The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is most appreciative of the opportunity to contribute in this debate, especially as we have considerably deepened our relationship with UN Volunteers this year, having concluded an important agreement on our joint work priorities in February 2004.
The agreement, in the form of a joint letter signed by the Secretary-General of the International Federation and the Executive Coordinator a.i. of UNV, has a particular relevance for the International Federation and its worldwide network of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This comes from its identification of important priority areas for collaboration, particularly based at this time on what we can do together to combat the scourge of HIV/AIDS.
Time does not permit elaboration of this theme today, but let me say that this priority is linked to one of the heart of the work of the International Federation under its Strategy 2010. It is also one of the key general objectives of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, adopted by States and National Societies sitting together at their International Conference in December 2003. It is also important to note that Voluntary Service stands as one of the Fundamental Principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, motivating all our work.
Our agreement with UNV also stands on our joint recognition of the vital importance of the wide international community, including non-UN organisations like the International Federation, cooperating towards the objectives framed by the United Nations Millennium Summit in the Millennium Development Goals. It is particularly noteworthy to us in the International Federation that the Administrator's document for this item of the Executive Board's agenda notes that "achieving the MDGs will require the ingenuity, solidarity and creativity of millions of people through voluntary action".
UNV, as we see the organisation, makes a strong and valuable contribution towards the maintenance of an enabling volunteer environment. This, in our view, is an essential core task at this time. Volunteerism, and the contribution of volunteers to all forms of economic and social development, is well understood by the International Federation and its member National Societies - as the Administrator's report also notes, we are a network which brings together almost 100 million volunteers in every country in the world. We understand well the difficulties which can stand in the way of the maintenance of an enabling environment for volunteerism, and our member National Societies spend a great deal of their time on working with governments to identify and remove obstacles which stand in the way of this objective. Without this, much of the work done towards effective capacity-building would be meaningless.
This is one of the reasons why we committed to joint work with UNV and the Inter-Parliamentary Union to develop a guide which might assist parliaments in supporting this objective. The guide, which is mentioned in paragraph 8 of the Administrator's report, is now in its final drafting stages and it is our joint hope that it will be able to be launched at the next session of the Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, in September-October 2004. Early comments on the draft indicate that it will fill an important gap in knowledge about what the basic requirements for an enabling volunteer environment, and we trust it will receive the same enthusiastic support from governments as the draft has already received from members of parliaments and National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
In describing the guide to members of parliament at the most recent Inter-Parliamentary Union Assembly, in Mexico City in April this year, we took the opportunity to show how we saw it fitting to international as well as national needs, and how we saw those needs relating to each other. The premise for this description was the Millennium Development Goals.
In our view, the MDGs provide a framework which sits comfortably with the humanitarian mission of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. All are, for example, committed to programs which have a resonance in one or more of the Goals, their targets and indicators. We are now engaged, in the International Federation, in drawing up a matrix which shows clearly the convergence of the MDGs with our own objectives under Strategy 2010 and the decisions of our statutory bodies. We intend to show interested organs of the UN system, including UNDP, how this interlinkage is taken into account in the design of our programs.
We decided to move in this direction some time ago, but have been pleased to see more and more UN organs recognise the important point made by the Administrator in his report under this item about the essentiality of community involvement in programs aimed at the fulfillment of the MDGs. Our work with communities, through our member National Societies, is at a stage where we can already say that in many cases - because of community involvement and ownership - we are likely to be able to exceed the targets set within the MDG framework. This is particularly evident in the health sector, where Water/Sanitation and Food Security are high in our own priority list.
The Administrator's report suggests some elements which might valuably be considered by members of the Executive Board when considering a decision under this item. One suggests a call on relevant parts of the UN system to continue efforts to integrate volunteerism into programs as they relate to the achievement of the MDGs.
Our call is more far-reaching - we would hope that all donors, and all program designers, will mainstream community contributions, including of course through volunteers into their MDG programs. We also trust UN organisations and donors will recognise that community involvement and volunteer contribution can advance each of the 8 Millennium Development Goals. We also trust that it will be recognised that this will require much more outreach to communities as work proceeds towards the MDGs. This in turn will require much more inclusiveness on the part of international community actors to bring the perspectives of the communities of the world, and especially the most vulnerable, into UN and other debates.
This issue of inclusiveness, and its place in programs which support the achievement of the MDGs, has also been an important part of the International Federation's discussions with other UN agencies. This is why the MDGs are now being referenced in many of the operational and other agreements negotiated between the International Federation and other international community organisations, including especially at the regional level.
This need for effective community mobilisation and from it the building of national and local capacity around the MDGs is, for the International Federation, at the core of the agreement I signed with UNV's Executive Coordinator a.i. in April. UNV, of course, is devoted to much the same community mobilisation objectives as the International Federation, which is why our agreement has such substance, and why it is so important that it is taken forward in the future with commitment and vision.
In closing, may I say that one of the most valuable inspirational forces behind our agreement was Ms Sharon Capeling-Alakija. Her tragic passing in November last year deprived us all of a voice and a conscience, and that is why we dedicated this work to her memory on International Volunteers Day in 2003.