Fifty-sixth General Assembly
75th and 76th Meetings (AM and PM)
MARKING END OF INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS, GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENCOURAGES
ALL PEOPLE TO BECOME MORE ENGAGED IN VOLUNTARY ACTIVITIES
Resolution Containing Recommendations for Volunteer Action Adopted without a Vote
The General Assembly today marked the closing of the International Year of Volunteers (2001) by adopting a resolution on recommendations for volunteer action, in which it commended the ongoing contributions of all volunteers to society, encouraged all people to become more engaged in voluntary activities, and decided that two plenary meetings at its fifty-seventh session on 5 December 2002 should be devoted to the outcome of the International Year of Volunteers and its follow-up. Specific recommendations on ways governments and the United Nations system could support volunteering are contained in an annex to the resolution.
Between the two sessions commemorating the Year of Volunteer today, there was a Special Event to mark the closing of the Year which included a video presentation, a musical performance and presentations by eminent persons for the year, Prince Felipe de Asturias and Dr. Nafis Sadik.
The International Year of Volunteers 2001 had provided a valuable opportunity to heighten public awareness and support for volunteerism at a global level, said Dumansi Kumalo, delivering a statement on behalf of the President of the General Assembly. More than 120 national committees had hosted activities in 200 cities, promoting a volunteerism that was more needed today than ever. The fundamental desire to help each other would build a peaceful world if mobilized and channeled. Volunteerism was at the heart of United Nations ideals.
The representative of Japan said that volunteers did not only reaffirm faith in humanity during major tragedies, they also played an important role in daily life. While the current session marked the close of the International Year of Volunteers 2001, it was critical to maintain the momentum that had been built up over the Year. The opportunity must be seized to use the foundations cultivated over the Year as a springboard to a brighter future, as the first year of voluntary efforts toward creating a new and better society.
Mankind had always sought to improve the imperfect world in which it lived, said the representative of Niger. There was nothing new in the desire to seek to ease destitution, but one of the characteristics of the new century was a collective desire to tackle the causes of poverty and destruction together. That was not about charity but about countries helping their neighbors to help themselves. That, he stressed, was the point of modern volunteerism.
Australia's representative stressed that while promoting volunteers, communities should not overlook the great generosity of young people. Young people were full of energy and keen to find places and projects that allowed them to give something back to the world. The international community must ensure that their contributions were recognized and encouraged. It was important that the altruism of youth did not go to waste.
The International Federation of the Red Cross saw the International year of Volunteers as a success that would have an impact for years to come, said its representative. Governments had seen that their actions could have an impact on volunteering and through the promotion and networking of the Year, and organizations had been inspired to improve their systems of reward and recognition for volunteers. Volunteer organizations could not succeed alone, however. They needed the support and cooperation of their governments in order to develop a volunteer-friendly environment.
Also addressing the Assembly today were the representatives of the Netherlands, Belgium, on behalf of the European Union, China, the United States, Germany, Tunisia, Brazil, Nepal, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Canada, Uruguay, Israel, the Republic of Korea, Thailand, Suriname, the Council of Europe and Kuwait.
The General Assembly will meet again tomorrow morning, Thursday, 6 December, at 10:00 a.m. to begin consideration of co-operation between the United Nations and regional and other organizations.
The General Assembly met today to review volunteer activities, at two plenary meetings to mark the closing of the International Year of Volunteers. The subject was to be discussed under the Assembly’s agenda item on Social development, including questions relating to the world social situation and to youth, ageing, disabled persons and the family.
Support for Volunteering
The Committee had before it a report from the Secretary-General on Support for Volunteering (document A/56/288), which describes volunteerism as an integral part of any strategy aimed a poverty reduction, sustainable development and social integration, particularly one focusing on overcoming social exclusion and discrimination. The Secretary-General refers to the role of the United Nations Volunteers programme as the designated focal point for the International Year.
The report details the contributions of volunteering, including a survey suggesting that volunteering equals 9 million full-time jobs with a value of
$225 billion a year in the United States. It says that halving extreme poverty by 2015, or making serious inroads to assist 700 million people without access to primary health care, clearly calls for a massive voluntary effort from concerned people with appropriate Government support.
