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18 / 08 / 2004
The opening session of the World Volunteer Conference draws attention to the unique opportunity that this gathering represents

Assumpció Vilą, president of the Federació Catalana de Voluntariat Social; Nśria Carrera, Deputy Mayor of the Barcelona City Council; Liz Burns, president of the IAVE (International Association for Volunteer Effort); Amparo Valcarce, Secretary of State for Social Services of the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs; and Anna Simó, Social Welfare and Family Matters Advisor of the Catalan Autonomous Government participated in the opening session of the World Volunteer Conference, which took place at the Auditorium of the Forum Building

More information about 18th IAVE 2004 World Volunteer Conference

Vilą affirmed in her speech that "we volunteers are the VIPs of society, the driving force of change for a better world" and emphasized that "with this conference there will be a before and after" to request the participation of the 1,500 people present at the gathering. "It must be a participative conference, with high involvement and dialogue in order to reach conclusions. We volunteers do not have to keep quiet because we know about and we try and do what other citizens do not", she added.

Nśria Carreras said in her speech that "the voluntary service represents supportiveness, co-operation, social cohesion and the will of social justice" and that is the "formula that is needed to broaden participative democracy, moving public policies closer to the people". The deputy Mayor of the Barcelona City Council and Social Welfare Councillor of the Diputació of Barcelona indicated that the voluntary service offers "the best opportunity to enjoy one’s civil rights in the best conditions".

Liz Burns recalled that without the 15,000 volunteers from Athens there would not be an Olympic Games and she described the volunteer corps as a "cornerstone of civil society and democracy". In her speech the head of IAVE paid homage to the history of the volunteer service and noted that this was the first time the conference had taken place as part of the proceedings of an event such as Forum Barcelona 2004, and she encouraged the attendees to get to know more about all the cultural offerings of the event.

Amparo Valcarce praised the role of the volunteers in the events of the 11-M terrorist attacks in Madrid. "They not only demonstrated a magnificent example of solidarity: they played an extremely important part in alleviating the pain", she said. The Secretary of State affirmed that volunteers "are the great people of action in the contemporary world and they complement the actions of the state and the market". She urged the commitment of the Central Government to facilitate the policies governing the volunteer service so that this movement becomes "firm, effective and strong". In this sense she announced an increase in financial subsidies for the organizations dedicated to the volunteer service, which make up part of the "strong commitment" of the Spanish authorities in the "promotion of the volunteer service and the NGOs that lead it”.

Finally, Anna Simó described the conference as a unique opportunity "to move closer to the justice and social cohesion we aspire to". The Social Welfare and Family Matters advisor recalled that for a long time the volunteer service has replaced some administrations that now have to promote this movement, foster participation in it, and improve the transparency of the organizations that are involved in it. In this sense, she talked about the formation of the future Consell Catalą del Voluntariat which has the aim of "giving us a strong involvement in the networks of international volunteer services". In Catalonia there are 1,700 voluntary service organizations involving 250,000 people. According to data from 2002, 2.5 percent of the citizens of Barcelona are linked to the volunteer services.