Volunteerism and the International
Year of Volunteers
Message by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan,
President of the United Nations General Assembly
Social development, including questions relating to the world
social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and
26 November 2002
Ladies and Gentlemen:
the General Assembly will engage in a discussion on volunteerism
and reflect on the International Year of Volunteers.
has an important place in our society. Local voluntary involvement
is a valuable and indispensable contribution to the betterment
of social conditions, promotion of economic development, and
empowering people to take charge. It spans over a broad array
of areas, ranging from supporting democratization and peace-building
initiatives, electoral assistance, verifying human rights, humanitarian
aid to education, gender mainstreaming, health-care or sustaining
the environment, just to name a few. Volunteerism reinforces
a sense of collective responsibility and brings about a tangible
difference to the lives of many and self-fulfillment to the
individual volunteer. The potential of volunteerism to contribute
significantly to the attainment of the Millennium Goals cannot
International Year of Volunteers was a milestone in recognizing
the tireless work of volunteers around the world. It generated
and mobilized public awareness. It helped to connect volunteers
of various parts of the world, and most importantly, it created
an environment conducive and motivating to volunteer action.
Clearly, many more governments now see volunteerism as a valuable
asset which needs to be strategically factored into development
policies and programmes.
International Year of Volunteers was launched with a view to
achieving four main objectives: recognition, facilitation, networking,
and promotion of volunteering. Accomplishments in all of these
areas have been remarkable. The recognition of volunteerism
was advanced by a number of research studies that were conducted
globally and nationally through international support and cooperation.
The role and contribution of Volunteerism in human development
has been recognized by the highest authorities in most countries.
Several concrete actions have been taken by them to incorporate
this factor into their development strategies. The United Nations
Volunteers (UNV) programme, which was established over thirty
years ago, and its UN Volunteers, have set a noble example through
their services in various capacities around the world. The United
Nations system, with its specialized agencies and programmes,
is committed to increased involvement to promote volunteerism.
very important achievement of the International Year of Volunteers
is the facilitation of volunteering through a number of measures.
One of the principle areas has been the enactment of new, or
strengthening of existing, legislation which will make the volunteer
action in many countries easier. Also important in this respect
were consultations on policy options and creation of new volunteer-support
mechanisms and infrastructure such as volunteer centers, volunteer
corps, national commissions as advisory bodies, national forums
and so on.
achievement of the International Year of Volunteers was the
involvement of non-traditional actors, such as the private sector.
In addition, it engaged persons who might rather be associated
with receiving of volunteer help such as older persons, persons
with disabilities, persons living with HIV/AIDS, or refugees.
Their involvement and empowerment is of special significance.
International Year of Volunteers also helped to build networks
of volunteers, thereby giving the volunteers in individual countries
a sense of inter-connective support and mutuality. It gave an
opportunity for a number of meetings and organizing workshops,
training courses to share and exchange information and best
media, including radio stations, television programmes, newspapers,
was harnessed in promotion of volunteerism. Promotional events
and tools such as booklets, posters or commemorative postage
stamps were undertaken.
International Year of Volunteers has put volunteering on a more
solid basis for the years to come. But a great deal still needs
to be done if volunteerism is to fulfill its potential. General
Assembly resolution 56/38 last year provided some invaluable
pointers in this respect. Governments should continue to support
and develop the volunteerism infrastructure and technical cooperation.
International organizations, civil society and private sector
should also continue to support volunteer movement. The unique
relationship between volunteerism and the United Nations should
be reinforced and developed.
International Year of Volunteers has played its role superbly.
It invigorated and energized the movement of volunteer action.
In closing, let me pay a tribute to all those that made this
success possible. A special recognition goes to the United Nations
Volunteers that acted as a focal point for the International
Year of Volunteers and to the many civil society volunteer involving
organizations which played a vital role in ensuring that the
Year had a global outreach. Recognition must also go to many
governments from the North and the South which contributed to
many of the specific activities and events. But above all, the
utmost recognition and homage goes to the millions of dedicated
women and men around the globe who are acting out their sense
of citizenship through voluntary action. Your cause is noble
and your endeavors invaluable in our common effort to bring
about a better world. I wish you much success.