ADDRESS BY UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR A.I. DR. ADMIR BAY ON THE OCCASION OF THE INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY AND OFFICIAL LAUNCH OF INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS (IYV 2001) IN LESOTHO, 5 DECEMBER 2000

 

HONOURABLE MINISTER OF ENVIRONMENT, GENDER AND YOUTH AFFAIRS, PLEASE ALLOW ME ON BEHALF OF MR. EDWARD OMOTOSO THE UN RESIDENT COORDINATOR TO PAY MY RESPECTS TO HIS MAJESTY THE KING LETSIE III, THE HONOURABLE THE PRIME MINISTER, MEMBERS OF THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS, AND GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, REPRESENTATIVES OF NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANISATIONS AND VOLUNTEER ORGANISATIONS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN.

ANNUALLY THE UN SYSTEM, ALONG WITH THE REST OF CIVIL SOCIETY, CELEBRATES THE INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER DAY ON THIS DAY. BUT TODAY IS SPECIAL BECAUSE IT ALSO MARKS THE LAUNCH OF THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS WHICH IS THE BIGGEST EVENT FOR VOLUNTEERING AS WE ENTER THE NEW MILLENIUM.

LET ME SAY HOW PLEASED I AM TO BE PART OF THIS EVENT, NOT LEAST BECAUSE IT IS ONE IN WHICH THE UNITED NATIONS HAS INVESTED SO MUCH HOPE AND EXPECTATIONS. WHEN THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS PROCLAIMED 2001 AS THE INTERNATIONAL YEAR OF VOLUNTEERS, IT SET FOUR GOALS NAMELY:

ALL THESE GOALS REMAIN VALID TODAY AS WE REFLECT ON THE ENORMOUS CONTRIBUTIONS VOLUNTEERS CONTINUE TO MAKE WORLDWIDE. FOR US AT THE UNITED NATIONS, THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO REVEAL TO THE WIDER PUBLIC WHAT WE HAVE ALWAYS KNOWN AND PRACTISED, THROUGH OUR OWN UNITED NATIONS VOLUNTEERS (UNV) PROGRAMME WHICH WAS ESTABLISHED BY THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY IN 1970. IT IS A UNIQUE PROGRAMME AS THE ONLY MULTILATERAL VOLUNTEER UNDERTAKING IN THE WORLD.

THROUGH THE UNV, THE UN SYSTEM PROMOTES VOLUNTEER CONTRIBUTIONS TO DEVELOPMENT AND WE RECOGNIZE THAT THESE VOLUNTEER CONTRIBUTIONS ARE A VITAL FORCE IN OUR WORK IN SUCH FIELDS AS NUTRITION, FOOD AID, ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION, POPULATION, LITERACY, IMMUNIZATION, GOVERNANCE, AND MORE RECENTLY, HIV/AIDS. WE RECOGNIZE THAT VOLUNTEERS ARE A POWERFUL RESOURCE FOR OUR ADVOCACY WORK, OUR FUND RAISING, AND OUR OPERATIONAL ACTIVITIES.

THE UNV STARTED OPERATIONS IN LESOTHO SOME 28 YEARS AGO WITH THE FIRST THREE UN VOLUNTEERS. SINCE THEN, HUNDREDS OF UN VOLUNTEERS HAVE COLLABORATED WITH THE GOVERNMENT IN THE FIELDS OF AGRICULTURE, HEALTH CARE, CIVIL AVIATION, ECONOMIC PLANNING PROCESS, EDUCATION PLANNING, SKILLS UPGRADING, ETC.

IRONICALLY, THE WORK VOLUNTEERS DO HAVE GONE VIRTUALLY UNRECOGNIZED AND UNAPPRECIATED. THIS LACK OF RECOGNITION MEANS THAT THE FULL POTENTIALS OF VOLUNTEERISM GO UNTAPPED. EXPECTEDLY, THIS CARRIES WITH IT ENORMOUS COSTS IN TERMS OF THE LOST OPPORTUNITIES AND THE USE OF INAPPROPRIATE OPTIONS.

BUT WE ARE WELL ON THE WAY TO CORRECTING THESE DECADES OF LACK OF RECOGNITION. WE ARE BEING OFFERED THE OPPORTUNITY OF THIS UNIQUE STAGE IN HISTORY, THE START OF A NEW MILLENIUM, TO INITIATE THE CHANGES THAT WILL CORRECT THE SHORTCOMINGS OF PAST YEARS. THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO START TO PUT IN PLACE THOSE ARRANGEMENTS THAT ACCORD RECOGNITION TO THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF VOLUNTEERS AND FACILITATE THE WORK THEY DO IN VIRTUALLY ALL FACETS OF HUMAN LIFE.

