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    6 September 2011

    As Sixty-fourth DPI/NGO Conference Concludes, Speakers Emphasize Need For Volunteers to Build Sustainable Societies

    (Received from a UN Information Officer.)

    BONN/VIENNA, 5 September (UN Information Service) - The sixty-fourth annual Department of Public Information/Non-Governmental Organization (DPI/NGO) Conference, which focused on the role of civil society in creating and maintaining sustainable communities and developing responsive citizens, closed its three-day session this afternoon, with a call to action that encouraged participants to continue the dialogue they had begun in Bonn and to add action to all the talk.

    Over the past three days, some 1,300 participants from civil society organizations took part in four round table discussions, and more than 30 workshops and side events, sharing their experiences on the ground and presenting ideas on how to advance sustainable development around the world. The discussions covered a wide range of topics, including the role that volunteerism could play in building sustainable communities; the role of education in fostering change and training a new generation of activists; and the importance of changing consumer behaviour.

    The workshops were an opportunity for in-depth and provocative discussions, and participants used them to raise important questions about governance and corporate accountability, viewing sustainable development not only as an environmental issue but also as an economic and social justice issue. They also examined the issue of changing public perceptions of what was important in society and recasting the public discourse on the environment so that environmental concerns were not seen as being in opposition to economic growth.

    Kiyo Akasaka, United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, said in his closing remarks that while the Conference was ending, the real work on sustainability and volunteerism was just beginning. There was much to be done and not a moment to lose, he said. "I know that you will work to ensure that these recommendations (in the Declaration) move beyond words on paper to action." He expressed hope that participants would leave Bonn inspired by a deep commitment to do their part to advance sustainable development through individual and collective volunteer efforts. "We count on you to spread the word throughout your communities, across your regions and beyond. You are the agents of hope and timely action," he said. The Conference had provided stimulating ideas and a wealth of information as well as opportunities to discuss a wide range of topics. He said he was particularly happy about the active participation of the many young people in attendance.

    FELIX DODDS, Chair of the sixty-fourth annual DPI/NGO Conference, asked for a consensus vote through a show of hands by those in favour of the Declaration and of his taking the next step of handing it over to the representative of the German Government, the Mayor of Bonn and Mr. Akasaka. After a show of hands and a round of applause, the Conference Chair presented the Declaration to Christiane Bögemann-Hagedorn, Deputy Director General for Civil Society, Economic Policy and Private Sector in the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Mr. Akasaka, and, later in the closing ceremony, to the Mayor of Bonn.

    Ms. BÖGEMANN-HAGEDORN delivered an address on behalf of the host country, conveying the German Government's congratulations on the success of the Conference. She expressed special thanks to the NGOs that had played a major part in making it a success.

    She said thousands of German volunteers made a major contribution to the country's development policy, which required the active participation of society as a whole, and volunteer services played a central role in development. This year the Government would spend €600 million on civil society engagement, she said, adding that the Government had set itself the ambitious goal of doubling the number of German citizens active in development assistance.

    Describing Rio+20 as a top priority for the German Government, she said it would address a number of issues at the nexus of development and the environment. The green economy could help reduce poverty and modernize societies, she said, urging participants in the Bonn Conference to help reach those goals by contributing ideas and energy.

    Flavia Pansieri, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers Programme, urged participants to translate the "incredible amount of dialogue" that had occurred over the last three days into action. There were many volunteers present, but many more were needed, she said, urging the participants to return to their countries and mobilize their communities. The environment and economic growth were interconnected and the world needed a community-driven approach to sustainable development because this planet was the only one they had.

    Elizabeth Thompson, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, said, in a video message, that the efforts of Conference participants had led to a Declaration that addressed some of the critical issues affecting the world. Sustainable development was good for people, business and the planet, she said. That was why the Rio+20 Conference was represented such an historic opportunity.

    Jeffrey Huffines, Chair of the NGO/DPI Executive Committee, said that during his four years in that opposition, it had been his privilege to see the launch of the DPI/NGO Conference far from New York. What had made the Bonn event unique was that it had been for NGOs and by NGOs. On behalf of the Executive Committee, he thanked the 1,300 participants from 65 countries as well to all the other actors who had made the Conference possible.

    The participants then viewed a screening of Conference highlights produced by the Deutsche-Welle television station and journalism students, before being treated to a musical finale by the Deutsche-Welle Choir.

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