In the press
Voluntary environmental action exceeds 1.5 million hours
14 December 2009
Campaign draws thousands of supporters in developing countries
Bonn, Germany: Thousands of volunteers around the world have registered more than 1.5 million hours of effort to tackle climate change and other environmental issues, as part of a campaign to promote InternationalVolunteer Day on 5 December.
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme launched the global campaign 'Volunteering for our Planet' to promote voluntary effort for the environment. Since the website launched in October, tens of thousands of people have visited the website, www.VolunteeringForOurPlanet.org, to register the time that they spend on a voluntary basis, helping communities to adapt and innovate and to mitigate the causes of climate change.
As the total registered effort passed 1.5 million hours, volunteers in developing countries had registered the most time and activities. The top five countries were India, Pakistan, Kenya, Nigeria, and the Philippines. Only one western country, the United States, appeared in the top 10.
"This sends a very strong message that volunteers make a significant contribution to development and that everyone can be a part of the solution to climate change," said UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri. "It is highly relevant that developing countries are so well represented in this campaign, because they will be among the most affected by global climate change."
UNV is continuing to collect information about environmental volunteerism and will present the result of the campaign at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen which opens on 7 December. "Governments are increasingly recognizing both the urgency of addressing climate change, and the support they have from their citizens to do this. In Copenhagen, they have the opportunity to turn this powerful voluntary force into agreed international
actions," Ms Pansieri said.
Volunteers are taking action across many areas, including environmental education in Egypt, agriculture in Brazil, energy in China, waste and pollution in Germany, water and sanitation in Australia and biodiversity in Canada. People registering on the website have given details of many different ways that they are volunteering. One couple volunteered 1000 hours to teach environmental conservation to communities in Malaysia. In Turkey, a woman volunteered for 100 hours to build more energy-efficient buildings, while a man in Liberia spent 50 hours installing water pumps and mobilizing young people to volunteer for environmental projects.
"People are committed and they are taking positive action to do something about this issue," said Ms Pansieri. "Taken on their own, a few hours of effort by an individual volunteer might not look like very much, but the fantastic response to this campaign demonstrates that the combined actions of thousands of volunteers around the world add up to a tremendous contribution to the global effort to address climate change."
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated on World Environment Day 2009, "Our planet needs more than just action by governments and corporations; it needs each of us. Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose we can make a tremendous difference."
Ms Pansieri noted that volunteerism was instrumental to fighting climate change. "Volunteers started the global environmental movement and we are an essential part of the solution to climate change. That is why UNV established 'Volunteering for our Planet' as our theme for International Volunteer Day. We want political leaders to recognize that the solution lies not only with governments and industry, but with every one of us. We are sending a strong signal to the Copenhagen conference that people should be encouraged to volunteer to be part of the response to climate change. Our climate is changing and everybody needs to get involved to help us cope. Every hour counts."
'Volunteering for our Planet' is the UNV contribution to the UN campaign to Seal the Deal in Copenhagen. The website is recording voluntary contributions made between 5 June and 5 December. Contributions will continue to be recorded until the closure of COP15 on 18 December, when the final results will be released.
The United Nations Volunteers programme is the UN organization that promotes volunteerism to support peace and development worldwide. Volunteerism can transform the pace and nature of development and it benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer. UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for volunteerism globally, encouraging partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing volunteers. UNV is the UN focal point for International Volunteer Day, celebrated internationally every year on 5 December and marked in a variety of ways by governments, institutions and individuals worldwide.
To learn more about the campaign please visit www.VolunteeringForOurPlanet.org
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