7 September 2001


NEW YORK, 6 September (UN Headquarters) -- "NGOs Today: Diversity of the Volunteer Experience" will be the theme of the fifty-fourth annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) Conference, to be held at Headquarters from 10 to 12 September.

In conjunction with 2001 being the International Year of Volunteers (IYV), the three-day Conference will explore issues that challenge the international community of NGOs, many of which are guided by the spirit of volunteerism. It will focus on the diversity of volunteer experiences around the world, and identify ways in which this spirit can be used more effectively to support the goals and principles of the United Nations.

While NGOs associated with the United Nations strive to be professional, inclusive and accountable in their work, it remains the spirit of volunteerism that provides the people-power, the energy and the bulk of the funds to carry out their diverse activities. In this context, volunteerism refers to the broad range of support, including office work, field work, fundraising, outreach and events that organizations and individuals provide to the diverse community of not-for-profit organizations.

This year’s Conference theme is linked with volunteerism in the International Year to provide and enhance the unique opportunity to celebrate the achievements of millions of volunteers worldwide. It is also an opportunity to encourage more people globally to engage in volunteer activity.

Over 2,000 representatives from more than 600 NGOs in 90 countries have registered for the Conference. The three-day event will include the opening and closing sessions, five plenary panel discussions and 30 NGO midday workshops.

In addition to a welcome by the Interim Head of the Department of Public Information, Shashi Tharoor, the opening session will be addressed by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and General Assembly President Harri Holkeri. Keynote addresses will be presented by Vicente Fox, President of Mexico (via live videoconference) and Sharon Capeling-Alakija, Executive Coordinator, United Nations Volunteers.

Through its panel discussions, the Conference will explore the range of volunteer experiences around the world and will also look at how these experiences affect the development of NGOs. The Conference will also examine the impact of NGOs on the work of the United Nations system through the established arrangements for NGOs within DPI, through the Economic and Social Council and within the United Nations family of organizations.

Other issues to be tackled include: how NGOs are overcoming issues of territoriality, funding, overlapping constituencies and other obstacles to cooperation; how effectively Southern and Northern NGOs are addressing the need for equal partnerships; and how new information technologies can be used to further involve young people and foster inter-generational collaboration.

In addition, the Conference will explore the legal, ethical and operational aspects of fundraising, voluntary contributions and private sector and governmental financial support. These will be examined as they relate to issues of independence, transparency, accountability, growth and sufficiency to meet the demands placed on the voluntary sector.

Among the panellists are Sonja Fransson, Member of the Swedish Parliament; Vimala Ramalingam, Vice-President, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies; Inwon Choue, Dean, Graduate School of NGO Studies, Kyung Hee University; Serafin Arviola, Organizer, Philippine Youth Peace Advocates; Luis Giay, Chairman, Rotary Foundation Trustees; Kenn Allen, President of the International Association of Volunteer Effort, as well as other distinguished speakers.

The opening session will be held in the General Assembly Hall, with all subsequent sessions to be held in Conference Room 4. Midday NGO workshops will take place in various conference rooms each day.

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