International Volunteer Day

04 December 2009 | News story

On International Volunteer Day, IUCN acknowledges the enormous contribution of its countless volunteers who dedicate their time, knowledge and skills to furthering our common Mission and Vision.

Over 11,000 volunteer scientists and experts are active in the six IUCN Commissions, providing guidance on conservation knowledge, policy and technical advice, and implementing parts of IUCN’s programme. IUCN’s 1074 Member organisations also rely on innumerable volunteers to carry out their work both at grass-roots and on a national and international level. Moreover, the IUCN Council is composed of volunteers who are responsible for the general direction, oversight and fiduciary responsibilities of IUCN in between sessions of the World Conservation Congress every four years.

“From our beginnings more than 60 years ago, IUCN has been largely built and then strengthened by our tremendous volunteers” says Julia Marton-Lefèvre, IUCN Director General. “Their dedication to IUCN and nature conservation has really made a difference to our world.”

The link between volunteering and the conservation of nature is further explored in a paper presented at the Taean International Environment Forum by Gonzalo Oviedo, IUCN Senior Advisor for Social Policy, entitled Civil society and the importance of volunteerism for environmental conservation. The paper explores various themes, including volunteerism in IUCN, noting that “IUCN, founded in 1948, was the first international conservation institution focusing consciously and specifically on the mobilisation of volunteer networks of civil society for promoting change”.

This year, IUCN encourages all its volunteers to join the “Volunteering for our Planet” campaign, promoted by the United Nations Volunteers programme and UN “Seal the Deal” Movement. This aims to gather the number of volunteering hours and report this at the United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 15 in Copenhagen. Over 1 million hours have already been counted! The website allows volunteers to easily register their volunteer time and activities over the last 6 months to show world leaders that people are taking action and that volunteers are part of the solution.

In 2011, we will mark the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteering as established by the United Nations in 2001 and there will be an active programme of activities to highlight the crucial contribution that volunteers make, including in the field of the conservation of nature. Furthermore 2011 will also be the "European Year of Volunteering”. More information on these upcoming initiatives will be communicated in due time and it is hoped that there will be ample opportunity to highlight IUCNs work in this context.