|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
73rd & 74th Meetings (AM & PM)
Volunteerism One of ‘Clearest Expressions of Solidarity in Action’, Effective,
Sustainable Force for Development, General Assembly Told
Marks Tenth Anniversary of International Year;
First Ever ‘State of the World’s Volunteerism Report’ Launched
Marking the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteerism, the General Assembly today showcased the diversity, breadth and depth of volunteering worldwide, with United Nations officials, diplomats and volunteers themselves hailing volunteerism as “one of the clearest expressions of solidarity in action”.
The day-long celebration — timed also to coincide with World Volunteer Day — kicked off in the morning with Assembly’s adoption of a consensus resolution welcoming the growth and development of volunteerism since the 2001 launch of the International Year, and commending contributions from national and international volunteers for their fundamental role in disaster prevention and recovery.
The resolution, forwarded by the Assembly’s Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural), also set out the arrangements for today’s events, and recognized the valuable contribution of volunteering, including traditional forms of mutual aid and self-help and other forms of civic participation, to social and economic development, thus benefiting society at large, communities and volunteer networks. The Assembly also took note of Government activities to support and promote volunteerism, and reiterated its call upon them to continue such action.
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, delivering a message on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, recognized the dedication of volunteers and their wide-ranging efforts to promote the goals of the United Nations. “With the world population having surpassed 7 billion, we must tap every person’s potential to help others. Volunteering matters,” she said, noting that such engagement could take many forms: volunteering organizations, individuals working on their own in their communities, and service with the Organization and its partners as UN Volunteers.
Describing a day in the life of the average United Nations Volunteer, Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of the world body’s volunteer programme (UNV), said that as the Assembly was meeting today, a woman was sifting through, cleaning and cataloguing mementos swept away last March during the tsunami in Japan; and a young man from Brazil was helping to improve educational attainment in El Salvador. They, along with nearly 8,000 other United Nations Volunteers, were working in areas of their professional expertise, often away from their home countries and sometimes in the context of hardship and danger, she said.
Those young men and women were doing so because they believed in solidarity and personal commitment. Volunteers recognized that their engagement was not a condescending act of charity, but rather the expression of a relationship of reciprocity. She said the primary goal of tenth anniversary Year activities had been to shift the debate on volunteerism; from being perceived as a marginal factor to being recognized as a mainstream asset, empowering all people to play a part in achieving the Millennium Development Goals and in promoting peace.
“There is much to celebrate this year in terms of achievements by the volunteer community. Yet we know that the hardest part still lies ahead”, she continued. The priorities were clear: volunteer activities and their results needed to be documented, and new ways to measure those impacts needed to be found. Finally, she noted that 2011 also marked the fortieth anniversary of the UNV programme. “We can see no better way to celebrate this milestone than to [have] volunteerism recognized as a real, sustainable and effective force for development”, she concluded.
Similarly, Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), noted that the strong links between volunteerism, peace and human development were still not widely acknowledged by Governments. Clearly the pursuit of human development and overall well-being could be enhanced by the contribution of volunteerism. While the expression of volunteerism could vary from country to country, the drive and motivation was universal. “The power and potential that volunteers have to make a difference is remarkable,” she said.
Highlighting the “power and potential” of her work, Shoko Fujita, United Nations Volunteer Child Protection Officer with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Timor-Leste, said that disturbing stories of children in developing countries being sexually abused and exploited had driven her to try do something to protect them from such violence. In Timor-Leste, where the Government’s strong commitment to protect and promote children’s rights still fell short of what was needed, she had begun conducting interviews with protection networks to prepare for a nationwide advocacy campaign in 2012 that would raise public awareness of children’s rights.
Another highlight of the special commemorative meeting was the launch of the first-ever State of the World’s Volunteerism Report. Robert Leigh, one of the main authors of the survey, said volunteerism made a vital contribution to virtually all areas of work of the United Nations. Pointing to the ongoing impact of popular protests in North Africa and the Middle East, he said that never had the potential been greater for citizens to be primary actors — rather than passive bystanders — in their communities, as well as nationally and globally. “Increasingly, people are able to affect the course of events that shape their destiny”, he stressed, adding that volunteerism was one of the primary ways for people to get involved.
The Report also offered a word of warning, he said, in that “volunteerism is not a panacea”. Indeed, “it should not absolve Governments and other actors of their responsibilities.” Volunteer action was not free of cost, he said, as budgets were needed to provide research, training and transportation. The Report did not subscribe to the purist view that Governments should adopt a “hands-off approach”, he stressed. They must continue to play their vital role in ensuring an environment that was conducive for volunteerism to flourish.
