Yura Bak in Cambodia
Yura Bak (left) UN Youth Volunteer Legal and Policy Assistant with OHCHR visits resettlement sites in Cambodia to assess the inhabitants’ living situation. (UNV, 2016)

Partnering for Peace, Planet and Prosperity

Mr. Olivier Adam, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, is in Seoul today for the second Strategic Dialogue with the Republic of Korea. The meeting comes as Korea increases funding to UNV by 38%  making Korea UNV's largest partner to its government-sponsored volunteer programme.

Today’s dialogue expands the current collaboration – specifically in support of peacebuilding and climate action, two key priority areas for Korea.

Korea has long placed importance on volunteerism, beginning the partnership with UNV in 1986. The government increased their global support of volunteerism by co-sponsoring the UN Resolution 70/129: Integrating Volunteerism into Peace and Development. Adopted in 2015, the resolution recognizes volunteerism as a powerful means of implementation of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

Korean Government sponsored UN Volunteers are currently serving in over 30 countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and South America with UN partner agencies. As UN Volunteers, they galvanize communities and empower people.

Sung-gil Lee is a UN Volunteer Specialist for the Environment with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Timor-Leste. He helps ensure environmental sustainability of Timor-Leste – one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change – by highlighting potential environmental challenges.

Sung-gil assesses policies and development issues such as the impact of indoor smoke from the use of traditional stoves. He notes that, “Poverty and expensive imports like kerosene drive Timorese to use traditional stoves – these produce a lot of smoke – worsening the health of children.” By distributing fuel efficient and environmentally friendly stoves made of wastepaper, coffee husk and organic residue, he says “I make a difference in the everyday life of the Timorese – to help make their future clean and green.”

Another Korean national, Minhee Noh is a UN Youth Volunteer working in peacebuilding and humanitarian coordination. As a Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Officer, she works in East Jerusalem in the State of Palestine with the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “Before my volunteer assignment, I could never understand what it’s like not to have access to basic social services.”

In her assignment, Minhee supports humanitarian assistance by assessing various clusters of basic social services such as education, food security, health and protection. “Coordination saves lives – humanitarian response cannot reach all the beneficiaries without the work of assessing and monitoring on-the-ground realities. We, the youth, can make the world a better place for future generations.”

Korean UN Volunteers continue to make a tremendous impact around the world. They work at the grassroots level to make change happen.

Yura Bak – UN Youth Volunteer Legal and Policy Assistant with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) currently serves in Phnom-Penh, Cambodia, where she works with vulnerable groups who are excluded from development-related projects within their communities. “My work is all about human rights – especially the right to an adequate standard of living. As part of my volunteer assignment, I visit resettlement sites in Cambodia to assess the inhabitants’ living situation and determine whether it complies with international standards.”

Yura shares her findings with the government. “I am contributing to sustainable development through my work. Leaving no one behind and standing-up for the human rights of others – while making sure we all live in an inclusive world.”

UN Volunteers are at the forefront of pressing global issues throughout the United Nations and around the world. Korean UN Volunteers range from experts in their field with years of experience, to university students and youth who are just beginning their professional journey. They work in areas from gender equality to health, and from monitoring and evaluation to communications.

With UN Volunteers like Sung-gil, Minhee, Yura and many others, the Republic of Korea continues to reaffirm its commitment to volunteerism, global peace and sustainable development.

In 2016, UNV deployed 6,590 UN Volunteers in 126 countries. Some 418 were funded by the partners of the UNV government-sponsored programmes. Out of this, Korea funded 60 UN Volunteers, a number which will double in 2017.