27 August 2004
"How do we construct an inclusive society to help improve lives while respecting and preserving diversity?" the 18th World Volunteer Conference challenged the volunteer community as it concluded in Barcelona, Spain recently.
The four-day conference, part of the International Association for Volunteer Efforts’ (IAVE) bianneal gathering, discussed volunteering in relation to three areas – cultural diversity and equal opportunities, conditions for peace, and social and environmental sustainability.
The conference also emphasized that the new media technologies such as the internet is just a tool to facilitate volunteering but "does not replace the compassion and understanding of volunteers". It likewise concluded that "while it is important to strategize and analyze, sometimes (the volunteer community) just need to go out and do something".
Another area where volunteering could make a big difference is helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), a set of time-bound development objectives which includes halving poverty, providing education to all, combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS and empowering women by 2015.
"Indeed, it is hard to see how the MDGs can be achieved without the mobilization of many millions of people. The volunteer movement has an extraordinarily critical and complementary role to play in helping to harness and channel volunteer energy towards achieving the MDGs," said Ad de Raad, Executive Coordinator of United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme during the closing plenary session.
The conference was attended by some 1,500 representatives from civil society groups, United Nations agencies, government and the private sector. Organizers, Federación Catalana del Voluntariado Social and the International Conference for Volunteering, attributes the success of the event to 120 volunteers who helped organize and administer the conference.
Liz Burns, IAVE president, announced the closure by ringing the bell. The venue for the next IAVE World Volunteer Conference 2006 is still to be identified.