Work of UN Volunteers programme highlighted at special event in New York
Opening the ceremony, UN Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette spoke of the dedication and courage that characterizes the volunteer spirit. "I have always been full of admiration for the splendid work that volunteers do all over the world to meet people's needs, to protect their rights, and to help give them a voice," she said. "Asking nothing in return but to share a human experience, volunteers generously put their time, their skills and their talents at the service of the poor and the vulnerable."
Ms. Fréchette also drew attention to the contribution that UN Volunteers had made to UN peacekeeping since the beginning of their involvement eight years ago. "Whether they have taken up tasks in civil administration, electoral affairs, human rights, or logistical support, their contribution has been crucial to the success of our operations," she said of the 4,000 UN Volunteers who have served in 19 UN peacekeeping missions.
Today's event was held during the Executive Board meeting of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), which administers the UNV programme at the country level. It included presentations on the efforts by UN Volunteers to assist people living with HIV/AIDS in Botswana, connect communities with information and communication technology in Bhutan, safeguard human rights in Guatemala and ease the transition from peacekeeping to reconstruction in East Timor. Also highlighted were initiatives undertaken in the course of the International Year of Volunteers 2001, for which the agency was designated the focal point by the UN General Assembly.
Created in 1971, UNV saw its greatest period of expansion during the 1990s, when volunteers carried out more than 5,100 assignments and started working in new fields, namely electoral assistance and support to humanitarian relief and UN peace efforts. The valuable contributions made by UN Volunteers in peacekeeping missions was specifically recognized in last year's Report of the Panel on UN Peace Operations, also known as "the Brahimi report" after the panel's chairman, former Algerian Foreign Minister Lakhdar Brahimi.
UNV also promotes new forms of volunteerism such as the UN Information Technology Service volunteer corps (UNITeS) and home-based, online volunteering service managed by UNV and carried out in partnership with UNDP and Netaid.org.