International Volunteers Day celebrated in South Sudan

06 Dec 2011

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Juba - International Volunteer Day (IVD) was marked in Juba and across South Sudan, renewing hope for sustainable peace and prosperity in the new nation.  This year was the tenth anniversary of IVD and first to be celebrated in the newly independent nation of South Sudan.

The day started with a youth march that involved school children, girl guides, boy scouts and a police marching band. Scores of UN Volunteers working across South Sudan also joined the march as it went through the streets of Juba and culminated at the National Legislative Assembly. The celebrations were jointly organized by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports and the UNV programme South Sudan

The UN’s first-ever State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) was launched at the National Legislative Assembly where representatives from UN, the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports; and representatives of local NGOs gathered to mark the launch. The SWVR aims to enhance knowledge and understanding of the important contributions of voluntary action to peace, development and overall well-being.

Hon. Dr. Cirino Hiteng Ofuho, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports gave an overview of volunteerism and its deep roots in tradition and social practice in South Sudan. He mentioned how people in South Sudan practice volunteerism in various social capacities, in agriculture during the harvest season, and of course during hard times. The same spirit provides support to the elderly, widows, orphans and the physically challenged.  Hon. Dr. Cirino Hiteng Ofuho praised the efforts of the UN and its agencies in making a difference in South Sudan. He also proposed a “big march in Juba and ten states” to mark the IVD next year.

Ms. Lise Grande, Deputy-Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for South Sudan (DSRSG) and UNDP Resident Representative, in her opening remarks highlighted the contribution of UN Volunteers in South Sudan. “[The] UNV programme has been the central component of the UN in South Sudan where volunteers from across the world come to South Sudan to offer their services”.  She also praised the important role played by UN Volunteers during the referendum that won South Sudan its freedom, and the large mobilization of UNV to support the state building process following independence.

Ms. Hilde Johnson, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for South Sudan, described the IVD as a great day as it also coincided with the first-ever launch of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report.  Ms. Johnson maintained that volunteerism is relevant to South Sudan as it “can play a very important role in social cohesion which is important for peace”.  She hoped that the spirit of volunteerism can bring about a positive change in South Sudan. “We want to see a lot of youth in South Sudan being peace makers and peace promoters.”

Several UN Volunteers and representatives of local NGOs also spoke on the spirit of volunteerism encouraging broader participation of the community in building a cohesive and peaceful society.

International Volunteer Day (IVD) is observed every year on 5 December. It was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985.  IVD is now celebrated worldwide with thousands of volunteers involved in a range of IVD initiatives including clean-up campaigns, conferences, exhibitions, morning teas and many other activities all aimed to highlight the role of volunteers in their communities.

At present, more than 150 UN Volunteers are working with UNDP throughout South Sudan as experts in various capacities supporting the Government of South Sudan in areas such as financial management, public administration, civil engineering, Information Technology, revenue, statistics and economics, urban planning and medicine. These Volunteers are working to build capacity in public administration and assist the Government of South Sudan to help deliver better services that make a difference in people’s lives.