Fifty-seventh General Assembly
60th and 61st Meetings (AM & PM)
GENERAL ASSEMBLY ADOPTS TEXT CALLING ON GOVERNMENTS TO OBSERVE
INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY FOR ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT
The General Assembly this afternoon called on governments, with the support of the media, civil society and the private sector, to observe 5 December, International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, and to include activities focused on follow-up to the achievements of the International Year of Volunteers in its public awareness-raising campaign.
Adopting a resolution on follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers without a vote, the Assembly also invited all stakeholders to support volunteerism as a strategic tool to enhance economic and social development, including by expanding corporate volunteering.
Prior to that action, Assembly President Jan Kavan (Czech Republic) said during the preceding debate this morning that local voluntary involvement was a valuable and indispensable contribution to the improvement of social conditions, promotion of economic development and empowerment of people to take charge. It reinforced a sense of collective responsibility and brought about a tangible difference to the lives of many.
The International Year, he noted, was a milestone in recognizing the tireless work of volunteers around the world, helping to connect volunteers worldwide and to create an environment conducive to volunteer action. Many more governments now saw volunteerism as a valuable asset which needed to be strategically factored into development policies and programmes.
Denmark’s representative, speaking on behalf of the European Union and associated States, said that since the launch of the International Year, progress had been made in enhancing the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of voluntary action. A key tool used in the pursuit of those goals had been the Internet, with which volunteers had been able to expand their networks and enhance their exchange of knowledge and information. The Internet had also demonstrated its capacity as a multiplier of ideas and a means of sharing best practices.
Canada’s representative, highlighting the significance of the social impact of volunteering, both at a macro level and on the level of relationships between individuals, said that volunteering was of benefit both to those who received assistance and to those who provided it. In many cases, there was no clear distinction between the two, he added.
During the discussion, delegations highlighted efforts taken at the national level to promote the International Year and to increase involvement in volunteer activities. The Australian Government launched a different celebratory theme each month to provide a framework for organizations planning their activities for the Year, its representative stated.
Egypt’s representative noted that the participation of youth in a national project to develop villages had been successful. Among that country’s activities was an international conference organized by the General Union of Scouts in August 2001, the publication of a guidebook for volunteers and the establishment of a training camp for volunteers.
Other speakers today were the representatives of Brazil, Japan, Viet Nam, United States, Qatar, Honduras, United Arab Emirates, New Zealand, Australia, Republic of Korea, India, Kyrgyzstan, Czech Republic, Philippines and Pakistan.
Also making a statement was the observer of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
The Assembly will meet again at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 27 November, to consider the report of the Economic and Social Council.
Before the General Assembly this morning was the Report of the Secretary-General on the International Year of Volunteers: outcomes and future perspectives (document A/57/352), which presents the background to the Year and an overview of the action taken. Describing the Year as successful by any account, the report says that 123 national committees and scores of local, regional and state committees were formed and that the official web site received close to 9 million hits. A heightened recognition of the role of volunteerism in development resulted from the plethora of activities, including efforts to measure the contributions of volunteers in every part of the world.
The report notes marked improvements in legislative frameworks and national and local infrastructure for voluntary action, stating that networks were established among stakeholders from governments, the United Nations system, civil society, the private sector and elsewhere. These should help sustain many of the advances resulting from the Year, which highlighted the relevance of volunteerism to achieving the goals set out at the Millennium Summit and other major conferences and summits.
According to the report, the Year underlined the central role of United Nations Volunteers within the United Nations system in enhancing the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of volunteerism, in collaboration with other stakeholders. Governments and the United Nations system, together with civil society and other actors, were urged to work together to ensure that more citizens from all societal groups were willing and able to volunteer time in ways that brought benefits to society and self-fulfilment to the individual volunteer.
In its conclusions, the report notes that when the Year was launched in 1997, understanding of the concept of volunteerism and its many manifestations was limited, the general perception being that while contributing to general public good, it was characterized by improvization and amateurism and indulged in by better-off members of society to help disadvantaged population groups. In most countries, infrastructure to promote and support voluntary action, including legislation, was weak or absent and dialogue at all levels among volunteer-involving organizations and between them and other stakeholders was limited.
However, there are many signs that the situation has evolved significantly, according to the report. The years leading up to 2001 witnessed a sensitization to, and a mobilization around, the volunteerism of a huge and diverse range of stakeholders, including government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), community groups, private companies, academia and the media. In addition, a major outcome of the Year has been a collective recognition by governments of the role and contribution of voluntary action and the need to adopt strategic approaches to enhancing the environment for such action to flourish. Global trends towards greater self-help, decentralization, participatory democracy and networking are all having an impact on citizen participation and volunteerism is one defining characteristic.
