Statement by H.E. Ms. Rabab Fatima, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh to the United Nations and Vice-President of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS on behalf of the Bureau at the Annual Session 2021 of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS, UNV Segment, 09 June 2021

Madame President,

I have the honor to deliver this statement on behalf of the Bureau members of the UNDP/UNFPA/UNOPS Executive Board, Bulgaria, the Gambia, the Kingdom of the Netherlands and my own country, Bangladesh. At the outset, I would like to thank the Executive Coordinator, for his comprehensive report on the activities of UNV in various countries.

The year 2020 has been an exceptional year. The COVID-19 pandemic posed unprecedented challenges to our work across the globe. Yet the UNV has been successful to exceed expectations in achieving almost all its targets. And this speaks of its strength and potentials to deliver its objectives in challenging situations. We thank the UNV members for their selfless dedication to serve the people, especially those who are the most vulnerable. They have been working closely with the national governments of 105 countries in their fight against the pandemic.

The UNV provides a unique opportunity to blend ideas and experiences among local and global volunteers, UN, and national experts. We need to build on their work and mainstream good practices to help catalyze a rapid, inclusive, and resilient global recovery from the pandemic. The need of the hour is to ensure safe and affordable vaccines for everyone, everywhere. The network of UN volunteers can join hands with the national and international actors in stepping up the global vaccination efforts, including the COVAX roll-out.

We need to enhance multi-stakeholder partnerships to strengthen the network of UN volunteers. The latest QCPR subscribes to this notion. It has encouraged the UN Development System to promote further engagement of the UNVs, in partnership with Member States, the civil society, and the private sector. Indeed, deeper engagements with UNV can pay back a rich dividend. It has good track record of contributing to the implementation of Agenda 2030. More than half of the VNRs submitted in 2020 recognized the positive contributions of volunteering to the SDGs.

There is also a growing sense of relevance and contribution of the UN volunteers in implementing the UNDS reforms and bringing the UN system closer to the local communities. The volunteers can co-create tailored programmes in close collaboration with national governments. Digital education can be one critical area where they can contribute significantly, especially now when millions of children in the developing countries do not have access to education.

The UNV has demonstrated unique success in ensuring diversity and inclusion in their recruitment. We welcome the significant increase in the number of UN volunteers in recent years from various nationalities, educational backgrounds, and skills. It is the only UN organ that has more women than men in its workforce. Most of its volunteers come from the global south. And it created opportunities for many volunteers with disability to contribute to its work. As such, the UNV constitutes a rich pool of experts who can contribute across the three pillars of the United Nations system: development, peace, and human rights.

An independent study in 2020 namely ‘UNV support to the Gender Promotion Initiative of the Peacebuilding Fund’ shows that the UNVs helped increase the number of women participating in peacebuilding dialogues. It also concluded that the UNV strengthen the capacities of women, and empowers local communities in the long term. These are encouraging examples of the impacts of UNV’s work. And we wish to see more such success stories of the UN across entire specturm of UN’s work.

The contributions of UNV to the work of the UN is significant.  Yet there are many countries where UNV lacks operations and active presence. We need to further explore the untapped opportunities of engaging the volunteers, especially the youth across the world to create a positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of the people. The recent launch of digital volunteerism by UNV is very timely. We encourage the UNV to come up with more such innovative ways to create the environment and platforms for the maximum utilization of knowledge, skills, and entrepreneurship of the volunteers. This should be the primary focus of its next strategic framework.

I thank you all.