The International Federation, the world's largest humanitarian network with some 20 million active volunteers world-wide, marked the end of the first ever UN International Year of Volunteers, on December 5, with a tribute to their work and a renewed commitment to provide more opportunities and a better future for volunteers. "Volunteers are our life blood. They are the moral and physical basis for our existence", said Federation Secretary General Didier Cherpitel. "Without them, National Societies cannot effectively implement assistance programmes and bring help to the most vulnerable. "
Among the concrete steps being taken by the Federation to strengthen its volunteer base are the establishment of regional networks to improve policies on volunteering; publishing a volunteer policy implementation guide; and setting up a legal committee on volunteering issues. The Federation is also in discussion with several other largevolunteer-related organisations on a coalition project to encourage governments to support better conditions for volunteering in their respective countries.
On December 5, at the UN General Assembly in New York, Ms. Mary DeKuyper, the National Chair of Volunteers of American Red Cross, and newly-elected member of the Federation's Youth Commission, spoke on behalf of the Federation. "Volunteer organizations cannot succeed alone. They need the support and co-operation of their governments in order to develop", noted Ms. DeKuyper. "Governments can create enabling conditions for volunteering by promoting volunteerism and establishing a solid legal framework."
As one example of this type of dialogue, Ms DeKuyper referred to the decision by the Inter Parliamentarian Union, at its 105th Session in Havana in April 2000, to adopt a decision encouraging parliaments and the leading volunteer organizations in their countries to open dialogue on measures to improve volunteerism.
In his message to mark December 5, Federation President Juan Manuel Suárez del Toro pointed out that the year 2001 also marks the centenary of the first Nobel Peace Prize, co-awarded to Henry Dunant, the founder of the Red Cross Movement. "It was from his idea of recruiting and training volunteers to serve the vulnerable that the whole International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement grew. In his name, we thank you all."
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