Day for Economic and Social Development
Message by H.E. Mr. Jan Kavan, President of the United Nations
5 December 2002
Today we celebrate the volunteers and their important
contributions to society. Volunteerism has an important place
in our society and the potential for its role in attaining the
United Nations Millennium Goals is untapped and unlimited. 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 covers
every human activity, from the informal sector to the formal
sector. It spans all areas, ranging from supporting democratization
and peace-building initiatives, electoral assistance, verifying
human rights, humanitarian aid, education, gender mainstreaming,
health-care or sustaining the environment. Volunteerism is inclusive
of all ages and reinforces a sense of collective responsibility
and makes a tangible difference to the lives of people in a
community. In the process the individual volunteer experiences
self-fulfillment, thereby creating a win-win situation.
The International Year of Volunteers ended on
5 December 2001. It was launched with a view to achieving four
main objectives: recognition, facilitation, networking, and
promotion of volunteering. Achievements 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 highest authorities in most countries have recognized the
crucial role of Volunteers in human development programmes.
Several concrete actions have been taken by them to incorporate
this volunteerism into their development strategies. The Year
helped to facilitate volunteering through a number of specific
measures, such as enactment of new, or strengthening of existing,
legislation which will make the volunteer action in many countries
easier. Consultations on policy options and creation of new
volunteer-support mechanisms and infrastructure such as volunteer
centers, volunteer corps, national commissions as advisory bodies
and national forums are already in place in several countries.
For networking, the International Year of Volunteers
was a milestone in recognizing the tireless work of volunteers.
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. Many more governments now see volunteerism as a valuable
asset that needs to be strategically factored into development
policies and programmes. The International Year, in addition
to building networks of volunteers, provided the volunteers
in individual countries, a sense of inter-connective support
and mutuality. It gave an opportunity for organizing a number
of meetings, workshops and training courses, to share and exchange
information and best practices. Very importantly, it engaged
persons who may have been perceived as passive recipients only
of volunteer help, such as older persons, persons living with
HIV/AIDS, and large populations of refugees and displaced persons.
Volunteerism was promoted through the media, including radio
stations, television programmes, journals and newspapers. Promotional
events were organized internationally and tools such as booklets,
posters and commemorative postage stamps were published and
distributed. We hope that the media will continue this trend
of promoting volunteerism.
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme,
which was established over thirty years ago, had the responsibility
to coordinate and plan the activities during the International
Year of Volunteers and will continue to promote this essential
component in the formula to eradicate poverty. The United Nations
agencies, are also committed to increased involvement to promote
The International Year of Volunteers has enhanced
the concept of volunteerism by invigorating and energizing the
movement of volunteer action and by putting volunteering on
a more solid basis for the years to come. In this respect, governments,
international organizations, civil society, and private sector
should continue to support and develop the volunteerism infrastructure
and technical cooperation. The unique relationship between volunteerism
and the United Nations will continue to be reinforced and developed.
The International Volunteer Day is an occasion
to recognize the invaluable contribution of volunteers and to
thank the women and men who devote themselves to voluntary service.
We pay tribute to all those performing volunteer services and
particularly to the United Nations Volunteer programme and its
UN Volunteers, who have set a noble example through their services
in various capacities around the world.