Statement delivered by UNDP Country Director, Ms. Anne-Isabelle on the occassion of International Volunteers Day

Dec 3, 2007

December 3, 2008
Address by Anne-Isabelle Degryse-Blateau- UNDP Country Director

Dear Mr. Shiv Raj Chaulagain, Planning Officer of the NPC/NDVS (National Planning Commission’s National Volunteer development Service) Ms Shalini Tripathi, director of SPW-Nepal (Students Partnership Worldwide-Nepal) and spokes person on behalf of the Volunteer Sending Agencies that organize this workshop All  the representatives of Volunteer Sending and Involving Organizations and of course all the volunteers,

I am very honored to be here today with you on the occasion of International Volunteer Day and for the opening of this national workshop on the value and spirit of volunteerism.

I am particularly happy, first as it is the occasion to start acquainting myself with your organizations and all the great volunteer work happening in Nepal. Second, as it feels like home coming, as I worked for the United Nations Volunteers for close to 8 years at the start of my career with the UN, and as I also  did volunteer work when I was a student.

While I was working at UNV headquarters, the work of sending, administering and monitoring volunteers, streamlining processes and structures could at times feel somewhat tedious and frustrating. But what made all worthwhile and my biggest joy was to go to the field, look into the eyes of my volunteers and in the eyes of the local people they worked with, and to listen to them. Their eyes were gleaming with the pride of the results achieved jointly, with the joy of the new discoveries on both sides. Many times it was impossible to stop the passionate speeches and description of that was happening, was going to happen, how problems got solved. And many of these volunteers did real miracles.

There was such energy, such enthusiasm, such commitment, such empowerment from both sides; the results were so tangible and encouraging that I felt empowered too. And I would go back to Head quarters reenergized, with a new sense of purpose and determined to ensure we, as an organization, gave all these volunteers and the people they worked with the best possible tools & support. So I have deep respect and admiration for volunteers.

Volunteerism is such a critical part of sustained development. By bringing new ideas, other approaches, new information volunteers can become powerful change agents in theircommunities, from helping engaging communities in conversations around subjects like HIV/AIDS and helping the communities progressively accept & support the families affected by HIV/AIDS, to introducing new locally adapted technologies which can make a substantial difference in people’s lives, to as you ladies, promoting basic health education and helping especially the women take better care of their and their families’ health.

As the Secretary General of the UN says in his message on International Volunteer’s Day “volunteerism is a fundamental source of community strength, resilience, solidarity and social cohesion.”

I understand that Nepal has a very long tradition of mutual support and assistance and of volunteer activities. I was so impressed to hear that there are currently 49,000 Nepali health women volunteers. This is just remarkable. Did you know that we also have 60 Nepalese currently serving as UNVs , sharing their knowledge and experience with people in Asia to Africa, Central America to Eastern Europe?

Yet I understand that their may be some concerns that this powerful tradition of selfless service to others and giving of personal time and energy to others in need may be eroding. If you are here today, if we are here, it is because we all believe in the cause of and in the case for volunteerism.

Thus our common challenge is to find creative and effective ways to rekindle, to keep alive and promote this flame and this enthusiasm for volunteerism. How do we do this together in a united way?

How do we encourage young, middle aged, older people around us and across the country to join the extraordinary network of volunteers?

How do we help people remember that volunteering is not only about giving, but is also an incredible way of learning and enhancing personal skills, knowledge, of building networks that can all contribute to promoting also each person’s growth and future ? And this knowledge and learning gets enhanced when we have a mix of national and international volunteers, each one bringing their specific knowledge to work for a common cause. Also, if all the time, the knowledge, the expertise shared by volunteers was fully accounted for and assessed in money terms at full market value, the contribution to GDP would be really significant and some of the costs could never be afforded by the poor communities or a poor country like Nepal.

SO , how do we publicly and broadly acknowledge and provide well deserved recognition to all the people who care about others, who share their time, their knowledge, their vision, their enthusiasm with others and help empower others and who bring such a valuable contribution to the development, the economy and the well being of the country?

Many themes to reflect upon during these 3 days and I wish you all the success in your discussions.

And as we talk about acknowledgement, I would like to take this moment to acknowledge and thank the many Nepali INGO/NGOs who have and will contribute to this reflection on volunteerism and who helped manage and coordinate the activities around this International Volunteer Day 2007, in particular the steering committee.

I would also like to acknowledge and celebrate all the volunteers in Nepal and recognize their outstanding contributions to the people of Nepal.

Finally, let me conclude by quoting again the Secretary General of the UN : “ let us recognize the power of volunteerism to promote peace and development around the world. Let us also pay tribute to many millions of citizens all over the world who, every day- in ways small and large- volunteer their time, ingenuity, solidarity and creativity to help build a better, more sustainable future”.

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