Rotary, UN celebrate close relationship
Top: RI President John Kenny greets a Rotarian during Rotary-UN Day in New York City 7 November. Bottom: Gavin Power, deputy director of the UN Global Compact, announces an agreement between the Global Compact and Rotary International to work closely together to support UN goals. Rotary Images
''Rotary's longstanding relationship with the United Nations is a great testament to the great achievements that can be attained when civil societies work hand-in-hand with international organizations,'' said Maria-Luisa Chavez, UN chief of NGO relations for the UN Department of Public Information.
Chavez's remarks opened Rotary-UN Day at United Nations headquarters in New York City on 7 November. More than 1,600 Rotarians, UN officials, and Rotary youth program participants attended panel discussions on water, literacy, health, and youth issues.
Rotary, whose relationship with the UN dates back to 1945, holds the highest consultative status offered to any nongovernmental organization by the Economic and Social Council, which oversees many UN agencies.
This year's Rotary-UN Day included the announcement of an agreement between the UN Global Compact and Rotary International to work together to support UN goals through sustained and responsible business practices. The initiative aims to encourage Global Compact local networks and Rotary's more than 33,000 clubs to pursue joint activities and programs.
''Rotary clubs' guiding principles of Service Above Self and The Four-Way Test are really consistent with the UN's core ideals and the mission of the UN Global Compact, which is to build a more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable global economy,'' said Gavin Power, the Global Compact's deputy director.
The UN Global Compact, launched in 2000, is a strategic policy initiative for businesses that are committed to aligning their operations and strategies with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment, and anticorruption.
Panels show cohesiveness
Speaking on a water panel, Nicholas Alipui, director of UNICEF programs, commended Rotary for its continued work with the agency toward improving the health of women and children around the world.
''It's no secret that Rotary's commitment, enthusiasm, and leadership on worldwide polio eradication encourages us all,'' said Alipui. ''It has been a hallmark of good practice of public and private partnership around the world.''
Alipui said progress has been made on the UN Millennium Development Goals, which aim to reduce poverty, hunger, disease, and illiteracy by 2015. But he added that more work needs to be done in the area of sanitation and hygiene.
''Proper sanitation is the bedrock for improving health and reducing child mortality,'' said Alipui. ''At Rotary, you have the strength of a large network of individuals who are able to draw upon many others to increase access to improved services.''
During a panel on literacy, Caryl M. Stern, president of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, noted that the adult illiteracy rate has decreased from 25 percent to 20 percent worldwide. She said that educating girls improves their prospects of being able to support themselves later in life and reduces the chance that their children will die before the age of five.
''Literacy saves lives,'' said Stern. ''Education is the only tool in our arsenal that can truly interrupt the cycle of poverty.''
Roger Hayward, past governor of District 7070 (Ontario, Canada) and Literacy Resource Group area coordinator, said literacy is one of the top focuses of club projects.
Tom Grant, producer of the Academy Award-nominated documentary The Final Inch , addressed the health panel. He said that talking with Rotary about its frontline efforts to eradicate polio was crucial to the success of the film, which chronicled volunteers' work to immunize children against the disease in India.
Dr. Edward Hoekstra, senior health specialist in UNICEF's Program Division, said Rotary's effort to eradicate polio is just one example of its ability to affect world health.
''Rotary has been such a wonderful organization, connecting through the UN and to the rest of the world,'' said Hoekstra. ''You have been remarkable.''
The event also featured former Interactor Sophia Hameed and Rotaractor Anne-Charlotte Perrin, who spoke about their experiences as Rotary youth program participants.
A youth program was conducted separately during the morning session.
RI President John Kenny told attendees that Rotary and the UN share a common vision of a peaceful world.
''Just as Rotary clubs from around the world partner with each other for projects, so too can we work with UN agencies to gain support, to build our resources, and to generate public awareness,'' said Kenny. ''Rotary International and every Rotarian can support and inspire UN officials and volunteers.''