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United Nations Volunteers (UNV)

The United Nations Volunteers program (UNV) was founded in 1970 by the United Nations General Assembly to foster development cooperation. The program is administered by the UNDP and works through its Country Offices to send volunteers and promotes the ideals of volunteerism. Since its establishment this unique multilateral program has attracted the service of more than 20,000 highly motivated men and women worldwide.

Rendering assistance to development, UNV places emphasis on the cooperation with community-based initiatives. UN Volunteers are closely involved in the communities they serve, working in direct contact with the people. UNVs also support democratization and peace building, as well as humanitarian relief efforts. UNV’s mandate includes the promotion of volunteerism in general.

Each year, there are more than 4,500 UN Volunteer assignments. Together the UN Volunteers represent some 140 nationalities and work in almost 150 countries. UNV does not offer career opportunities as such: the main motivation of a UN Volunteer is to be of service, in keeping with the spirit of volunteerism. Professional experience is a pre-condition of service.

Universality in selection and placement is a distinguishing feature of the Programme. Some 38 per cent of all UNVs work in African countries; 32 per cent in Asia and the Pacific; 13 per cent in Europe and the CIS, while the other UN Volunteers serve in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Arab States. Currently almost 70 per cent of all UNVs come from developing countries, while the remaining 30 per cent come from the industrial countries. UNV is thus a Programme that actively supports South-South cooperation. UNV also has initiatives to provide advisers for the promotion of private and public enterprise and to enable expatriate nationals to assist in their countries of origin on a short-term basis.


The UNV Programme in Kyrgyzstan commenced its activities in 1996 with the Poverty Alleviation and Community Participation pilot project in Osh. Since then the Programme has grown both in number and the provision of qualified professionals to serve the communities.

There are around fifty UNVs. Among them 8 are International UNVs from many countries in Asia, Europe and Africa. The others are National UNVs working as a team with International UNVs. This mixed team approach makes it unique compared to the single modality adopted in other countries in the region. This approach makes the team multicultural and fosters international solidarity and cooperation among the volunteers and this enables them to learn from each other’s culture and traditions, hence promoting the ideals of volunteerism and at the same time ensuring sustainability of results.

Almost all UNVs are working with UNDP/UNV co-funded Programmes on Local-Self Governance and Poverty Reduction. They are working in all the seven regions in the country. One International UNV is serving as UN Specialist in Mass Media on HIV/AIDS Prevention and one NUNV is working with UNHCR. The gender composition of both national and international UNVs is almost balanced.

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As the volunteer arm of the UN and in line with its declared mandate of promoting volunteerism, the UN Volunteers Programme in Kyrgyzstan with support from the UN Resident Coordinator, is actively involve in promoting volunteerism in the country. Since volunteering is a cross-cutting phenomena in all UN Agencies mandate, the UN Resident Coordinator in consultation with the UN country Team, in April 2000 approved the establishment of the first ‘Volunteer Centre’ in the country. The Center has provided a wide range of opportunities for people of all categories to contribute to the development of their country through volunteering. More specifically, it encourages students and youth that constitute the bulk of the country’s human and social capital for long term development to actively involve and participate in the development process through volunteering. To date, over 200 students have officially registered with the Centre and are engage in various forms of social work ranging from care for the elderly and homeless children to environmental conservation. It also outsourcers young volunteers to NGOs, government institutions, UNDP and other UN Agencies in the country. It serves as a hub for students from different institutions and socio-economic background to know each other and exchange views on how best they can contribute in overcoming the country’s development challenges. Through this process it contributes in fostering social cohesion and harmony, an essential ingredient for the country’s long term development. The Center further provides them with an opportunity to know about the UN and its charter and also giving them a sense of belonging to the UN House in Kyrgyzstan. Since the beginning of 2003 the work of the Center is coordinated by International UNV Specialist.

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     Millennium Development Goals Progress Report - 2003

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