It also describes the support volunteerism obtains, or could obtain, within the United Nations system. It suggests using awareness-raising mechanisms and United Nations networks to distribute information about the link between volunteerism and major global concerns through technical and flagship publications, workshops and Internet sites.
Recommendations on Support for Volunteering
The Assembly also had before it a draft resolution on Recommendations on support for volunteering (document A/56/L.27). Under its terms, the Assembly would commend the ongoing contributions of all volunteers to society, including in extraordinary conditions such as disasters, and encourage all people to become more engaged in voluntary activities.
The Assembly would call on all Governments and organizations of the United Nations system to consider how the Recommendations on ways Governments and the United Nations system could support volunteering. It would decide that two plenary meetings at its next (fifty-seventh) session on 5 December 2002, the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, should be devoted to the outcome of the International Year of Volunteers and its follow-up.
The Assembly would further request the Secretary-General to take specific measures to widely distribute the resolution, and include proposals for an integrated and coordinated follow-up in his report at the Assembly’s fifty-seventh session.
The annex to the draft, “Recommendations on ways Governments and the United Nations system could support volunteering”, recommends that Governments support voluntary activities by increasing public awareness of their vital contribution to the social and economic functioning of their communities, and take general measures to encourage and facilitate them. Governments should also prepare, train and recognize volunteers, and enable fiscal, legislative and other frameworks for community-based and not-for-profit organizations engaged in volunteering. They should also integrate volunteerism into national development planning, and recognize the potential contribution of volunteerism to sustainable development goals.
The annex also recommends that the organizations and bodies of the United Nations system further support voluntary activities by creating a favourable environment through various measures, including awareness-raising, recognizing the contributions of volunteers, involving them in programmes, interlinking with national initiatives, and long-term planning to enhance social capital by including all segments of society in volunteering;
The draft is sponsored by Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Bolivia, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, China, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Fiji, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Norway, Panama, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Saint Lucia, San Marino, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Suriname, Tajikistan, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States.
International Year of Volunteers
To highlight volunteer activities worldwide and encourage more people to join in, the United Nations General Assembly in 1997 proclaimed 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers. As a United Nations focal point for the year, the United Nations Volunteers programme aims to build on existing networks and seek new areas of advocacy and research to help organizations and governments boost the impact of volunteers.
More than 19,000 volunteer organizations and individuals have so far registered their support for the Year on the interactive Web site, 222.iyv2001.org. The site contains tools for volunteer promoters and event coordinators, as well as background information and contacts for non-governmental organizations and journalists. Currently there are 124 national committees for the Year as well as 75 local, regional and state committees and eight city committees.
DUMISANI KUMALO (South Africa), Vice-President of the General Assembly, delivered a statement for the occasion on behalf of HAN SEUNG-SOO (Republic of Korea).
He noted that today marked the close of the International Year of Volunteers 2001, and that the Year had provided a valuable opportunity to heighten public awareness and support for volunteerism at a global level. More than 120 national committees had hosted activities in 200 cities. Those seminars, exhibitions and campaigns had celebrated and promoted the volunteerism that was more needed today than ever, with both national and transnational problems growing. Volunteers made a significant contribution to curing ills such as environmental degradation, poverty, HIV/AIDS, drug trafficking and terrorism by their activities in the fields of social and economic development and humanitarian aid, in the promotion of peace, democracy and respect for human rights.
Volunteering was different from other activities, he said. Volunteers brought enthusiasm and exuberance to the work they did. The work, in turn, enriched them. People who volunteered were better able to develop their potential, to share their knowledge and skills and thereby gain opportunities to advance their careers. Volunteering also enhanced self-esteem. It widened social, economic and cultural networks. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) was sending 4,000 volunteers annually to developing countries.
Calling for a renewal of the commitment generated during the Year, he said the fundamental desire to help each other would build a peaceful world if mobilized and channeled. Volunteerism was at the heart of United Nations ideals.
HIROMICHI WATANABE (Japan), introducing the draft resolution, “Recommendations on support for volunteering” (document A/56/L.27), said that amid the tragedy of 11 September, the one bright spot in people’s hearts came from the countless volunteers who had rushed to the disaster sites from throughout the United States and across the globe, to offer both spiritual and material support to the victims and their families. He recalled that the government of Japan had originally proposed the International Year of Volunteers in 1997, as a result of its own experiences of crises that had threatened precious human life. The phenomenal support offered to Japan after the Great Hanshin-Awaji earthquake of 1995 had led his country to recognize anew the critical role of volunteers in contemporary society.