Assembly Vice-President Csaba Körösi, of Hungary, issued a call on behalf of General Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser for the global community to realize that “common challenges require common responses for our common future”. Rising to those challenges demanded solidarity, creativity, engagement and partnership. Member States, he said, must join together to support volunteer action by putting in place policies that were more conducive to volunteerism at all levels of society.
The meeting’s opening commemorative session was also addressed by the representatives of United Republic of Tanzania (on behalf of the African States), the Netherlands (on behalf of Western European and Other States), Slovakia (on behalf of the Eastern European States), Dominican Republic (on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States), Japan (on behalf of the Asia-Pacific States) and the United States (Host Country).
Flavio Lopes Ribeiro, United Nations Volunteers in El Salvador, Brazilian Team, also addressed the opening session.
During the debate in the afternoon, the following delegations addressed the Assembly: Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, Australia and Italy.
A representative of the Delegation of the European Union also spoke, as did the Observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The General Assembly will meet again at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, 6 December, to hold its annual debate on matters related to oceans and law of the sea.
The General Assembly met today to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. On the recommendation of the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian), as laid out in its report A/66/454(Part I), the Assembly was expected to adopt, by consensus, a draft resolution on the anniversary setting out modalities for the commemoration. It includes two plenary meetings and the first launch of the State of the World Volunteerism Report.
Opening the meeting, the Assembly adopted, by consensus, the draft resolution on the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.
CSABA KÖRÖSI ( Hungary), Vice-President of the General Assembly, speaking on behalf of President Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, said that volunteerism mattered in reaching United Nations targets, such as the Millennium Development Goals, humanitarian response, poverty reduction and sustainability. It involved overcoming social exclusion and discrimination, strengthening values based on collaboration and partnership and helping to build a better world.
“Today the global community faced a myriad of challenges”, he stressed, from environmental disasters, conflicts, humanitarian emergencies, the financial crisis to political tensions. All of those challenges had the power to destabilize communities and to undermine the hard-earned gains of the past decade. The global community must, therefore, realize that “common challenges require common responses for our common future”, he stressed, adding that rising to those challenges demanded solidarity, creativity, engagement and partnership.
“Volunteering is the people-centred approach to peace, humanitarian response and sustainable development”, he continued. “It strengthens trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens”, and empowered change from the grassroots up. In that vein, the United Nations Volunteers programme deployed about 8,000 volunteers each year. Through United Nations agencies, funds and programmes, peacekeeping and special political missions, the “UNVs” contributed to the Organization’s global agenda and supported national development efforts.
Nonetheless, the contribution of volunteers had not yet been sufficiently recognized, he said, calling on Member States to join together to support volunteer action by putting in place policies that were more conducive to volunteerism at all levels of society. “Together, let us commit to promoting and supporting volunteerism as an important factor to the achievement of international peace and development”, he stressed, offering his thanks to the “unsung heroes” that were volunteers around the world.
Deputy Secretary-General ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO then took the floor, speaking on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. She reminded the Assembly that, on the tenth anniversary of the International Day of Volunteers, the world recognized the “admirable spirit of service” of volunteers. With a global population surpassing 7 billion, she said, all must play their part. “Everyone can make a difference”, she added.
The first-ever State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, released this year, showed the strides made by volunteers the world over. In that vein, she commended the many millions of volunteers who worked “with passion and commitment”, showing how volunteerism could change the world. She asked policy-makers to do even more to support volunteerism, and asked people around the world to consider what they themselves could do to help.
OMBENI SEFUE (United Republic of Tanzania), speaking on behalf of the African Group, said that volunteerism was woven into the fabric of African philosophy and culture. He paid tribute to all the volunteers who had worked and continued to work hard in all corners of the African continent in many sectors, including education, health, water, entrepreneurship and business development, famine relief, post-conflict reconstruction, sustainable development, sports, natural disasters and other emergencies, and many others. He also paid tribute to the 8,000 United Nations volunteers working in peacekeeping missions, United Nations agencies and partners across the world.
He said the African Group appreciated and commended the work of the United Nations Volunteers in supporting member States and other stakeholders with coordinating the planning of this tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. He expressed the hope that United Nations Volunteers would continue to rise to the emerging challenges. Quoting Nelson Mandela, he said that “a different world cannot be built by indifferent people”. Volunteers, by definition, were not indifferent to the pain and needs of others. “Working with us and driven by their ideals of service and solidarity, a different world is possible.”
MANUEL KORCEK, ( Slovakia), speaking on behalf of the Eastern European States, said “volunteerism is one of the clearest expressions of solidarity in action.” Each contribution, no matter how small, made a huge difference. He said that the impressive growth of the number volunteers of all ages and from all cultures over the past decade illustrated the significance of their remarkable contribution to the socio-economic development of all societies. “Volunteers, as our invaluable partners, stand at the heart of our efforts. Today, our need for volunteers is greater than ever,” he said, stressing that as the world made the final push towards the Millennium Development Goals, the United Nations had to “help volunteers help us” build and foster partnerships at all levels.
