Inspiration in Action

"If there are two country offices, one with UN Volunteers and one without UN Volunteers, I can probably tell you which one is more dynamic, more creative, more innovative and more closely linked to the communities."

7 de Septiembre de 2023

Toily Kurbanov, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers programme

Volunteering is one of the ways for people to engage their talents in the sustainable development of their communities. Each year, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program, administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and active in some 130 countries, is a space where people from all over the world become Inspiration in Action. With their diverse knowledge and areas of expertise, these professionals offer their full-time service in the different Agencies, Funds and Programs of the United Nations to contribute to the well-being of all.

In Peru, during 2023, 200 people have served as UN Volunteers, with full-time dedication in complex crisis contexts, such as the emergency caused by Cyclone Yaku and the migration crisis in the north of the country. In addition, 984 people volunteered online, which represents a part-time volunteer service, where specific tasks are carried out from anywhere in the world.    

We spoke with Toily Kurbanov, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers program, about the contribution of volunteerism to sustainable development. 


Why should we rely on professional UN Volunteers to move towards sustainable development?    

Toily Kurbanov (T.K.): Sustainable development has to happen at the community level. We will not achieve sustainable development simply through conventions, summits, programs, and projects, until and unless we create positive benefits for members of communities around the world. Therefore, for the UN as a whole, and UNDP in particular, to have an impact, we need to stay closely connected and work more closely with communities.  

That's why UN Volunteers are an essential part of most UNDP and UN System development projects and emergency response. Without a strong volunteer network, it would be much more difficult to make an impact at the community level.


Why is the UNV program globally relevant?

T.K.: The UNV program is globally relevant because, in close collaboration with all UN Agencies, Funds and Programs, it will help them go the last mile to achieve sustainable development.  

As I shared with you in my reflections on the vital role of volunteers, as long as the UN system as a whole is focused on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, and therefore focused on impact at the community level, UN Volunteers will remain relevant.  

UN Volunteers are also relevant because they work with the UN, not only in the implementation of projects, and to make an impact with communities, but they also add dynamism, passion, energy, creativity. The UN system as a whole benefits enormously from the work of UNVs.  

If there are two country offices, one with volunteers and one without volunteers, I can probably tell you which one is more dynamic, more creative, more innovative and more closely linked to the communities.


What does it mean to be "Inspiration in Action"?  

T.K.: "In action" means making an impact. "In action" means providing solutions. "Action" means listening to people and meeting their expectations. To me, that's what action is. You can act in different ways and with different styles, but there is only one way to act with dynamism, with determination, and that is through UN Volunteers. Because volunteers bring not only their minds and their hands, but also their hearts.


Toily Kurbanov and Bettina Woll, Resident Representative of UNDP in Peru


Can you tell us about the experiences and contributions of UN Volunteers in Peru?    

T.K.: I think this question can be answered much better by Oscar, UNV Country Coordinator in Peru. We know, however, that UN Volunteers in Peru work in 13 Agencies, Funds, and Programs throughout the country. And that during these critical years [with the pandemic, the Yaku cyclone and the human mobility crisis], volunteers have been at the center of the action, with inspiration. They have supported in all these scenarios, but also in so many other fields. The sustainable development agenda is so closely interconnected, so closely integrated. And, you know, therefore, you will see UN Volunteers in all the UN agencies.  

Oscar Malaga: UN Volunteers are deployed in all regions of the country and they are active against gender-based violence, for humanitarian assistance, assistance in migration regularization issues, in the development of food protection systems, as well as cash based transfer programs.  

In addition, 25 UN Volunteers are deployed in the north of the country, particularly in Tumbes, Piura and Trujillo, to provide support to the most vulnerable people in the context of the emergency.


The profiles of UN Volunteers are very diverse in terms of background and expertise. Why is it important to have such diversity?  

T.K.: Because we serve a diverse global community. We serve Peru, this country, this nation in all its beautiful diversity. We want to be representative of the communities we serve, representative of the people. For us to be relevant, we need gender parity, we need UN Volunteers not only in Lima, but also from all the provinces of the country.  

To be relevant, we need not only university graduates and people with PhDs, but people from all walks of life, including community volunteers. To be relevant, we must include people with disabilities. Finally, to be relevant, we need to provide opportunities for people of all ages to serve as Volunteers in the UN System.  

Volunteering is not just for young people; volunteering is a lifecycle phenomenon that spans the globe. We have volunteers ranging in age from 18 to 80 years old.


What makes a UNV? What are some of the characteristics of a person who volunteers, specifically with the United Nations?    

 T.K.: We have two UN Volunteers here, Oscar and Suzette from the UNV office in Peru. To answer your question, you just have to look at them. To be a UN Volunteer you have to be hardworking, you have to be first class, professional. You have to be devoted. You have to be agile. You have to be solution-focused. You have to be open-minded.  

You have to be well connected. You have to be tireless. And then, you are Inspiration in Action. I'm just describing Oscar and Suzette, I haven't added anything else.  


And what would you tell people who are thinking about getting involved in volunteering?    

T.K.: Don't think about it anymore, become a UN Volunteer.  


*Oscar Malaga is the Coordinator of the UNV Programme in Peru.  

*Suzette Yucra is the Communications Specialist for the UNV Programme in Peru.