UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) -- Communities should harness the energy and initiative of the thousands of volunteers who contribute to projects around the world, including critical United Nations activities, senior UN officials said here Friday as they marked the day dedicated to those who give their time and efforts for free to help others.
"The altruistic spirit of volunteerism is immense and renewable," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message released for International Volunteer Day, which has been observed by the UN and civil society on Dec. 5 every year starting in 1986.
Many people have called for extra resources to combat some of the greatest problems facing the world today, such as the turmoil in financial markets, climate change and steeply rising food and fuel prices, Ban said.
"Rarely, however, is volunteerism fully recognized as a potentially vast and powerful resource to engage people in the pursuit of peace and development," he said, urging "all members ofour global community to tap this great reserve of energy and initiative."
UN Volunteers (UNV) deploys about 7,500 people in 140 countries every year to support national development efforts, and the UNV Executive Coordinator, Flavia Pansieri, also said here Friday in a separate statement that the work of volunteers is being increasingly recognized and supported across the world.
Today the UNV is launching an on-line volunteering service -- which brings together hundreds of development organizations and thousands of volunteers who would otherwise have time or physical constraints from participating -- in French and Spanish and re-launching an upgraded version in English.
"On-line volunteers have contributed to environmental projects in Africa, human rights in Asia, youth education in Latin America, and community work worldwide," Pansieri said. "On-line volunteering promotes social inclusion and contributes in a very tangible way to the work of development organizations and communities facing some of the toughest challenges of our time."
UNV volunteers often work closely with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and UNDP Administrator Kemal Dervis highlighted their joint efforts to improve conditions in countries emerging from disaster or conflict by rebuilding infrastructure, promoting democratic governance and engaging marginalized or vulnerable groups, such as women and youth.
"Working with local authorities and communities, UNV volunteers ensure that governance is grounded in the principles of human rights, access to justice, inclusion and gender equality," he said.
Volunteers are holding events this week worldwide to mark the international day: in Haiti, a school damaged by hurricanes is being rehabilitated; in Sudan, doctors and dentists are providing free medical consultations; in Kazakhstan, children in orphanages and hospitals are receiving "clown therapy"; and in Indonesia, new mangroves are being planted.