STATEMENT
BY
SHARON CAPELING-AlAKIJA

 EXECUTIVE CO-ORDINATOR UNITED NATIONS VOLUNTEERS
ON THE OCCASION OF
HABITAT+ 5
International Year of Volunteers
(New York, June 2001)


DISTINGUISHED DELEGATES, COLLEAGUES AND FRIENDS:

WE ARE HERE TODAY TO DISCUSS WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVE; SINCE HABITAT II IN 1996. I HAVE SOME GOOD NEWS:  THE UNITED NATIONS VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME THE VOLUNTEER ARM OF THE UN SYSTEM HAS EMBRACED THE URBAN CHALLENGE. SHORTLY AFTER THE ISTANBUL MEETING,UNV LAUNCHED ITS STRATEGY 2000, WHICH IDENTIFIED URBAN DEVELOPMENT AS ONE OF THREE PRIORITY AREAS. FIVE YEARS ON, IN THIS, THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS, WE ARE PLEASED TO BE ABLE TO TALK ABOUT CONCRETE RESULTS. UNV HAS WORKED TO IMPLEMENT THE HABITAT AGENDA BY MOBILIZING UN VOLUNTEERS AS WELL AS BY PROMOTING AND SUPPORTING DIFFERENT TYPES OF,VOLUNTEERISM IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES AND COUNTRIES IN TRANSITION.  MAKING CITIES WORK FOR PEOPLE HAS IN RECENT YEARS BECOME AN EVEN MORE CRITICAL PART OF OUR MISSION. WHILE MANY PEOPLE IMAGINE, THAT INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEERS SPEND THEIR TIME IN REMOTE VILLAGES, AND INDEED, MANY OF THEM DO, IN FACT, MANY OTHER UN VOLUNTEERS ARE ALSO HARD AT WORK IN CITIES AND TOWNS - ESPECIALLY INNER CITIES AND SHANTYTOWNS.

LET ME CITE SOME EXAMPLES OF UN VOLUNTEERS IN ACTION:

· IN TEMA, GHANA, UN VOLUNTEERS ARE HELPING LOCAL AUTHORITIES TO IMPROVE THE MUNICIPAL TAX SYSTEM. WITH THEIR VALUE - ADDED NEUTRALITY TRUSTWORTHINESS AND SOLIDARITY, THE UN VOLUNTEERS SERVE AS BROKERS STRIVING BETWEEN TAXPAYERS AND LOCAL OFFICIALS IN AN EFFORT TO MAKE THE SYSTEM WORK.
· IN SEVERAL CARIBBEAN ISLAND STATES, UNV SPECIALISTS WORK IN URBAN SETTINGS TO PREVENT DRUG A AND TREAT ADDICTS.
· MANY UN WORK WITH STREET CHILDREN IN CITIES AROUND THE WORLD. IN VIETNAM'S HO CHI MINH CITY, WHICH HAS AN ESTIMATED 10,000 STREET CHILDREN, UN VOLUNTEERS TOGETHER WITH THE CITY'S CHILD WELFARE FOUNDATION HAVE SET UP "STREET VISION,"AN EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMME WHICH GIVES CHILDREN THE CHANCE TO STUDY DRAMA,  CIRCUS ACTIVITIES, AND PHOTOGRAPHY, AS WELL AS TO EXHIBIT THEIR WORK.
· IN BULGARIA, GUATEMALA, NEPAL, PALESTINE AND UZBEKISTAN, UN VOLUNTEERS WITH URBAN PLANNING AND ARCHITECTURAL EXPERTISE HAVE DEDICATED THEMSELVES TO REVITALIZING PARTS OF OLD CITIES BY RESTORING BUILDINGS, STREETS AND PARKS.

THESE ARE JUST A FEW OF THE WAYS  IN WHICH UNVS ARE HELPING TO ADDRESS THE PROBLEMS OF CITYDWELLERS.  WORKING DAILY IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH LOCAL PARTNERS, UN VOLUNTEERS HAVE PROVEN THEMSELVES CAPABLE PERFORMERS IN LONG-TERM URBAN DEVELOPMENT EFFORTS. THE ROLE OF A UN VOLUNTEER CARRYING OUT THESE ACTIVITIES,  COMPLEMENTS THE INITIATIVES OF LOCAL VOLUNTEERS.  UN VOLUNTEERS ARE OFTEN ABLE TO TAP INTO THE UN SYSTEM, TO BRING FRESH AND RAPID RESPONSE TO EMERGING PROBLEMS.  ADDITIONALLY, UN VOLUNTEERS COMING IN FROM THE OUTSIDE CAN BECAUSE OF THEIR PERCEIVED NEUTRALITY  SOMETIMES HELP AVOID.LOCAL POLITICAL PRESSURES.