HERMAN SCHAPER (Netherlands), speaking on behalf of the Western European and Other States, said that his delegation strongly believed that it was important to promote greater citizen participation and involvement in today’s world. “This is a win-win situation for all; it is rewarding for the volunteers and for those who profit from volunteer work,” he said, noting that volunteering built social capital, promoted social cohesion and contributed to one of the founding principles of the United Nations — “we the peoples” — in promoting universal human values towards building a better future for all.
He went on to thank United Nations Volunteers and its Executive Director, Flavia Pansieri, for making the tenth anniversary of the International Year a success. Every year, more than 7,700 United Nations Volunteers worked in 130 countries, with more than 80 per cent coming from developing countries and 30 per cent of those volunteering in their own countries, supporting a wide range of peacekeeping and humanitarian projects. Indeed, volunteers comprised nearly one third of all international civilians working in United Nations peacekeeping operations. The Western European and Others Group believed that the International Year had been a success in all four priority areas for action — recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion — and awareness of the importance of such work had been raised substantially, as had been witness by the launch of regional initiatives, including the 2011 European Year of Volunteering.
VIRGILIO ALCANTARA (Dominican Republic), speaking on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC), said that in all the nations of the region there were hundreds of groups who volunteered on behalf of their fellow citizens. Volunteering appealed to the “better angels” of people’s personalities and empowered the contributions that social capital could make in promoting changes in society. In a continent such a Latin America, which was characterized by poverty and inequality, with institutionalized States that were still weak, the social debt was still very large. The resources were still lacking to cover the debt before it enveloped the continent in despair.
Over the years, the International Volunteer Day had encouraged the focus, energy and strategies of many countries to achieve and reach the Millennium Development Goals and had led to an excellent opportunity for persons, communities and organizations to promote their contributions to the development at a local, national and international level, he said. Volunteering and understanding of civil society should be integrated into the educational system, and he recognized that it was through education that altruistic behaviour could be built, which was an investment in the future, in communities, and for the people. Volunteerism was driven by the powerful impulse of enthusiasm and a moral commitment, which could move mountains.
TSUNEO NISHIDA (Japan), speaking on behalf of the Asia-Pacific States, recalled that Japan and Brazil had submitted the draft resolution entitled “Tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers” to the Third Committee (Social, Cultural and Humanitarian), which had subsequently been adopted by the General Assembly on the Committee’s recommendation. Supported by 97 co-sponsors, its text aimed to emphasize the importance of volunteerism and to encourage further volunteering. Further, he recalled, the 2001 International Year of Volunteers had been proposed by Japan in order for Governments, United Nations system entities and civil society to collaborate and identify ways to enhance the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of volunteer activities.
Volunteerism had grown and developed since that time, he continued, affirming that many volunteers had played an active role in areas such as poverty reduction, health, sustainable development and disaster prevention and recovery around the world. In the Asia-Pacific region, volunteerism was recognized as one of the most important pursuits in society, and Governments had made efforts to encourage volunteering. Private sector employers also promoted that goal by giving employees opportunities to volunteer. Japan hoped that the United Nations Volunteer programme would contribute to the further promotion of volunteerism, as would the launch of the first-ever world volunteerism report, to be launched today.
“Volunteerism is an important activity in the strengthening of people-to-people relations”, he stressed, adding that the “generous spirit” inherent to volunteerism could create solidarity in society. Such activities should be promoted by the international community from the viewpoint of social integration. It was also important to create a supportive environment for volunteers and to enhance their security and protection. Finally, he stressed the importance of discussion during the coming decade and beyond, in particular with regards to how volunteers can contribute in the fields of peacebuilding, disaster prevention and management.
KENDRICK MEEK ( United States), speaking as host country, said that his country paid special tribute to those volunteers who had lost their lives serving others. The United States was also particularly grateful to American volunteers, who exemplified the American ideal “that we can make things better” and solve problems when people worked together. The United States was the largest provider of development dollars in the world, but also of volunteer services, both through Government and civil society programmes. In that regard, he noted that, in September 2011, the United States had celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its Peace Corps programme, which had sent hundreds of thousands of Americans to 139 countries around the world, where they formed “lasting bonds” with the people who lived there.
