30 November 2001


NEW YORK, 29 November (UN Headquarters) -- This is the text of a message from Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the occasion of International Volunteer Day, 5 December:

The International Year of Volunteers –- which has now come to a close –- gave us all a timely opportunity to look closely at the entire phenomenon of volunteering, and to raise awareness of the vital contributions that volunteers make to building strong and healthy societies around the world.

Without the help of 10 million volunteers, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and its partners would not have been able to immunize 550 million children against polio. As of 2001, the value of that support was an estimated $10 billion -- well beyond the reach of what the United Nations or its partner organizations could have handled on their own.

And without the help of millions of farmers, fishermen, pilots and sea captains, the World Meteorological Organization would not be able to collect vital data on weather conditions around the world. Two years ago, one such volunteer, at the age of 93, was honored by weather-watchers for having read, every day for 56 years, hydrological meters.

Such dedication comes in many forms. And contrary to what many people say, volunteering does not occur only among the better-off members of society. Of the 4,500 United Nations Volunteers serving around the world every year, more than two-thirds are from developing countries. Indeed, people from all walks of life and strata of society, and from all cultures and religions, give time to help their fellow men and women.

We must do all we can to support this invaluable work. The Year is over, but the engagement of volunteers has become no less important. We need their commitment more than ever to help reach our goal of a better and safer world for all. On International Volunteer Day, let us hope that many more people will be inspired to roll up their sleeves and join the worldwide movement of volunteers. Each and every one of us, wherever we live or work, has something to share.

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