Remarks of the Resident Coordinator in Thailand for UN Volunteer's webinar on volunteerism

The remarks by the Resident Coordinator for UN Volunteer's webinar on volunteerism on June 24, 2020.

With the pandemic there is no going back to ‘business as usual’. In Thailand the UN is defining its ‘new normal’ seizing the disruption created by COVID to reposition UN’s response in country to bring to bear the passion of volunteerism in partnership with UNV. This is also recognised by the Minister of FA, who highlighted that the new normal will demand transformative change, wherein mobilising volunteers will be imperative to accelerate the implementation of SDGs (at recently concluded APFSD).  

In a country where there is a growing demand by the youth to volunteer their time and skills in support of the pandemic, we together with UNV Regional Office launched, in record time, the V force Thailand, as an online-volunteering initiative.  

In under a couple of weeks, we had 10 volunteers supporting different parts of the UN family in Thailand to amplify messaging in relation to risk communication, hate speech and mental wellness - all in the local language. Their support has contributed to reaching over 14million viewers. We are also looking to bring on board V force volunteers to support the RCO with big data analysis to track the chatter on social media on specific themes to inform the CCA. 

Let me also take this opportunity to set out the strategic value add of volunteers in the context of the political transition in SL, which created a historical opportunity for the UN to advance TJ and support reconciliation. Embedding over 40 UNVs across key ministries cutting across FA, Justice, Finance and Resettlement alongside independent institutions such as the NHRC and Police Commission, not only enabled the UN PB programme to secure quick wins but also address the capacity deficit within the government to deal with issues of TJ. This was documented as one of the key lessons by PBSO and was raised by the Special Rapporteur on reconciliation, in his technical note to the government. 

SL has also been the pioneer of the V force initiative led by the UNV office in country. Today the UNV deploys on an average 500 V force volunteers every year with support of the UNCT on specific time bound projects. In fact, the current Secretary General’s Youth Envoy started off as a V-Force volunteer in Sri Lanka.

I want to conclude by saying that the spirit of volunteerism promoted through the V force provides the perfect platform to invest in youth and provide them with the opportunity to better understand the value of multilateralism and hopefully become future partners to progress SDGs. This is critical in a country like Thailand, where only 4 out of 10 Thais are aware of the UN with a third demonstrating awareness of SDGs.

However, as Manon keeps reminding me, the success of the V force lies in strategically matching demand with the supply, given that typically the UNCT is unable to create opportunities for volunteering at the pace and scale at which the V force volunteers would like to on-board. 

Speech by
Gita Sabharwal
Resident Coordinator
Ms Gita Sabharwal
UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
International Telecommunications Union
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
UN Women
United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women
United Nations Human Settlements Programme
Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
United Nations Development Programme
UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction
United Nations Environment Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations Population Fund
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
United Nations Office for Project Services
United Nations Volunteers
World Health Organization