in participation and governance. Other marginalised and vulnerable groups with whom we work include youth, refugees, indigenous peoples, low-caste communities, people with disabilities and people living with HIV and AIDS. VSO supports Right to Information projects, human rights advocacy and access to legal advice and assistance programmes.

Government accountability and citizen engagement

VSO works in the field of sub-national government effectiveness supporting decentralisation of service delivery and public sector reform programmes combined with improved citizen participation and engagement in decision-making. We support social accountability projects such as citizens committees and citizens score cards to increase the accountability of service providers and government officials.

Civil society credibility and strengthening

VSO programmes work to strengthen civil society organisations, for example, organisational development work and the building of citizen and civil society coalitions across networks.

Read more about our work in civil society strengthening


Political, social and economic marginalisation along religious or ethnic lines is often a root cause of conflict between different communities. Some of our programmes have a peace-building element. This includes activities that build a culture of peace through understanding and collaboration between different groups.  We also have programmes to support people and communities to recover from the effects of conflict and violence. 

How our volunteers help

We recruit volunteers from all over the world and place them with civil society agencies and community groups. Our volunteers support these organisations to build their capacity to effectively advocate for the rights of disadvantaged people. We also support networks helping those with similar agendas to learn from one another and to work together.

In many countries, volunteers work directly with government agencies to help them respond better to the needs, and uphold the rights, of their citizens. Our work to support government agencies is concerned with improving their ability to respond to people's needs, and to be transparent and accountable to all their constituents. This will make the services they deliver meet the needs and fulfil the rights of all people, including the most disadvantaged.

VSO promotes national volunteering (local people and community groups volunteering for development). We also support active and engaged citizens and communities in their community development to increase their influence on local decision-making. 

How to apply

Interested in volunteering with VSO? Find out what you need to apply and begin your application process now.