Civil Society urged to promote volunteer action in international cooperation

19 July 2002

Leaders of international volunteer organizations attending the World Civil Society Forum in Geneva today stressed the need for increased partnership between volunteer stakeholders. Panelists also recognized the leadership role of civil society in strengthening international cooperation. 

"The International Year of Volunteers (IYV) 2001 made clear that it is very important that we continue to build on all types of partnerships among and between the different sectors concerned with volunteering, including the major role that civil society organizations play in this field," said Ad de Raad, Deputy Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), during a panel discussion. 

The key to having strong civil society involvement is to ensure the participation of local volunteers, said Liz Burns, the head of the International Association of Volunteer Effort (IAVE). IYV was successful at highlighting volunteer action at the local and national levels, she said, adding that now is the time to build upon international partnerships. 

Panelist Kumi Naidoo, head of the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS), mentioned that civil society organizations play a leading role in volunteering and international cooperation. Governments are there to help facilitate the process, he said.

"Volunteers are the key element in the leadership of the [civil society] sector both in a formal sense, as well as in terms of the ideas and experiences they bring to the particular organization. And it is against this background that we at UN Volunteers feel so closely associated with many of you," said Kevin Gilroy, who until recently headed UNV operations in East Timor, when addressing Tuesday's plenary session. 

In his speech on behalf of UN Volunteers Executive Coordinator Sharon Capeling-Alakija, Mr. Gilroy called for further cooperation among the various stakeholders in achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals, adding that volunteerism and volunteer action should be considered as a strategic resource in meeting these targets. This was emphasized during the panel discussion today by Alfredo Sfeir-Younis, Special Representative of the World Bank with the UN and World Trade Organization, when he said: "There is no way that the Millennium Goals will be attained without volunteers."

Panelist Rafael Blasco Castany from the Foundation for Solidarity and Voluntary Work of the Valencian Community proposed that volunteer stakeholders establish a plan of action that would include annual meetings among volunteer groups and would highlight the importance of further research in quantifying volunteer contributions.

Volunteer action will again be the topic in a side event Saturday on networking. The workshop will focus on lessons learned from building the IYV network, such as the use of the Internet, the concept of participatory promotion and the distinction between network and coalition.

More than 1,000 organizations representing indigenous peoples, research centres, the UN system and non-governmental bodies collectively adopted recommendations, bilaterally or multilaterally, to bolster international cooperation at the Forum. Another expected outcome is the creation of an action plan to establish permanent forums for strengthening partnerships between stakeholders.

Based in Bonn, Germany, UNV is the volunteer arm of the UN system. It extends hands-on assistance for peace and development in 140 countries. Created by the UN General Assembly in 1970 and administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), UNV works through UNDP country offices to send volunteers--two-thirds of them from developing countries--and promote the ideals of volunteerism around the world.

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For more information on the World Civil Society Forum, please visit: http://www.worldcivilsociety.org
For more information on post-IYV activities, please visit: http://www.iyv2001.org

Media contacts: 
Natasha Mistry, tel: (49 228) 815 2254; email: natasha.mistry@unvolunteers.org<br />Henri Valot, tel: (49 228) 815 2252; email: henri.valot@unvolunteers.org

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