Below is the text of Mr Major’s speech to the Voluntary Services Overseas Annual Meeting, held at the Annual Meeting at the Institute of Education in London on Wednesday 26th October 1994.
I am delighted to be with VSO and its supporters today. You can look back with satisfaction on another year of outstanding VSO achievement, with some 1700 volunteers serving overseas. But the last year has also brought the sad news of the death of the VSO's founder, Alec Dickson. We have seen in the tribute made to him today that it is because of his vision and determination in promoting the idea of voluntary service overseas that we are meeting here today. Of course VSO has moved on from the organisation he founded in the 1950s -
Over recent years we've heard a great deal about the bad behaviour of that tiny minority of British people abroad -
The heart of VSO's work is humanitarian: to help other people help themselves through increasing their chances of making better lives and better prospects for themselves and their families.
Commitment to help others is an instinct for millions: a quality which we should all encourage. And Voluntary Service Overseas can be the entry ticket to a lifetime of service for others -
The Government shares the aims and values of VSO. That is why we have increased the support we give to VSO. This year we are supporting your core programme with a grant of over £17m -
It is an example of our similar aims that, more and more, VSO is working in partnership with Government Agencies -
THE BRITISH AID PROGRAMME
But our commitment to VSO is only part of a much wider programme. Britain has a quality programme to help poor countries. We are the sixth largest aid donor worldwide but this is by no means the only point. Our agencies are dedicated, practical and effective. The quality of what we do is recognised worldwide. We are in the lead in working for more imaginative debt relief programmes for developing countries.
There have been three significant international initiatives to relieve debt over the last six years. All of them British initiatives.
First, the Toronto terms in 1988 produced a reduction of about one third in the cost of servicing debts to some of the most poor and most indebted countries.
Next, I proposed terms in Trinidad four years ago which resulted in an immediate reduction in debt of up to two thirds for the countries involved. It has been remarkably successful. So far twenty two countries have benefited and nearly 3 billion dollars have been written off. But more still needs to be done.
That's why, most recently, Ken Clarke has proposed -
Actually, Overseas Development is something the British are rather good at.
Most people, when they think of our aid effort think of our response to emergencies and disasters -
But, emergency aid is only part of the picture. Most of our efforts, like yours, go into longer-
Over the last year and half I have seen a variety of projects which illustrate the achievements of our aid programme. These achievements are as diverse as the countries with which we work.
In South Africa last month I saw some of the positive results of our aid -
THE ROLE OF VOLUNTARY AGENCIES
Government programmes of this kind can achieve a great deal. But, as you know better than most, aid is not just the business of governments. We cannot and should not nationalise compassion. That would destroy the very foundation of what we want to achieve -
Contributions from private individuals and from businesses show the extent to which the British people remain committed to promoting development.
Volunteers who serve overseas play an important part in helping to give us in Britain a wider perspective on the world. They can help us to understand the needs and priorities of poorer nations. In international relations, volunteers can give us a unique insight into all the problems -
The experience of volunteering also develops the individual who volunteers. It draws out skills which might otherwise be under-
YOUNG PEOPLE AS VOLUNTEERS
When I was Foreign Secretary -
Often, when young people volunteer to work overseas it is from a sense of adventure -
SUPPORT FROM OUTSIDE GOVERNMENT
The health and vitality of VSO depends strongly on its broad base of public support in the country. To maintain and develop this support, you have recognised the need to involve the public more actively in funding and providing practical help.
I welcome your plans to increase funding from the British public and from the private sector. Individuals and international companies and trusts should be encouraged to offer you financial support. Often, it is in their interests too, to do so.
It is also important to help the right people to serve overseas and so we welcome your ambition to involve employers in encouraging their staff to think about voluntary work.
Companies have much to gain from encouraging their staff to volunteer either in the UK or abroad. Increasingly, companies are working in partnership with voluntary agencies in the UK, sharing skills and experience.
Though there are practical issues which need to be considered, I believe more employers could derive substantial advantages by developing partnership with overseas voluntary agencies too -
The world we live in is changing faster than ever before. And, for all its turbulence, one of the irreversible features of modern life is the tapestry of links that we are constantly weaving across national and continental boundaries -
When I was a young child the outside world was far away; mass travel by jet airliner was a thing of the future. When the MCC toured Australia they spent weeks crossing the ocean by sea, not hours by air.
The young people of today see the world in an entirely different light. For them, experience of other nations is a commonplace. For them, it is the most natural thing in the world to reach out across the sea and work with the rising generation in other lands.
Young people have a curiosity and a breadth of vision many older people do not. They have modern skills many older people may never acquire. They are aware that, outside the highly developed countries, the huge rate of population growth makes this more than ever a young person's world. Look at the townships of South Africa or the cities of Latin America and you will see the truth of that.
We must see this as an opportunity. We must make use of those young people's enthusiasm for life. Understanding grows and cooperation follows when people meet and work and talk and build together.
People over 60 remember war right here in Western Europe. People under 30 find it inconceivable. And why? Largely because of the millions of invisible links between nations that they themselves have helped to develop in the course of their lives.
I have a hope -
A few weeks ago I called for an anti-
But even more, I am proud of what VSO and all its supporters will do in the years ahead and I wish you every success.