|Volunteer Participation in Working with the Urban Poor (UNV/UNDP, 64 pages)|
"At mid-century, some 83 per cent of the world population lived in rural areas. Now a whole new world, an urban world, is being created. Old cities are bursting and new ones are being created at a speed never before dreamt possible... When the new century dawns, for the first time in history most of the world's people will be as poor, and perhaps poorer than now... We have to recognise that no matter what, the future of the planet will be an urban one".
(Address by Dr. Wall N'Dow, Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (HABITAT II) to The Meeting of the HABITAT II Preparatory Committee, Geneva, April 1994).
It was in 1990 that the United Nations Volunteers programme devoted one of its regular Special Consultations to the topic of the potential contribution of volunteers in addressing the particular problems of the world's conurbations. Four years on, as we publish an updated version of the background document designed to facilitate that discussion, the problems are no less acute. However, the Consultation pointed up ways in which external assistance in the shape of motivated and experienced volunteers can facilitate the initiatives of local communities active in the urban poverty context and thereby at least mitigate situations, if not indeed transform them. And several such programmes are now under way.
The idea of such a Consultation came from the Chief of UNV's Programme Strategy and Evaluation Division, Krishno Dey, as did in very large measure this background document - with the able assistance of two consultants, Chris O'Connell, former Secretary to the Coalition of Resident Action Groups in Australia, and Madhuri Bose, currently on the staff of the Commonwealth Secretariat. Our thanks are due to all three, as well as to the several representatives of indigenous movements active in cities, and UN agency partners helping such movements, who joined us for the Consultation. They certainly enabled us in UNV to focus more clearly on what we could and should be doing.
I trust that the information garnered and the recommendations offered in these pages will be of similar help to a wide range of organisations also working in this important domain.
Brenda Gael McSweeney
United Nations Volunteers