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Speeches and statements

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Opening remarks by
Sharon Capeling-Alakija
Executive Co-ordinator
United Nations Volunteers
at the XVIth IAVE World Volunteer Conference

14 January 2001 Amsterdam

IT'S WONDERFUL TO BE HERE IN AMSTERDAM TODAY. I WOULD LIKE TO JOIN THE PREVIOUS SPEAKERS IN PAYING TRIBUTE TO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE NETHERLANDS FOR ITS GENEROUS SUPPORT TO THIS CONFERENCE. WHAT YOU MAY NOT KNOW AND WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO ACNOWLEDGE HERE IS THE LEAD ROLE THE NETHERLANDS HAS TAKEN IN STEERING THE INTERNATIONAL DIALOGUE ON HOW GOVERNMENTS CAN FOSTER VOLUNTEERISM. FOR SO MANY OF US, IAVE'S WORLD VOLUNTEER CONFERENCE IS A KIND OF HOMECOMING. I REMEMBER SO WELL THE GATHERING IN EDMONTON TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO, WHEN WE AT UNV WERE JUST EMBARKING ON THE 2001 ODYSSEY KNOWN AS THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS.

IN EDMONTON, I ALSO TALKED ABOUT THE SPIRIT OF THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY'S PROCLAMATION ESTABLISHING THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR. I DESCRIBED THE GOALS FOR THE YEAR: · FULLER RECOGNITION OF VOLUNTEERISM; · MORE EFFECTIVE FACILITATION; · WIDER NETWORKING; · AND MORE ENERGETIC PROMOTION.

I SHARED WITH YOU SOME OF OUR CONCERNS AND OUR HOPES AND INVITED ALL OF YOU TO IMAGINE WHAT 2001 MIGHT BRING:

· CELEBRATIONS OF VOLUNTEER ACTION ALL OVER THE WORLD;
· NEW APPRECIATION FOR THE EXTENT AND VALUE OF VOLUNTEER CONTRIBUTIONS;
· NEW PARTNERSHIPS AMONG THE PUBLIC, PRIVATE, AND VOLUNTARY SECTORS;
· AND AN EXPLOSION OF CORPORATE VOLUNTEERING.

TOGETHER WE IMAGINED A TIME WHEN THE ISSUES SURROUNDING VOLUNTEER ACTION WOULD BE WIDELY DISCUSSED; WHEN STRATEGIES FOR GAUGING AND ENHANCING ITS INFLUENCE WOULD BE TAKEN UP AROUND THE WORLD BY POWERFUL FORA AND INFLUENTIAL INDIVIDUALS; WHEN THE IMPACT AND POTENTIAL OF VOLUNTEERISM WOULD BE FACTORED INTO DELIBERATIONS ON A BROAD SPECTRUM OF POLICIES- FROM INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT TO DOMESTIC ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL POLICY; FROM THE ENVIRONMENT TO EDUCATION; FROM CONFLICT RESOLUTION TO ELECTORAL REFORM; FROM HUMAN RIGHTS TO THE DIGITAL DIVIDE.

WE IMAGINED WIDE EMBRACE OF A VISION THAT WOULD ENCOMPASS NOT ONLY EFFORTS ORIENTED TO PHILANTHROPY AND SERVICE PROVISION, BUT ALSO THE OTHER VITAL FORMS THAT VOLUNTEERISM TAKES, INCLUDING MUTUAL AID AND SELF-HELP, CIVIC PARTICIPATION, AND ACTIVISM.

ABOVE ALL WE IMAGINED A MOMENT WHEN VOLUNTEERISM WOULD BE RECOGNIZED AND VALUED IN ALL OF ITS MAGNIFICENT DIVERSITY.

THAT WAS 1998. AND NOW HERE WE ARE IN AMSTERDAM, 30 MONTHS LATER, IN THE YEAR 2001. AND ALL I CAN SAY IS: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A MILLENNIUM MAKES!

TODAY, AROUND THE GLOBE, NATIONAL COMMITTEES IN MORE THAN 100 COUNTRIES- AS WELL AS MANY STATES AND CITIES---- HAVE RAISED THE BANNER OF IYV-2001. MANY MANY NEW VOLUNTEERS HAVE BEEN INSPIRED TO CONTRIBUTE THEIR TIME AND EFFORT- INCLUDING MANY ON-LINE VOLUNTEERS WHO MAY HAVE BEEN PREVENTED FROM PARTICIPATING IN THE PAST DUE TO DISTANCE OR DISABILITY.