Volunteers not only reaffirmed faith in humanity during major tragedies, they also played an important role in daily life in diverse fields ranging from elderly and nursing care to environmental preservation. While the end of the cold war and the progress of globalization were providing diverse benefits in economic development, they were also forcing the international community to recognize the many grave direct threats to human life that transcended national boundaries. In order to cope with such threats, the Japanese government had been calling on the international community to acknowledge the concept of “human security”, to protect the lives and dignity of each and every human being, so that all people could pursue their abundant potential to enjoy creative and worthwhile lives.
While this Assembly session marked the close of the International Year of Volunteers 2001, Japan believed it to be critical to maintain the momentum that had been built up over the year. The International Year of Volunteers could not be allowed to end merely as a single year event; rather, the opportunity must be seized to use the foundations cultivated over the year as a springboard to a brighter future, as the first year of voluntary efforts toward creating a new and better society.
PAUL PETERS (Netherlands) joined Japan in introducing the draft resolution containing recommendations on support for volunteering (document A/56/L.27). He noted the background texts mentioned in the preambular section, and said the contribution of volunteers to society was widely recognized. Operative paragraph 6 introduced the recommendations contained in the annex, while paragraph 9 provided for the Assembly’s consideration of them. The resolution called on governments and the United Nations system to consider them as well.
He said the recommendations were intended to present options for policies on volunteering. They were based on the Secretary-General’s report and represented views from all over the world. They did not advocate a single model of best practice, since that would vary from one country to the next depending on culture and tradition. Policy options included public recognition of volunteer contributions to society, establishing a volunteer centre, using the media to promote volunteering and integrating volunteerism into development planning.
Noting a change in the resolution, he said paragraph 6 would now have the Assembly present the recommendations rather than agree on them. Also, additional co-sponsors were as follows: Barbados, Belarus, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Ghana, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Madagascar, Malaysia, Marshall Islands, Mongolia, Niger, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Swaziland, Sweden, Thailand, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Tanzania, Uruguay, Yugoslavia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Comoros, Costa Rica and Colombia.
STEPHANE DE LOECKER (Belgium), speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that the International Year of Volunteers had done much to focus the attention of the international community on voluntary work. Outlining the benefits of such work for both the individual and society, he said that it was the task of governments to draw up strategies and programmes to promote it; a partnership between public authorities and civil society was needed for the expansion and long-term viability of volunteer programmes.
He said that last month the European Union had approved a resolution on the added value of voluntary activity for young people in the context of development of community action. That text invited European Union members to take measures to remove legal and administrative obstacles to opportunities for national and international youth voluntary activity, and to strengthen the role of such activity, using, where appropriate, the strategic objectives of the United Nations formulated for the International Year of Volunteers.
He drew attention to the draft resolution before the Assembly on recommendations for support for volunteering, and congratulated the United Nations Volunteers programme on its work. Finally, he reaffirmed the European Union’s support for that programme and encouraged it to continue its efforts.
SHEN GUOFANG (China) said that volunteerism, which was a perfect representation of love, dedication, unity and service, belonged to the wealth of fine qualities of the whole of humanity. Volunteer services were becoming an important part of human activities. They represented behaviour pushing forward social development and promoting human progress. In that context, it was very important that the United Nations had declared this year the International Year of Volunteers.
After years of efforts, a nationwide network of volunteer service organizations had taken shape in China. According to statistics, more than
24,000 service centres had been established across the country. The volunteers’ contributions and efforts had not only brought enormous benefits to China’s economic and social development, they had also played a highly positive role in promoting social stability, trust and integration, as well as cultural development and social values.
Young volunteers stood as the main force of volunteerism in China today, he said. Their work included the promotion of development and the eradication of poverty, community services, public welfare and environmental protection.
LLOYD PIERSON (United States), Acting Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, said that when faced with challenges such as illiteracy, poverty, crime and environmental problems, the United States had always relied on the dedication and action of the volunteer community. America's International Year of Volunteers Steering Committee established a goal to celebrate and advocate volunteerism around the world through a strategy of awareness, engagement and capacity building. Nowhere was that strategy more clearly demonstrated than during and following the tragic events of 11 September. "As workers in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, as well as others throughout the United States demonstrated, volunteers are the very core to our survival as a society."
