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close this bookMeeting the Humanitarian Challenge - UNV's Work Between Conflict and Development (United Nations Volunteers, 44 p.)
close this folderIntroduction
View the documentGlobal context and role of the United Nations system
View the documentBackground to UNV involvement in humanitarian assistance
View the documentBasic objective of UNVs humanitarian relief
View the documentProgress in implementation of the approach
View the documentFeatures of UNV humanitarian assistance
View the documentRange of services - ways in which UNV specialists make a difference

Global context and role of the United Nations system

As the post-Cold War world stumbles forward, the human and political costs of realignment of resurgent forces has wrought an increasingly heavy toll on weaker societies. Whole communities, if not countries, often striving for self-determination, are undergoing devastating turbulence and conflict, resulting in great human suffering, and often placing them beyond the margins of the increasingly integrated global economy.

Whilst the industrial nations may become increasingly inter-dependent, atrophy is growing alarmingly at the margins. The last two years have seen a discomforting net trend to societal collapse in a growing number of regions - as always the poorer ones - as communities' traditional coping mechanisms for economic and political stress have been overwhelmed. Mass displacement, or worse, the genocide of "ethnic cleansing", are not the cause of this, but the symptoms of a more profound malaise, reflecting the inability of national and international communities together adequately to manage and direct the accelerating pace of global political, social, and economic transformation. Consequently, the humanitarian workload is exploding: and looks unfortunately like getting worse.

The euphoria that followed the end of the Cold War has been quick to disappear. In its place has come increasingly evident fragmentation, The costs of violence as a political option have spiralled: Dushanbe, Kabul, Kinshasa, Mogadishu, Monrovia, Yerevan, Sarajevo, Sukhoumi, have become not the exceptions, but the pattern for a whole variety of thoroughly destructive new conflicts. Without forgetting the smouldering legacies of Beirut, Nicosia, or Jerusalem.

Are whole regions, and not just countries, falling outside the Pale of emerging global integration? Marginalisation understates the drama of what is in effect the annihilation of local cultures, whole societies, on a growing scale - frightening enough to warrant its consideration as a fundamental threat to global peace.

The United Nations is the one encompassing global institution which can and must be expected to address these issues. Within the UN System, the United Nations Volunteers programme has developed new capacity and resources, and new relationships with partners in the humanitarian field. This has been facilitated by inter-agency cooperation as a result of General Assembly resolution 46/182, as well as by the global presence of UNDP, which administers UNV.

In UNV the world has an organisation where women and men from every country serve to promote human rights, to advance women's and children's rights and well-being, to protect the environment, to build inter-communal trust and cooperation, to assist in resettlement and voluntary repatriation of refugees, to promote civic education and to administer or monitor democratisation, including elections, to provide emergency relief to victims of natural and human-made disasters, to investigate and report on local situations, to train local partners for self-reliance, And to do all of this on an unsalaried basis, in a spirit of dedicated service.

This is the United Nations Volunteer!