Remarks of the Director-General, UNON, at the opening of the African Conference on Volunteer Action for Peace and Development 2 July 2012

Delivered by Ms. Sahle-Work Zewde, Director-General, United Nations Office at Nairobi

Excellency, Honorable Mutula Kilonzo, Minister for Education,
Mr. Manu Chandaria, Chair, Africa Conference plus Co-chair Global Peace Festival,
Dr. Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT,
Mr. David Nalo, Permanent Secretary of East Africa Community,
Mr. Aeneas Chuma, United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative,
Mrs. Aruna Chandaria,               
Mr. Marcel Rudasingwa, Resident Representative of UNICEF,
Dr. James Nyikal, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Health,
Dr. Manu Chandaria – Chairman of East African Business Council and Madame Aruna Chandaria,

After the tragic incident which took the lives of many innocent Kenyans in Garrisa yesterday, let me first join my colleagues    Dr. Joan Clos and all of the UN Family in presenting my deepest condolences to the Government and the people of Kenya as well as to the bereaved families on the tragic incident yesterday.

It gives me great pleasure to welcome you to the United Nations Office at Nairobi having in Headquarters of UNEP and UN-Habitat. UNON is one of the three United Nations Offices Away from UN Headquarters in New York and as such is considered to be the UN Headquarters in Africa and in the global south.

We are proud to host a broad variety of activities on global and regional issues, such as this. I would therefore take this opportunity to thank the conference organizers for choosing to hold this important conference at UNON.

I apologize that we have not been able to host you in the usual way, since our conference facilities are currently under renovation and regret any inconvenience.

Before beginning my remarks, I would like to say a few words about the man behind this initiative. Mr. Chandaria, who has served as the Chairman of the Steering Committee of this Conference, has worked tirelessly with the other distinguished members of the Committee and with partner organizations to ensure the success of this conference.  I have attended some of the meetings.
               
More broadly, he has been the driving force behind countless initiatives to promote volunteer action to build peace and development in Africa.   

Mr. Chandaria, I salute your vision, commitment and energy, and your ability to bring together such a diverse range of actors to collectively achieve such noble objectives.

In one of the UN Secretary-General’s messages to the World Environment Day, he said and I quote:-
“Our planet needs more than just action by governments and corporations; it needs each of us. Although individual decisions may seem small in the face of global threats and trends, when billions of people join forces in common purpose we can make a tremendous difference….." end of quote.

These words embody the true essence of volunteerism - an act based on free will, not undertaken for financial reward and for the benefit of the wider community.

The United Nations, through the UN Volunteer programme, has championed volunteerism in many parts of the world, and it is actively working for it to become integrated into the development agenda at global and national levels.
               
An increasing number of governments are adopting national youth policies, volunteerism remains a largely untapped source of energy and creativity by policymakers.
   
It is our collective responsibility to create awareness among youth on the importance of volunteerism, and to empower young people to become involved citizens within their communities.
                   
In so doing, we are contributing to the creation of a society of young leaders, who embody civic values and who contribute to social cohesion, peace and development.
               
The launching of the “East Africa Peace Service Corps Action Plan”, which is the theme of one of the Conference sessions, is a testimony to the determination of the East African Governments to incorporate youth volunteerism in the pursuit of regional integration; and, in addressing today’s global issues, such as food insecurity, climate change and sustainable development.
I wish you successful deliberations.  I thank you for your attention.

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