ADDRESS BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER FOR ENVIRONMENT, GENDER AND YOUTH AFFAIRS ‘ME ‘MATHABISO LEPONO ON THE OCCASION OF THE OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS (IYV 2001) IN LESOTHO ON 5 DECEMBER, 2000

 

CHAIRPERSON, ALLOW ME TO CONVEY MY RESPECTS TO HIS MAJESTY KING LETSIE III, HEAD OF GOVERNMENT THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE PRIME MINISTER, THE UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR, THE UNDP RESIDENT REPRESENTATIVE, THE UNITED NATIONS VOLUNTEERS (UNV), AND ALL THE DONOR COMMUNITY PRESENT HERE TODAY, SENIOR GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, MEMBERS OF THE IYV 2001 NATIONAL COMMITTEE, REPRESENTATIVES OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS AND VOLUNTEER ORGANISATIONS IN ATTENDANCE TODAY.

I WANT TO BEGIN BY SAYING HOW PLEASED I AM TO BE PERSONALLY INVOLVED IN THIS EPOCH-MAKING OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF IYV 2001 IN LESOTHO. IT IS EVEN MORE GRATIFYING THAT I AM ABLE TO FOLLOW THROUGH A PROCESS WE STARTED MORE THAN A YEAR AGO WHEN THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, GENDER AND YOUTH AFFAIRS WAS IDENTIFIED AS THE FOCAL POINT FOR THE PREPARATIONS FOR IYV 2001.

IT IS ALSO A GREAT PRIVILEGE TO HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO IMPLEMENT AN INITIATIVE THAT LESOTHO HAS SUPPORTED FROM THE VERY BEGINNING. AS YOU ARE AWARE, LESOTHO WAS AMONG THE FIRST 123 COUNTRIES THAT SIGNED ON 20 NOVEMBER, 1997, THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY RECOMMENDATION TO DESIGNATE 2001 AS INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS.

WE HAVE REMAINED A PART OF THE GLOBAL PREPARATIONS, INCLUDING THE RECENT OPENING CEREMONY IN NEW YORK, PERFORMED BY THE SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS. I AM PLEASED THAT LESOTHO WAS AMONG THE COUNTRIES THAT SENT REPRESENTATIVES TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS OFFICIAL CEREMONY. I TRUST THAT IN THE COURSE OF IMPLEMENTING THE CENTRAL IDEAS OF IYV 2001 DURING THE COURSE OF THE COMING YEAR, OUR PARTICIPATION IN THE OPENING CEREMONY WILL BRING USEFUL LESSONS WHICH WILL GUIDE THE ACTIVITIES OF THE IYV NATIONAL COMMITTEE AND ITS PARTNERS.

SO, AFTER MORE THAN ---YEARS OF PLANNING AND EXPECTANCY, WE ARE NOW FINALLY AT THE POINT WHERE WE CAN SAY WITH CONFIDENCE THAT IYV 2001 IS A REALITY. WE ARE PROUD THAT THE MINISTRY HAS PROVIDED THE LEADERSHIP TO MAKE LESOTHO PART OF THIS GLOBAL INITIATIVE IN A WAY THAT WILL ENSURE THAT OUR PEOPLE REAP THE REAL BENEFITS OF VOLUNTARISM.

AS WE KNOW ALL TOO WELL, VOLUNTEERING IS NOT ONLY A PART OF EVERY CIVILIZATION; IT IS THE REAL POSITIVE FORCE BEHIND EVERY CIVILIZATION AND, FOR THAT MATTER, REVOLUTION AND CHANGE. VOLUNTEERING IS THE MOST STABLE AND UNCHANGING ELEMENT OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AT THE ROOT OF SOCIETY’S RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF SERIOUS ADVERSITIES. AS IS WELL KNOWN, WHENEVER A SOCIETY HAS SURVIVED A SERIOUS AND TRYING TIME, SOME PEOPLE HAVE MADE SACRIFICES BEYOND WHAT ANYONE CAN PAY THEM FOR.

WHEN EARTHQUAKES OR OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS STRIKE, IT IS VOLUNTEERING THAT COMES TO THE RESCUE FIRST BEFORE MARKET-BASED SOLUTIONS ARE GRADUALLY NEGOTIATED AND IMPLEMENTED. WITHOUT VOLUNTEERING, MOST COMMUNITIES WILL NOT HAVE THAT IMPORTANT BRIDGE OR FOOTPATH THAT LINKS THEM TO THE REST OF MANKIND OR THE WATER SUPPLY ON WHICH LIFE DEPENDS. IT IS THROUGH VOLUNTEERING THAT OUR SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES ARE RUN AND OUR COMMUNITIES ARE GOVERNED. GOVERNMENTS FUND THE PROVISION OF PUBLIC SERVICES, BUT IT TAKES VOLUNTEERS IN A GROWING NUMBER OF CASES FOR THESE SERVICES TO TRULY SERVE THE PEOPLE.

IT IS IN THIS REGARD THAT I MUST COMMEND THE EFFORTS OF THE IYV 2001 NATIONAL COMMITTEE IN COMING UP WITH A PLAN OF ACTION FOR ADDRESSING SOME OF THE REAL CONCERNS OF THIS COUNTRY TODAY AS A WAY OF DEMONSTRATING THE ROLES OF VOLUNTEERS IN SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT.

I AM PARTICULARLY PLEASED THAT YOUR PLAN OF ACTION INCLUDES TWO OF THE MOST PRESSING PROBLEMS WE CONFRONT TODAY, NAMELY HIV/AIDS AND THE ENVIRONMENT. I AM AWARE THAT YOU HAVE DECIDED TO SET UP AN HIV/AIDS COUNSELLING AND SUPPORT INITIATIVE THAT WILL BE OPERATED ENTIRELY BY VOLUNTEERS AND I AM ALSO AWARE THAT THE UN SYSTEM HAS AGREED TO SUPPORT THIS EFFORT TO ENSURE THAT YOU ACHIEVE REAL IMPACT.

