12 January 2011 – Representing the majority of UN electoral and referendum field staff, 214 UN Volunteers (UNVs) from 70 countries are deployed throughout Sudan to directly support the Southern Sudan referendum.
Working with the UN Integrated Referendum and Electoral Division (UNIRED), the UNVs support the national body conducting Southern Sudan's self-determination referendum in a variety of substantive, technical and administrative areas. In some areas, they are the only face of the UN.
UNMIS UNV Programme Manager Fiona Stitfold noted, "UNV volunteers are involved in the referendum process in all its facets, from the Engineers, Project Managers and Water and Sanitation Technicians who constructed the Referendum Support Bases; to the Aviation and Procurement Officers who are assisting with the movement and procurement of construction and referenda materials; to the Civil Affairs Officers who are in continuous contact with civil society."
Volunteers are deployed in all 10 state capitals and several of the 79 counties of Southern Sudan, as well as in five locations in North Sudan and the Protocol Areas.
"As a training officer, I have been working on referendum registration, polling and counting procedures training courses, which were conducted countrywide, to ensure that all referendum staff were equipped to perform their tasks effectively," Juba-based volunteer Sushil Sarkar said.
South African UNV volunteer Bhukani Masinga is the leader of the UNIRED team based in the Yirol Referendum Support Base, Lakes State. She said it was a very rewarding experience for her to work "as part of the UNIRED team involved in the provision of technical support to our counterparts, in strengthening their capacity".
According to Programme Manager Ms. Stitfold, UNV volunteers are "all very much part of the UNMIS team, contributing their skills, knowledge and experience to add value".
"Being part of the (referendum) process as a UNV volunteer has enhanced my knowledge and appreciation of UN operations," said Unity State Logistics Officer Clara Mutanda.
"Despite the challenges faced, the expectant look on people's faces and their hope in the outcome of the referendum have been my joy and inspiration in the course of my work," she added. "I am humbled and happy to have been part of the process and hope that it brings a lasting peace to Southern Sudan."
UNIRED is a joint team made up of UNMIS and UN Development Programme staff, advising the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) on public information and outreach, voter information and external relations. Other important areas of UNIRED support to the SSRC include operational planning, logistics, field coordination and training.
UNIRED volunteers complement the more than 270 national and international UNV volunteers working for UNMIS.