Head of UN Volunteers programme flags crying need for volunteers

“There is a crying need for individuals with experience in local government who are willing to serve the United Nations as short-term volunteers, assisting with such operations,” UNV Executive Coordinator Sharon Capeling-Alakija told a conference of the International Union of Local Authorities (IULA) late last Friday in Rio de Janeiro.Throughout the developing world, UN Volunteers work in shantytowns and inner cities, often taking up activities in post-crisis areas such as Kosovo and East Timor, where the UN is called upon to fill the gap when government authorities break down or are in transition.Pointing to the challenges posed by urbanization, Ms. Capeling-Alakija called on local authorities to promote strong community institutions that are needed to solve complex problems – including HIV/AIDS – associated with poverty in cities. She urged IULA delegates to take the lead in efforts to expand and redefine volunteerism through city-to-city projects where people volunteer in other countries as “diplomats, advisers and learners.” Ms. Capeling-Alakija also suggested that municipal authorities could look into new forms of volunteer effort, such as the UN Information Technology Service (UNITeS) – a brainchild of Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched in his Millennium Report. The worldwide programme helps bridge the digital divide by mobilizing IT-savvy volunteers to work with developing country partners in the application of technology to human development in such areas as health, education, the environment, small enterprises and micro-finance. read more