International Volunteer Day celebrations in Suva this weekend focusing on "Volunteering for a Safer Environment"

Dec 4, 2009

(Suva, Fiji) – The International Volunteer Day was celebrated in Suva today with several key note addresses, cultural performances and the launching of the “Keep Suva Clean” campaign. The local theme for this year’s celebration in Fiji is “Volunteering for a Safer Environment”, given the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next week.

The programme started with a Volunteers Parade from the Flea Market to Sukuna Park for the commencement of the official programme.

The chief guests were Former High Court Judge Ms Nazhat Shameem, the Director of Green Steps Mr Alex Austin and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UN Development Programme Resident Representative Mr Knut Ostby.

Mr Ostby said that being an environmental volunteer can support many goals including conserving biodiversity, tackling desertification and deforestation and reducing waste and pollution.

“Volunteers played an important role in the environmental movement from its very beginning. They recognized that individual and collective action based on free will was necessary to raise awareness about environmental action and spur governments to action. Governments are increasingly recognizing both the urgently of addressing climate change and the support they have in doing this from their citizens,” Mr Ostby said.

Mr Ostby also said that efforts made by volunteers in Fiji, the Pacific and the rest of the world, are highly valuable when it comes to saving the environment:
“I have always admired those who volunteer their time and energy whether they are UN Volunteers or volunteers with other organizations. We owe them much gratitude; we depend on volunteers to make human development happen.”

The official programme continued with a variety of lively cultural events, including the Fiji Police Band and the Brahma Kumari Group. Ms Nazhat Shameem said it is not a moment too late that the environment now is being given a lot attention.  

“In my youth, concern for the environment, for the effect of nuclear testing on Pacific marine life, for rising sea-levels, for the dying numbers of whales and iguana, was seen as being dangerously left-wing and anti-authority. Now at last the world is beginning to accept how the environment has become a global concern,” Ms Shameem said.

Mr Alex Austin launched the “Keep Suva Clean” campaign, which is facilitated by the Suva City Council. 170 volunteers from 10 different organizations have signed up to participate in the clean up. The slogan for this campaign is “My City, My Environment, My responsibility – together we can make a difference.”

“The volunteers that are out here today and the ones that will be picking up rubbish along the roads and outside houses and businesses tomorrow are not the ones that need to be educated on littering. So where do we go from here? We go to the children, yes to our babies. They are the future of this country. They will be the ones to shape our future. We have to educate our children about things like litter,” Mr Austin said.

The programme ended with the planting of two palm trees in Sukuna Park by the chief guests to commemorate International Volunteer Day.