INDEED, MANY OF OUR HOPES HAVE BEEN REALIZED - IYV 2001 IS A VITAL FORCE AROUND THE GLOBE AND WHEREVER TRAVEL, I FIND THAT THE SPIRIT THAT SPARKS VOLUNTEER ACTION IS MORE POWERFUL THAN EVER.

AS YOU KNOW, THE UNITED NATIONS VOLUNTEER PROGRAMME, UNV, HAS BEEN DESIGNATED THE FOCAL POINT FOR IYV2001 BY THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY, AND OUR ROLE HAS BEEN AND WILL CONTINUE TO BE THROUGHOUT THIS YEAR, TO ENSURE THE UNIVERSALITY OF IYV ACTIVITIES BY STIMULATING AND SUPPORTING THE CREATION OF NATIONAL COMMITTEES, SOME OF WHOM ARE REPRESENTED HERE AT THIS AMSTERDAM CONFERENCE.

WE AT UNV SEE OURSELVES AS A LINK - A BRIDGE IF YOU MAY - BETWEEN VOLUNTEERISM IN THE NORTH AND IN THE SOUTH.

ANOTHER ROLE OF UNV HAS BEEN TO KEEP THE ISSUE OF VOLUNTEERISM ON THE UNITED NATIONS AGENDA, AND HERE I WOULD LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE SUPPORT OF OTHER UN AGENCIES SUCH AS UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, UNHCR, THE POSTAL UNION AND OTHERS, WHO HAVE TAKEN UP THE ISSUE OF VOLUNTEERISM AND HAVE RECOGNISED THE CONTRIBUTION VOLUNTEERISM MAKES TO THEIR WORK.

AND, OF COURSE, I ALSO WANT TO PAY SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO UN SECRETARY GENERAL, KOFI ANNAN, WHO IS THE FIRST SECRETARY GENERAL TO SPEAK SUBSTANTIVELY ON THE SUBJECT OF VOLUNTEERISM AS HE DID AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF IYV2001 AT THE UNITED NATIONS HEADQUARTERS ON 28 NOVEMBER, 2000.

DURING 2001, WE WILL CONTINUE TO KEEP VOLUNTEERISM ON THE UN AGENDA, AT NEXT MONTH'S COMMISSION ON SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT, AND AT UPCOMING UN GLOBAL EVENTS ON RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, YOUTH, HABITAT AND RACISM. MOST OF ALL, WE LOOK FORWARD TO THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPECIAL SESSION ON VOLUNTEERISM AND IYV , ON DECEMBER 5, 2001. --------- INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY. IT PROMISES TO BE AN EXCITING AND FULL YEAR; WE AT UNV HOPE THAT IT WILL ALSO BRING LONG-TERM BENEFITS FOR VOLUNTEERISM IN ALL ITS MANIFESTATIONS AROUND THE WORLD.

THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR IS BEING CELEBRATED IN MYRIAD WAYS AROUND THE GLOBE. ONE MEASURE OF THE INTEREST AND ACTIVITY STIRRED BY THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR IS THE IYV WEBSITE MANAGED BY UNV. OVER THE PAST YEAR, THE NUMBER OF MONTHLY HITS ON THE SITE HAS INCREASED BY NEARLY 1,500 PERCENT, FROM 18,000 TO MORE THAN A QUARTER-MILLION.

AT THE SAME TIME, THE NUMBER OF ONLINE CONTACTS CONTINUES TO RISE DAILY AS VOLUNTEER ORGANIZATIONS ADD THEIR NAMES TO THE IYV COUNTRY PROFILES. TO DATE, MORE THAN 11,000 INDIVIDUAL VOLUNTEERS AND ORGANIZATIONS WORLDWIDE HAVE REGISTERED ON-LINE.

THE IYV WEB SITE CARRIES REPORTS OF ACTIVITIES IN SUCH DIVERSE SETTINGS AS BHUTAN, NEW ZEALAND, RUSSIA, WALES, AND BRAZIL.