He cited the Corporation for Community and National Service, in AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America among examples of volunteer groups in the United States. Many individuals throughout the country devoted much of their time and energy to helping others, he said. That help was generally provided through government, non-profit and non-governmental organizations, corporations and faith-based groups.
The United States was a strong advocate of volunteerism both domestically and internationally. The Government also partnered, through the Peace Corps, with the United Nations Volunteer Programme, described as "one of the hidden jewels of the United Nations system". Close to 5,000 men and women representing over
150 nationalities were serving each year in developing countries as United Nations Volunteers. This year alone, the Programme mobilized 900 United Nations volunteers to serve in the United Missions in East Timor.
EDITH NIEHUIS, Parliamentary State Secretary, Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (Germany) highlighted her country’s efforts to harness the potential of its vast numbers of volunteers -– some
22 million men and women comprising nearly 34 per cent of the population -– to open up new avenues for voluntary social commitment. She said Germany’s campaign for the International Year of Volunteers, entitled "My Skills are Invaluable", had been designed to support the activities carried out by voluntary organizations in commemoration of the Year and included advertisements, posters and a travelling exhibition.
During the Year, Germany had become more involved than ever before in international cooperation in volunteering. Voluntary social work, without a thought to financial gain, was also important in the area of development cooperation. Such cooperation was more than dispatching highly paid experts or financing ambitious development projects. It depended most of all on the commitment of numerous voluntary workers in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), ‘town twinning’ projects and the untiring efforts of thousands of development workers, labouring not for financial incentives but rather in the interest of personal contact, cultural exchange and international solidarity.
Voluntary work, she continued, was the foundation of democratic society and the basis of social cohesion and sustained development. Indeed, volunteers were society’s capital. At the same time, voluntary work was not a renewable resource. Its continuance and success required public recognition, fostering and supportive framework conditions. Active participation by the State -- through legislation -– to create those conditions that could foster social commitment and a culture of recognition and partnership was also necessary.
In that regard, the international community along with State governments and administrations had some catching up to do, she said. As a co-sponsor of the resolution before the Assembly, Germany hoped the ‘recommendations on support for volunteering’ would be widely embraced and, subsequently, implemented. Just as society thrived on participation and voluntary work, it followed that if participation and social inclusion were at the centre of international cooperation efforts, the more volunteering would be promoted at the international level and the more non-governmental organizations would be taken seriously as partners in all areas of policy.
MAHMOUD KAROUI (Tunisia) said that volunteering played an important role in society, encouraging solidarity, building trust and enhancing the sense of belonging to society as a whole. It contributed to growth in all social and economic areas and even significantly promoted society itself. Volunteers had also participated effectively and responsibly in assisting governments.
The positive role of volunteers in mitigating the negative effects of globalization must be recognized, he continued. Tunisia had opted for an approach to development that was based on all sectors of society, and therefore prized volunteering. His country had striven to enhance voluntary work and build it into the fabric of society. The creation of a fund in 1993 for voluntary activities showed how deeply they had permeated Tunisian society. He appealed to the international community to create an international volunteer fund which could assist in reaching the Millennium goal of halving the number of people living in the developing world on less than under $1 a day by 2015.
Tunisia had launched events during the Year of Volunteers to recognize volunteer activities, especially in safeguarding the environment, he said. Young people had increased their contributions to voluntary campaigns, benefiting especially the old, sick and injured. He thanked the United Nations Volunteers programme, which had successfully organized the coordination of the Year’s activities, and urged all nations to strengthen volunteer activities.
GELSON FONSECA Jr. (Brazil) said that voluntary action, although a powerful tool to fight social exclusion, had been largely overlooked as an instrument for enhancing the impact of social policies. In Brazil, for example, decentralization of resources and of decision-making had been made possible in the education sector by actively pursuing parental and community involvement and participation in schools. Furthermore, the widely recognized positive results of the Brazilian HIV/AIDS programme would not have been possible without voluntary action at the community level.
