Speech by His Excellency Mr. Phongsavath Boupha

Vice-Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Chairman of the National Committee for International Year of Volunteers

Vientiane, December 2000

 

Excellencies,

Ambassadors and Representatives of International Organizations in Lao PDR,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

It is three days after the great celebration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Lao PDR. Today, it is a great honour for the National Committee for preparation of the celebration of International Year of Volunteers to represent the government of the Lao PDR to hold the celebration of International Year of Volunteers in collaboration with UNDP and UNV.

Hence, I highly appreciate your participation and sincerely thank you.

Distinguished delegates,

The idea of internationalizing volunteerism towards the twentieth century was brought for consideration in the United Nations System on November 20th 1997. The 52nd UN Session adopted provision number 52/17 by declaring the year 2001 the International Year of Volunteers. The aim of the year is to raise awareness of volunteerism globally, enhancing it in all countries, facilitating and providing the necessary knowledge to volunteers and formulating volunteer networks internationally for effective mutual sharing of information and experiences.

To implement the provision, the government of the Lao PDR has formulated the National Committee for preparation of the celebration of International Year of Volunteers. Members of the Committee represent many sectors, mass organizations, and acting in collaboration with UNDP and UNV we will prepare the celebration of IYV. The joint committee will work together in identifying activities and actions for the year 2001.

At present, volunteers – and especially United Nations Volunteers – have played important roles through their interaction with all levels of society. Since 1971 UNV has grown rapidly both in numbers and performances. The number of volunteers has grown from 35 in 1971 to over 4 000 in 1999, coming from over 140 countries.

We consider volunteerism as essential as it stimulates and contributes to global socio-economic development. Such a force needs to be promoted and supported by international country members. Through their daily work, volunteers in many countries have become active in economic development, humanitarianism, environmental protection, drug abuse and AIDS awareness.

Volunteers are truly great human beings who sacrifice themselves to bring the highest benefits to their community without asking for profit, high wages or salaries. Very often, they have to work in risky, difficult, remote areas with limited communication. But those problems mean nothing to them; they are satisfied because they have made positive changes to the lives of all those around them.

For many years, Lao People’s Democratic Republic has been implementing its international policy for peace, independence, friendship and cooperation. Since 1986, Lao PDR has opened its doors for cooperation with different countries, international organizations, and NGOs that provide assistance for implementing the socio-economic development of the Lao PDR. These organizations also provide volunteer experts in supportive projects, particularly for rural and community development in the provinces. The Government of Lao consistently strives to facilitate the effective performances of these volunteers.

At present there are more than 60 knowledgeable and experienced UN volunteers working with various local sectors and in remote rural areas of Lao PDR, and this number continues to grow steadily and greatly benefit our country. The volunteers have used their knowledge, and have worked cooperatively to assist the Government of Lao in socio-economic development and improvement of people’s lives.

On this occasion, the Government would like to express its sincerest thanks to the contributions made by volunteers and colleagues, international organizations, and NGOs. We hope for your continued cooperation and support as you are the agencies that will support Lao people of all ethnic groups to rise from the level of ‘Least Developed Country’ by the year 2020.

Lao PDR has a distinct and precious culture. Lao people love peace, and are generous. They often help each other without any expectation of reward. This has long been a custom deeply inscribed in the minds of Lao people. Along with efforts put towards national construction, and development, volunteerism was established. Local volunteers can be seen working cooperatively in health, illiteracy, and arts promotion campaigns which are, in turn, major forces in helping develop our society. Such campaigns have been implemented through mass organizations such as the Lao Youth Union, the Women’s Union, and Trade Union.

Due to many factors - for example, limited knowledge, educational and professional levels, and extremely low income levels – however, volunteerism exists in Laos mainly at the local level, and it cannot yet meet international standards. However, the Government of Laos supports the process that will facilitate Lao people having the opportunity to make contributions to international actions. Principally, the Government of Laos supports Lao volunteers to work with UN Volunteers. We encourage more Lao volunteers to join future UN projects and activities.

In the future, Lao PDR along with its international partners, will continue to build cooperative efforts aimed at increasingly effective volunteer efforts that will help to solve global problems through actions such as poverty reduction and livelihood improvement of people in developing countries. Looking at you all today, I can assure you that within each one of you lies the potential to become an international volunteer.

On this auspicious occasion, may I, on behalf of the National Committee for preparation of the celebration of International Year of Volunteers and myself, appeal to all volunteers to try your utmost to successfully perform your duties in order to make today a special event that brings the highest benefit to our nation. I also wish you good health, happiness, and success. Let me officially declare the opening of the International Year of Volunteers in Lao PDR from this moment.

Thank you.