On the final day of the recent Global Volunteering Conference in Budapest, volunteer-involving organizations from across the world adopted a Declaration determined to value, recognize and encourage volunteerings contribution to people, their communities and our planet. The Declaration was a high point and the culmination of months of background work by staff of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the conference co-hosts.
On the final day of the recent Global Volunteering Conference in Budapest, volunteer-involving organizations from across the world adopted a Declaration determined to value, recognize and encourage volunteerings contribution to people, their communities and our planet. To rapturous applause, the text was read out onstage by five volunteers from across the world, including Jung-Yuen Park (Korea), a UN Volunteer serving as UNV Associate Programme Officer in Nepal. It was an emotional moment for many and a high point after months of background work by staff of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the conference co-hosts. Described by UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri as a big prize in our pockets, the Declaration will play a major role in the final phase of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteer, the lead-up to the General Assembly sessions on International Volunteer Day. The Declaration was drafted under the framework of the Global Volunteer Conference held in Budapest from 15 to 17 September. About 200 representatives from 80 countries, from civil society organizations, NGOs, academia, the private sector, governments, IFRC and the United Nations, were involved. Olav Kjorven, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) was among high-level guests and speakers at the many plenaries and roundtables. The UNDP senior manager told participants that any considerations of sustainable development and the Rio+20 process have to be about people. He said that any discussions on development need to be inclusive and people-centred and that a new vision must be formulated in light of the Rio+20 process and beyond 2015. Mr. Kjorven stressed that a global citizens agenda and the broad participation of citizens were now essential parts of the development agenda. He said the UN had the means to connect people and inspire them to volunteer. He credited volunteerism as a potential vast resource for social, economic and environmental transformation, and said harnessing this resource would be essential in a global effort to achieve the MDGs and sustainable development. Other prominent participants included: Judy-Cheng Hopkins, UN ASG for Peacebuilding Support; Marian Harkin, Member of the European Parliament and a true advocate of volunteerism; a video message from Naoto Sakaguchi, a former UN Volunteer in Cambodia and currently a Member of Parliament in Japan; Mohamed Younis, Assistant Secretary-General in the UN mission in Darfur (UNAMID); leaders of volunteering organizations such as the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) and the World Alliance for Citizen Participation (CIVICUS); many representatives and heads of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies, often themselves senior government officials; plus many more. With the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers and the European Year of Volunteering drawing to a conclusion, the representatives gathered in Budapest called upon all stakeholders to take effective steps to advance volunteerism worldwide. They asked for global recognition, support and advocacy for volunteers as they help build peace and sustainable development from the grassroots up. With this declaration, we want to advocate for the realization of the full potential of volunteers and volunteering in our communities stated Mukesh Kapila, IFRC Undersecretary General for National Society and Knowledge Development. As a volunteer-based organization, he continued, the Red Cross Red Crescent recognizes and underscores the critical contribution volunteers make in working towards achieving sustainable development and responding to the climate change challenge, as remarked in our Strategy 2020. IFRC committed to bring this Declaration to the attention of their constituencies in fora such as the 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in November 2011. This declaration paves the way for a better, more sustainable future, Flavia noted It brings together voices from across civil society and the volunteering community, and adds further legitimacy to the many other consultations held during 2011, the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. She added: The next steps are now to bring these voices to the UN General Assembly session on 5 December, International Volunteer Day. UNV will share this Declaration with UN Member States to inspire a GA Resolution on volunteering this December. Upon returning to UNV headquarters, Flavia congratulated her staff for their great work and urged them to continue, saying: Next stop: New York!