In his report, the Secretary-General reminded the Organization that the polio eradication initiative spearheaded by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization, had brought infection rates down by
99 per cent with the help of over 10 million volunteers. Its manifold positive results indicated clearly that it was an experience to be replicated as the international community struggled to eradicate and control other deadly diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. The United Nations could only benefit from the increased involvement of volunteers in its activities.
Volunteerism had always been a feature of Brazilian society, he continued. Recent research suggested that approximately 25 per cent of the Brazilian population were engaged in some sort of volunteer work. Recent activities carried out as part of the International Year of Volunteers had involved the active participation of all segments of society. The lessons of Brazil’s successful experience pointed in the direction of a new pattern of relationship between State and society, in which the duty of the State and the responsibility of the citizen appeared as complementary dimensions of one identical process of participation and social development.
MOUTARI OUSAME (Niger) said that the obligation to help one’s neighbour and the selfless spirit of generosity called altruism, were as ancient as the world. Mankind had always sought to improve the imperfect world in which it lived. There was nothing new in the desire to seek to ease destitution, but one of the characteristics of this new century was a collective desire to tackle the causes of poverty and destruction. This was not about charity but about helping neighbours to help themselves. This was the point of modern volunteerism.
He said Niger had approached this important event with an unshakeable faith in the ability of all people to help one another. This was a basic challenge for human rights in the twenty-first century. Poverty eradication came from reinforcing civil society and creating an enabling environment for good governance. His country had set poverty eradication strategy as a natural priority, and the authorities had used national volunteers to provide teachers and health care personnel.
He said that on behalf of his government, he wished to thank and congratulate all volunteers. In the light of the positive outcome regarding the targets set for this year, it was a good opportunity to say that he hoped that these activities would go beyond 2001. However, they needed to be better structured and better supported.
SHIVA KUMAR BASNET (Nepal) said social development had deservedly been a high priority of the international community for a very long time. Promoting the economic and social advancement of all peoples had been at the core of the United Nations since its beginnings. The international conferences of the 1990s had been instrumental in creating a greater awareness in the field of social development. They had helped the realization grow that integrating economic development with social and cultural aspects of life was the path to the advancement of societies. A great substantial share of the credit belonged to international volunteers, in particular the United Nations Volunteers. Still, social injustice, exclusion and marginalization not only lingered but were even increasing. That situation should not be allowed to continue.
He said a holistic approach could solve all problems, including those linked to youth, ageing, the disabled and the family, which were intricately related to the wider social picture. Social, economic and demographic dimensions of development were so interlinked it was difficult to isolate one from the other. The blueprint for a just and equitable world had been laid down at the Copenhagen Summit. It had been reiterated in Geneva five years later. Active cooperation on the part of all in the international community would mobilize the necessary resources for building an enabling environment, if it was acknowledged as an imperative. Affluent countries could set aside a part of their affluence to reduce the burden of poverty through enhanced debt-relief initiatives, greater market access for poor countries’ products and increased official development assistance. The potential presented by volunteering could lend a strongly supportive hand to the process.
Nepal accorded a high priority to development of the social sector, he said. However, a group of domestic terrorists, the so-called Maoists, were launching an armed struggle to destroy democratic norms and values. The army had been compelled to declare a state of emergency. The international community had been supportive of Nepal, a top five supplier of volunteers to the United Nations and to its own nation-building efforts since 1974. In short, volunteering was a cost-effective gift of modern times to the cause of development.
TILANA GROBBELAAR (South Africa) said that in her country, volunteerism had a long history. It was through the spirit of volunteerism that South Africa had achieved its democracy, and it was in the spirit of what was called "Ubuntu" that volunteerism had been turned into an instrument of action. In fact, South African citizens from across the country -- from the public and private sectors -- were encouraged to join the volunteer movement. Not long ago, the South African Emergency Rescue team volunteered their services in order to assist in India after a massive earthquake. Similarly, another team of volunteers had joined in rescue efforts following the Turkish earthquake. She added that South African volunteers had also assisted with natural disasters in the subregion, including floods in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Last year, she said, Volunteer South Africa 2001 had been established to coordinate the celebration of the National Year of Volunteers in South Africa. Volunteer South Africa 2001 consisted of national structures representing all sectors of government, including non-governmental and community-based organizations, labour unions, the public and private sector, the media and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). South Africa was not only a co-sponsor of today’s resolution but the South African authorities were in the process of studying current legislation, with special reference to labour laws, in order to determine how it impacted on volunteering.
