Volunteering matters: the Importance of Volunteerism for Peace and Development - Opening Remarks Resident Coordinator

12 Dec 2011

Honourable Minister of Youth, Jean Fidèle NSENGIMANA,
Dear Partners from Government and Civil Society,
Dear Volunteers and Young People,
Dear colleagues from the United Nations family,

I am very pleased to be here at the opening of the national conference on VOLUNTEERING MATTERS: RECOGNISING AND ENHANCING THE CONTRIBUTION OF VOLUNTEERS TO PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT IN RWANDA.

This conference also marks the celebration of the 10th anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. It is 10 years since the International Year of Volunteers (IYV) in 2001, and through Resolution 63/153 (2008), the United Nations General Assembly called for this anniversary to be marked across the planet in order to revive the 4 pillars of IYV:

1.    recognize the positive impact and value of volunteerism;
2.    promote inclusive volunteerism;
3.    foster volunteering networks; and,
4.    facilitate people’s access to volunteering opportunities

This year’s International Volunteer Day (IVD 2011) theme is “volunteering matters” to underline the importance and to recognise the value of volunteerism to promote peace and development. In his message on the International Volunteer Day, the UN Secretary General’s underlined that “With the world population having surpassed seven billion this year, we must tap every person’s potential to help others. Everyone can make a difference. Volunteering matters. All over the globe, millions of volunteers are helping to advance sustainable development and peace.”

The United Nations, through the United Nations Volunteers Programme, chose this special year (IYV+10) and special day (IVD 2011, 5th December) to launch the first ever State of the World’s Volunteerism Report. The report showcases the impact that volunteers have made and are making on development and peace worldwide. At the same time, it points out the need to recognise, promote and facilitate volunteerism and integrate it into the global and local development debate as a force capable of transforming the pace and nature of development through the contribution of the millions of volunteers around the World. In fact, the report argues that volunteering is also about “well-being”: it not only delivers peace and development results; it is uniquely able to impact on the inner lives of individuals, communities and societies, binding them with bonds of trust and reciprocity. Values that we should not underestimate.

The importance of volunteerism has often been neglected and in some countries only partially taken into account in the development agenda. Volunteerism needs to be an integral part of development planning as a key element to the long-term sustainability of development interventions and programmes. Volunteerism is strongly linked to empowerment of individuals and communities and their ownership of development.

This is the perfect timing for a conference that promotes the inclusion of volunteerism into Rwanda’s development agenda and planning: The current EDPRS revision, which the One UN in Rwanda supports, is an opportunity to integrate volunteerism in national planning. Also, the National Policy and Strategy on Volunteerism currently being drafted with the support of the One UN through UNV presents another opening to do just this.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Volunteerism has never been so important and I hope that this conference will indeed recognize its significant contribution to development – not least while countries rally up towards the achievement of the MDGs in 2015. Particularly here in Rwanda, the volunteerism is intrinsically embedded in the Rwandan culture and daily life, such as the regular Umuganda, which is a very unique opportunity to join hands and reach out to one another.

In this spirit, let me use this opportunity to thank all volunteer workers here present, young and old, for their outstanding impact. You have chosen a very noble way of putting efforts into the development of your country!

I also thank the Government of Rwanda for organizing such important conference, as it proofs that volunteerism is indeed given the importance that it deserves.

I wish you all fruitful deliberations during the conference.

Thank you for your attention.