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International Year of Volunteers was just the beginning: UNV head
29 November 2005


Message from Ad de Raad, Executive Coordinator
United Nations Volunteers
for International Volunteer Day 2005

Fours years ago today the International Year of Volunteers (IYV) 2001 came to a close. The Year itself ended on a high note, as the four pillars of IYV – greater recognition, promotion, facilitation and networking – generated a momentum that raised the profile of volunteerism and volunteers to a level never seen before.

Fast forward, and the momentum of IYV continues. The volunteer agenda is visible worldwide, thanks in part to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and its focus on involving all stakeholders in ending extreme poverty. More governments than ever are nurturing the development of an environment within which volunteerism can flourish. Indeed, many countries are now experiencing the benefits to be gained when individuals are provided the necessary means to undertake voluntary action in their own communities.  

Since IYV, we have witnessed a significant growth in structures and policies designed to foster volunteerism. A number of governments have adopted legislation to support voluntary activity, and there is now a better appreciation of the economic value of voluntary action and a growth of initiatives to measure volunteer contributions. The creation of the World Volunteer Web in 2002 is playing a very significant role in promoting global sharing of information and knowledge on a variety of aspects related to volunteerism.

However, despite the important progress underway, much work remains to be done in terms of recognizing and harnessing the full potential of volunteerism for development. It is indeed events like International Volunteer Day that help to highlight the impact volunteers are having in every region. The United Nations, governments, civil society, media and ordinary citizens are employing 5 December to enhance awareness of volunteerism as a resource for achieving the MDGs. This is helping break existing barriers that confine volunteering as a charitable act carried out by people living in the North.

This post-IYV reflection is not by coincidence. The recent series of natural disasters in Central America, Pakistan and the United States have placed volunteers in the international spotlight, clearly demonstrating that they are often the first response in the wake of catastrophic events. And most recently at the World Summit, global leaders and decision-makers reiterated that without the full participation of all people the Goals will not be met.

For some, IYV might be viewed as the culmination of efforts to campaign for greater recognition, promotion, facilitation and networking of volunteerism. But for many, there is much room for greater progress. The Year, indeed, was just the beginning - there is still a lot left to do. Helping ordinary citizens engage in voluntary activities to achieve the MDGs is just one task on the global volunteerism agenda.