Regarding the future, the report highlights three areas of follow-up to be considered: continued advocacy with governments and the United Nations system, including in and around intergovernmental forums; the need for governments, NGOs, the private sector, the United Nations system, eminent persons and others to continue taking all possible measures to promote voluntary action; and, with respect to technical cooperation, enhancing the environment for volunteering, including the drafting of national legislation, the undertaking of volunteer-related research, establishment of volunteer centres, the formation of national volunteer corps, the development of volunteer opportunities via the Internet and the expansion of corporate volunteering.
Also before the Assembly was a draft resolution on Follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers (document A/57/L.8), which calls upon governments, with the active support of the media, civil society and the private sector, to observe 5 December, International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, and to include activities focused on follow-up on the achievements of the International Year of Volunteers in its public awareness-raising campaigns.
By other terms, the Assembly calls for the relevant organizations and bodies of the United Nations system to integrate volunteerism in its various forms into their policies, programmes and reports, and encourages the recognition and inclusion of volunteer contributions in future United Nations and other relevant international conferences, such as the World Summit on the Information Society.
Also by the text, the Assembly requests the Secretary-General to factor such contributions made by volunteers in his reports on the implementation of the Millennium Declaration and of other major United Nations conferences, summits, special sessions and their follow-up meetings. He is also requested to take measures, in particular within the mandates and the existing resources of the United Nations Volunteers and the Department of Public Information, to ensure that the potential of the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development in follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers is fully realized.
JAN KAVAN (Czech Republic), President of the General Assembly, stressing the importance of volunteerism in society, said that local voluntary involvement was a valuable and indispensable contribution to the improvement of social conditions, promotion of economic development and empowerment of people to take charge. Volunteerism reinforced a sense of collective responsibility and brought about a tangible difference to the lives of many.
The International Year of Volunteers was a milestone in recognizing the tireless work of volunteers around the world, he said. It helped to connect volunteers from various parts of the world and created an environment conducive and motivating to volunteer action. Many more governments now saw volunteerism as a valuable asset, which needed to be strategically factored into development policies and programmes.
The Year, he continued, had been launched to achieve four main objectives -– recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of volunteering. One important achievement was the facilitation of volunteering through a number of measures and another was the involvement of non-traditional actors, such as the private sector. The year had helped to build networks of volunteers, thereby giving volunteers in individual countries a sense of inter-connective support and mutuality.
He said the Year had placed volunteering on a more solid basis for years to come, but a great deal remained to be done if volunteerism was to fulfil its potential. Governments should continue to support and develop its infrastructure and technical cooperation and international organizations, civil society and the private sector should also continue to support volunteer movements. The unique relationship between volunteerism and the United Nations should be reinforced and developed, he stressed
Introduction of Draft Resolution
MARIA DE LOURDES EGYDIO VILLELA (Brazil), introducing the draft resolution on follow-up to the International Year of Volunteers, said that volunteerism allowed for the empowerment of all persons and furthered the participation of the individual in a common destiny. To promote volunteerism was to enable all human beings to make the most of their lives. Volunteer work enriched the volunteer and enhanced the self-esteem of participants at both the giving and receiving ends. It fostered tolerance, solidarity and trust -- the building blocks of peace, justice, equality and sustainable development.
Research showed that one in four Brazilians had dedicated time to volunteer activities, she said. As a result of the activities organized in the context of the International Year, there was a growing recognition in Brazil of the impact of civic participation and of the benefits of volunteering. Among other things, thousands of secondary school students all over the country had embraced volunteerism and were busy planning and executing projects, which contributed to their education as well as to an increased integration between communities and schools.
YOSHIYUKI MOTOMURA (Japan) said that although the United Nations and the international community had celebrated the year with great success, it remained necessary for the people of the world to continue those activities in the years to come. The United Nations could play a significant role in enhancing volunteerism.
In the past year, he said, the Government of Japan had taken measures in public relations, awareness and information gathering on volunteerism and human resources development. It had placed the greatest emphasis on cultivating volunteers and training courses to develop young volunteer leaders.
