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Top UN officials hail vital, but often overlooked, role of volunteers worldwide

Top UN officials hail vital, but often overlooked, role of volunteers worldwide

Marking International Volunteer Day, United Nations officials today paid tribute to the many millions of people around the world who contribute their time and efforts to help tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges, from reducing poverty to addressing climate change, and whose efforts often go unrecognized.

Tackling the vast and complex challenges facing today’s world requires all actors – governments, international organizations, the private sector and civil society – to work together, said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his message marking the Day, which is observed annually on 5 December.

“Volunteers play an indispensable role in these efforts,” he stated. “Yet, the remarkable contribution of voluntary action around the world is not sufficiently recognized.”

Mr. Ban called volunteerism a feature of all cultures and societies, and a fundamental source of community strength, resilience, solidarity and social cohesion. “It can help effect positive social change by fostering inclusive societies that respect diversity, equality and the participation of all,” he said.

Such contributions are vital to the three pillars of the UN’s work – promoting peace and security, advancing development, and protecting human rights and human dignity. “That is why every United Nations agency draws on the spirit of volunteerism, including through the United Nations Volunteers programme, to expand the reach of its activities,” Mr. Ban stated.

He called for recognition of the power of volunteerism to promote peace and development worldwide, while paying tribute to the “many millions of citizens all over the world who, every day – in ways small and large – volunteer their time, ingenuity, solidarity and creativity to help build a better, more sustainable future.”

In his message for the Day, the Executive Coordinator of UN Volunteers recognized the power of volunteerism in building social capital and cohesion, and its contribution to development.

Ad de Raad also expressed his appreciation to the millions of volunteers worldwide, saying that “regardless at what level they act, internationally, nationally or locally, all belong to an extraordinary group of global citizens who make an essential difference in building a better world for all.

“Everywhere we look we see those extraordinary contributions, from responding to disasters, to efforts to tackle major development challenges such as climate change, peace, human health, as well as the encouragement and engagement in society of youth and marginalized groups,” he stated.

Echoing these comments, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) paid tribute to those who volunteer their time, skills and energy to help improve the social and economic well-being of people and communities around the world.

“Volunteers are critical partners for development and deserve every support and recognition for their contribution to development efforts around the world,” said Administrator Kemal Dervis.

He noted that as the world stands at the midpoint towards the 2015 deadline for reaching the internationally agreed anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), it is clear that many developing countries have made significant progress in human development. At the same time, a range of obstacles continues to slow down the progress of others, particularly in Africa.

“We need to renew our efforts and there is no doubt that people’s engagement through voluntary action will be critical to this,” he stressed.