Welcome Address - National Workshop on International Year of Volunteers By UNDP Resident Representative a.i. Mr. Philippe Zysset

Honorable Minister of Home Affairs Housing and Environment,

Mr. Ismail Shafeeu,

Members of the National Coordinating Committee for the International Year of Volunteers

Workshop participants

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am honored to participate in this important occasion and to address you on behalf of the United Nations as a whole.

In 1997, the United Nations General Assembly declared 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers and designated the United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV) as the Year's focal point. The UNV Programme, which has almost 5,000 UN Volunteers out in the field is one of the funds administered by my organization, UNDP, but it serves the entire system of UN agencies in their cooperation with the member countries.

Honorable Minister of Home Affairs, Housing and Environment,

Distinguished officials of the Government of Maldives and national NGOs,

Your presence here tonight is testimony to the importance that Maldives, both as a member of the United Nations, and in the pursuit of its own development priorities, is giving to the preparation of this world-wide, year-long event.

The four mottos of the International Volunteers Year celebrations are Promotion, Recognition, Facilitation and Networking.

Promotion: more youths, more career women and men, more retirees should feel encouraged to offer service as volunteers, because they would know where to go to make their offer.

Recognition: one would inventorise all the volunteer work that is going on in one's country and make sure that the public and the authorities are aware and supportive of these efforts.

Facilitation: for example, the possibility for the private sector and the government to allow paid or unpaid leaves of absence for their staff to have a stint as volunteers; or a regulatory framework for pro bono services and national associations of volunteers.

Networking: sharing experiences at a national and international level, so that other local groups, other communities, other nations maybe, don't feel the need to "reinvent the wheel".

The key objective is to recognize the work of millions of volunteers from all walks of life and build global networks among them.

A lot of commitment has already been generated. About 82 countries all over the world have set up National Committees and have planned events to mark the year, the largest global celebration of volunteerism ever conceived.

Of these 82 pioneers, 28 are in Africa, 20 in the America13 in Asia, 13 in Europe, five in the Middle East and 3 in the South Pacific.

Ladies and gentlemen, as we join the International Community to celebrate this first International Volunteers Day of the millennium, let us reflect a moment on what volunteerism means to us.

Volunteers come in various types and activities, but the cement that binds them together is the willingness to accept certain sacrifices for the betterment of other people's lives, the willingness to adapt to new environments and the flexibility to respond to local circumstances in order to make positive changes happen. Let us therefore use this occasion to revisit our performance and goals as individuals and groups of volunteers and pave the way for an even better recognized and respected status of volunteerism in the global village.

Everyday in our lives, each one of us volunteers in one way or the other.

The person who spontaneously picks empty cans on a beach and brings them to the garbage collection point is a volunteer.

The one who takes a sick person to the hospital without asking for any payment is a volunteer.

The housewife who prepares the meals at home for the family is a volunteer.

The traditional birth attendant in the island who wakes up in the middle of the night to help a woman to deliver is a volunteer.

However, very few indeed among these types of volunteerism are recognized or valued in any monetary terms and in most cases, even a thank you is not given. Yet Volunteerism continues to exist everyday for the 365 days of the year.

We must recognize that no country could survive without volunteers. To put this in the words of Sharon Capeling-Alakija, the Executive Coordinator for the UNV programme, "the contribution of volunteerism in creating and enhancing economic and social capital is one of the best-kept secrets of the modern world"

To conclude this welcome address, allow me to quote the UN Secretary General's speech on this year International Volunteer day:

"Volunteers are bold enough to stand for something. They put their hands and their minds, and most of all, their hearts at the service of others. And in doing so, they bring hope to those they help and can give them the strength to overcome their weaknesses. In turn, they are rewarded with the knowledge that they have truly made a difference. Their courage and dedication should be an inspiration for others - for all of us - to act."

"Volunteers can help transform all our societies, for the benefit of all people. But for this to happen, societies need to promote volunteerism as a valuable activity, and to facilitate the work of volunteers at home and abroad."

I am very optimistic that the objectives of the International Year will be achieved in the Maldives. I look forward to the outcome of this workshop and to the implementation of Maldives' action plan to mark the year.

I thank you for your attention.