Nicholas Rosellini: Beijing International Volunteer Service Exchange Conference

Dec 13, 2017

Nicholas Rosellini, UN Resident Coordinator, China 

Leaders of Volunteer Involving Organizations, UN Colleagues, Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning, Da JiaHao大家好!

It is a great pleasure to represent the UN in China at the opening of the International Volunteer Service Exchange Conference. I thank the UN Volunteers programme, China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE) and the Beijing Volunteer Federation (BVF) for co-organizing this conference. I also recognize the contributing efforts of key partners such as the Beijing Youth League, the Beijing Municipal Government and the China Volunteer Service Federation.

This conference offers a great opportunity to exchange ideas about important issues of volunteerism, south-south cooperation, youth participation, innovation for sustainable development, and civic engagement that concern our future. Solutions to address these issues will underpin how and what we do to achieve a more sustainable and inclusive development path for the 21st century.

As you embark on the related discussions in the coming two days, allow me to make the following three points as early contributions to your deliberations:

Firstly, we are at a critical moment in our global development history. We face both unprecedented challenges and unique opportunities, with the potential for widely contrasting futures. Compared to 1945 when the UN Charter came into force, the world is quite different although some of the challenges remain the same.

Humanitarian emergencies are still with us, and while global development in the post-war era decreased inequality, we are now seeing it rise again. The need to address urban poverty and climate change are more and more urgent. All of these challenges confronting the world need to be overcome through global action and the full engagement of a wide range of development actors including volunteers.

2017 has been the year when Mr. António Guterres, the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations, took office on 1st January. It has also been the year of the first Forum on the Belt and Road Initiative, an important milestone in China’s increasing engagement to contribute to global economic development and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals in other countries.

In his remarks at the opening of the Belt and Road Forum, the Secretary-General said, “Our world is multipolar. But that by itself is no guarantee of prosperity and peace. A multipolar world needs multilateral cooperation to face common threats and seize shared opportunities.” International and south-south cooperation in volunteerism is an important avenue for supporting government-to-government multilateralism, but also creates entirely new relationships at the individual and personal level.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development was adopted in 2015.

While the nature and scope of the 2030 Agenda and the Belt and Road Initiative are different, there is strong alignment between the principles underlying the BRI and the Sustainable Development Goals. These include a focus on inclusive and sustainable economic growth and social development, cooperation and collaboration, and shared visions of a more sustainable world. One of the pillars of the BRI- people-to-people exchange-echoes SDG 17 Partnership for the Goals and offers considerable scope for the involvement of volunteers in advancing the implementation of sustainable development through the BRI platform.

Over 100 countries and international organizations are supporting the BRI, and a large number of projects have already been launched. Incorporating volunteering more thoroughly into the BRI will help realize holistic cooperation by adding value that enables projects and partnerships to go beyond trade, infrastructure investments, and technology exchanges to ensure that development is truly inclusive and sustainable.

How to facilitate the incorporation of volunteerism into the BRI platform is of course one of the main topics of this IVSEC conference and there are many volunteer modalities that could fit well with the BRI platform such as corporate volunteering. 

Secondly, it is obvious that this meeting is timely and that it is taking place in a location of high relevance for discussing global development. On January 18, 2017, President Xi Jinping, delivered a keynote speech-Work Together to Build a Community of Shared Future for Mankind- at the United Nations Offices in Geneva.

This theme of a shared future was echoed by President Xi at the recently concluded 19th Congress of the Communist Party of China.

China has met the basic living needs of its 1.3 billion people and lifted over 700 million people out of poverty. In the coming five years, China will import eight trillion US dollars of goods, attract 600 billion US dollars of foreign investment, invest 750 billion US dollars abroad, and Chinese tourists will make 700 million outbound visits. All this will bring more development opportunities to other countries.

China is also emerging as one of the most important development partners globally. It is a champion of south-south cooperation, having contributed USD $14.41 billion to other developing countries between 2012 and 2014 and committed further support through announcements such as the South-south Cooperation Aid Fund, the South-south Climate Cooperation Fund, USD 60 billion pledged in aid and loans to Africa at the 2015 FOCAC summit, and USD 100 million to UN Agencies by 2020.

In addition, China is sharing its unique experience and development model which has so successfully reduced poverty with other countries. As recognized by SDG 17, South-South Cooperation is critical to re-energizing the global partnership for development. South-south cooperation is characterized by mutuality, reciprocity, respect, and equality.

IVSEC 2015 recognized the important role that volunteers had to play in implementing the SDGs and promoting SSC and UNV is well placed to support China in scaling up the incorporation of volunteerism into its SSC. Member states have called on the United Nations Volunteers programme to support volunteering as a pillar of South-South Cooperation through facilitating knowledge and skills exchange and strengthening people-to-people links.

Here at IVSEC UNV and its partners are sharing their experiences on how to facilitate effective south-south volunteering.

This brings me to my final point, the significance of deeper civic engagement. For this to happen, we need global mechanisms and platforms for peer learning, for sharing good practices, and for identifying new opportunities for international volunteerism.

Many of you are deeply involved in various parts of voluntary service programs at the local, national and global levels. I commend you for your efforts. Volunteering has long been recognized as a fundamental form of citizen engagement within and among societies. In recent years, UN Volunteers have collaborated with numerous local organizations and other international organizations to support volunteers to participate in community service and global development projects.

Volunteerism promotes participatory development cooperation, and the inclusion of people from all walks of life to address critical global challenges. International volunteer exchange programmes build people-to-people relationships, contributes to sustainable development and enhances the skills and capacities of the volunteers themselves. International volunteering particularly between countries of the global south enhances individuals communities and global partnerships. China's support for engaging volunteers in China's development aid and BRI activities abroad will ensure that they are participatory, mutually beneficial and aligned with the SDGs, helping to fully realize the potential of south-south cooperation.

In this spirit, I encourage you all to set an example, and inspire others to do the same.

In conclusion, I want to reiterate that the United Nations System in China is very pleased and committed to continue promoting international volunteering for peace and development. I thank you for your attention and wish you fruitful deliberations.

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