He said the Japanese Postal Savings system, under its “Postal Savings for International Voluntary Aid” campaign, by which account holders donated the interest from their accounts, had provided approximately $3 million in grant assistance to 140 NGOs engaged in 150 volunteer projects. Also, the Japan International Cooperation Agency had dispatched senior volunteers, aged 40 to 69 years old, to developing countries in response to requests for technical cooperation.
OLE E. MOESBY (Denmark), speaking for the European Union and associated countries, said that since the launch of the International Year of Volunteers, 2001, progress had been made in enhancing the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of voluntary action. A key tool used in the pursuit of these goals had been the Internet, through which volunteers had been able to expand their networks and enhance their exchange of knowledge and information. The Internet had also demonstrated its capacity as a multiplier of ideas and a means of sharing best practice.
The responsibility for further expanding the scope of voluntary activity and securing its long-term viability rested with governments, he said, through developing partnerships with civil society and the private sector. Joint action by public authorities and volunteer associations could help both to achieve their common objectives. The members of the European Union had removed legal and administrative obstacles to voluntary activity in both national and international contexts, guided by the strategic objectives formulated by the United Nations within the framework of the International Year.
He said volunteers had contributed to the promotion of human rights and international solidarity, combating racism, environmental protection and sustainable development. At the World Summit on Sustainable Development, voluntary contributions had been recognized in areas such as disaster management, ensuring safe drinking water and environmental and social responsibility and accountability. Yet, the responsibility taken, or the economic value of voluntary activity, should never replace the responsibility of governments towards their citizens.
AMR ABOUL ATTA (Egypt) said that his country attached great importance to the work done by NGOs, governments and the private sector and had been one of the first countries to constitute the committee for the Preparations for the International Year of Volunteers. Egypt had celebrated the Year in a practical way, focusing on information and emphasizing volunteer activities in various areas, especially among the youth. It had also held televised meetings on various projects and activities. In addition, the National Council for Women had published documents on the history of volunteerism.
He said young people had participated in a successful national project to develop villages and the General Union of Scouts had organized an international conference in August 2001. Further, a guide for volunteers had been published and a training camp established by governmental stakeholders. The Government had also introduced volunteers into official organizations and sent them to international meetings within the framework of the Year. Civil society and the business sector had also stepped up efforts for the Year. He emphasized the need for follow-up efforts to the Year at both the national and international levels.
NGUYEN THANH CHAU (Viet Nam) said that over the past 10 years poverty had been reduced from 30 to 10 per cent in his country and, that while more than 1,000 villages were listed as being in extreme poverty, it was expected to be wiped out by 2015 in accordance with the Millennium Development Goals. Although the United Nations system and its agencies, funds and programmes had been responsive to that special responsibility at the international level, and their contribution had been widely recognized, effective international cooperation, including the sharing of experience, technical cooperation and capacity-building, should be emphasized.
He pointed out that after decades of severe wars, Viet Nam had more than five million disabled persons of all ages and with varied disabilities throughout the country, accounting for 6 per cent of the population. For the Government and people of Viet Nam, therefore, looking after the disabled and the less fortunate in society was not only a question of implementing specific policies but one of achieving genuine integration as well. To that end, the Government advocated closer links between economic and social development, between social progress with special care and the creation of equal opportunities for vulnerable persons and those with disabilities.
Although Viet Nam had achieved great success protecting its disabled persons, he said, one of the Government’s particular concerns today was that of taking care of people, especially child victims of toxic chemicals and Agent Orange used in war. Their plight was so miserable that it could not wait until research into that issue was finalized. He acknowledged that in response to the Government’s own initiatives, a number of countries and NGOs had delivered assistance and especially lauded the cooperation and assistance of United Nations agencies and regional organizations in that regard. However, more attention and further assistance were needed and it was hoped that the United Nations would encourage the international community to cooperate and assist Viet Nam in that endeavour.
JOHN BRIDGELAND (United States), Assistant to the President and Director of the USA Freedom Corps, said that in January 2002, President George W. Bush had laid out a vision for a stronger union that was rooted firmly in the power of volunteer service. Calling on every citizen to dedicate at least two years to community, national and international service, he had created the USA Freedom Corps to help every American answer that call to service and to foster a culture of service, citizenship and responsibility.
He said that the USA Freedom Corps was a coordinating council to oversee the development of government policies promoting, enhancing and supporting volunteer service. The ultimate goal of such efforts would be the doubling of the number of Peace Corps volunteers so that by 2007, there would be about 15,000 Americans sharing American compassion abroad. The Corporation for National and Community Service would also mobilize senior and young Americans to recruit, train and supervise volunteers around the country. New programmes would also be formulated to help communities prevent, prepare for and respond to all kinds of emergencies, including threats of terrorism.
