Dear Shalina Miah, Regional Manager of the United Nations Volunteers, Asia Pacific
Excellencies, distinguished participants, ladies and gentlemen,
It is my pleasure and honour to share some brief remarks with you on this auspicious occasion to celebrate International Volunteer Day.
This year’s theme, “Solidarity through volunteering,” is an apt one, as the events of the last few years show that more than ever we need to be united and to work together.
We are essentially at the midway point of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, yet Asia and the Pacific is lagging woefully behind in its implementation.
Earlier this year, our analysis revealed that the entire region was 35 years behind – in other words, on our current trajectory, we will not fully realize the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) until 2065!
And for the last few years, we have had to contend with the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Ukraine, climate change and natural disasters, all of which have disrupted national plans and impeded progress.
As colleagues have noted, International Volunteer Day highlights “the power of our collective humanity to drive positive change through volunteerism.”
That is why I am encouraged by the contribution and energy of volunteers, young and old. That is why I remain optimistic that we can and will achieve the SDGs.
Look around our region and you will see that many governments are also taking up this spirit.
Here in Thailand, led by the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, public participation in development processes is given specific support, as “Giving and Volunteerism” is part of the national agenda, resulting in more than 13.15 million official and unofficial volunteers as of 2020.
We have other examples: In Cambodia’s first Voluntary National Review, in 2019, it praises the importance of volunteerism, especially at the local level, as a vehicle for civic engagement, empowerment and public participation.
In Sri Lanka, the Government regards volunteerism as a powerful cross-cutting tool that can support a holistic approach to achieving the SDGs.
In Lao People’s Democratic Republic, government-led consultations with key stakeholders, among which were youth and volunteer groups, found multiple ways volunteers are contributing to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda, such as through awareness raising, acting as role models for younger generations, fostering community involvement, being at the core of community radio projects, and contributing to goal-specific activities.
These examples all say to me that everyone has a part to play in their country’s development agenda, and everyone must pull together to reach that objective.
That leads me to UNV’s global campaign, “Together, act now.”
Unity and urgent action are sorely needed if we are to achieve the SDGs before 2065 here in Asia and the Pacific.
Food security, the climate crisis, air and ocean pollution – so much can be done with just a few people joining hands, either through formal associations or informally by picking up trash on the beach during their vacation, for example.
To me, volunteerism is a mindset. Volunteerism is just going out and “doing something” for the betterment of those around you. Volunteerism is a manifestation of the best parts of our collective humanity. It does not have to involve great personal sacrifice, although it often does.
I commend the UNV Programme for bringing that spirit to our work and for reminding us that we all have a common interest in ensuring a better and brighter future for ourselves and for our planet.
Congratulations once again on International Volunteer Day.
Thank you very much.