FLAVIA PANSIERI, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, said that, at the very moment that the present meeting was being held, volunteers were taking action around the world. A person with a disability was working on a computer to assist remotely as a non-governmental organization in a developing country improved the content of its website. A woman was sifting through, cleaning and cataloguing photos and other mementos carried away last March during the tsunami in Japan. A young man from Brazil was contributing to improving educational attainment in El Salvador. They were undertaking actions in line with their professional expertise, often away from their own countries and sometimes in the context of hardship and danger, “because they believe in solidarity, personal commitment and in the necessity to do all they can to make a positive difference in the world we live in”, she stressed.
Volunteers exhibited a desire to contribute to the common good, a commitment to fairness and justice, and the recognition that their engagement was not a condescending act of charity, but rather the expression of a relationship of reciprocity. Moreover, without volunteers, the world would be poorer and would show less peace, social cohesion and general well-being. In that vein, the primary goal of the tenth anniversary activities had been to shift the debate on volunteerism, from being perceived as a marginal factor to being recognized as a mainstream asset, empowering all people to play a part in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and in promoting peace. The activities of the year had been structured along four pillars: recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion. Considerable progress had been made in each of those areas, she said; however, “a lot remains to be done”.
Acting as focal point for the year, UNV consulted and convened with the broadest possible set of partners from Governments, United Nations agencies, non-governmental agencies and academia. It had convened a stakeholder consultation in October 2009 and a follow-up meeting in October 2010 in order to share experiences, arrive at a common vision, draw up an action plan and agree on a task distribution. It had hired about 40 new United Nations volunteers to help coordinate the activities of the year, and had consulted with five regional groups, represented by Ecuador (Latin American and the Caribbean States), Turkey (Arab States and transition States in Europe and Central Asia), Philippines (Asia and the Pacific States) and Senegal (French and English-speaking African States). Additionally, a Global Volunteering Conference had been co-organized by UNV and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Each of those activities, among many others, had been geared toward positioning volunteerism as an invaluable asset, she said.
“There is much to celebrate this year in terms of achievements by the volunteer community. Yet we know that the hardest part still lies ahead”, she continued. The priorities were clear: volunteer activities and their results needed to be documented, and new ways to measure those impacts needed to be found. That information also needed to be shared with others, so that they could build on successful ideas and practices. “Truly lasting development results can be achieved only through broad-based partnerships”, and not only between traditional development actors, but including all who had a stake in progress and development. That meant the people for whom development was intended, she stressed. Finally, she noted that the year also marked the fortieth anniversary of the UNV programme. “We can see no better way to celebrate this milestone than to see volunteerism recognized as a real, sustainable and effective force for development”, she concluded.
HELEN CLARK, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said that volunteerism empowered people to live better lives and achieve sustainable development. Since 2001, the United Nations General Assembly had called on Governments to recognize the potential of volunteerism for achieving sustainable development, and that was timely to recall. However, the strong links between volunteerism, peace and human development were still not recognized enough. One could say that the pursuit of human development and overall well-being could be enhanced by the contribution of volunteerism. While the expression of volunteerism could vary from country to country, the drive and motivation was universal. The power and potential that volunteers had to make a difference was remarkable.
Volunteerism involved rich people and poor people, the young and old, and men and women, she said, and it harnessed the energy of the skilled and unskilled and could be done online, as well as face to face. Since 1998, 20 million mostly local volunteers had been recruited for the polio initiative and had helped to immunize more the 2 billion children worldwide against polio. In Nepal, 50,000 women volunteers had worked to improve maternal health, and young people in Chile were building houses for families living in slums — an initiative that had spread to 19 countries. Indeed, the full scope of volunteerism was large and impossible to fully gauge. The motivation of volunteers everywhere was to “do good”, and people acted on their values and beliefs, and on their sense of community and universality. Leaders of countries and societies could, and should, choose to validate those contributions by recognizing them more visibly and more often.
ROBERT LEIGH, Senior Writer for the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, stressed the difficulty of producing a report that captured, in barely 90 pages, the “extraordinary phenomenon of volunteerism” that made such a vital contribution to virtually all areas of work of the United Nations, and that was found in almost every corner of the world. The report was timely, on the one hand, as history had never before seen such massive social upheavals; on the other hand, because never before had the potential been greater for people to be primary actors — rather than passive bystanders — in their communities, as well as nationally and globally. “Increasingly, people are able to affect the course of events that shape their destiny”, he stressed, adding that volunteerism was a primary way for people to get involved. There was an urgent need to recognize, nurture and promote it as a way to engender a global community living in harmony and characterized by justice, peace and well-being.
