Rotary Peace Centers alumni sound off
Global Outlook asked four Rotary Peace Fellows about their vision for peace. Clockwise from top left, Maria Saifuddin Effendi, Godfrey Mukalazi, Arnoldas Pranckevičius, and Cecilia Nedziwe.
I n 1999, The Rotary Foundation established the Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution to promote peace and develop the next generation of community and world leaders.
In partnership with eight prestigious universities in six countries, the program trains up to 100 Rotary World Peace Fellows each year. Last year, more than 400 participants, including numerous Rotary Center alumni, attended the second Rotary World Peace Symposium, held before the RI Convention in Birmingham, England. Global Outlook asked four peacemakers trained with support from Rotary about their vision for peace. The roundtable below is offered in observation of World Understanding and Peace Day, 23 February.
Global Outlook: What gives you hope that peace can be achieved?
Maria Saifuddin Effendi (University of Bradford, England, 2006-08) is an assistant professor in the Department of Peace and Conflict Studies at National Defence University in Islamabad, Pakistan: At the international level, my ray of hope is charity work, social welfare, and service. Peace can be achieved by addressing human security issues, from food and water security and environment preservation to economic prosperity and free education. Once these issues are identified and addressed, people will fight less; there will be fewer conflicts in the world.
Godfrey Mukalazi (University of Queensland, Australia, 2004-06) is a cofounder of the Great Lakes Center for Conflict Resolution in Kampala, Uganda: The success stories of conflict resolution and peace-building around the world create great hope in me that someday our efforts will yield good results. Though peace cannot be realized in a specified time, the little bits we contribute every day will create a tremendous change someday.
Arnoldas Pranckevičius (Sciences Po, France, 2002-04) is the administrator of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium: What gives me the greatest hope is the example of the European Union, where I live and which I serve. When I look at this area of peace, stability, and democracy that the EU managed to create on the continent which only last century gave birth to the two most devastating wars and to the most brutal totalitarian regimes in the world’s history, I begin to believe that peace is possible.
GO: In your work, what do you see as the greatest obstacle to resolving conflict and achieving peace?
Cecilia Nedziwe (University of Queensland, Australia, 2006-08) is the operations director at the Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa, a regional peace organization based in Harare, Zimbabwe: Obstacles to peace are at various levels. Many things have gone wrong in Zimbabwe due to misinformation or lack of information as a result of a polarized, divided, and politicized media. Here, reform of the media requires urgent attention.
Mukalazi: With respect to my country, the major obstacle is bad leadership. Poor political leaders have created and escalated conflict by engaging in maladministration of state affairs, misappropriation of state funds, and suppression of the opposition. They have failed to deliver social services to our citizens, thereby sparking conflict.
GO: What do you think Rotarians can do, as individuals or in club projects, to help move us toward world peace?
Effendi: The Rotary World Peace Fellowships program is an excellent initiative of Rotarians. But people can [reap] the benefits only after going through a tough competition at the international level. I would like to suggest that regional Rotary clubs introduce 10-day peace workshops at the regional level, which could be attended by students and professionals of conflict resolution and peace studies. Such workshops will spread the word of peace throughout the conflict-prone areas. People will become more aware and well informed.
GO: Humans have been in conflict for thousands of years, leading many people to think that the goal of peace requires changing human nature. What makes you believe this is possible?
Nedziwe: I am not a Quaker, but I subscribe to their belief in the worth of every person and faith — in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice. I believe that the goal of peace should be guided by the power of love, which changes human nature. This is a challenging and daunting task. The Rotary Foundation is leading the way through polio [eradication], providing communities with clean water, and in empowering young people by providing them with educational opportunities. These efforts are very commendable and should continue.
Effendi: Human nature is not innately destructive. When people are ignored by the social system and suppressed by their fellow beings, they raise their voices against the economic, political, or social ills. If their voices remain unheard, their emotions transform into frustration. We need to provide the conditions that enable human beings to grow at their best.
GO: What recent developments — political changes or events — give you an increased sense of hope?
Nedziwe: In the case of Zimbabwe, despite the challenges faced in past years, the formation of the all-inclusive government has brought some sense of relief in many quarters. Although the first all-stakeholders conference was disrupted by spoilers, there is still a great sense of hope and political will among the parties to move toward a people-driven constitution. Furthermore, the initiative by the all-inclusive government to move toward national healing, reconciliation, and an integration process is commendable despite the fact that the sincerity of the leadership remains questionable to some extent.
Pranckevičius: I often ask myself how the world will look in 20 or 50 years. Will it be a world of strong international institutions and supremacy of international law, or a world defined by narrow national interests and unilateral action? Will it be a world of sustainable development with the gains of globalization available to everybody, or a world of economic protectionism, rising inequalities, and exploding poverty in places like Africa? It is [critical] to come up with a long-term vision for our planet and to know the direction we would like to move in the future. The concerted effort of the international community to tackle the enormous challenges of the global economic crisis and climate change provides a glimpse of hope that we are moving in the right direction.
Mukalazi: The reconciliation developments in Australia regarding the recognition of the Aborigines, the political trends in the United States, the situation in South Africa — these are precursors of a green light toward world understanding that is sweeping the globe.
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