Volunteerism is a powerful means of engaging people in addressing development challenges

UNV Executive Coordinator presents the MY World Volunteerism Award

UNV Executive Coordinator, Richard Dictus, handing over the MY World Volunteerism Award to Mr. Mazher Hussain, Representative of the Peace Gong Kashmir Bureau in India, during the MY World Partner Recognition Event and Award Ceremony on 25 September 2013 in New York. (Photo: Joel Sheakoski/UNV, 2013) New York, USA: On 25 September, United Nations representatives, Goodwill Ambassadors, members of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, and representatives of civil society organizations from around the world gathered in New York to publicly announce the winners of the MY World Partner Recognition Awards.

Richard Dictus, Executive Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, presented the award to the winner of the volunteerism category: the Peace Gong Kashmir Bureau, a children's newspaper run by dedicated volunteers in India. An initiative of the Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore Foundation, Peace Gong promotes volunteerism and media literacy education towards a culture of peace and sustainable development by bringing together children and youth from diverse cultures, backgrounds, regions and communities.

Richard emphasized that "[...] volunteerism is instrumental in generating civic engagement. Volunteerism has enabled people and organizations to find a voice".

Peace Gong volunteers have collected several hundred votes for the MY World survey from different regions and communities in India, often travelling extensively to remote areas, and reaching out to many people, including marginalized and poor households, tribal communities, slum areas, and youth.

The Volunteerism Award recognizes the over one million citizens who have voted through the MY World survey, as well as the efforts of MY World partner organizations to foster volunteerism and civic engagement as a core ingredient for the success of the MY World initiative. Over half of all votes have been collected "offline" through paper ballots distributed by volunteers and discussed with respondents in the most remote communities around the world.

"We don't have an office, we don't have staff, whatever happens is truly thanks to the dedication of volunteers," said Dr. Mazher Hussain, the Executive Director of the Confederation of Voluntary Associations (COVA) in India, as well as a founding member of the Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore Foundation, who received the award on behalf of Peace Gong.

MY World is a global options survey that has been developed in response to the United Nations Secretary-General's request that the next development agenda should emerge from an inclusive data driven process with wide participation. MY World asks citizens all over the world to vote for the issues that would make the most difference to their lives and that of their families. The findings of the MY World survey are shared with global leaders and decision-makers engaged in defining the next development agenda.

A good education, better healthcare and better job opportunities range among the most voted issues around the globe, closely followed by "an honest and responsive government". Volunteering is explicitly mentioned as an indicator for the issue of "political freedoms" as a way for "every person... to play a part in political processes in their own country, including through voting and forming or joining political parties. People should be able to exercise freedom of expression including through free media. People should be able to join and participate in trade unions and all aspects of civil society including diverse forms of civic engagement and voluntary action".

Amina J. Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning, highlighted that the voices of the people have made it into the Report of the High-Level Panel on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Secretary-General's Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Post-2015 Goals, and the outcome document of the Special Event towards achieving the MDGs. "Member states listened to the voices of those who participated, [...] and this is thanks to volunteers who have gone out and stretched and pushed the borders."

UNV is a core partner of MY World and a member of the Selection Committee for the MY World awards. UNV has been supporting the online and offline roll-out of the MY World campaign since its inception in 2012, through the support of dedicated Post-2015 volunteers in over 30 countries, and through the UNV Field Units across the world.

To date, over one million people from 194 countries have participated in the MY World survey, with the support of 700 MY World partners across the globe. The purpose of the MY World Recognition Awards is to acknowledge the key contribution of MY World partners to the success of this initiative. A total of 10 awards in the following categories were given out to a selection of partners who have stood out for their performance in the promotion of MY World: Volunteerism, Innovation, Communications, Outstanding Partner, People's Choice, as well as five regional outreach awards.

The Award Ceremony was organized by the United Nations Millennium Campaign (UNMC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), in cooperation with UNV and other partner organizations.

Speakers and presenters included Amina J. Mohammed, Special Advisor of the Secretary-General on Post-2015 Development Planning; Mr. Ahmad Alhendawi, UN Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth; Emilia Pires, Member of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda; Professor Fulbert Gero Amoussouga, Member of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the post-2015 Development Agenda; Professor Muhammad Yunus, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Board Member of the UN Foundation; Corinne Woods, Director of the UNMC.