Firstly, allow me to congratulate you and the other members of the Bureau on your election.
The items bracketed together in this debate are of very great importance to the work of all the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and their International Federation, the IFRC. This statement will focus on three aspects of social development, namely: the ageing, voluntarism and youth.
These core issues are of particular relevance also to the International Conference of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, in which all governments will be participating in December this year. The theme of the International Conference, "Protecting Human Dignity", is obviously strongly linked to Social Development, as the relationship between social development, poverty, disability and marginalized groups is of particular importance to Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in their daily work.
Virtually all Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies are engaged in community care projects. This includes programs for the ageing where trained volunteers are working with aged persons. Equally important, programs for aged volunteers recognize the value that they can provide to the community.
It is our hope that governments, in partnership with civil society, will actively involve themselves in programs, which build a stronger volunteer-enabling environment. This is why the IFRC prefers to mainstream its consideration of volunteer issues and bring them forward in appropriate settings in fields like disaster preparedness, disaster response and health and community care.
The IFRC also hopes to see stronger evidence of collaboration on these issues between the different UN agencies. We have the greatest respect for the work of UN Volunteers, and we believe it is time for much more recognition of the value of volunteers and volunteerism from agencies directly involved with programs on social welfare, disasters, health, education and humanitarian values.
Social Development, as a core issue underpinning the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, is also a foundation for the building of prosperous societies free from the scourge of poverty and capable of making a strong contribution to prosperity and world peace.
A direct link was made between these aspects of Social Development by the Red Crescent Society of the Islamic Republic of Iran when it hosted the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Youth Coalition for Peace and Friendship. The Conference, which was held in Shiraz on 16-17 September 2003, brought together youth from 23 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. It stands as a significant manifestation of the capacity of youth to deliver. The adopted declaration includes a number of factors which will be brought before the International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in December. Among them: the inclusion of peace and friendship within capacity-building programs in all countries. We will be taking these recommendations into our discussions with relevant specialized agencies, including UNESCO, UNICEF and Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
They have a clear place in the IFRC work in promotion of tolerance and anti-discrimination through global and local action.
The work of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) enjoys our highest respect, and recently the President of IFRC met with Under Secretary-General Mr. Jose Antonio Ocampo to discuss actual and potential links between the IFRC's work and that of DESA. We are looking forward to collaborate with DESA in the period ahead on support of social development initiatives, focused on sustainable economic and social development for vulnerable communities.
The IFRC encourages both Governments and the relevant parts of the UN system to support communities in their efforts towards sustainable development of their own environment.
An example of such local activities is Afghanistan, where nearly 3,000 young Afghans are now working as active Red Crescent volunteers. They help their communities, delivering first-aid services to their school peers, basic health and sanitation to their neighbors and building respect for humanitarian values. Volunteer trainers travel to communities around the country training Afghan youth in first aid, sanitation, health and other responsibilities. Young female volunteers are trained on culturally sensitive subjects such as childbirth, in addition to general issues.
Another example is from Nepal, where the Red Cross manages youth programs aimed at eradicating illiteracy and increasing school enrolment. These non-formal education programs provide a lead to government and international agencies working in the same fields, not just because of what they offer to the future of Nepal, but because of their positive and lasting impact on the empowerment of women in the country.
These are just two examples out of many of what the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can contribute. They are among the reasons why all governments should take the opportunity to build their partner relationships with their respective Red Cross or Red Crescent Society.
The Societies function as auxiliaries to the public authorities in the humanitarian field is well-known in the United Nations and among most governments. But it needs to be better understood by all levels of governments if its power is to be properly utilized.
On this note relating particularly to the Social Development aspects of ageing, voluntarism and youth, let me conclude by stating that we look forward to a deeper discussion of these issues at the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Conference in December. Equally, we believe that this will energize a more productive debate in the Commission for Social Development from 4-13 February 2004 as well as in other UN fora in the years to come.