14 January 2009
UNV's stand at the 'volunteer of the year' fair on International Volunteer Day. (UNV)Yerevan, Armenia:
The new United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme office in Armenia made use of International Volunteer Day (IVD) on 5 December to draw more attention to volunteerism and volunteers' contributions in a country where it has rarely been recognized before.
A conference and 'volunteer of the year' fair was organized for the Day and involved many UN agencies, Government ministries, civil society organizations and the private sector. The event saw the first public statement by the UN in Armenia promoting volunteerism for development, and the Armenian Government confirmed its support for the establishment of a legal framework for volunteerism.
The UNV Country Office in Yerevan began operating in August 2008, and is enjoying great support from UN partner agencies, says UNV Programme Officer Sara Sangoi. After negotiations with UN partners in Armenia, UNV and volunteerism are also now part of the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF - the strategic programme and collective response of the UN to national development priorities), and volunteerism is being introduced into the UN's Country Programme Documents.
"UNDP has been very supportive assisting UNV with working with Government ministries and other UN agencies," she adds, "and we are closely cooperating in managing the TOKTEN [Transfer Of Knowledge Through Expatriate Nationals] programme in Armenia."
"We are also cooperating with the UN Regional Centre in Bratislava, Slovakia, on a regional survey which will provide a needs assessment for the introduction of volunteerism support measures in Armenia. And UN interns have been excellent providing language support too," Ms. Sangoi remarks.
Ms. Sangoi explains that, contrary to expectations, there is fertile ground for volunteerism in Armenia. "There are lots of different volunteer-involving organizations in various fields – social, environmental and community development," she continues. "Corporate volunteerism is on the rise too. For example, a major telecom company, VivaCell-MTS, promotes volunteerism among its workers, such as river clean-ups and assisting orphanages."
Other examples of volunteerism in Armenia include the Youth Bank programme. Supported by the Eurasian Foundation and the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland, it aims at developing youth leaders through building their teamwork and critical thinking skills while managing small development projects at the community level. Meanwhile, organizations like Caritas Armenia work with border villages, encouraging different ethnic groups to come together in local-level development initiatives.