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Interview: Volunteerism is essential in sustainable development: UNV

03-01-2012 09:39 BJT

BONN, Germany, Feb. 29 (Xinhua) -- People's voluntary involvement is essential in sustainable development, and the whole world should recognize the importance of volunteerism for development and peace, head of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program Flavia Pansieri said in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

"People's voluntary involvement is important. That is why programs like UNV are actively engaged in supporting and participating in dialogues around the preparation for the Rio+20 Conference on sustainable development," said Pansieri.

The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development will take place in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June. The global summit aims to secure renewed political commitment for sustainable development, assess the progress to date, and address new and emerging challenges.

Pansieri said the conference was important because the challenges the world faced today, and the decisions the international community had to make were going to require political will.

"But that is not enough," she said. "If we - you, I , and everyone - don't engage, participate and recognize our unsustainable lifestyles have to change, how can we expect to build a sustainable future for the generations after us?"

That is where the power of volunteering comes in, Pansieri said, adding that everyone should play a role and engage in the spirit of solidarity for our fellow human beings today and generations in the future.

She said the summit in Rio de Janeiro represents a unique opportunity for UNV, the United Nations organization that promotes volunteerism to support peace and development worldwide, to promote the role of volunteers as a key driver to achieve sustainable development.

"UNV's active participation at the Earth Summit comes at a crucial moment of its ongoing push for an increased policy uptake of volunteering issues," Pansieri said. "Achieving sustainable development will require volunteers and people's participation at the policy and decision making level and when implementation takes place."

On the obstacles for developing volunteerism, Pansieri lamented that misconceptions and the lack of standard measuring methodologies obscured the reach and scope of volunteerism. Without an accurate understanding the important resource for development cannot be exerted to its full potential, she said.

"It is essential to establish reliable data that governments need for developing strategies to mobilize this valuable resource for their country's overall well-being," Pansieri said.

Commenting on international volunteerism's future, Pansieri said she hoped the whole world would recognize the power of volunteerism and how important it was to include it as a pillar in the planning for development and peace activities.

"Our plan for the next ten years will be to continue to advocate greater recognition for volunteerism and demonstrate with our UN Volunteers on the ground how big a difference we can make to peace and development," Pansieri said.

"More concretely we recognize we have an important role to play in the context of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Five-Year Agenda, which recognizes the importance of youth, who account for more than half the world's population," she said.

Pansieri stressed the important role volunteerism played in young people's lives as it was a way to acquire new skills and therefore make them more employable and help them grow as human beings and active citizens.

Asked about China's volunteerism in recent years, Pansieri said volunteerism had been further boosted in China since 2008, when volunteers were involved in the massive rescue efforts in the aftermath of Wenchuan earthquake in Sichuan Province and the successful Beijing Olympic Games.

"In both cases what came out very clearly was that the ability to help recovery efforts could be achieved successfully because large numbers of volunteers were involved," Pansieri said. "These experiences have contributed to a greater recognition in China of the power of volunteerism."

Pansieri noted that Chinese society had a very strong tradition of community self-help and cooperation, which was a form of volunteerism that leads to a prosperous and harmonious society.

"That is what we are very happy to see being constantly supported in China and many other countries," she said.

Noting the rising trend of international volunteerism, Pansieri said it is an important opportunity to get in contact with other societies and cultures and also serves as a school for tolerance and understanding.

Programs underway by groups including Young Volunteers Serving Africa Program of China enhanced opportunities for people from the developing world to volunteer, either abroad or together with international volunteers in their home country, and had built sustainable local capacity to contribute to development, she said.

"I am happy to see that China is very strong in sending volunteers abroad as messengers of peace and understanding, and also as a way to strengthen its ability to build strong human, social and economic relations," Pansieri said.

Editor:Wang Lingfei |Source: Xinhua

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