Talking Points: Regional Consultation Meeting

18 Apr 2011

Talking Points
Regional Consultation Meeting

UN Resident Coordinator /UNDP Resident Representative


Introduction - Regional Development Contexts

At this regional consultation meeting under the umbrella of the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, we bring together representatives of government, civil society and volunteering organizations from across Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Arab Region.

It is therefore fitting that we are here in Turkey, which historically and geographically stands at the bridge between continents and cultures.

Each region must deal with particular social and development challenges. The nations of Central and Eastern Europe and the CIS no longer look back on the legacy of socialist systems and are driving forward as independent states, many with rapidly growing economies and the social change this brings. The Arab Region has hardly been out of the news this year, with various political upheavals still underway.

Yet there are common strands. One of these is youth. A high proportion of the populations in all the regions represented here is youth, under the UN definition of youth (ages 15-24).

Youth in our regions, countries and territories face a number of problems – unemployment rates are very high, with young people frequently lacking access to the education and training that allows them to develop skills and become more employable. Despite the high demographic proportion, many youth also feel disconnected from governance, and without a ‘voice’ that is heard and taken seriously.

Another issue is marginalized people. While the regions represented here are making great strides in poverty reduction and primary school enrolment, minorities such as Roma are often falling behind. And a third is gender. Equality is certainly on the rise in many countries, but again women in others have yet to enjoy the same freedoms.


About Volunteering

Volunteering empowers people to take an active part in the development of their own communities, to take responsibility for the needs of others, and to make an impact in their own lives. Volunteering often starts at home: but together, volunteers can change the world.

Volunteering is a means to address the diverse issues, facing our regions from poverty reduction and sustainable development to the empowerment of women and social integration of youth and marginalized people.

This is why youth was emphasized earlier. Volunteering is perfect for tapping into the idealism and drive of young people, and gives them a real space for participating in community development.

Managing youth volunteers and properly integrating them into development programmes and national policies takes hard work and expertise. But with the right tools, there’s so much that youth volunteering can achieve. Offer young people role models and inspire them with a new outlook, and their creativity pays dividends. Take youth seriously, give them responsibility and a place in society based on trust, and they excel.

Volunteering can also empower even the most marginalized of people to stand up and be counted. It can change their world.

Through acting for themselves and their communities, even the most marginalized people can become agents for change, active participants in decision-making. Volunteering is a great leveller: anyone can volunteer and make a difference, regardless of their background or level of education.

At the individual level, volunteering promotes social inclusion, increases the individual sense of self-worth and self-actualization, and contributes to skills development towards employment.  At the community level, volunteering promotes social cohesion and enhances access to services, and promotes civic sense and social harmony.

And women and girls can reach equality and empowerment through volunteering, changing the world for them too.

Even in highly conservative societies, women can play essential roles in their communities through voluntary action, improving the well-being of all around them. As volunteers, women learn essential skills and gain valuable experience, contributing to their employability and building their self-esteem as equal citizens. As volunteers, women have a voice.


About the International Year of Volunteers + 10

That brings me to why we are here. As Ghulam Isaczai will explain, it is 10 years since the International Year of Volunteers in 2001, and through General Assembly Resolution 63/153 (2008), the United Nations called for this anniversary to be marked across the planet.

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme was designated as the focal point for IYV+10 in order to catalyse action at the national, regional and global levels. Ownership, however, lies with the multitude of stakeholders – and these are you, the delegates at this conference!

As focal point, UNV will facilitate spaces for dialogue, while providing advice on how to deepen and broaden the concept of volunteerism.


Concluding Remarks

(As Ghulam Isaczai will explain in a moment) this regional workshop will add visibility to the year-long campaign of the International Year of Volunteers +10, build momentum, share good practices and provide valuable opportunities for diverse stakeholders to network and upscale their efforts to mark the Year.

The meetings are expected to strengthen the regional volunteerism agenda in terms of partnerships and thematic priorities and to boost national IYV+10 committees.

It is indeed wonderful to be able to greet such a diverse and distinguished body of representatives from the voluntary sector and civil society across Central and Eastern Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Arab Region. I hope to learn as much from you as I am sure we will all learn from each other.