UNV in Rwanda

BACKGROUND

The United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) was established in 1971 by the UN General Assembly as a development partner for UN organizations. It has been operating in Rwanda since 1974. UNV is the focal point for volunteerism within the UN system. It contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide.

Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development. Volunteerism benefits both society at large and the individual volunteer by strengthening trust, solidarity and reciprocity among citizens.

UNV is guided by the concept of Volunteerism for Development (V4D). The success and sustainability of development rests on the effective engagement of volunteers. Achieving the Millennium Development Goals, for example, will require the collective effort of millions of people through voluntary effort, and their integration into development programmes.

UNV contributes to peace and development by advocating for recognition of the role and benefits of Volunteerism for Development, working with partners to integrate volunteerism into development programming, and mobilizing an increasing number and diversity of volunteers in support of development programmes.

To achieve its goals UNV works with a range of partners, including United Nations institutions, governments, private sector companies, and civil society organizations. Key to its success is the willingness of people to volunteer their time, expertise and knowledge for the common good. Volunteerism is a natural instinct and has long been part of the social fabric in most communities.

Since 1974, the UNV Programme contributed to a variety of development projects in Rwanda, from teaching in rural communities to supporting small, medium and micro enterprises.

In 1994, UNV played a leading role in response to the aftermath of the genocide. More than 150 UN Volunteers were involved in resettlement and reintegration activities, protecting the well being of two million returning refugees. UN Volunteers were also involved in the promotion of human rights in collaboration with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR), the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the World Food Program (WFP).

From 1995, long-term development projects resumed and humanitarian interventions continue to employ a steady number of volunteers. The UNV SVF project assisting local communities in the reduction of poverty ended in June 2002. Through this project, more than 1000 women and men were trained in diverse areas including: sewing, baking and in other fields for income generating activities.

Volunteerism as part of the Rwandan Culture

Volunteerism has always been an integral part of the Rwandan culture. Volunteering activities were used in ancient Rwanda to resolve socio-economic issues. Some of these activities on which the Government have been mostly relying after the 1994 Genocide are:

Umuganda, lit. Community Work: this voluntary activity which builds solidarity between community members brings neighbors together to improve their area through different actions such as cleaning or building shelters for the homeless or the most vulnerable.
Ubudehe, lit. Collective Action: this volunteer and solidarity action brought together people in one area to help a neighbor in the agricultural work, for him/her to have an abundant harvest. Today, Ubudehe is a Government programme aimed at reducing extreme poverty by involving the community to play an active role in solving problems at Cell-level.
Imidugudu, lit. village or neighborhood: these local government administrative areas are led by local volunteers. The administrative body of Umudugudu are people of all ages and gender.
Abunzi, lit. mediators: these are volunteers in a community who deal with small disputes among the population to ensure unity and harmony in one area.
Gacaca, lit. Community Jurisdiction: the judges of Gacaca are volunteers chosen by the community to resolve disputes or other issues in a community to ensure justice, peace, unity and reconciliation among community members.

UNV within DaO

Within a short period of time, the UNV Programme has reinforced its collaboration and visibility with and within UN Agencies and volunteering organizations in Rwanda. UNV Rwanda has developed strong working relations with UN Agencies and is often perceived more as a UN Agency than a Programme. The active participation of UNV Rwanda as a member of the UN Country Team (UNCT) and other One UN Coordination Mechanisms offer a great window for the recruitment of new UN Volunteers for the implementation of joint interventions and also for resources mobilization through the One UN Fund and UN Agencies.

In 2009, a total of 40 national and 20 international UNVs served in Rwanda. In 2010, they were 20 international and 18 national UNVs. They were assigned to different UN agencies and government institutions including UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, UNFPA, UN Dispensary, FAO, UN-Habitat, the Joint Youth Programme, and CNLS. In 2009, a total of 75 Rwandan citizens were serving as international UN Volunteers abroad in the following countries: Haiti, Cote d’Ivoire, Sudan, Tchad, and Liberia.