Keynote Statement on the Occasion of the Launch of the Chinese Edition of the 2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report

05 Dec 2013

   

RICHARD DICTUS

Executive Coordinator

United Nations Volunteers

ON THE OCCASION OF THE
Launch of the Chinese Edition of the

2011 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report

International Volunteer Day 2013

Beijing International Volunteer Day Expo

(Beijing, 5 December 2013)

 

Ms. Secretary-General,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

 

Once again, I wish you all a Happy International Volunteer Day.

Over the past forty years, UNV has been working with partners to advocate the role and benefits of volunteerism for development, integrate volunteers into development programmes, and mobilize volunteers for development projects.

I know that many of us here today share the conviction that volunteerism can transform the pace and nature of development and that everyone can contribute their time and energy towards peace and development.

UNV and China has enjoyed 32 years of a strong cooperation that began in 1981. During this time, over 327 volunteers have served in China and over 100 Chinese citizens have served as UN Volunteers in other countries, including Cambodia, Ghana, Sudan and Kosovo.

I appreciate the strong cooperation between Beijing Municipal Government, the Beijing Youth League and UNV in launching the Green Olympics volunteer management training initiative, which trained over 7,500 volunteer managers to successfully manage over one million of volunteers during the Olympics games.

This initiative, along with the volunteer disaster relief efforts from the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, was the watershed event that elevated volunteerism into a national policy priority in China.

This has since led to a successful ongoing project cooperation between the Beijing Youth League, UNV and UNDP China on strengthening civic engagement through building the capacity of local volunteering organizations. For evidence of this we need only look to

·       youth involvement in community welfare and environmental protection activities,

·       social innovation,

·       corporate social responsibility and

·       the facilitation of the exchange of Beijing expertise in sport-for-development volunteering with counterparts at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, the 2010 Shanghai Expo and 2012 London Olympics.

I note President Hu Jintao’s recent pronouncement, during the 3rd Plenum of the 18th National Congress of the CPC, in which he exhorts the nation to “expand volunteer service and volunteerism organizations, to foster self-esteem, self-confidence, a positive social mentality” in the service of “socialist moral construction.”

Indeed, volunteerism is a two-way street, whose transformational power comes from its ability to inspire not only the communities that it benefits, but also the volunteers themselves. 

That is why, when people are given the opportunity to contribute to the advancement of their societies, to become responsible partners in peace and development, we all benefit.

We know this from our own thirty years of experience in China, where volunteers like Wei Li, a young national UN Volunteer, has been working to improve forest wildlife conservation, or, like Jiayi Li, has been helping to coordinate development work between the United Nations, the Government of China, and other partners.

UNV has been successful in facilitating South-South triangular cooperation between countries to build capacity through volunteerism and to transfer knowledge.

I’ll give you one example. Escuelas Vivas (Living Schools) is a South-South initiative that has been running since 2011 between the Brazilian and Salvadoran Governments, and in collaboration with UNV.

Escuelas Vivas (Living Schools) has been implemented by five international UN Volunteers from Brazil and one national UN Volunteer from El Salvador, exchanges knowledge and experience from Brazil to El Salvador about disaster risk reduction and food security. As many as 144 people have received training, and over 560 local volunteers participated directly in the project.

There are over 30,000 people from over 130 countries registered on UNV’s global roster of prospective volunteers, including 1,157 Chinese nationals. But only three Chinese citizens are currently serving as international UN Volunteers.

The Escuelas Vivas (Living Schools) project provides a fine example of the types of initiatives in which China and Chinese volunteers might take part.

The rising middle-income countries (e. g, BRICs) are changing the way international volunteering for development is understood and done.

I encourage the China Volunteerism Federation to work with UNV to promote a new generation of young international leaders from China, and their greater participation in UNV and in the UN system – these leaders are the important cultural bridges between China and the rest of the world.

Another important tool for South-South cooperation is the UNV Online Volunteering service. In 2012, 11,037 Online Volunteers delivered 16,196 assignments. 62% of these online volunteers are from countries in the South. This is a truly global programme as it also includes South-North cooperation, changing the flow, with volunteers from the South supporting development organizations or UN organizations based in the North.

This service, thanks to support from a number of donors, is free for the development organizations that use it and an incredible contribution to development.

Mr. Shaopeng, a Chinese national, is a winner of the 2013 UN Online Volunteering Awards.  Mr. Shaopeng is currently living in New York, pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree with a Finance specialization at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

He was part of “a diverse group of 37 online volunteers from across the globe engaged in four months of intense collaboration with the United Nations Department of Economic Affairs (UN DESA) to process 386 research surveys carried out across 193 UN Member States for the 2014 UN E-Government Survey.   The diversity of nationalities and languages of the online volunteers -- more than 65 languages, representing more than 15 nationalities out of which half are from developing countries -- mirrors perfectly the culture and mission of the United Nations”.

***

This is an exciting time for UNV, and for the United Nations.  There is a growing consensus among Member States that for any peace or development results to be meaningful or sustainable, young people MUST be engaged as development actors and, furthermore, that volunteerism is a viable mechanism for this.

UNV’s new Youth Volunteers Programme was created in response to this. 

The programme takes the needs and aspirations of young volunteers—whether as beneficiaries of UNV programmes in the field or as volunteers mobilized directly UNV—to be the principal focus of its efforts.

UNV is looking forward to deepening its partnerships with governments, NGOs, and other UN entities, many of whom are with us today, to increase the recognition of the contribution of young people to peace and development through volunteerism, ensure that youth voices are included in global dialogues about development, and help others create enabling environments for youth volunteering for peace and development.

***

I would like, now, to address the young volunteers in this room.

On this special day, I would like to applaud your dedication, enthusiasm, and commitment.  I greatly admire your selfless actions to help others – you truly are excellent role models for the rest of society. 

You and your peers have shown yourselves to be capable and willing to act as the agents of positive change in your communities, your countries and the world.

We at the United Nations Volunteers Programme and our partners are ready to do everything that we can to support you. 

Thank you.