Volunteerism celebrated in Juba

5 Dec 2011

Volunteerism celebrated in Juba

5 December 2011 - Volunteerism should be an integral part of the world's new development strategy, according to the UN State of the World's Volunteerism Report (SWVR) released today during celebrations to mark International Volunteer Day in South Sudan.

"Volunteerism means to give a hand," said UNMISS Head of Mission Hilde Johnson. "The report (SWVR) talks about how volunteerism can make a difference to global challenges."

Speaking at a forum held in the National Assembly in Juba, Ms. Johnson said that young South Sudanese volunteers could play a crucial role in peace-building and social cohesion in post-conflict South Sudan.

"We need to mobilise young people to become volunteers in their communities and create a sense of collectiveness in their communities," she added.

Present at the celebrations, which coincided with the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers, were Minister of Culture Youth and Sports Cirino Hiteng, UN Regional and Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande, government officials and volunteers from the UN as well as local organizations.

"We have just emerged from a long war, which itself was based on volunteerism," observed Minister Hiteng.

He added that it was now time for youth to offer their services towards peace and development in the nascent nation. "(The ministry) will develop youth programmes based on volunteerism."

Ms. Grande said the UN Volunteer (UNV) programme was an important element of the UN system. "Hundreds of thousands of UN volunteers... help countries in need of aid. Here in South Sudan the UNV programme has been an essential component of the support that we provide."

During the five years of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, 2000-2005, thousands of UNVs provided support to the 2010 elections and 2011 referendum, she noted.

There are over 400 UNVs in South Sudan currently supporting the work of UNMISS and UN agencies, with more expected in coming months.

Giving an example of a new UNV "Surge Initiative" by the UN Development Programme, Ms. Grande said 150 civil servants from all over the world had come to South Sudan to volunteer in each of the 10 state governor offices. They will offer support, training and mentorship.

Additionally, 30 volunteers of the African Youth Volunteer Corps will be coming to South Sudan on 30 January 2012 from all over Africa to work with communities. Similarly, 30 South Sudanese youth will be going out to different African countries.

As part of Volunteer Day celebrations in Bentiu, Unity State, UN Volunteers carried out a day-long clean-up exercise at Rubkona Secondary School. As the activity wound up, Kueth Gatlueng Both, a teenage student at the school, said voluntarism was key to development in South Sudan.

"Let us be inspired by the action of these people and wear the cap of voluntarism," he said. "In less than two to three hours of their work here today, I am beginning to appreciate this campus and at the same realize the importance of voluntarism."

"We are here today as volunteers not for compensation but for value and human dignity," said UNV Edmund Tucker, a Sierra Leonean speaking on behalf of other volunteers. "

The clean-up campaign is the beginning of other sustainable programmes earmarked by UNVs in Unity State.