She said that Government policies, with special reference to education, health, welfare, safety and security, environment, and sport were being drafted in an effort to see where those ignored the potential for volunteer service. A public survey on perceptions and attitudes on volunteering in all sectors of society was also being undertaken, as well as an assessment of the economic value of volunteering. The vision was to develop a society in which the right of all citizens to engage in voluntary or community action was recognized and valued as an essential component of democracy. It was also crucial to develop a society in which citizens chose to exercise that right because they wanted to be active participants in helping others.
Mr. KUMALO, Assembly Vice-President, announced that debate would continue this afternoon. An informal segment would now follow on the many facets of volunteerism. It would feature the Secretary-General, royalty and even a reggae singer. “We want to make it fun so that you’ll go out to volunteer”,” he said.
MICHEL KAFANDO (Burkina Faso) said volunteering was a fundamental activity that helped the helper through the act of helping. Volunteers worked courageously throughout the world to combat misery, suffering and injustice. They played a very important role in sustainable human development through their activities in education, health, the environment and peace, things that otherwise would not be done. For that reason, their activities should be financed through voluntary contributions.
He said a seminar had been held last year in Dakar on promoting voluntary activities in French-speaking Africa. It had reviewed initiatives undertaken throughout the year on local, regional and international levels. In Burkina Faso, volunteers were particularly active in economic and social sectors, performing important functions related to fighting poverty. They undertook development projects and worked to fight desertification and diseases.
Further, he said volunteers from all over the world were working with the country’s own volunteers to promote sustainable development. That created profound gratitude toward the international community. A plan of action to promote voluntary work had been developed as an outcome of the Year. It would promote volunteerism by creating new opportunities to exercise the voluntary form of human cooperation.
PAUL HEINBECKER (Canada) said the United Nations Volunteers Programme, throughout the Year of Volunteers, had supported national committees, disseminated information on voluntarism, solicited volunteers and had sought recognition for work they had performed all over the world. In adopting draft resolution L.27, the General Assembly would express its appreciation to all those who had devoted their time, energy and talents to the welfare of others.
In 2000, just over 6.5 million Canadians had given their time and talents to assist their fellow citizens, he said. They had contributed an average of
162 hours each, which was slightly more than 1 billion hours total, or the equivalent of 549,000 jobs. More than one quarter of all working-age Canadians, coming from all different walks of life and segments of the population, had volunteered. They were accountants sitting on committees, grandmothers baby-sitting toddlers, 10-year olds visiting senior citizens with their pets, Scout leaders organizing camps and activities for neighbourhood children, and office employees organizing a Christmas meal for the homeless.
As a legacy of the Year, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien had announced today the creation of a Canada Voluntarism Initiative to recognize, encourage and support volunteering in Canada, he continued. Its goal was to help people come together to strengthen communities and improve the quality of life through volunteering and other forms of civic participation. At the same time, funding had been announced for a Satellite Account of Non-profit institutions and Volunteering within Statistics Canada’s System of National Accounts. That Account would provide a picture of contributions of the voluntary sector to the economy.
ROSEMARY CROWLEY (Australia) said that as recognized in the draft resolution, there was a different level of male and female volunteers. That was based on a number of historical factors. Much of the essential volunteer work was known as "women's work" -- nursing, caring, cooking, washing and bringing comfort. Furthermore, women had not, in the past, had the opportunity to participate in the paid work force in the same numbers as men.
Another point of great importance referred to in the draft resolution was that volunteers must not be used to replace paid employment. As history showed, there was a tradition of need being discovered and then met by the voluntary sector before being taken over by paid workers. It was important that the temptation to reverse that tradition be resisted. What was necessary was to support and encourage volunteers as an important part of communities, encouraging people to put a bit back into their own community. Adequate recognition would encourage volunteers to continue their efforts.
While promoting volunteers, communities should not overlook the great generosity of young people. Young people were full of energy and keen to find places and projects that allowed them to give something back to the world. The international community must ensure that their contributions were recognized and encouraged. It was important that the altruism of youth did not go to waste.
SUSANA RIVERO (Uruguay) expressed appreciation for the work of the United Nations Volunteer Programme, and stressed the usefulness of the Secretary-General’s report on volunteering. The recommendations in the report would continue to be implemented in future phases of volunteering.
