Date: December 5 2009
Event: Opening Ceremony of Environment Youth Camp – an activity to celebrate International Volunteer Day 2009
Location: Hanoi Botanical Gardens. Hoang Hoa Tham Road, Hanoi, Viet Nam
Speaker: Mr. Jesper Morch, United Nations Resident Coordinator, A.I.
- Mr. Nguyen Hoang Hiep, Secretary of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union,
- Representatives of international and local volunteer organizations,
- Colleagues from the United Nations family,
- Distinguished guests, friends from the media,
- Ladies and gentlemen,
What a great day to be here with all of you to celebrate International Volunteer Day, a day where around the globe we pay tribute to all the noble and selfless volunteers, many of whom are also here with us today.
In the United Nations we see volunteerism as an important part of tackling development challenges and achieving global peace and prosperity.
On a personal note, I had the chance to volunteer several times in my life. One of my first work experiences was as a volunteer on an Israeli kibbutz over three periods for a total of two years. I was also a volunteer in Denmark for several years working with Latin American political refugees and volunteered in the Cuban sugar cane fields in the 1970s.
These experiences not only gave me a wealth of experiences and memories but they also helped me develop a true appreciation of the powerful role volunteers can play in helping to solve global problems.
The UN promotes volunteerism specifically through its UN Volunteers programme, which advocates for the benefits of volunteerism for development and mobilises volunteers for specific projects.
In Vietnam, international and national UNV volunteers have been providing support to various development activities of the UN and the Government of Viet Nam. From agricultural assistance programmes to pandemic response initiatives, their valuable contributions are key elements of the overall assistance the UN provides to Vietnam.
This ties in well with the admirable and long-standing culture in Viet Nam of helping and offering support to those who are in need. Thousands of young people take part in volunteer activities every year and there is a venerable tradition of volunteering throughout the country’s history.
This is an important and valuable heritage which will we hope will continue for many generations to come.
This year’s theme for International Volunteer Day, “Volunteering for our Planet”, was chosen to highlight how important it is for people everywhere to get involved as volunteers in finding solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
I feel privileged to read to you from the message of the UN Secretary General on the occasion of International Volunteer Day.
“This month in Copenhagen world leaders have an unprecedented opportunity to reach an ambitious and equitable agreement on climate change. On International Volunteer Day 2009, I would like to highlight the important role volunteers all over the world play in protecting our planet and advancing the important causes for which the United Nations works.
The recent “Seal the Deal” and “Volunteering for our Planet” campaigns are just the latest examples of how volunteers are helping to shape our world. The decisions and actions of individuals may seem insignificant in the face of global challenges. But when people choose to devote their time and energy they can, together, make a difference. “
End of quote.
While the UN Secretary General refers to the urgent need for a new climate agreement, let us also realize here today that it is individual action that can make an enormous difference. It is often volunteers, especially environmental volunteers, who set the example and make others follow. Environmental volunteers support many goals, including conserving biodiversity, tackling desertification and deforestation, reducing waste and pollution, improving water quality and sanitation, and sharing information to educate others. Volunteers can work alongside people hardest hit to help them tackle the climate challenges they face.
Activities can vary from cleaning up neighbourhoods and organizing recycling schemes, to campaigning for renewable forms of energy.
Following today’s activities we hope to see even more simple day-to-day activities such as planting trees, using less private transport, recycling used materials or by participating in environment initiatives in our own communities.
As we all know, change does not come overnight - it the gradual building up of momentum and widespread public support that is ultimately responsible for real and lasting change. And while the climate crisis may seem to be too daunting a task to address on an individual level, we could do well to remind ourselves of the old African proverb: “When spider webs unite they can tie up a lion”.
I therefore urge you all on International Volunteer Day to join with your fellow citizens and commit to the ongoing global environmental movement to protect our planet.
On a final note, I would like to join our UN Secretary General and pay tribute to all volunteers in Vietnam and around the globe. Let me quote again:
“Today, I thank all volunteers worldwide who contribute their time to environmental protection, peace and development. In particular, I salute the 8,000 United Nations Volunteers who support the work of the United Nations.”
[End of quote]
The strong spirit of volunteerism in Vietnam has again manifested itself in today’s celebration of International Volunteer Day and everything you see before you is the result of the tremendous joint efforts of the various participating volunteer organizations and groups – all of which have worked hand-in-hand in the true spirit of volunteerism to plan and prepare for this special event.
Thank you for making this happen and thank you very much for your kind attention.
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