With the help of organizations including the Points of Light Foundation, he said, the United States had created the USA Freedom Corps Volunteer Network, the largest ever clearinghouse of volunteer service opportunities. Leaders of business had responded to the President’s appeal by creating the Business Strengthening America initiative to engage employees and consumers in serving others. The Freedom Corps was also working with educational institutions at all levels to inculcate habits of service in young people. All efforts targeting youth had come in the midst of a decline in overall volunteer service and civic participation among adults and the Freedom Corps had the task of reversing that trend. A nationwide survey would be undertaken to create a new national volunteer service indicator to measure volunteer behaviour and determine the impact of such services. The United States was prepared to share its research and experiences with other nations so they could harness the time and talents of their people in volunteer service, he said.
ABDULLAH EID SALMAN AL-SULAITI (Qatar) said that the implementation of social and economic development was founded not only on government efforts, but also on the culmination of efforts by civil society, the private sector and all those carrying out volunteer acts. Volunteerism was appreciated by all peoples of the world, as had been confirmed by the International Year of Volunteers. Islam held volunteerism as an activity of every individual participating and fully integrating into society. In Qatar, various institutions had been created to invest the energy of individuals in the service of society.
At the governmental level, he said, Qatar had established a high-level committee to coordinate actions taken by civil society and private enterprise to develop social work and prevent their overlapping. That committee had also worked to raise societal awareness on the importance of volunteerism. Furthermore, volunteerism was also the subject of a committee, which helped to train young people to provide voluntary services. In the context of civil society, the Government had set up a prize to show appreciation of volunteers, the importance of their efforts, and the importance of continuing that work. Children’s volunteer efforts had also been honoured in order to inculcate appreciation for volunteerism in their minds.
OTTO MARTINEZ (Honduras), saying he could testify to the importance of volunteerism, recalled that when Hurricane Mitch had struck Honduras last year, his country had been able to understand the spirit and solidarity of those compatriots who had come to the aid of the most needy. The country also understood international volunteerism, because at the time of its greatest calamity, others had come to help.
He said that the future of mankind would be better with the help and assistance of volunteers, which would nourish the seeds of volunteerism. Volunteerism should involve young people, business people, and government people. The youth could think of the best way to build a better world, he said.
ABDULAZIZ NASSER AL-SHAMSI (United Arab Emirates) said that social development depended on political stability and the provision of means for economic development. There was a need to stress the importance of international efforts to find viable and durable solutions to armed conflicts and wars, fulfilling commitments such as the allocation by developed countries of 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic income as official development aid, assisting the integration of developing countries into the global economy by establishing a multilateral, just and impartial trading system and providing the latest technology to help developing States to promote their economic and social growth.
He said his country had made progress in social development by adopting a development strategy based on a comprehensive federal social welfare system, providing free, high-quality education to all citizens from elementary school to university, adopting a five-year plan to eradicate illiteracy, providing equal employment opportunities to men and women and laying the foundation for a national pension programme. Furthermore, it had established a marriage fund to extend loans on easy terms, provided free health care, medical services and treatment to its citizens and conducted awareness programmes regarding tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis and other diseases.
Moreover, he said, the United Arab Emirates was committed to the promotion of social development outside the country, and had constructed cultural centres, schools, hospitals, orphanages, mosques and churches in friendly neighbouring countries. It had also extended donations, grants and easy-term loans to other countries.
DON MACKAY (New Zealand) said that partnerships between governments and civil society were important for promoting volunteerism. In New Zealand, the International Year of Volunteers had been organized through partnerships between the Government and the voluntary sector. A Government-appointed Ministerial
Reference Group for the International Year of Volunteers, 2001, comprising of representatives from the community and voluntary sector, was responsible for coordination and provided the Government with advice on volunteer issues.
He said New Zealand was one of three countries noted in the Secretary-General’s report that had increased funding to provide longer-term support to the voluntary sector as a result of the International Year of Volunteers. The Government had allocated $2.19 million to strengthen the infrastructure of volunteering organizations over three years. A Statement of Government Intentions for an Improved Community-Government Relationship, signed by the Prime Minister had been released at the end of the International Year of Volunteers.
The Government had also set up a project to consider its policy on volunteering, he said. That project reviewed and made recommendations on legislation towards volunteering, identified ways in which the Government could enhance the people’s ability to volunteer, and worked to ensure Government policy supported volunteerism and volunteers, including in relation to the fulfilment of the cultural obligations of ethnic groups, such as the Maori and Pacific peoples.
