Global perspective Human stories

UN Volunteers programme reports growth of ranks, expansion of reach

UN Volunteers programme reports growth of ranks, expansion of reach

United Nations Volunteers (UNV), a programme which began its activities 30 years ago to provide professional assistance to the UN in its work for peace and development, has expanded both its geographic reach and the frontiers of its cooperation, the UNV head said today.

UNV Executive Coordinator Sharon Capeling-Alakija, told reporters in New York that over the past three decades, UNV has grown from deploying 41 volunteers when the programme first became operational, to nearly 5,000 last year.

Launching UNV's annual report, Reaching Out, Ms. Capeling-Alakija drew particular attention to the large number of people from developing countries serving with UNV. She said that the fact that volunteers were recruited from 157 countries showed the programme's unique strength. "We break out of the traditional idea that there are some set of countries that are donors and others which are recipients because through the volunteer programme, all countries are contributors through their people." Some 65 per cent of all volunteers are recruited from the developing world.

The report details not only work by the UNV in peacekeeping and peace-building but also in helping to create cities that were more people-friendly and in assisting people living with HIV/AIDS. Ms. Capeling-Alakija said the report illustrated the grass-roots approach that had come to characterize UNV's work. "We bring the human face of the United Nations to some of the poorest people in some of the most remote communities throughout the world," she said.

The Executive Coordinator noted that the year 2000 marked the beginning of a new initiative launched by the Secretary-General -- the UN Information Technology Service (UNITeS), which aims to help developing countries build their capacity to use information and communications technology. In addition, last year saw the launch of online volunteering, with almost 3,000 people registered through "Today that number had risen to 5,800," she said, noting that the Internet provided an opportunity for people who would not normally be able to participate in international efforts to do so.

"The bottom line is that literally millions of people around the world are contributing billions of hours in the service of the United Nations," she said. "Why they are doing this is that the core values of volunteerism are so closely linked to those core values that are espoused by the United Nations in its Charter."