In Uruguay there were about 5,000 active volunteer organizations from all socio-economic sectors of society, which participated daily in activities related to human development, she continued. Volunteerism in Uruguay had originated above all in the area of social action by non-governmental organizations. But in recent years, the Government, conscious of the profound impact volunteer work was having, had been participating to greater extent in activities aimed at resolving various problems of civil society and public affairs.
In December 2000, the Government had declared all national programmes carried out during the Year of Volunteers to be of national interest. Strong cooperation had been established between the Institute of Communication and Development, which had been designated as a focal point in charge of creating a national committee for the United Nations Volunteers Programme, and public institutions to execute activities planned for the Year. Such cooperation had also been established between that Institute and non-governmental organizations for the same purpose.
RON ADAM (Israel) said he supported the idea of United Nations peacekeeping operations enhancing cooperation with United Nations Volunteers (UNV). Volunteers could work within the framework of missions in civilian projects, whether in elections or capacity building. They could also work in peace-building or participate in preventive actions where there was tension.
He said the notion of volunteerism touched profoundly on the Jewish values of charity and concern for one’s neighbour. Those values had been integral to the Jewish people for centuries, including in Israel. His country had prepared an information package for the occasion, describing Israel’s numerous volunteer programme, including the kibbutz movement and a pre-State school system. Since Israel’s founding, the Government had assumed social welfare tasks that had once been carried out by volunteer groups. One example was the providing of services to immigrants, many of them refugees who had suffered severe emotional and psychological wounds.
In fact, he said, the overwhelming majority of Israelis today performed some sort of national service after completing high school. Some served in the armed forces, but others performed national service in hospitals or nursing homes. Still others assisted towns and communities in development activities or else served as tutors or role models for disadvantaged youth. Opportunities for volunteering abounded in Israel, including three organizations he highlighted. One assisted the sick and elderly; one provided medical services; and a third assisted police in rescue operations. The International Year should be a starting point for inspiring people the world over to embrace the reality that no one is alone on earth, that all actions affect others and that the role of volunteerism should be strengthened in the work of the United Nations system.
LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) said the strength of volunteerism was a key measure of how healthy and giving a society was. Volunteers shared not only difficult tasks that had to be accomplished, but also, the sense of giving and togetherness that strengthened the social fabric. They exemplified the noblest form of the human spirit in times of crisis and challenge. This point had been powerfully brought home by the spontaneous outpouring of volunteers to help out in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 11 September.
The International Year of Volunteers 2001 had greatly enhanced the global public awareness about the importance of volunteerism. As the Secretary-General's report had pointed out, there was an evolving paradigm that underscored the reciprocity in the benefits of volunteerism to everyone involved, as well as the social participation that voluntary action offered to the poor and other needy people in society.
The hardware for volunteerism was also changing. With the help of information technology, volunteer activities had extended to the Internet. Volunteers could now do their work at a distance as well, helping people in remote countries, disseminating their valuable experience and knowledge in agriculture, environmental protection, reforestation and health and medical care. In the future, when video conferencing facilities became easily accessible, online volunteering should greatly expand the social capital that could be utilized to help the needy sector of society.
KULKUMUT SINGHARA NA AYUDHAYA (Thailand) said voluntary work had long been a way of life in Thailand, but today it had become more relevant than ever to modern Thai society due to its functional and catalytic role in connecting people and helping to overcome social exclusion. In the present situation where resources for development seemed to be more scarce than ever, and countries faced many daunting challenges, mobilization of community support through grassroots volunteering was one of the most effective ways to fight poverty and attain self sufficiency.
He said that in recognition of the value of volunteerism, Thailand had dedicated its efforts to supporting the work of volunteers. Pending the passing of several proposed laws, and in order to strengthen the network of civil societies, his Government had facilitated the establishment of the national NGO Coordinating Centre on Development and the Provincial NGO Centres on Development in 75 provinces nationwide for the current nine million Thai volunteers. In addition, this year it had declared 21 October as “Thai Volunteers Day –- The Declaration on Thai Volunteers”.
“We believe that by strengthening the society at the grassroots level, including through volunteerism, we will be in a better position to tackle the economic development shortcomings and to revitalize the society”, he said.
