Statement by Ambassador Berger in the General Assembly on the International Year of Volunteers

Dec 5, 2011

As delivered

Mr President

It is my pleasure to be able to speak here today and convey to you the congratulations of the German government as we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the “International Year of Volunteers”. First of all, let me congratulate UNV and its Executive Coordinator, Flavia Pansieri, for the success of the International Year and on the publication of the first “State of the World’s Volunteerism Report”. You and your staff have shown extraordinary dedication to making this year a success!

I would also like to thank the over 7,800 UN Volunteers representing 158 countries who were working in 130 countries. And let me congratulate all of the volunteers worldwide for their invaluable contributions in various spheres of life. As the Secretary General said in his message for the International Volunteer Day: “Everyone can make a difference. Volunteering matters”.

Mr President

Germany has supported the active participation of civil society in a number of ways during the International Year of Volunteers, both nationally and internationally. For example, to name but one: in September 2011 the 64. annual Conference of the UN Department of Public Information for Non-Governmental Organizations was held in Bonn. This event was organized in cooperation between DPI, UNV, the German government and the City of Bonn. Its title, Sustainable Societies – Responsive Citizens, shows the close link between solutions to global challenges and the active involvement of civil society at the local level. It was my great pleasure to introduce concrete ideas raised at this conference to the President of the General Assembly this fall as an important input for the upcoming Rio+20 conference.

Mr President

Germanyis honored to be the host state for UN Volunteers. The UNV headquarters, which is on the UN campus on the banks of the river Rhine, has been located in Bonnsince 1996. Its staff has grown considerably to over 150 today. UNV was also the first UN organization that chose to follow the invitation of the German government to move to Bonn. The handing over of the new office premises to UNV in 2006 was a special pleasure. My Government sees UNV as being uniquely placed to continue to stimulate the debate on volunteerism and to lead international advocacy efforts as reflected in the volunteerism report that was launched today. The German government gladly supported the International Year, including five regional consultation meetings, and the translation of the “State of the World’s Volunteerism” report into German. We also welcome the many projects UNV is implementing together with volunteers worldwide, which broaden opportunities and contribute to UN development activities, bringing to life the spirit of volunteerism.

Mr President

This year we have a special double focus on volunteering: both the UN and - as we also heard from the delegate from the European Union - the European Union have made 2011 a Year of Volunteers. In Germany, too, thousands of people volunteer both domestically as well as in the field of development policy. Civic engagement in Germanyis manifest in the fact that more than 30% of our population or 27 million Germans are members of volunteer services or civil society organizations.

Mr President

International volunteering has been and will continue to be a focus of the German government. For example, more than 4,000 young people are taking part in German development volunteer services such as weltwärts and the international cultural volunteer service kulturweit. By working in a partner organization in one of more than 70 countries, they learn about these countries and their cultures and gather experiences that motivate many of them to participate actively in development cooperation.

As a national contribution to the International Year, the German government is providing more than 600 million euros for civil society engagement directly related to development in 2011. This is an increase of almost ten per cent.

Our ambitious goal for the next few years is to double the number of German citizens who are active volunteers in development cooperation – from currently about one million people to two million.

Mr President

Volunteerism needs the support of national governments and the international community. In this regard the German government recognizes the importance of the UNV Special Voluntary Fund which is enabling UNV to pioneer innovative and pilot initiatives to demonstrate the added value of volunteerism for development. My Government will continue its strong support to the Fund and encourages UN Member States to follow our example.

We are convinced that voluntary action can make a significant contribution towards reaching the internationally agreed development goals and are certain that UNV, with the support of its volunteers, will continue contributing to this end.

Let me conclude, Mr. President, by extending an invitation to all of you, also on behalf of Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri, to join us this evening at a reception at 6.15 p.m. in the public lobby at the UN secretariat on the occasion of the official opening of a photo exhibition on Volunteers of the world.

Thank you very much.

© GermanyUN

Development, Environment and Sustainability

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More than one billion people in the world – almost one in five – have to live on less than 1.25 US dollars per day. Every day thousands of young children die of hunger and illnesses. Poverty reduction is therefore a cornerstone of Germany's engagement at the UN.