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Beijing Declaration highlights value of voluntary action in meeting development challenges
28 May 2002

Beijing, China: Experts on volunteering from 26 countries Tuesday called on governments and the United Nations to encourage the use of voluntary action "in addressing the full range of development challenges".

"We, delegates from all over the world, wish to see governments and the UN system enhance significantly an environment favourable for volunteering globally," the 150 participants at the International Conference on Voluntary Service stated in a final document -- the Beijing Declaration.

The declaration also urged United Nations bodies to continue to review volunteer action through established mechanisms including the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the Commission for Social Development and other UN fora. It also called on "individuals and organizations, involved in volunteer activity, to network and collaborate on initiatives that promote civic participation".

Addressing the delegates, China State Councillor Wu Yi noted the "international society's strong desire to promote voluntary service", including efforts in support of world peace and development. The official highlighted the role of young volunteers. "The extensive participation of young people can bring about the vitality and vigor for the sustainable development of voluntary service."

The two-day conference was held five months after the close of the UN International Year of Volunteers (IYV 2001), which culminated in a UN General Assembly resolution, "Recommendations on support for volunteering" (A/RES/56/38).

"This international conference on voluntary service organized by China is an important milestone toward establishing concrete follow-up actions to that GA resolution," said Sharon Capeling-Alakija, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV). "In this context, we trust that the cooperation between China and UNV in the promotion of volunteerism will be more focused and enhanced by [Chinese] nationals serving as UN Volunteers both here in China and abroad."

Panelists at workshops on the recognition, facilitation and promotion of volunteering included government officials, media representatives, researchers, civil society representatives and United Nations officials. Other guests attending the conference included Shi Guangsheng, the Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation (MOFTEC), and Sun Yongfu, Director General of the China International Economic and Technical Exchange Centre (CICETE), the government programme for economic and social development. Conference organizers included the China National IYV Committee and MOFTEC.