Press Releases

    SG/SM/9453
                20 AUGUST 2004

    In Message to Volunteer Conference, Secretary-General Praises Contribution of Sharon Capeling-Alakija

    NEW YORK, 19 August (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the text of the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the eighteenth Volunteer Conference of the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), delivered today in Barcelona by Gillian Sorensen, Senior Adviser, United Nations Foundation:

    I deeply appreciate the opportunity to send my greetings to the eighteenth World Volunteer Conference of the International Association of Volunteer Effort, and in particular to say a few words about Sharon Capeling-Alakija, who died prematurely at the end of last year.

    Sharon’s life reflected the very highest ideals of the United Nations: commitment, compassion and a solidarity with the most disadvantaged and excluded of our world. She possessed a rare ability to motivate people around her, whatever their background, to get things done. And she was an inspirational leader, with a firmly held conviction that despite everything -- despite poverty and hatred, despite apathy and the seeming intractability of some of the challenges we face -- people can change the world for the better.

    Sharon applied this view from the very beginning of her working life -- when she set out into the world as a young volunteer -- to her last efforts to make the UN Volunteers what it is today: the central place in the United Nations for promoting volunteerism for development.

    Sharon often said how lucky she was that her joining UNV coincided with the designation of 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers. She recognized at an early stage the extraordinary opportunity the Year offered not only to UNV and the cause of development, but also to the wider volunteer movement around the globe. With her customary energy and imagination, she embarked on a mission to ensure that the Year would be truly transformational, and that it would involve constructing a big tent so that as many people and organizations as possible would fit inside. Of all her achievements, this was one of her finest. I know that many of you here today were active in the Year, and benefited directly or indirectly from its outcome.  It is fitting indeed that this inaugural lecture should take place in the midst of so many of those whom Sharon sought to encourage and support.

    Sharon’s presence is badly missed by her family, friends and colleagues, and by the volunteer movement.  Her passing was also a terrible loss to the United Nations. In the uncertain and dangerous world in which we live, we can ill afford to loose individuals of Sharon’s calibre. But she left behind a wonderful legacy that I am sure will continue to guide and inspire all of you as you continue your important work. Thank you for your support, and please accept my best wishes for a successful conference.

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