YOU CAN COUNT ON THE SUPPORT OF MY MINISTRY, THROUGH THE DEPARTMENT OF YOUTH AFFAIRS WHICH WILL PROVIDE ALL THE LOGISTICS NECESSARY TO MAKE THIS IDEA A VERY SUCCESSFUL AND PRACTICAL INTERVENTION.

REGARDING THE OTHER PILLAR OF YOUR PLAN OF ACTION, NAMELY ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT, YOU KNOW THAT THIS IS ONE OF THE POLICY CONCERNS OF MY MINISTRY AND THE GOVERNMENT OF LESOTHO. I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU PLAN TO HAVE IN PLACE A VOLUNTEER CORPS THAT WILL SERVE AS A RAPID RESPONSE MECHANISM TO HELP LOW-INCOME COMMUNITIES TO DEAL WITH THEIR ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS BEFORE ASSISTANCE COMES FROM THE GOVERNMENT.

WITHOUT A DOUBT, THESE ARE VERY NOBLE AND

THOUGHTFUL PLANS WHICH WE WILL SUPPORT IN EVERY WAY POSSIBLE AND WILL MONITOR VERY CLOSELY IN THE COURSE OF THE COMING YEAR TO SEE THAT THE PERFORMANCE MEETS YOUR EXPECTATIONS AND THE NEEDS OF OUR PEOPLE.

IMPORTANTLY, WE WILL WISH THAT THESE IDEAS WHEN THEY ARE PUT INTO OPERATION, WILL SERVE AS EXAMPLES TO THE GENERALITY OF OUR PEOPLE AND CHANGE THEIR ATTITUDES IN THE DIRECTION OF BEING MORE PROACTIVE IN COMING FORWARD TO LEND A HAND IN SUPPORT OF WHATEVER INITIATIVES WILL IMPROVE THE LOT OF THE AVERAGE MOSOTHO.

ON OUR PART, WE WILL RECOGNISE THAT, WHILE YOU HAVE THE WILLINGNESS TO HELP, YOU MAY LACK THE RIGHT TECHNICAL SKILLS TO CARRY OUT THESE TASKS. WE WILL THEREFORE PUT IN PLACE THE NECESSARY ARRANGMENTS THAT WILL FACILITATE THE ACQUISITION OF THE RIGHT SKILLS BY YOUR GROUPS TO DO THEIR JOB PROPERLY. AS YOU KNOW, WE HAVE AN ENVIRONMENTAL YOUTH CORPS PROGRAMME WHICH CAN LINK UP WITH YOUR INITIATIVE AND PROVIDE THE OPPORTUNITY FOR TRANSFER OF SKILLS. THE PROGRAMME WILL ALSO BE READY TO GUIDE YOUR OPERATIONS WHENEVER NEED ARISES. IN THE SAME WAY, OUR OTHER TECHNICAL DEPARTMENTS WILL BE AT HAND TO PROVIDE WHATEVER ASSISTANCE YOU MIGHT NEED IN THE MONTHS AHEAD.

I AM ALSO AWARE THAT AN IMPORTANT AIM OF YOUR COMMITTEE IS TO USE THE OCCASION OF IYV 2001 TO SET UP A NATIONAL VOLUNTEER CENTRE IN LESOTHO TO SERVE AS A CLEARING HOUSE FOR IDEAS, INFORMATION, DATA AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR VOLUNTEERING HERE AND ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD.

THIS IS A GREAT IDEA WHICH WILL HAVE IMPLICATIONS FOR MOBILIZING OUR PEOPLE FOR MORE VOLUNTARY ACTION. WE ARE CONCERNED THAT THE SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERISM HAS BEEN WANING IN OUR PEOPLE OVER THE YEARS, AND WE WILL SPARE NO EFFORT TO RE-IGNITE THAT FLAME AND KEEP IT BURNING. THEREFORE, LET ME ASSURE YOU OF THE SUPPORT OF MY MINISTRY IN THIS EFFORT AND I URGE YOU TO COME BACK TO US WITH FURTHER IDEAS ABOUT HOW TO GO ABOUT THIS SCHEME.

FINALLY, LET ME USE THIS OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS OUR GRATITUDE TO ALL THE VOLUNTEERS OF THIS COUNTRY, AND ALL THE VOLUNTEERS THAT WORK IN THIS COUNTRY. THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE ALWAYS STOOD UP FOR THE BASOTHO WITHOUT COUNTING THE COSTS. WE ARE GRATEFUL TO YOU AND RECOGNIZE THE NOBLE WORK YOU HAVE BEEN DOING FOR OUR PEOPLE.

IF WE HAVE NOT ALWAYS SAID THIS, PLEASE KNOW THAT IT IS A MISTAKE OF THE HEAD AND NOT OF THE HEART. WE APPRECIATE AND VALUE YOUR CONTRIBUTIONS. WE WILL NOW BEGIN A PROCESS OF DOCUMENTING THESE CONTRIBUTIONS IN A WAY THAT SHOWS QUITE CLEARLY WHAT DIFFERENCE VOLUNTEERING CAN MAKE AND WHY WE NEED TO SUPPORT IT.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, OUR DEAR FRIENDS AND WELL-WISHERS, IT IS NOW MY HONOUR AND PLEASURE TO OFFICIALLY LAUNCH THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS (IYV 2001) IN LESOTHO.

KHOTSO! PULA! NALA!