The Report being launched today was based on “robust empirical evidence”. It began by examining the values that underpinned volunteerism, as well as the ways that volunteerism was manifested and the challenging task of measuring it. It noted that “technological developments are opening up spaces for people to volunteer that have no parallel in history”; the interest of the private sector in supporting volunteerism among the work force was another growing feature of corporate social responsibility. Four core chapters of the Report focused on how volunteerism contributed to areas of key concern to the United Nations, including sustainable livelihoods, pathways to social inclusion, disaster and risk management and recovery from violent conflict. The report found that local people made a vital contribution through volunteer action in each of those fields, and that a common thread underpinning those actions was the reciprocal nature of the volunteer act, with both the giver and the receiver benefitting.
The Report also offered a word of warning, he said, in that “volunteerism is not a panacea”. Indeed, “it should not absolve Governments and other actors of their responsibilities”. Volunteer action was not free of cost, he added, as budgets were needed to provide infrastructure such as research, training and transportation. The Report did not subscribe to the purist view that Governments should adopt a “hands-off approach”, he stressed. They must continue to play their vital role in ensuring an environment that was conducive for volunteerism to flourish.
Citing several case studies referenced in the Report, he said that volunteerism was an important channel for people to interact, to engage and to feel a sense of belonging that was at the core of well-being. The Report also discussed how communities with high levels of volunteerism were better able to build up collective resilience to withstand the shocks and stresses to which the income-poor were particularly exposed, he noted.
While recognition of volunteerism had been growing in recent years, the phenomenon was still misconstrued and undervalued, he said, noting one of the Report’s conclusions. It argued for urgent and focused action to bring volunteerism into the mainstream, in particular as the end of the Millennium Development Goal cycle approached. “Support for volunteerism can help get [the Goals] on track”, he stressed, adding that the report also discusses options for the development architecture in the post-2015 period. Moreover, it offered an optimistic outlook that volunteerism would assume a higher profile in that period, as societal cohesion and quality of life issues came closer to centre stage.
SHOKO FUJITA, United Nations Volunteer Child Protection Officer in the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Timor-Leste, said that ever since reading and hearing the story of children who were victimized by sexual abuse and exploitation in developing countries, she had a sense of urgency to do something to protect children from such violence. In Timor-Leste, the Government had strong commitments to protect and promote children’s rights at the national and district level. For example, in every district there was a Vulnerable Person’s Unit under the National Police of Timor-Leste to investigate specific cases involving child and female victims.
However despite such efforts, many children in Timor-Leste were still vulnerable to violence, abuse, exploitation and neglect, she said. To address the issue of violence against children, particularly sexual abuse, she started preparing a nationwide advocacy campaign for the next year. In conducting activities, she said she had learned that the partnership with people and communities was really at the heart of volunteerism. There were more than 200 volunteers serving in Timor-Leste, each addressing various development challenges through community-based activities, and the spirit of volunteerism spilled out to communities throughout the country.
FLAVIO LOPES RIBEIRO, United Nations Volunteers in El Salvador, Brazilian Team, said that his personal sense of volunteerism came from a deep commitment to always follow his vocation and express his personal abilities “based in human values”. That value kept him from doing anything “just for money”. Instead of making him poor, he was instead standing in front of the General Assembly today and working to relieve human suffering. He said he worked as a volunteer because of an expanded concept of home and family, in which he thought of the whole world as his home, and all human beings as his family. Despite cultural and physical differences, human beings were able to make “personal connections and love bonds” with all other human beings.
He became a volunteer because he wanted to make a better world, he said, and people could only achieve that goal by working together. A better world was not a mansion with fancy cars in the garage, but a world free of poverty, hunger and violence, and he was willing to work until that objective was reached.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, Deputy Head of Delegation of the European Union, said that, in the ten years that had passed since the 2001 International Year of Volunteers, important improvements had been made when it came to the facilitation, promotion and networking of volunteer action. Today, that action took place at many different levels — including the community level, the national level and across borders and continents — and impacted upon many areas of global interest, such as the promotion of human rights and democracy, tackling poverty, the advancement of women, encouraging sustainable development, and others. However, beyond its diverse forms and contexts, volunteer work was also an important conduit for universal values and for strengthening the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development and human rights.
As one concrete example, he cited the role of volunteer work in disaster recovery and reconciliation efforts. That had been demonstrated in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake that struck Japan in March and the recent floods in Thailand. On an individual level, volunteerism could create opportunities for learning and personal development, and could provide new skills. On a wider level, it could be a catalyst for social change. However, voluntary actions could not, and should not, replace the responsibility of Governments towards their citizens.
The year 2011 also marked the European Year of Volunteering, which sought to spotlight the 100 million Europeans who volunteered across the continent. On 3 October 2011, the European Union Council of Ministers pronounced itself on the role of voluntary activities in social policy, which was evidence of the strong political support at all levels for the promotion and enabling of voluntary activities. However, more remained to be done to further enable those activities. Barriers limiting voluntary activities and the full use of their potential still existed. It was necessary to remove those barriers and to effectively harness the positive momentum that the world was currently witnessing.