WE WANT TO USE THE OCCASION OF IYV 2001 TO STRENGTHEN THE INVOLVEMENT OF VOLUNTEERS IN THOSE ROLES. WE WANT TO MAKE THESE ACTIVITIES MORE VOLUNTEER-FRIENDLY SO THAT THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF VOLUNTEERS IN THESE ACTIVITIES WILL BE OPTIMIZED.

IN THIS REGARD, WE THINK THAT THE UN SYSTEM CAN WORK TOWARDS STRENGTHENING VOLUNTEER GROUPS TO ENABLE THEM TO INTERVENE IN SPECIFIC THEMATIC AREAS. ONE WAY IS TO PROMOTE ENHANCED UNDERSTANDING OF THE MEASURES REQUIRED FOR SUCH INTERVENTIONS. THIS WILL REQUIRE SUPPORT TO RESEARCH GEARED TOWARDS DOCUMENTING VOLUNTEER ROLES IN DEVELOPMENT. WE CAN ALSO SUPPORT INITIATIVES AIMED AT DISSEMINATING INFORMATION ABOUT BEST PRACTICES OF VOLUNTEERS IN KEY AREAS OF DEVELOPMENT.

IN PUTTING THESE MEASURES INTO OPERATION, WE SHALL WORK HAND IN HAND WITH THE UNITED NATIONS VOLUNTEERS (UNV) PROGRAMME, WHICH IS THE INTERNATIONAL FOCAL POINT FOR IYV 2001, AND THE LESOTHO IYV 2001 NATIONAL COMMITTEE TO CONTEXTUALIZE MEASURES WHICH AT THE END OF THE DAY WILL ADDRESS THE FOUR OBJECTIVES OF IYV 2001 IN THIS COUNTRY.

WITH THE BENEFIT OF THEIR EXPERIENCE, WE SHALL BE ABLE TO DETERMINE HOW THE UN AGENCIES CAN FORGE EFFECTIVE PARTNERSHIPS WITH THE ACTIVE VOLUNTEER GROUPS. WE HOPE THAT SUCH PARTNERSHIPS WILL ENABLE US CONTINUE TO BE IN THE FOREFRONT IN SUCH AREAS AS THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS, ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION, ETC.

AT THIS JUNCTURE, LET ME CONGRATULATE THE LESOTHO IYV 2001 NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON ITS CREATIVITY IN COMING UP WITH THIS CEREMONY TO LAUNCH IYV 2001. THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE ALSO DESERVES SPECIAL COMMENDATION FOR THE WONDERFUL WORK THEY HAVE DONE SINCE BEING ESTABLISHED IN MARCH OF THIS YEAR.

I AM AWARE THAT YOUR PLAN OF ACTION IS READY AND YOU ARE WELL ON THE WAY TO SHOWING WHAT VALUE-ADDED VOLUNTEERS CAN BRING TO THE FIGHT AGAINST HIV/AIDS AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND MANAGEMENT. YOU CAN COUNT ON THE CONTINUED SUPPORT OF THE UN SYSTEM IN THESE ENDEAVOURS.

I WANT ALSO TO THANK THE GOVERNMENT OF LESOTHO, ESPECIALLY THE MINISTRY OF ENVIRONMENT, GENDER AND YOUTH AFFAIRS WHICH PLAYS THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT FOCAL POINT FOR IYV 2001. THE SUPPORT YOU HAVE PROVIDED TO THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE IS WELL APPRECIATED. THE UN SYSTEM IS GRATEFUL FOR YOUR LEADERSHIP IN THIS INITIATIVE. WE HOPE THAT WE CAN COUNT ON THE SAME LEVEL OF SUPPORT IN IMPLEMENTING THE YEAR ITSELF AND ENSURING THAT THE PLAN OF ACTION OF THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE IS IMPLEMENTED.

FINALLY, MY SPECIAL THANKS TO THE VOLUNTEER COMMUNITY IN LESOTHO FOR YOUR COMMITMENT AND DEDICATION OVER THE YEARS AND WE URGE YOU TO CONTINUE IN THE SAME DIRECTION AS WE MARCH INTO 2001 TO OBSERVE THIS ALL IMPORTANT YEAR FOR VOLUNTEERING.

I THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR ATTENTION. KHOTSO! PULA!! NALA!!!