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International Year of Volunteers
UN Trip Summary
Macrh 10 , 2010
Mariam Yaqub, CIE Graduate Student
The International Year of Volunteers + 10: Inspiring Millions to Join in Volunteer Action (In Observance of the International Year of Volunteers in 2001)
Moderator: Ms. Gail Bindley-Tailor (Information Officer, NGO Relations, Department of Public Information)
Mr. Kiyotaka Akasaka opened the panel by talking about the International NGO Conference that will be help in Bonn, Germany in September. He emphasized that the Conference, which will be held in cooperation with UN Volunteers (UNV), will have as its twin themes volunteerism and sustainability, brought together under the heading “Sustainable Societies, Responsive Citizens.” He expressed concern that the concept of sustainable development has become blurred recently, saying “if it means everything, it means nothing,” though he is also hopeful that the Conference will help to reinvigorate sustainable development.
A short film about volunteer peer sexual health educators in Vanuatu, the “Happiest Country in the World,” was then screened.
Ms. Daphne Casey, Chief of the UNV Office in New York, explained the UN definition of volunteerism:
- Service to others
- Without a primary financial motivation
- Outside one’s household or family
- Where free choice is paramount
She highlighted that the values of volunteering are deeply embedded in cultures throughout the world, because volunteering brings benefits to the volunteers themselves and to society at large. She offered the inspiring response of a UN Volunteer when asked why he did what he did: “When I volunteer, I help shape society to make it where I want to live.”
Mr. Jordi Llopart, also from UNV, spoke on 2011 as the IYV + 10. The objective of IYV + 10 are:
- Recognition of the value of volunteering and its relation to the MDGs
- Facilitation of volunteer opportunities for diverse people
- Networking, including partnerships and exchange opportunities
- Promotion of inclusive and representative volunteerism
He then called on the NGOs present at the briefing to bring the voices of volunteers to the international stake and the attention of policy makers, showcase volunteers in action, advocate for a General Assembly resolution on the value of volunteerism to society, peace, and development, and to share their stories of volunteerism in action.
Mr. Marwan Jilani, Head of Delegation and Permanent Observer of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to the United Nations in New York, spoke on the essential place of volunteers in the work of the IFRC. The IFRC, which has 13 million active volunteers, is currently promoting its “Find the Volunteer Inside You” campaign. As an example of the important work done by the IFRC, Red Crescent volunteers in North African countries that have recently been experiencing unrest quickly mobilized to provide material and psychosocial support to internally displaced persons.
The common themes of the event were the significant benefits that result to both society and volunteers themselves as a result of their efforts, and the importance of continued policy and international recognition of the value of volunteerism.