Access to information on volunteer activities, their value, possibilities and importance for individuals and society must be improved, he stressed. Further, the true worth of volunteerism must be valued and recognized. In that context, the European Union believed that the promotion of “e-volunteering” was an innovative form and a positive aspect of the virtual activity of internet users. A further opening of volunteering schemes to cross-border involvement should be encouraged and the newly-adopted International Labour Organization (ILO) Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work should be drawn upon, he concluded.
MIGUEL BERGER( Germany) congratulated the United Nations Volunteers programme on its efforts to make the International Year a success and on the launch of the first World Report on Volunteerism. While appreciating the work of volunteers worldwide, Germany had long supported their work and had recently held, in cooperation with the Department of Public Information (DPI), a seminar on the strong links between volunteerism and the attainment of agreed development goals. He said that Germany was pleased to be host Government of UNV headquarters and saw that programme as uniquely placed to continue coordinating the global efforts to promote volunteerism and support United Nations activities.
In Germany, thousands of people volunteered, among others, in the field of development policy. Indeed, the Government strongly promoted civic participation at home and globally. Those volunteers developed skills and undertook activities that often led them to participate in broader development cooperation activities. Volunteerism needed the support of both national Governments and the international community. As such, Germany had, and would, continue to support the UNV Special Voluntary Fund, which ensured the participation in volunteerism of a wide range of actors.
GABRIEL FUKS (Argentina) said his Government had established close working relationships with United Nations Volunteers, including in carrying out joint cooperation programmes in places as diverse as Lebanon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and, in 2005, New Orleans, following hurricane Katrina. Argentina had also actively participated in volunteer programmes in Rwanda, Paraguay and Haiti. He said that volunteerism had long been acknowledged as a force in building and expanding social cohesion. Celebrating the International Year was a source of pride for Argentina and his Government would continue to support the work of United Nations Volunteers, and the efforts of all countries working to expand the reach, breadth and impact of their volunteer networks.
JOÃO ALBERTO DOURADO QUINTAES(Brazil), associating itself with the statement made earlier by the representative of the Dominican Republic on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, said that every volunteer was a potential agent of transformation. Brazil acknowledged that volunteerism could be an integral component of any strategy aimed at fostering actions in such fields as poverty reduction, health care, sustainable development, youth empowerment, climate change mitigation, disaster prevention and management, and others. The recognition of volunteers was an asset in designing Brazil’s national policies and programmes, he stressed.
Further, volunteer work and the participation of individuals and communities through a bottom-up approach could play an important role not only in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals but also in the global sustainable development agenda “beyond 2015”. It would, therefore, be necessary to adjust current efforts to the idea that the promotion of all forms of volunteerism should engage and benefit all segments of society, including women, children, young persons, older persons, persons with disabilities, minorities, immigrants and all those who remained excluded for social or economic reasons. To that end, the participation of civil society organizations was of the utmost importance.
Brazil believed that the adoption of an international instrument or convention on volunteerism would help to promote an enabling environment for those actions. Policies could also be designed to underscore the essence of volunteering, building on its traditional forms, as well as on others, such as community volunteering, international volunteering, diaspora volunteering and private sector volunteering.
MIGUEL DIAZ REYNOSO ( Mexico) said that volunteerism was a catalyst for necessary social change and for engendering community participation. The tenth anniversary of the International Year presented a unique opportunity for all segments of society to reflect on, and take stock of, volunteer activity at the national and international level. Mexico had a long tradition of national solidarity, which had seen increasingly structured volunteerism programmes. That had been demonstrated, among other ways, by the successful participation of Mexico’s civil society organizations and volunteers at last year’s Cancun climate change meeting. The promotion of volunteers must also be promoted in upcoming climate meetings, such as Rio+20, he stressed.
In Hungary in September 2011, Mexico had reiterated its commitment to build a culture of volunteerism, which would require more spaces for dialogue between different actors in the field. In Mexico, those many diverse groups interacted and reflected together with the advisory support of United Nations Volunteers. The Government also awarded a national award for volunteer action for important work undertaken. The country realized that challenges remained in ensuring a conducive environment for volunteer work, and that changes were needed, including the diversification of sources of funding and more considered use of digital media and social networking. Taking into account the shared responsibility of Government and civil society, the national forum on volunteerism had sought to strengthen the culture of Mexico’s volunteerism.
Mexico recognized the contribution of volunteerism in moving forward to meet the Millennium Development Goals, and encouraged a forward push in that regard. It asked States to create an enabling environment in that respect, and welcomed the efforts to implement Assembly resolutions promoting volunteer work. In Mexico, he concluded, volunteerism was indeed seen as a “demonstration of the identity of citizenship in the twenty-first century”.
