More dedication, more solidarity, more humanity

Interview with Viola Krebs, Coordinator of the Geneva Symposium
Sergio Ferrari
17 November 2001
The International Year of Volunteers (IYV2001) declared by the United Nations will end next December. Twelve months of intense activity and multiple initiative on the five continents to enhance the value of voluntary work and encourage the solidarity of millions of persons around the planet. A timely occasion to evaluate the outcome of the Year, according to the young Swiss sociologist Viola Krebs, coordinator of the organizing committee of the International Symposium which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, from 18 to 21 November.

"Our aim is to avoid the theme of volunteering falling into oblivion once the IYV2001 is over. Our planet needs more and more people animated by a sense of solidarity expressed in day to day life and wanting to act with and for others" says Viola Krebs in opening this exclusive dialogue.
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Viola Krebs

President of the Organizing Committee of the International Symposium on Volunteering (ISV 2001)

Q: What is the sense and objective of an international symposium on volunteering in November, given that a meeting on the same theme has already taken place in the Netherlands last January?

The International Year of Volunteers has provided a platform for the creation of national organizations and committees around the world, such as iyv-forum.ch in Switzerland. 123 of these national committees, plus six committees representing large cities like New York, Rio de Janeiro and Singapore have put in a considerable amount of work to implement the four objectives of the Year: promotion, networking, facilitation and recognition of volunteering. Up until now, however, the actors of these significant achievements have never had the opportunity to meet. Everything worked in a more or less virtual manner. The Geneva Symposium will allow delegates from this network to actually meet to assess the outcome of the Year and to plan future actions.

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Volunteering does not end in 2001

Q: You talk about "future actions". Does that mean that, even though the IYV2001 ends in December, the idea is for certain committees to carry on with their activities?

Certain committees and initiatives will carry on after the end of the Year, some others will not. National committees are real networks of organizations working permanently with volunteers. And it is important to keep in mind that they will continue to work towards the goals and with the philosophy that have guided them for many years. Voluntary work did not originate with the UN Year and will not disappear after the Year is over.

Q: Are two conferences of such importance in one single year on similar themes really justified? I am referring to Amsterdam, with its 1500 participants, and to Geneva.

These are two independent, and nevertheless related initiatives. There is a proven continuity. Amsterdam served as the launching pad for the IYV2001, enabling the prospects and tasks at hand to be clearly defined. The objective of the Geneva Symposium is of a more concrete nature: assess the results. In the Netherlands, the discussion of volunteering remained at a general level. Here we will talk about projects actually realized during the last twelve months.

Q: Is there not a risk, in organizing an assessment Symposium, to reduce it to an "in-house" atmosphere by inviting specialists only?

No. The Symposium will be open to any person interested by volunteering. The conference will center around assessment of achievements. Three weeks after the Geneva Symposium, the UN General Assembly in New York will analyze the theme of volunteering.

During our Geneva meeting, one of the participating countries will be designated to present our conclusions to the supreme instance of the United Nations.

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