December 8, 2015 By Allan Young
“…Volunteers were crucial to the Ebola response.” UN chief Ban Ki-moon
The United Nations Volunteer Programme (UNV) in Sierra Leone observes this year’s international volunteer day on 5 December 2015 under the theme: Your world is changing. Are you? Volunteer!
Mr. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General said the following statement in his message on the international volunteer day. “Volunteerism is a global phenomenon that transcends boundaries, religions and cultural divides. Volunteers embody the fundamental values of commitment, inclusiveness, civic engagement and a sense of solidarity.”
The UN Secretary-General’s message captures vividly the importance and essence of volunteerism. During the recent Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone had witnessed unprecedented spirit and action of volunteerism. The country had seen an enormous generosity and volunteerism through community mobilization and education, contract tracing and surveillance, ensuring safe and dignified burials, supporting people in quarantined homes, ensuring cash payments to all Ebola workers and protection of those most vulnerable in society. UN volunteers had joined the people and government of Sierra Leone in their fight against Ebola. The concerted effort of the people and government of Sierra Leone, and the support of the international community including the UN response has helped the country to achieve an important milestone, and was declared Ebola-free. The UN head, Mr. Ki-moon has recognized the contribution of volunteers in fighting the outbreak.
“During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, community volunteers, international volunteers and United Nations Volunteers were crucial to the response.”
The UNV Programme in Sierra Leone has not only been instrumental during the Ebola response. It continues to contribute in the development and socio-economic sectors as well. Hundreds of UN volunteers has also served during the UN Peacekeeping operations in the country.
World leaders including H.E. President Ernest Bai Koroma adopted the new agenda, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) last September. The SDGs are relevant to all countries and communities, and will be implemented until 2030. They are noble promises to end poverty and hunger, ensure gender equality and women empowerment, quality education and health, provide clean energy, decent jobs and preserve the environment. The UNV Programme in Sierra Leone is committed to assist the people and government in implementing the SDGs. As the UN chief says, volunteerism can play key role in the SDGs implementation.
“The newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals offer another opportunity for individuals to show solidarity through volunteerism. All of us can contribute to realizing the 2030 Agenda’s vision of ending poverty.” (Mr. Ban Ki-moon)
As Sierra Leone is moving to the post Ebola recovery, and engaged in implementing socio-economic programmes as well as the SDGs, the UNV Programme will continue to provide the required support in this regard.
The UNV’s strategic priority areas in 2016 will continue to focus on:
1) Securing access to basic social services in the area of primary health care, HIV/AIDS, education (such as literacy and vocational training) and enhance local governance to promote inclusive participation and engagement of communities in planning, implementing and monitoring local development initiatives.
2) Community resilience for environment and disaster risk reduction. UNV will continue to focus on climate change adaptation through people-centred innovative approaches to disaster risk reduction by harnessing the power of volunteerism to build community resilience.
3) Peace building. UNV will continue working with partner UN entities to further engage communities and strengthening governance and consolidation of peace; contribute to building both local and national capacities, and the compact between government and its citizens for example in the current constitutional review process.
4) Youth. UNV will engage young people in all universities within Sierra Leone to inspire them take part in global peace and sustainable human development through volunteerism; bring youth voices into the development discourse; and help these young people to realize their full social, economic and human potential as UN Youth Volunteers.
5) National capacity development through volunteer schemes. UNV will expand its support in Sierra Leone by assisting in strengthening and institutionalization of the National Youth Service Scheme, National Youth Award Scheme and other regional volunteering networks and programmes for example the ECOWAS volunteer programme. In addition UNV Field Unit enhance the capacity of local partners to mobilize and manage volunteers more effectively.
As the world and Sierra Leone are changing fast, so is the UNV programme in this country. On behalf of UNV Sierra Leone and all volunteers, I would like to reiterate that we UNVs remain committed to the development of Sierra Leone.
NOTE: Mr. Allan Young is Programme Officer of the UNV Programme in Sierra Leone.
The United Nations Volunteer Programme with headquarters in Bonn, Germany was established in 1970 by the United Nations General Assembly. UNV’s main mandate to contribute to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Currently, it deploys 6,300 volunteers in more than 130 countries. At the height of Ebola, there were 67 UN Volunteers (19 national volunteers and 47 international volunteers) deployed throughout Sierra Leone. Currently there are 25 UN volunteers (14 national volunteers and 11 international volunteers) serving in Sierra Leone. Whereas 18 Sierra Leoneans are serving overseas in 9 different countries as international UN volunteers.