JEANELLE VAN GLAANENWEYGEL (Suriname) said that in Suriname, as part of their upbringing, people were taught from a young age to help one another. Volunteerism was part of the culture, and considered to be very important. The National Committee on the International Volunteer had therefore been invited to discuss this issue, and the actions being undertaken by this Committee with the President of Suriname. She added that representatives on behalf of youth, elderly people, women, men, the disabled, Red Cross, private sector, trade unions, service clubs, environmental organizations, the United Nations Association, human rights organizations and the Government had participated in the International Year of the Volunteer in Suriname.
To promote volunteerism in Suriname, she said, various activities were organized. There were radio programmes and a marathon entitled "volunteerism, a worthy cause" had been run. A volunteer’s centre had also been established, as a sound basis for future activities.
She said volunteers and volunteer organizations offered a great contribution to the development of the country. Her Government therefore greatly valued the true partnership between governmental and non-governmental organizations. The International Year of the Volunteer would be officially closed in Suriname with a special ceremony, where certificates of appreciation would be awarded to various volunteers who had offered their services to their fellow human beings and society.
MARY HUNDLEY DEKUYPER (International Federation of the Red Cross) said that volunteers were people who chose to give of their time, energy or knowledge to show solidarity with their fellow human beings. They were the countless people who reached out to support others. Sometimes in response to great disasters, natural or manmade, sometimes in response to need arising from armed conflict or unimaginable crimes, such as the events of 11 September. They were also present in less visible situations, in their communities and neighbourhoods.
The International Federation of the Red Cross saw the International Year of Volunteers as a success that would have an impact for years to come. Governments had seen that their actions could have an impact on volunteering, and that they had a responsibility to look at ways how they could promote and facilitate volunteering. Through the promotion and networking activities of the year, organizations had been inspired to improve their systems of management and of reward and recognition for volunteers. They had come to better understand how to involve volunteers more effectively.
Volunteer organizations could not succeed alone, she continued. They needed the support and co-operation of their governments in order to develop a volunteer friendly environment. Governments could create enabling conditions for volunteering by promoting volunteerism by establishing a solid legal framework. Through dialogue with their volunteer organizations, governments could successfully encourage a friendly environment for volunteering, which grew out of the local culture and conditions.
JOHANNES DEJONGE, Observer, Council of Europe, said the United Nations International Year of Volunteers fitted in well with the Council of Europe’s overall concern about strengthening civil society as an expression of participatory democracy. Voluntary action involved learning, helping and sharing with others, and enabled all citizens to play a part in the democratic process. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe welcomed the United Nations initiative and had called on its members to adopt various incentive measures during the Year, at national and European levels.
To mark the beginning of the Year, the Parliamentary Assembly had debated the issue of improving the status and role of volunteers, as a contribution by the Assembly to the Year. The report from that debate was presented by the Assembly’s Committee on Social, Health and Family Affairs, which had a longstanding tradition of supporting voluntary service. In a recommendation to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, based on that report, the Assembly had called on its members to eliminate in their laws and practice all obstacles barring people from engaging in voluntary actions. The report was prepared in close cooperation with the European team of the United Nations Volunteers.
The Parliamentary Assembly asked Governments to recognize the democratic, humanitarian, social, educational, training and economic values of voluntary action, he said. It also asked them to help, especially by earmarking budgetary and other resources, to support and develop voluntary initiatives of value to the community. The Assembly also urged voluntary associations and volunteers themselves to respect the values and principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It asked Governments to give volunteers legal status and adequate social protection, while respecting their independence and removing financial obstacles to volunteering.
Action on Draft
The Assembly then took up the draft resolution on recommendations for volunteer action (document A/56/L.27). It was announced that the following had become additional co-sponsors: Albania, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Haiti, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Paraguay, Philippines, Sierra Leone, Uruguay, Somalia, Jamaica, Rwanda and Botswana.
The draft was adopted without vote, as orally amended.
BADER MOHAMMAD AL-AWDI (Kuwait) expressed appreciation to Japan and Netherlands for their roles in preparing the draft. He said he supported the resolution, but it did not cover all aspects of volunteerism, for example, the protection of volunteers during time of war. Volunteers had been involved in helping those in need during the occupation by Iraq. It was important to give due attention to protecting volunteers.