The new Deputy Chief of the UNV Peace Division, Moraig Henderson, recently paid a visit to Juba to congratulate UN Volunteers for their support to the Southern Sudan self-determination referendum, a key milestone of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
"Be proud of your work," Ms Henderson told the UN Volunteers during a town hall meeting at the sector headquarters of the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS). "Your various contributions to the referendum process are invaluable".
Of the 479 UN Volunteers deployed with UNMIS throughout Sudan, 213 are working with the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED) and directly support the referendum process in various areas.
"It has not been easy," said UN Volunteer Safiuddin Mudasir, Public Outreach Officer with UNIRED in Jonglei State. "But I always remind myself that we are working to improve the life of the people."
David Hardley Ajwang Onyango, Peace and Community Security Expert in the Ministry of Peace and CPA Implementation in Central Equatoria, expressed his satisfaction with his UNV assignment with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). "I am confident and proud that our long-term conflict transformation efforts have made the referendum become what it is," he said.
"Witnessing the dedication and commitment of UN Volunteers to support the peace process in Sudan is not only inspiring but very special to me," Ms Henderson told her audience.
In 2001, Ms Henderson herself was serving as a UN Volunteer in Sudan. "My UNV assignment at that time gave me the chance to actively engage in the dialogue that laid the foundation for the CPA. Coming back today to witness one of its last chapters is a very precious experience," she said.
Before her visit to Juba, Ms Henderson attended a workshop for the State of the World Volunteerism Report in Nairobi. The report will be released in 2011, the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. It will emphasize the unique ways in which volunteer action contributes to global challenges.
"The advantage of UN Volunteers is that they work closer to the people," Ms Henderson said. "Volunteerism is a strong tool of empowerment. This country (Sudan) needs volunteers to stand up."
The polling of the referendum took place from 9 to 15 January 2011. The Secretary-General’s Panel on the Referenda in Sudan, a UN monitoring body, has expressed satisfaction with the process so far.
The Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) has given early indication of an overwhelming vote in favor of secession. The final results remain to be declared by the SSRC this month.
UNIRED is a joint initiative of UNMIS and UNDP. Its role is to provide advice and technical assistance to the SSRC and its subsidiary bodies. UN Volunteers make up two thirds of UNIRED staff, contributing their professional skills in substantive, technical as well as administrative areas.
Altogether, 1312 UN Volunteers are currently deployed throughout Sudan. Of those, 479 are serving with UNMIS, 457 are with the United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and 376 are posted with various UN agencies.