Kazakhstan Hosts International Volunteer Forum Fostering Global Cooperation

ASTANA – Astana is hosting the International Volunteer Forum on June 20-21 to exchange expertise on volunteer work and strengthen international cooperation. The event is bringing together more than 40 speakers from 34 countries, including representatives of national, regional and foreign volunteer organizations.

From left to right: OTS Secretary General Kubanychbek Omuraliev, UN Resident Coordinator for Kazakhstan Michaela Friberg-Storey, film director Timur Bekmambetov, Mazhilis deputy Nurtore Zhussip and UNFPA Representative for Kazakhstan Ronny Lindstrom. Photo credit: Aibarshyn Akhmetkali/The Astana Times

The participants of the forum are exploring social volunteering and inclusion, volunteering in education, contribution of volunteering to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and volunteers’ contribution to resolving environmental problems.

During the first panel session, Kairat Sarybay, Secretary General of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), underlined CICA’s experience in the volunteer sector by highlighting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s initiative to hold a rally of leaders of the CICA volunteer movements under the auspices of the Youth Council in 2024.

“We have already commenced our efforts to implement this global initiative, as demonstrated by the panel session taking place today, as part of our preparatory activities for the rally,” said Sarybay.

Over 400 people are participating in the forum, including 140 representatives of international organizations. Photo credit: Aibarshyn Akhmetkali/The Astana Times

Many countries recognize the importance of volunteering, and the Asian region is no exception, he noted.

“It is no coincidence that many countries with strong humanitarian values prioritize the development of volunteering as a long-term objective. The Asian region is no exception in this regard, with the 28 CICA member states hosting numerous volunteer organizations, associations and movements that work in close coordination,” said Sarybay.

“This reaffirms the significance of strengthening multilateral interaction in the social, cultural, and humanitarian spheres, and promotes inter-civilizational dialogue and people-to-people contacts within the CICA and far beyond,” he added.

Kubanychbek Omuraliev, Secretary General of the Organization of Turkic States, highlighted the central role of volunteering among Turkic nations, which for centuries has been built on the cultural spirit of service and giving.

“In our Turkic tradition, and especially in the Central Asian countries, there is a concept of Ashar (Asar), a tradition of patrimonial mutual aid. It plays a special role in the life of our brotherly nations. In any life situation where someone is in dire need of help, the whole kin would come to the rescue,” he said.

Michaela Friberg-Storey, the United Nations Resident Coordinator for Kazakhstan, said volunteering can support social, economic and environmental change as a driver of civic engagement.

UN Resident Coordinator for Kazakhstan Michaela Friberg-Storey spoke of the volunteers’ mission and Kazakhstan’s contribution to volunteering. Photo credit: Nargiz Raimbekova/The Astana Times

Volunteers play an absolutely crucial part when it comes to poverty eradication, quality education, gender equality, and climate action. Many of the first responders are volunteers,” she said.

She also highlighted Kazakhstan’s contribution to volunteering initiatives.

“It is clear to recognize that Kazakhstan is absolutely at the forefront of promoting volunteerism in society, as well as in its contribution to the United Nations. The outworking support from Kazakhstan means we now have nine international volunteers in different duty stations and 65 national volunteers working with the UN family here in Kazakhstan,” she said.

Nurtore Zhussip, a member of the Senate, the upper house of the Kazakh Parliament, outlined the involvement of Kazakh citizens in fighting recent fires in the Abai Region and wildfires in the Kostanai Region last year. He also stressed the contributions Kazakh citizens make on the global stage, particularly in helping those affected by the earthquake in Türkiye and Syria.

As part of the work with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), seven Kazakh volunteers have worked in various UN agencies, said Zhussip.

He also highlighted the joint efforts of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry and the UN Volunteers Program in Kazakhstan to develop a draft roadmap promoting President Tokayev’s initiative to declare the International Year of Volunteer Mobilization during his speech at the 75th session of the UN General Assembly.

“Last year, at the initiative of Kazakhstan, the first Central Asian Volunteers Forum was held for the first time. More than 600 delegates took part in it, and issues of volunteering development were raised,” added Zhussip.

Katariina Jarvi, program policy officer at the UN World Food Programme, shared her volunteering experience, hoping to inspire a new generation.

After finishing her law degree, Jarvi worked in various non-governmental organizations to help refugees and combat human trafficking.

My experience is that volunteering can provide us with the means to break free from these limitations for young and inexperienced people. Volunteering enables us to do more interesting and fulfilling things than we may have imagined possible,” she said.

Volunteering can instill new leadership skills, as well as adaptability, problem-solving, and effective communication, according to her.

“Whether it’s project management, teamwork, or leadership skills, volunteering equips us with a diverse toolkit that can help us succeed in any professional path we choose to pursue. I, myself, haven’t learned these skills anywhere more than I did volunteering at my student union,” she said.

Volunteering activities are also important in exploring one’s potential and talents.

Volunteering serves as a powerful tool for self-discovery. It provides an ideal platform for us to explore our passions, interests, and talents. Engaging in various volunteer roles exposes us to a vast array of experiences, allowing us to discern what truly ignites our souls,” said Jarvi.

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