UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri (in red) breakfasts with delegates during the Global Volunteering Conference held in Budapest. (Philip Sen/UNV, 2011)

Global Volunteering Conference in Budapest - game on!

Over 200 international delegates are meeting in Budapest, Hungary, from 15-17 September, to discuss the future of volunteerism at the Global Volunteering Conference, "Volunteering for a Sustainable Future", co-hosted by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

Over 200 international delegates are meeting to discuss the future of volunteerism at the first conference bringing together the Red Cross Red Crescent, the United Nations, governments and civil society. As the first day drew to a successful close, organizers took a moment to savour the culmination of months of hard work and probably the last major global IYV+10 event until the General Assembly on 5 December. The Global Volunteering Conference, themed "Volunteering for a Sustainable Future", is co-hosted by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). Delegates from some 80 countries are gathered in the Flamenco Hotel in sunny Budapest to discuss ways to strengthen links with governments and the international community and agree on a Declaration of Action on how institutions can better encourage and support volunteers in the future. Having attracted UN Assistant Secretaries-General, Government Ministers, several IFRC country directors and many heads of NGOs, the conference could well be the largest ever gathering of volunteering leaders. The opening ceremony included colourful local music and dance performances and what one participant described as “a rousing speech” by UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri who reminded everyone that "volunteering is not an add-on.  It's a serious element of sustainability". "This forum will be a crucial moment for civil society, governments and the UN," Ms Pansieri continued. "Creating a better world and more sustainable peace and development needs engagement by world citizens and [needs] the encouragement of national governments and international organizations. Volunteering is a vital resource that is an integral part to meeting today's global response to peace and development challenges." Mukesh Kapila , IFRC Under Secretary General for National Society and Knowledge Development showed his passion for volunteering too. "Without good hearts coming together we cannot make progress," he said, "... we are part of a global family." Running from 15-17 September, the conference will conclude with a joint declaration on the role and contributions of volunteers for a sustainable future to inspire future UN resolutions on volunteering and to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, as well as the 31st Red Cross Red Crescent International Conference. “Volunteers are the everyday heroes and heroines of humanitarianism around peace and development efforts around the globe," added Mr. Kapila, the conference moderator. "The economic impact of Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers alone is over 6 billion dollars. That does not begin to take account of the bigger social value volunteers provide. This conference will consider how the spirit of volunteering can inspire more people to come together." UNDP Administrator Helen Clark spoke to the participants too via video message. Watch it here: https://vimeo.com/29107740 . After the speeches and performances, the conference really kicked off with a passionate plenary session.  Lunch was followed by a series of roundtables covering different aspects of volunteering. Other keynote speakers will include: Irish Member of the European Parliament Marian Harkin; Member of the Japanese Parliament Naoto Sakaguchi; Olav Kjorven, Director of the UNDP Bureau of Development Policy; and  Eduard Tschan, IFRC Country Representative in Haiti. Follow it all via Facebook and Twitter: https://www.facebook.com/unvolunteers and Twitter hashtag #GVC2011. 

Budapest, Hungary