Statement by UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner on International Volunteer Day - 5 December 2023

December 4, 2023

International Volunteer Day is a moment to recognise those individuals who put others first.

This year’s theme asks us to ponder the conundrum: ‘If everyone did…’ 

The one billion people who volunteer across the globe are already answering that question very clearly.

It is a recognition that change starts with one person: including volunteering as an act of kindness or as a moment of selflessness or as an expression of engagement and advocacy. 

That encompasses the extraordinary efforts, also of the United Nations Volunteers.

So far in 2023, over 12,000 UN Volunteers have served with over 50 UN entities as part of the UN Volunteers programme, which is proudly hosted by the United Nations Development Programme.

Ranging from 18 to 77 years of age, this is the largest number ever.

Indeed, some 94% of UN Volunteers today come from the Global South.

They offer their skills, expertise, and time to drive forward progress across the Sustainable Development Goals.

Like other United Nations personnel across the world, they are committed to serving in often difficult and demanding situations including quickly responding to crises.

This has included providing vital emergency support in the wake of, for example, a cyclone in Mozambique or a devastating flood in Pakistan.

From Colombia to Myanmar, volunteers are also providing much-needed assistance to migrants and refugees.

Refugee UN Volunteers themselves are contributing to the wellbeing of their own and host communities in countries such as the Kingdom of Jordan.

They are also driving vital climate action.

That includes countries such as Senegal where UN Volunteers are working with partners to help restore and reforest 10,000 hectares of degraded lands.

They are also putting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights into action, from helping to address gender-based violence in a country such as Fiji; to raising awareness of human rights in Guinea.

Moreover, Online Volunteers with UNV are today using the benefits of our digital world to share their unique skillset -- including using tech like machine learning to help with the roll-out, for instance, of solar minigrids on the Continent of Africa.

The UN Volunteers programme also continues to push boundaries.

Consider the UNDP-UNV Talent Programme that is opening-up a range of new opportunities for young professionals with disabilities.

In 2023, over 180 UN Volunteers with disabilities have already served in some 85 countries across the globe. 

On behalf of UNDP, I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to volunteers everywhere -- including UN Volunteers and Online Volunteers -- for their exceptional contributions to vital areas like peace, development, and humanitarian assistance.

In so many ways, you embody the bold vision of the United Nations: only by coming together can we find the strength to confront the challenges that affect us all.

You are painting a new canvas of a world defined by solidarity.

Happy International Volunteer Day.

Thank you.

Achim Steiner, Administrator, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)

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