KAZUO KODAMA (Japan) said that during the Secretary-General’s recent visit to his country, which included earthquake- and tsunami-struck Fukushima, the meetings of the United Nations chief with volunteers had been a great encouragement and had contributed to enhancing the sense of cooperation between the Organization and volunteers on the ground. Japan also appreciated Ms. Pansieri’s visit to the earthquake zone, as well as her participation in the national volunteer festival that had been held in Tokyo. He strongly supported the work of United Nations Volunteers and hoped that programme would continue to play a coordinating role, including through the promotion of volunteer activities, the mobilization of volunteers and the development of networking.
He went on to note that the International Year of Volunteers had been initiated by Japan, thanks to Takehito Nakata, who had served as the honorary United Nations Volunteers ambassador for 15 years, and whose son had been killed while working as a United Nations Volunteer in Cambodia. Recalling that young man’s contribution to volunteerism, he also extended his Government’s gratitude to the volunteers who had supported those that had suffered from the earthquake last March. “The warm spirit of the national and international volunteers who supported the troubled areas lifted our spirits greatly and we have learned the importance of people-to-people relations,” he said. As for the Japanese Government’s efforts to promote volunteerism at home, he said it was encouraged, especially for youths and elderly persons, since it could play a catalytic role in promoting societal integration.
HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) said there were positive signs that the world was entering into a new age of volunteerism. As it embraced the concept of inclusiveness, volunteerism was a powerful means through which people could tackle development challenges, promote social change, and empower disadvantaged groups. For its part, Malaysia encouraged the work of voluntary and not-for-profit organizations, and focused on those that provided medical relief and sustainable health-related development for vulnerable communities in crisis and non-crisis settings. Offering examples, he said that in 2010, non-profit organizations in Malaysia had joined the international community’s efforts to raise funds in response to emergency situations in, among others, Haiti, Somalia, Indonesia and Pakistan. It had also participated in humanitarian relief efforts in some of those countries.
He said that the ability to understand and respect other cultures and local sensitivities was at the core of successful engagement, which built trust in the work of volunteers in local communities. The tenth anniversary of the International Year provided an opportunity for unprecedented levels of collaboration among Governments, the United Nations and civil society. Those stakeholders should “join hands” to drive efforts to achieve the goals of the International Year and to praise the “dignified spirit of volunteerism in bringing positive change in our world”.
KHALID ALWAFI ( Saudi Arabia) said that in all civil societies there were individuals and institutions that had the interests of the country at heart, and who worked tirelessly to bridge the gaps in contributing to the development of human capacity. Volunteerism was a symbol of solidarity between members of society, he stressed. In Saudi Arabia, volunteerism emanated from the principles and teachings of the Muslim religion, and was supported by the State. A General Administration of Social Development, and a Directorate General of civil society institutions, had been established; those structures sought to organize the efforts of volunteer actors “in order to address problems”.
Saudi Arabia noted that the goal of volunteerism was to effect positive changes in society; in that respect, organizational and institutional programmes sought to meet the needs of society through training programmes, rehabilitation and cultural programmes, free housing, housing improvements, health care, various kinds of social assistance, and others. Finally, he said, the world faced major challenges, and volunteerism was an extension of the positive global citizenship that would work to address them.
EDITA HRDÁ ( Czech Republic) said that her country was one that contributed financially to the United Nations Volunteer programme on a regular basis. It was working to highlight the work of volunteers, and to engage people — in particular, to young people – in what volunteerism really meant. In that respect, she added, the United Nations Volunteers played an important role in catalyzing related efforts.
ATTILA ZIMONYI ( Hungary) aligned itself with the statement delivered by the representative of the European Union. The tenth anniversary provided an opportunity to evaluate the achievements of the very specific activity of volunteering at the national and international level, he said. Volunteerism constituted a potential “backup” for Governments in addressing challenges and, further, its flexible network enabled Governments to rapidly provide assistance for people in need. In countries facing a deep financial crisis, he noted volunteerism itself could, together with other factors, help them overcome the crisis.
One of the outcomes of the aforementioned European Year of Volunteering would be a strategy on volunteering to set out the general directions of development, in collaboration with all stakeholders, and to strengthen social cohesion and the fulfilment of joint goals. He highlighted the Global Volunteer Conference, jointly organized by the United Nations Volunteers programme and the International Committee of the Red Cross, which had been held in Budapest between 15 and 17 September 2011. The theme of that conference had been “Volunteerism for a Sustainable Future”; it had addressed volunteering as a cross-cutting force bringing together a broad spectrum of peace and development activities.