OBVIOUSLY, WE ARE NOT ALONE OUT THERE AS CITY-CONSCIOUS VOLUNTEERS, IN URBAN AREAS EITHER THROUGH SERVICE ORGANIZATIONS OR  SPONTANEOUSLY TO BUILD LATRINES, IMPROVE SANITATION, INCREASE ACCESS TO HEALTH CARE, PREVENT CRIME AND GIVE HOPE TO TEENAGE MOTHERS AND THE UNEMPLOYED.  HOWEVER, WE HAVE COME TO REALIZE THROUGH CONTACTS WITH OUR GLOBAL PARTNERS, THAT ALL TOO OFTEN PEOPLE WHO HELP OTHERS DO NOT REGARD THEMSELVES AS VOLUNTEERS.

INDEED, MANY PEOPLE, BOTH IN THE NORTH AND THE SOUTH, MIGHT NOT BE AWARE OF THE VARIOUS FORMS VOLUNTEERISM TAKES IN THEIR HOME COUNTRIES. THEY MIGHT NOT REALIZE THAT VOLUNTEERISM IS, IN FACT, DEEPLY IMBEDDED IN ALL NATIONAL CULTURES THROUGH TRADITIONS OF CARING AND SHARING EVEN IF IT IS NOT FORMALLY RECOGNIZED AS VOLUNTEERING IN TOWNS AND MAJOR CITIES.

WHILE VOLUNTEERISM IS FUNDAMENTAL IN HUMAN SETTLEMENTS, IT IS STILL OVERLOOKED AS A RESOURCE. IT IS IMPORTANT TO DISCUSS WAYS TO EXPAND ITS ROLE IN URBAN DEVELOPMENT. CITIES ARE SHAPED BY THE SUM OF THE INNUMERABLE DAILY DECISIONS, ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS OF INDIVIDUALS AND GROUPS. MANY OF THE MALADIES THAT CURRENTLY PLAGUE URBAN AREAS COULD BE EASED OR EVEN ELIMINATED IF SUCH DECISIONS, ATTITUDES AND BEHAVIORS CARRIED A GREATER DEGREE OF SOLIDARITY. VOLUNTEERISM CAN BE INSTRUMENTAL IN HELPING STRENGTHEN THE NORMS OF SOLIDARITY AND RECIPROCITY, SO ESSENTIAL FOR STABLE COMMUNITIES FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF CARING CITIES.

CALL THEM WHAT YOU MAY - WHO JOIN IN TO DOG WELLS, TO FIX ROADS, TO REPAIR SCHOOLS OR REBUILD A HOME DESTROYED BY FIRE. THEY HELP THOSE IN NEED IN A SPIRIT OF SELF-HELP, TRUST AND RECIPROCITY.

SUCH RECIPROCAL RELATIONSHIPS ARE ALIVE AND WELL ALL OVER THE WORLD. IN RWANDA, THE WORD IS DUFATANYE. IN KENYA, IT IS HARAMBEE. IN BANGLADESH, IT IS KNOWN AS KELA. MUTUAL AID IS PRESENT IN OTHER CULTURES AS WELL. IN THE ANDES, THEY SPEAK OF  MINGA. IN FINLAND, WORK FOR THE COMMON GOOD IN COMMUNITIES IS CALLED TALKOO. ON THE OTHER END OF THE GLOBE, THE MAORI PEOPLE IN NEW ZEALAND CALL IT WHANAUNGATANGA. WHAT ALL OF IT MEANS IS BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER AND WORKING LIKE A FAMILY IN VILLAGES, WE BELIEVE THIS STORY OF VOLUNTEER ACTION - MOST NOTABLY DURING THIS INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS - IS WELL WORTH TELLING.

THANK YOU.