Robert Juhkam, UNDP Resident Representative, UNDP in Sri Lanka

*check against delivery 


·        Honorable Minister Namal Rajapaksa,

·        Dear Hanaa, our UN Resident Coordinator,  

·        Dear Sharmalee our UNV lead, and colleagues from other UN agencies,

·        My dear fellow volunteers!

·        Distinguished guests and participant

Ayubowan, Vanakam, Assalamu Alaikum


·        Let me start off by praising to the stars!! the extraordinary contribution of volunteers to human development, and human progress across the globe and especially here in Sri Lanka on this wonderful 50 year anniversary celebration occasion.


·        The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) celebrates the Golden Anniversary of UN Volunteers as a close partner who actually has the responsibility globally for promoting and administering UNV.


·        In Sri Lanka, I and my UNDP colleagues take huge pride in mobilizing the largest number of UN Volunteers and V-Force Volunteers in the country, while more broadly championing the volunteer agenda across the country in support of the UNV office in Sri Lanka led by Sharmalee


·        These volunteers help drive UNDP’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) acceleration priorities across a multitude of portfolio areas. This includes climate action, social cohesion, policy advocacy and partnerships, integrated client services among others.


·        In 2020, The nations of the world and its nearly 8 billion people began what’s been dubbed the decade of action to achived the SDGs by 2030 as per plan.


·        But, very dramatically, the start of the decade in 2020 tragically coincided with Covid, and we’re seeing significant socio-economic impacts and set backs across the world and here in SL.


·        UN Volunteers should be seen and used as a strategic resource for all social actors to rethink approaches for SDG acceleration, pushing also V-ism through GoSL, subnational gov’ts, Private Companies, civil society to the United Nations sister agencies


·        Volunteerism is at the very core of being human.


·        Interacting with others, helping others, in the family and home, and outside in the community and society.


·        When people volunteer, they connect with others and this fosters a sense of individual and social purpose.

·         Because of that, it’s is a powerful mechanism to engage people, especially those left farthest behind.


·         We might even say that the spirit of volunteerism, as continually strengthened by the UN Volunteer organization’s existence, is the  human and spiritual foundation of the UN system and in sustainable development as a whole.


·        The road to achieving the SDGs is no easy task and is not the sole responsibility of nations, governments, and national or community leaders.


·        Making the world a better place, as foreseen by the 2030 SDG agenda, requires all people. It required a whole of society approach, with volunteers acting like the spiritual and motivational glue for the world’s betterment. Playing a critical role in bringing together a wide range of people engaged at all stages, at all levels, at all times.


·        All of this is actually evidenced by the work being carried out by UNVs serving at UNDP in Sri Lanka.

·        These volunteers are out there doing real stuff:

o   From building future-fit youth leaders and entrepreneurs,

o   to shaping ‘climate-smart’ villages and green development

o   and advancing opportunities for persons with disabilities through the UNDP-UNV Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities.


·        Let me conclude by saying a big ‘Thank you’ and congratulations to all of you volunteers and awardees present here today.  It’s your golden moment.


·        Having served as a volunteer early in my career, proudly, and now as the UNDP

Representative in Sri Lanka, I know what it takes to put yourself out there as volunteer, it can be a little unnerving not sure if you can do it, not sure if you have the right knowledge, but it always turns out that Volunteers do.


I am inspired to witness the great work you do every day.


·        And I hope this recognition today, motivates you to continue to do more tomorrow!


·        I’ve been a multi time volunteer, from literacy teacher to elections official to development aid advisor. Volunteering is a spirit, it’s a feeling, a desire. And it’s a life-long commitment.


·        So now that I’m getting up there in the years, I’ve been wondering what I do when I officially take my retirement (not today! not tomorrow! but in the future).


·        It didn’t take me long to figure it out. What else?, I’ve decided I would volunteer! I’ve still got the feeling, the desire and why not take it to the end!


·        When that time comes, I invite and look forward to see all you other volunteers, both young and old, out there too!!


Thank you, and once again, my congratulations to UNV, all the volunteers present here today.  

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