Project turns volunteerism into public policy in Ecuador
03 December 2003

Esmeraldas, Ecuador: The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme through its "Support to Intra-City Volunteerism Project (ICV)" has included volunteerism as a tool for urban development in Esmeraldas, Ecuador.

Mayor Ernesto EstupiƱan will inaugurate the "Municipal Volunteer Office on 4 December, eve of International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2003.

Esmeraldas, a coastal city of approximately 140,000 inhabitants, is one of three pilot cities for the initiative, the other two being Falmouth, Jamaica and Amran, Yemen. The global ICV initiative aims to explore ways where volunteers can help in delivering public services. In many cases, volunteers can "fill the gap" between what local governments can provide and actual needs of communities.

The programme seeks to change the perception that volunteer efforts could substitute for services provided by local administrations. A concept has been developed to create partnerships with municipalities to increase the impact of public investments. According to Piedad Ortiz, a national UN Volunteer, "the communities have learned to organize themselves to change their surroundings and to better articulate their demands to local authorities".

UN Volunteer Berta Brusilovsky, who coordinates the ICV effort in Ecuador, estimates that through the volunteer and private sector contributions channeled in the project, over $170,000 in public works have been completed, with less than $30,000 in actual expenses incurred by the municipality. To date, four parks have been renovated, using community labour, materials donated by the private sector including playground equipment, along with technical support and tools from the municipality.

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