Turning finally to volunteerism in Hungarian society itself, he said that volunteering had long been regarded as an activity that brought major social benefits to the country, including an increased sense of responsibility and commitment to the local community. Since 1989, Hungary had seen a rapid increase in the number of volunteer organizations, with some 400,000 people currently volunteering each year in Hungary through different organizations.
FATIH HASDEMIR ( Turkey) said that his country considered volunteerism an integral part of its development and the European Union process. Turkey had many volunteer programmes and projects underway, and indeed, it ranked first among 33 European countries participating in the European Union Education and Youth programme. “We strongly believe that every person’s potential to help others should be benefited and supported,” he said, adding that to spread such a vision, the Turkish Government had, among other activities, allocated funds to celebrate the 2011 European Year of Volunteerism and had translated The State of World Volunteerism into Turkish.
That report had been launched today in Turkey with the participation of various stakeholders, including civil society organizations and volunteers themselves. He also noted that the first consultations on that report had been held in Istanbul and that Turkey was thus far the only country that had translated the report into its native language. His Government was committed to carrying the goals of volunteerism forward and, to that end, hoped the resolution adopted earlier today would help pave the way for a better understanding of volunteer work.
KELVIN THOMSON, Member of Parliament of Australia, said that, since the Year of Volunteers in 2001, remarkable success had been seen in the number of volunteers across the world. Volunteers had made a substantial contribution to long-term development, cross-cultural exchange, community-building, social inclusion and poverty reduction. Volunteers brought unique expertise and perspectives to their host countries and communities, and contributed directly to improving people’s lives. With a long and proud history of volunteering at home and abroad, more than 6 million Australians were volunteers, giving more than 700 million hours of their time each year to assist others.
Since the 1960s, Australia had supported more than 12,000 Australians to volunteer in 33 countries in Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East and Africa, he said. Volunteerism was an important part of Australia’s aid programme and support for the Millennium Development Goals. The Government was further increasing its contribution to volunteering overseas, and would invest $55 million to support volunteer programmes overseas. It was also working to make it easier for more Australians to volunteer their services in developing countries, in line with the priorities of the Australian government’s aid program. Australia would continue to support United Nations Volunteers for its important advocacy efforts and coordination role for more than 8,000 volunteers in 134 countries. The launch of the first United Nations State of the World’s Volunteerism report marked a significant milestone in the recognition of volunteer efforts worldwide, and ensuring their potential was harnessed to achieve peace and development, including the Millennium Development Goals.
CESARE MARIA RAGAGLINI (Italy), aligning his statement with that delivered by the European Union, said that important progress had been made at the national and international level in recognizing the contribution of volunteerism to the development of more just societies — and that was mainly thanks to the efforts of the United Nations Volunteers. Volunteerism was a major component of Italian society, and there was in place a clear legislative framework that recognized the social value and function of volunteerism, while ensuring its autonomy, pluralism, and growth.
Volunteerism not only had a positive economic impact: most of all it had an added value for society, he said, because it fostered social cohesion and, when dealing with youth, built the blocks of an “active citizenship”, which was at the very heart of democratic life. For all those reasons, Italy supported international volunteerism through its development cooperation. In that context, specific provisions had been adopted to encouraged citizens to become volunteers abroad. Ten years after the International Year of Volunteerism and four years away from the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals, the international community should firmly renew its commitment to achieving those goals. Quoting the UNICEF Goodwill ambassador Angelique Kidjo, he said that when people got involved and volunteered to improve their community or their society, hope became a reality and lives were changed forever.
MARWAN JILANI, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said that, worldwide, the federation’s 187 National Societies were taking the development of volunteering more seriously than ever before, establishing good volunteer management systems and conducting research to better understand the value and needs of volunteers. During the tenth anniversary year in 2011, the IFRC had added to the knowledge on volunteering by producing reports on the economic and social value of its volunteers. The Volunteering in Emergencies Report advocated for a number of actions to help protect, promote, and recognize volunteers, such as ensuring that volunteers had appropriate training and equipment, providing insurance to volunteers who risked injury or their lives, providing safe access to all vulnerable groups, integrating volunteer capacity into domestic emergency response plans and reviewing existing laws and addressing gaps in legislation related to volunteers.
He said that volunteers boosted community resilience, strengthened sustainable development and extended reach to the most vulnerable in society. Over the past ten years, the IFRC had produced a clear picture of further actions needed to better protect, promote and recognize volunteers. Working with respective public authorities, member national societies would continue to create and maintain an enabling environment for volunteering and would work specifically to implement the resolution on volunteering development adopted at the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent held in Geneva last week. According to one volunteer, such work gave individuals the confidence to make a change and to contribute to and improve communities.
* *** *For information media • not an official record