In this, my first message on occasion of International Volunteer Day as Administrator of UNDP, I welcome the opportunity to applaud the efforts of volunteers worldwide who, together with the United Nations and the international community, are contributing to global efforts to fight extreme poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Message from Kemal Derviş
on International Volunteer Day, 5 December 2005

As emphasized at the 2005 World Summit in September, if we are to make significant progress on meeting these Goals and stay true to the promise the world made to build a better, fairer world for all, there is no time to lose in putting in place the necessary policies and resources needed to achieve these aims. Eradicating extreme poverty, the overarching aim of the MDGs, cannot, however, take place without the involvement of all sections of society, including government, civil society, the private sector, the media and ordinary citizens alike. As is being demonstrated around the world today, volunteers have a unique and important role to play as active participants in development.

Promoting volunteerism, strengthening the support provided to volunteers, and recognizing the contributions of volunteers, are all vital if the Goals are to be realized in the next decade. In a number of developing countries, progress on these areas is being made. In southern Africa, a region struggling with the impact of HIV/AIDS on all sectors of society, national governments, with the support of the United Nations and the business community, are promoting citizen volunteer action as an integral part to responding effectively to the disease and its impact on development. In some of the countries devastated by the tsunami disaster of 2004, partnerships are also taking shape, with volunteers receiving training in disaster mitigation and preparedness to lessen the impact of such catastrophes in the future.

While such examples are encouraging, much remains to be done to ensure that the potential of volunteerism in support of the global development agenda is fully realized. Within the United Nations system, we need to continue to raise awareness of the impact that countless numbers of ordinary citizens – drawn from a wide spectrum of society including the poor, women and other marginalized groups – can make to the development of their own communities when they are mobilized and properly supported.

On this International Volunteer Day, I encourage governments of both rich and poor countries, as well as other stakeholders and the entire UN system, to create more opportunities for people to contribute to development in tangible ways through volunteerism. Participation by all in this fight against poverty – especially those intended to benefit from the actions being undertaken – is vital to achieving our common goal of eradicating poverty and promoting sustainable human development for all.