Press Releases

5 December 2005

Past Year's Natural Disasters Have Highlighted Invaluable Contributions of Volunteers, Secretary-General Says in Message for International Day

NEW YORK, 2 December (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, 5 December:

The past year's natural disasters have highlighted the invaluable contributions of volunteers in our communities.  From the flooded streets of New Orleans to the flattened villages in Pakistan, ordinary people have risen to extraordinary challenges.  They have volunteered their time, energy and skills to save lives and to rebuild communities.  Through their service, they have shown us the very best of humanity.

In this they joined countless people around the world who volunteer every day in response to "silent crises".  These often unsung heroes understand all too well that poverty, disease and famine are just as deadly and destructive as earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis.  Individuals, young and old, of all nationalities, ethnicities and beliefs, are taking on these challenges in their communities, volunteering to make a difference. They remain the true champions of our work towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Of course, they do not, and must not, work alone. As world leaders reiterated at the World Summit in September, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals requires a collective effort. If we are to make poverty history, we must have the active participation of States, civil society and the private sector, as well as individual volunteers. A united approach is especially critical in countries that will not meet the Millennium Goals without dramatic increases in effort.

Later this month, the United Nations General Assembly will consider progress in encouraging volunteer service since 2001's International Year of Volunteers. It will be an occasion for Member States to build on the achievements of the Volunteer Year, as well as an opportunity to take new steps to realize volunteerism's potential in the development process.

On this International Volunteer Day, let us remember the large numbers of citizens who, day in and day out, through acts of volunteerism large and small, bring hope to so many of the world's disadvantaged.  Let us ensure that this wonderful resource, available in abundance to every nation, is recognized and supported as it works towards a more prosperous and peaceful world.

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