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Country Overview: UN Volunteers in Lesotho

01 February 2003

Since 1972, the United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) in Lesotho has been active in a number of areas, including agriculture, community and rural development, infrastructure development, health care and employment creation. UNV has contributed actively to aid coordination through a UN Volunteer development economist assigned to the Ministry of Development Planning, and UNV was also involved in reforming the country's civil service programme. Between 1991 and 1995, UNV, within the framework of the Grassroots Initiatives Support Project (GRISP), made a significant contribution towards poverty alleviation and local participatory processes by providing training and strengthening of the Village and District Development Councils in the planning and management of local development programmes. A long-running umbrella project designed to strengthen national engineering capacity in the country was executed by UNV from the 1980s to the mid-1990s. In 2001 and 2002, three United Nations International Short-Term Advisory Resources (UNISTAR) missions were held in the country. Officials from Kraft Foods USA advised on ways to revamp a financially troubled food company, while a mission funded by the Japanese Government advised on artisanal income generation activities for poor women in peri-urban settlements. The most recent UNISTAR mission funded by the Irish Volunteer Service focused on organizational development of a local non-governmental organization (NGO) engaged in leadership training and issues of HIV/AIDS prevention. The goal of UNISTAR is to enhance the capacity of private and public enterprise and thereby support long-term sustainable human development worldwide.

UN Volunteers' current contribution to Lesotho
There are 22 UN Volunteers presently serving in Lesotho. The national project on Empowering Communities in Development Planning (ECDP) has seven serving UN Volunteers. Among these, one works as a community development specialist, one as a systems specialist and one as a participatory specialist. Under the Ted Turner Foundation-funded joint programme to combat the transmission of HIV/AIDS among adolescent girls and youth, a UN Volunteer serves as programme manager. A national UN Volunteer has helped spread environmental information since 1999 under the Environmental Management for Poverty Reduction project. Also, three international UN Volunteers are responding to the emerging food and humanitarian crisis in Lesotho coordinated by the World Food Programme (WFP). The recent expansion of UNDP-Lesotho's work in poverty monitoring and the reporting of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are drawing on the expertise of a UNV social statistician. Also, a UN Volunteer communications specialist has recently joined the newly-established Strategic Policy and Advocacy Unit and is expected to play a significant role in UNDP's advocacy work to promote a more strategic use of information and communications technology (ICT), as well as reporting on the work of the organization both nationally and internationally. Two national UN Volunteers have been working to implement a United Nations Information Technology Services (UNITeS) project as information technology teachers at a local technical school. The dispensary within the UN House is managed by two international UN Volunteers under the supervision of the World Health Organization.

Promotion of volunteerism
During the International Year of Volunteers (IYV) in 2001, the Government of Lesotho established a youth volunteer corps that engaged itself in the counselling and home-based care of people living with HIV/AIDS. On International Volunteer Day (IVD) on 5 December 2002, the Government officially recognized the volunteers' contribution by presenting the 72 members with certificates. Also on IVD, the Government launched the Lesotho National Volunteer Commission and announced it is working on selecting a location for a permanent national volunteer centre.

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)