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Palabras de Su Alteza Real el Príncipe de Asturias en el acto de apertura del año Internacional del Voluntariado

EE.UU.(Nueva York), 28.11.2000

I

would like to express, first of all, how honoured I feel to have the opportunity to address both this gathering of universal friendship, and the distinguished national representatives and high officials participating in this Opening Session of the International Year of Volunteers.

My presence here, today, reaffirms once more, the strong commitment of Spain to the principles and values of Human Solidarity embodied in our Constitution, promoted by the Crown and fully shared by the Government and people of Spain.

Personally, I identify myself completely with this goal that is also so representative of my generation; it characterizes our thinking and promises into action. I am really proud to be part of this generation.

In one of the chapters of?El Quijote?, Sancho says crudely:?One thing my grandmother taught me, that the world is divided into two different families: the haves and have nots?. This simple sentence that Cervantes puts in Sancho?s lips some centuries ago retains unfortunately all its freshness. There is a shameful gap in today?s world between the rich and the poor, a gap that seems to deepen with every passing day. The United Nations, in events like the one today, reminds us of this terrible reality and of its efforts to deal with it stirring to reduce it.

It is true that mankind has made enormous progress in various fields in the last century. Let us think of the considerable advances achieved in Human Rights where the United Nations has played a pivotal role. Or in the increase of democratic rule since the last Century. In 1900 there was not a single country in the world that recognized the right to vote of all its adult population: women and different minorities of all kinds were deprived of this fundamental right.

Most of that situation has been overcome by now. Yet, enormous economic disparities continue to be present in a pressing, shameful way which is far from tolerable. Hundreds of millions of people scrap a living below the poverty level, some other hundreds of millions do not have access to safe drinking water, and two hundred fifty million children are forced to work in order to survive. The list is long and well known by all of you.

But we must remember it. Among the many important tasks performed by the United Nations, I would like to underline the one aimed at reminding us of the unfairness of our world and the urgent need to do something about it. The United Nations reminds us that in these times of?Globalization? when direct investment and capital flows are on the rise, Official Development Aid and International Cooperation are still vital and much needed. The United Nations continues to be the cornerstone and the International Cooperation in essential tool, in our efforts to meet the challenge of Development and the eradication of poverty.

The greatness and uniqueness of the United Nations lies precisely in the universal and multilateral character of its cooperation. It is the merit of our Secretary General to have clearly focused the work of the United Nations on the human being. Of having underlined, time and again, its importance as when he wrote:?Each one of us, each human being, has the duty to stop, or even better, to prevent suffering?.

And this is too the greatness of the United Nations Volunteers. They have decided, at a certain moment in their lives, in a sort of quixotic way, to try and put an end to those disparities: in health, malnutrition, of sharing and trust. A culture based in the citizen?s participation that entails in itself a serious exercise in democracy aimed at raising the level of the livelihoods and the dignity of the weakest members of our societies.

During the last few years, and as a result of this participatory exercise, Spain, as many other countries, has undergone a process of progressive strengthening of its social fabric and a surge in the volunteer movement. This process has also exerted a parallel positive influence in the design and execution of social, cultural and environmental policies.

Today, the Government and the citizens, the public and private sectors, the Spanish people as a whole, ready themselves to celebrate the International Year for Volunteers and thus paying a well deserved homage to all the volunteers, and the Organizations in which they work, for the remarkable job they are doing.

Today I would like, from this pulpit, to call upon the responsibility of all political and economic leaders, of the public and private sectors, the civil society and cultural forces to direct their efforts towards searching and building a stronger social cohesion not only in their own countries, but in all countries of the world.

I began with Cervantes and I would like to finish with another albeit more optimistic, of my countryman?s sentences?There is no other joy on earth like attaining freedom?

The U.N. Volunteers fight for the economic and spiritual freedom of Mankind. They, and all those who silently carry out their work to help others, must be the real?status? of the International Year of Volunteers. I salute all of them from here, with sincere admiration and deep recognition for their efforts, and I encourage all countries and their representatives to contribute actively to achieving the objectives embodied in this International Year.

Thank you very much.

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