Iraq has a long way to go towards peace and prosperity. The United Nations is doing its best to support the Iraqi people on this path and make the future bright for families like the one I met in Mosul. Behind this reconstruction, there is a lot of hard work done by UN agencies, local contractors and UN Volunteers. Among them is Gladys Gbegnedji, a civil engineer from Spain, who came to Iraq to help improve construction designs.
Earlier this year, we launched our social integration strategy. Based on considerable research, it sets out a new definition of social integration – emphasizing that it is about more than simply the degree of contact between people but also includes promoting equality and improving people’s levels of activity and participation in their local communities.
But encouraging social integration is a meaningless exercise unless people are provided with opportunities to come together. Volunteering does just that.
The ECOSOC Youth Forum (30-31 January 2018) will provide a platform for youth to engage in a dialogue with Member States, discuss policy frameworks and promote innovative, institutionalised approaches and initiatives for advancing the youth development agenda at national, regional and global levels with a view to promoting solutions to the global challenge of strengthening resilience and sustainable development.
Approximately one billion people are engaging in voluntary action globally. Their activities range from delivering services, preparing and responding to disasters and providing technical assistance such as in mapping and monitoring climate and environmental data.
The growing environmental awareness, often enabled by powerful and cheap new mobile and open technologies, is further triggering new data collection and monitoring efforts by volunteers.
The Global Environment Facility project on which I am working endorses the "farmer-field-school" approach to train farmers in how to adapt to climate change. It is an outdoor school where learning and sharing takes place through hands-on practical training.
Six years ago, Japan faced a paralysing triple disaster: a massive earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns that forced 470,000 people to evacuate from more than 80 towns, villages, and cities. While in some coastal cities, no-one was killed by waves that reached up to 60 feet; in others, up to ten percent of the population lost their lives.
On September 19, 2017, Mexico was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake that toppled buildings in Mexico City and four surrounding states. Only two hours earlier, I had left my meeting in a high-rise building to participate in the annual drill to commemorate the 1985 earthquake which struck on the same date 32 years ago. As part of the exercise, schools and office buildings were evacuated. Some people considered the simulation useful when the real thing hit.
The volunteer researchers are currently deploying to 15 countries to gather evidence for the 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) on the theme of “Resilient Communities: The Role of Volunteerism in a Turbulent World”.