By Marco van der Ree
Chief, Partnerships Section, United Nations Volunteers
As Chief of Partnerships at the United Nations Volunteers (UNV), I want to say how excited we are at UNV to celebrate International Volunteer Day (IVD) with Volunteer Canada. I also want to congratulate Volunteer Canada on its refreshed volunteer portal. Your determination to offer the most advanced technology in connecting potential volunteers to volunteering opportunities paves a way for communities worldwide to support their volunteer efforts. Your work is an inspiration to us all.
I recently participated in the annual global meeting of International Volunteer Cooperation Organizations (IVCO) of the International FORUM on Development Service, and this year organized by Cuso International in Ottawa from 14-17 October. The theme of the meeting was - Volunteering for Development: Innovation and impact in a changing development environment. During the meeting I not only learned about the many volunteer sending organizations in Canada through which Canadians express their international solidarity, but also about the strong sense of volunteering in Canadian society. Almost half of all Canadians volunteer thereby contributing to a greater sense of social cohesion. This is truly remarkable and that is what we like to celebrate today - International Volunteer Day.
On December 5th , my Canadian colleague, Manon Bernier, will be speaking with you live from Bonn. Manon is from Quebec and has been with UNV for six years, working first on managing our programme in Latin America, and now as a knowledge management specialist. Prior to that, she worked for the social action programme of Cirque du Soleil in supporting youth through the medium of art. For Manon, volunteerism was a way of life long before her service with the United Nations. As a young woman in Canada, she has always been involved in her community through the scout movement and university activities. She is also a former Canada World Youth participant which gave her the desire to work at the international level and promote the importance of youth and community participation in development. We are proud that Manon can be with you today; she reflects the energy and commitment that we all celebrate on International Volunteer Day.
UNV has been supporting IVD since it was designated by the United Nations in 1985 as an international observance day. We view IVD as an excellent opportunity to raise awareness and recognition of the millions of people who volunteer every year to make the world a better place. Today, across the world, people are celebrating IVD with rallies, parades, volunteer fairs, group clean ups, blood donations, conferences, exhibitions, fundraising, workshops and ovolunteer recognition events. This year, the message for IVD 2012 is about celebrating the commitment and hope of volunteers for a better world. We want to use IVD as an opportunity to recognize volunteer commitments, to inform people about the impact of volunteering, and to applaud volunteers for their dedication and efforts. However, at UNV we also stress the ‘two-way relationship’ that volunteering creates. Volunteers help others, but are also helped as they gain a sense of belonging to, and influencing, their community’s well-being. The values of this relationship – self-help, mutual aid and the common good – we consider critical to an active and positive civil society. With a strong civil society, development can be truly sustainable, and peace truly durable.
For IVD 2012, we have launched a new IVD logo, which is part of a five year strategy to make IVD more globally recognized.
To help volunteers worldwide celebrate IVD, we re-launched the website http://www.volunteeractioncounts.org, with its current home page dedicated to IVD. The website enables people worldwide to record and count their volunteer actions. On this IVD homepage, you can download IVD logos, IVD templates (for stickers, banners, etc), IVD guidance notes, infographics, and audio-podcasts which you can give directly to your local radio station. All the materials are offered in English, French and Spanish, and we are able to give additional translations when requested. The website also has an interactive social media site on which you can upload photos, stories and videos marking how you celebrated IVD. The home page of www.volunteeractioncounts.org will again be refreshed next year to support IVD 2013.
Marco van der Ree
Chief, Partnerships Section, UNV