PETER TESCH (Australia), noting that his country had a long tradition of volunteering, said that some 32 per cent of adult Australians volunteered their time and energy to not-for-profit organizations. Australia’s initiatives for the International Year were divided into three areas -– funding to the community and voluntary sectors, development of key partnerships and a communication strategy. Promotion of the Year was done in partnership with businesses and the community, and included funding to establish a recruitment database for the organization “Volunteering Australia”.
While the main aim of the Year’s communication strategy was to promote the Year, it also sought to raise awareness, particularly among non-volunteers, of the range, scope and positive experience of volunteering, he said. The Australian Government had launched a different celebratory theme each month to provide a framework for organizations planning their activities for the Year. Communicating the message of the Year was also done in partnership with another major milestone for Australia -– the centenary of the establishment of Australia as a federation.
Since 2000, he noted, ongoing federal funding to support volunteering had more than doubled and research continued on how best to support volunteers. The sector’s capacity was being further developed through programmes which, for example, enhanced volunteer skills development.
LEE HO-JIN (Republic of Korea) said the tradition of volunteerism had greatly dissipated in his country because of rapid modernization and industrialization. But, with the growth of civic activism, it had found fertile ground for a new era of possibilities and contributions at the community, national and global levels. The Government operated a system of support for volunteer activities, including the provision of public facilities, project-based subsidies and the improvement of relevant laws. Since 2000, the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs had dispensed $12.5 million annually for volunteer activities, and had assisted in setting up local volunteer centres around the country.
He said 2002 was a busy year for volunteers in the Republic of Korea. They had provided services for the FIFA World Cup, which the country had co-hosted, for victims of the devastating typhoon which had hit the eastern part of the country in late August and during the Asian Games held between 29 September and 14 October in Busan. Given the importance of volunteerism, it should be promoted and strengthened in the context of the globalizing world. The possibilities of information and communication technologies (ICT) should be fully embraced to supplement the traditional on-the-scene approach of volunteerism, he said.
VIJAY K. NAMBIAR (India) said his country considered volunteerism to be one of the important tools for addressing the problem of exclusion. It provided a vehicle for empowering excluded population groups to gain access to opportunities.
He recalled that in the years following India’s independence, it had sought to harness its social wealth for national development through the National Service Scheme, which had been introduced in 1969 with the aim of involving students on a voluntary and part-time basis. The success of that project had led to the launch in 1977 and 1978 of the National Service Volunteer Scheme, which envisaged participation in voluntary work on a full-time basis.
India had participated actively in the observance of the International Year of Volunteers, and had worked for its success by organizing conferences, workshops and youth camps, he said. The country's highest developmental planning body, the Planning Commission, had been designated as the nodal agency for the country’s voluntary sector.
ALMAZ BIYBOSUNOV (Kyrgyzstan) said close attention should be paid to undertakings in support of volunteerism at the national level. The Kyrgyz Government had created a national coordinating council to track the process of passing the country's first law on volunteering. Moreover, the Government had continued to work intensively within the framework provided by the General Assembly in the International Year of Volunteers, including through activities aimed at easing the plight of refugees, facilitating their integration into Kyrgyzstan, and helping in voluntary repatriation, as well as emergency planning.
The outcomes of the International Year and its projects had made it possible to get a better idea of how to develop the potential of volunteerism, he said. The Government had prioritized information campaigns and worked at the local level to encourage citizens to volunteer. The need for volunteerism was greater than ever, given such global problems as HIV/AIDS, drugs and terrorism, he stressed.
Cooperation between governments and private sectors would make it possible to further develop volunteerism, he added. It was also important to focus attention at both the local and international levels on international organizations, and to draw attention to voluntary work in solving societal problems. In Kyrgyzstan, a decision had been taken to draft uniform standards to serve as a universal system for recruiting, monitoring and assessing volunteers’ work.
GILBERT LAURIN (Canada) highlighted the significance of the social impact of volunteering, both at a macro level and on the level of relationships between individuals. Volunteering was of benefit both to those who received assistance and to those who provided it. In many cases, there was no clear distinction between the two. Volunteering at its best was the act of participating fully in the development of one’s own society. Canada encouraged all governments to tap
into that immense potential, seeking guidance in that regard from the “Recommendations on support for volunteering” annexed to the resolution adopted last year.
