International Volunteers organise in Geneva to lend support to the March against Child Exploitation

01 May 1999

This week, Volunteers will dynamise The 2nd Global March Against Child Labour. The Global March is an event that has attracted the personal attentions of President of the Swiss Confederation Ruth Dreifuss (27 May 1999) and High Commissioner on Human Rights, Mary Robinson (28 May 1999) because it deals with some of the most difficult and heart-wrenching subjects today: exploitation of children as workers, as prostitutes, as soldiers.

For this event from 22 to 30 May 1999, Volunteers are bridging the linguistic gap between the guests and Swiss children. The guests are children themselves who have been exploited as child labourers as far away as Asia and Brazil.

Meet International Conference Volunteers (ICV), the first non-profit organisation in Geneva, and perhaps the world, that offers volunteers assistance specifically to conference organisers world-wide. In an exciting new twist, this time, it is the volunteers who are the focus of what the organisation does.

ICVolunteers is the brainchild of Viola Krebs, linguistic researcher and volunteer herself. "When we finished with the AIDS Conference, we realised what needs exist around volunteering, especially in Geneva. So we put our heads together and decided to make something that can connect the volunteers with the Conferences that need them, while also providing opportunities for the Volunteers."

The first major Conference Krebs and her 800-plus volunteers aided was the 13,000-delegate 12th World AIDS Conference held in July of 1998, one of the most important and well-attended health conferences of our time:

"The volunteer program was more successful than we ever expected," explains Professor Bernard Hirschel, Director of the HIV / AIDS division of the Geneva Cantonal Hospital. Professor Hirschel was Chair of the 12th World AIDS Conference : "We had over 800 volunteers assisting the 13,000 delegates for the 1998 AIDS Conference. The volunteers and their co-ordinators identified what task they could tackle and where they were most needed, and created a most efficient organisation. I believe we owe much of our success to them."

More recently, ICV mobilised their forces for the 10th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in March this year. They did everything from getting presentations and presenters to where they need to be, to representing Geneva while receiving Delegates.

Volunteering is a hot topic this year, with the recent publication of a book dedicated to the subject, and a feature on CNN. But Krebs makes it clear that the interest is much more than a passing fancy: "For many volunteers, solidarity is very important. This is the reason why we focus on humanitarian Conferences. For others, it is a great learning opportunity, and a chance to participate in an event that they might read about only in the news. It is also a way to get experience while preparing for another career. There is something for everyone. And from the feedback, volunteering is also just a lot of fun!"

If you would like to find volunteers for your conference, to register as volunteer for future events, or just or to get the ICV newsletter, please visit the ICV web site at

International Conference Volunteers (ICV)
Viola Krebs, Director, tel. 41 (0) 79.679.1693,
Sheila O'Byrne, Project Co-ordinator,


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