LET ME MAKE SPECIAL MENTION OF BRAZIL, WHICH HAS MADE IYV 2001 QUITE LITERALLY A SPACE ODYSSEY. IN DECEMBER, A ROCKET BLASTED OFF FROM NATAL, BEARING A SPECIAL TRIBUTE TO ALL VOLUNTEERS. INSPIRED BY NEIL ARMSTRONG, THE MESSAGE READS "VOLUNTEER: A TINY HUMAN GESTURE, AN IMMENSE CONTRIBUTION TO HUMANITY." THE ACTUAL LAUNCH COINCIDED WITH THE METAPHORIC LAUNCH OF IYV 2001. THE ROCKET WILL HELP TO ADVANCE RESEARCH IN MICROGRAVITY, AND WILL HELP TO SUPPORT CONSTRUCTION OF THE WORLD'S LARGEST SPACE LABORATORY.

THE OUTPOURING OF ENERGY AND CREATIVITY AS WE PREPARED FOR THE YEAR HAS BEEN BEYOND OUR WILDEST DREAMS… AND WE HAVE ALL OF YOU TO THANK FOR THAT. WHAT'S MORE, THANKS TO THE WORK OF MANY PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM, WE NOW HAVE A LARGER, MULTI-DISCIPLINARY RESEARCH BASE RELATED TO ALL ASPECTS OF VOLUNTEERISM.

BUT, I HASTEN TO ADD, THIS IS NO TIME FOR ANY OF US TO REST ON OUR LAURELS. WE ARE ONLY AT THE BEGINNING OF THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR.

THE WONDERFUL OPENING FESTIVITIES IN NEW YORK, THE EXCITING LAUNCH ACTIVITIES ORGANIZED BY NATIONAL COMMITTEES AROUND THE WORLD, / AND NOW THIS LANDMARK IAVE WORLD CONFERENCE HERE IN AMSTERDAM, MARK JUST THE START OF WHAT PROMISES TO BE A YEAR FULL OF SUCH ACTIVITIES AND EVENTS. IYV-2001 REALLY IS "OUR TIME".

IT IS OUR TIME TO BRING ABOUT REAL CHANGE SO THAT THE FULL POTENTIAL OF VOLUNTEER ACTION CAN BE REALISED. IT IS OUR TIME TO TAKE A HARD LOOK BOTH AT OUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS AND THE CHALLENGES WE HAVE YET TO MEET- TO RENEW AND REVITALIZE OUR EFFORTS, INFORMED BY NEW PERSPECTIVES AND A BROADER VISION.

I WILL RETURN TO SOME OF THESE THEMES IN MY CLOSING REMARKS ON THURSDAY. FOR NOW, I WOULD LIKE TO EXTEND MY THANKS TO IAVE FOR BRINGING US TOGETHER HERE IN THE NETHERLANDS, A NATION THAT, AS WE WILL SEE THIS WEEK, HAS A REMARKABLE STORY TO TELL ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTIONS VOLUNTEERS MAKE TO SOCIETY.

TO OUR FRIENDS AT NOV, TO OUR UN COLLEAGUES AND TO ALL OF YOU, WE AT UNV WISH YOU A MOST PRODUCTIVE MEETING AND WE WILL DO OUR UTMOST TO HELP MAKE IT SO.

I AM CERTAIN THAT THE RESULTS OF OUR WORK OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS WILL MAKE A SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION TO CREATING THE TANGIBLE SUCCESS WE ALL WANT FOR IYV 2001 AND BEYOND. THIS CONFERENCE PROVIDES A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE THOSE CRUCIAL AND MEANINGFUL NETWORKING CONNECTIONS. TOGETHER, WE CAN STRENGTHEN FURTHER OUR UNTERNATIONAL COOPERATION AND SEND A COLLECTIVE SIGNAL TO GOVERNMENTS AND POLICY-MAKERS THAT VOLUNTEERS HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD AND SUPPORTED.

OUR DISCUSSIONS HERE MAY ALSO INSPIRE THE KIND OF RESEARCH NEEDED IN COUNTRIES WHERE THE IMPACT OF VOLUNTEERS HAS NOT YET BEEN MEASURED. THESE EFFORTS CAN STRENGTHEN OUR VOICE AND POSITION WHEREVER WE WORK. AS YOU KNOW, IYV-2001 WILL ONLY RUN THROUGH DECEMBER, BUT I AM SURE WE WILL CONTINUE LEARNING AND BENEFITING FROM IT FOR A LONG TIME TO COME.

IT'S OUR TIME ------- LET'S USE IT WELL!

 






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