In November 1997, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers (IYV). United Nations Volunteers (UNV) was designated as the international focal point. With its main objectives of increased recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of volunteering, IYV provided a unique opportunity to highlight the achievements of millions of volunteers worldwide and encouraged more people to engage in volunteer activity.
The idea for IYV came out from deliberations among several major international NGOs in the early 1990s. The concept first emerged within the United Nations system during a Policy Forum held by UNV and United Nations University (UNU) in Japan in 1996. Through the UN Secretary General, the Japanese Government’s proposal in February 1997 was placed on the agenda of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in July 1997. ECOSOC recommended to the UN General Assembly to proclaim 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers. The General Assembly — in its 52nd session on 20 November 1997 in Resolution 52/17, co-sponsored by 123 countries — approved the ECOSOC resolution.
The premise underlying IYV 2001 was that voluntary service is needed more than ever to tackle problems in areas of social, economic, cultural, humanitarian and peace-building, and that more people are needed to offer their services as volunteers. For this to happen, there was a need for greater recognition and facilitation of volunteer work, more vigorous promotion of voluntary service, and drawing upon the best initiatives and efforts — the “best practice” — of volunteers, networked to optimize lessons learned. The designation of an International Year of Volunteers by the UN General Assembly provided a valuable framework and established a favourable environment for the growth and more strategic use of volunteer contributions.
Objectives of IYV 2001
The IYV 2001 had four primary goals: promotion, recognition, facilitation and networking of volunteer service.
Recognition: Governments and local authorities could ensure that they have mechanisms for drawing the voluntary sector into the consultation process. Recognition will be ensured by a country study which will describe and quantify the contribution of the voluntary sector to national welfare and advance; by awards instituted for the best examples of individual, small group, local community and national NGOs — and perhaps also international — volunteer action..