He said his country had a strong tradition of volunteering, as evidenced by its large voluntary sector, which consisted of an estimated 180,000 non-profit organizations and hundreds of thousands of other volunteer groups that were not incorporated. In 2000, 6.5 million Canadians had volunteered their time to a voluntary organization and the sector employed a further 1.3 million people. That diverse multitude of organizations ranged from small community-based groups to large, national umbrella organizations and included neighbourhood associations, service clubs, advocacy coalitions, food banks, shelters, transition houses, symphonies and local sports clubs.
In October, he added, the creation and appointment of a Minister for the Voluntary Sector was announced. The role of the Minister was to ensure the accomplishment of the Government’s commitments under the Accord Between the Government of Canada and the Voluntary Sector –-- a blueprint to guide the relationship between the Government and the voluntary sector.
ŠÁRKA KRČÁLOVÁ (Czech Republic) said that her country, recognizing that promotion was an important field without which no voluntary programme could develop effectively, had embarked on a wide-ranging programme of actions aimed at spreading information about the potential of volunteerism. They included the press, the electronic media, including the Internet, which aired views on particular projects by various representatives of society, and non-profit organizations involved in voluntary activities both inside the country and abroad.
She said that because volunteerism was very sensitive to any institutionalization, at the same time, taking into account the Government’s need for an adequate legislative framework for voluntary activities, the Czech Republic had decided during the International Year of Volunteers to pass an act on voluntary service. The idea for that legal instrument had been developed with the close cooperation of civil society and based on a previous analysis of the field practice and operative Czech legislation in relation to voluntary service.
The aim of that act was not to regulate or limit existing and considerably different forms of voluntary services and activities, but the clear definition of their operational mode and of conditions under which the Government could promote them, she explained. Although the International Year of Volunteers had been very fruitful, it was not enough to sufficiently influence the nation’s attitude towards volunteerism and the Government had, therefore, turned its attention to the follow-up of the Year, earmarking funds to support voluntary programmes and projects.
NIDA GARCIA (Philippines) said volunteerism was a vehicle by which vulnerable and marginalized groups, including the youth, older persons, disabled people, families and others could be part of a country’s socio-economic and cultural endeavours. Among the youth, the social benefits of volunteerism could counteract the negative effects of drug abuse and poverty. Also through volunteerism, the poor could be part of the solution in the fight against poverty.
In the Philippines, she said, volunteers were involved in different phases of policy-making. Regional consultations had been held among various sectors of
society during the planning phase of the Philippine Medium Term Development Plan and in the implementation phase, volunteers had been given the opportunity to choose programmes. To give further impetus to the role of volunteers, a national resolution supporting volunteerism had been adopted, she added.
MASOOD KHALID (Pakistan) said his country was evolving a new approach to development. The traditional resources were not sufficient to meet human development needs and alternative sources of financing and human resources were essential to facilitate development. Volunteerism could play a key role in supporting human development endeavours in Pakistan, and a number of initiatives had accordingly been taken. The National Commission for Human Development, formed in June, would function as an instrumental body for human development efforts, both public and private, with a presence in each district. It was the first initiative of its kind in Pakistan.
The Commission had created a National Volunteer Corps, following the United Nations International Year of Volunteers, as part of its broader agenda, he continued. It drew on the skills and motivation of grass-roots volunteers to help meet development objectives in education, health and poverty alleviation. Pakistan had also become one of the first countries to set up a Human Development Fund, with the collaboration of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for the achievement of poverty alleviation and human development. It was also the first country to establish a public-private partnership for human development following the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development.
ZOY KATEVAS DE SCLABOS, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said the International Year had been a resounding success, not so much for what had happened, but because of the renewed commitment demonstrated. Many non-profit organizations had received a boost from the Year and renewed their commitment to volunteerism. It was important to pay tribute to those who had contributed to their communities.
She said that a disturbingly large number of governments had not recognized the importance of volunteerism for their own communities. In Syria, volunteers had provided assistance a few hours after the collapse of the Zeyoun Dam. In Chile, 21,780 volunteers (14,456 of whom were young) had made key interventions in emergencies. Those were good examples of the constant need to be able to rely on volunteers.
Worldwide, societies were mobilizing volunteers to combat AIDS and getting involved in anti-stigmatization campaigns, she said. Governments were not being asked to create volunteers, but they could create a conducive environment for voluntary work. Suggesting a systematic review of volunteerism, she said the Federation's next international conference would study ways in which commitments had been put into effect. Governments were urged to join that endeavour.
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