Rotary, UN share common goals
Past RI President Frank Devlyn (left) and Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar address attendees at Rotary-UN Day on 6 November at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City. Photo by Bryant Brownlee
More than 1,100 Rotarians, UN officials, and Rotary youth program participants attended panel discussions on literacy, water, health, and youth activities as part of Rotary UN-Day on 6 November.
The event, held annually at United Nations Headquarters in New York City, celebrates the relationship between the two organizations. Speakers highlighted Rotarian projects in literacy, water and health that help advance the goals of the UN and improve the lives of people around the world.
Rotary, which has a 65-year history with the UN, holds the highest consultative status offered to any nongovernmental organization by the Economic and Social Council, which oversees many UN agencies.
During the opening panel, Mickey Chopra, chief of health and associate director of programs at UNICEF, commended Rotary for its ongoing collaboration to improve the health of children around the world and eradicate polio. Rotary and UNICEF are spearheading partners, along with the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
"Our partnership continues to be a vital element in the eradication of polio," Chopra said. "Through inspiring vision and continued vigor towards ridding the world of this disease, Rotarians are addressing far bigger and important global concerns to children, such as, poverty and clean water."
Chopra said Rotary's partnership with UNICEF is the largest and most successful private-public partnership in global health.
"UNICEF is proud to work side by side with Rotary's dedicated members," she said. "With the current progress we've made together, now, more than ever, is the time to push and continue this effort."
During a panel on literacy, Elizabeth Fordham, education adviser for UNESCO, discussed the improvements the UN has made in adult and youth literacy worldwide.
"Adult literacy levels have risen 8 percent in the last 20 years. Youth is even higher," Fordham said. "While these trends are encouraging, much more needs to be done."
Fordham noted that 796 million adults worldwide can't read or write and that two-thirds of them are women. "The simple fact is a high proportionate of developing countries don't have the literacy levels for social and economic participation," she said.
She acknowledged Rotary's continued funding and awareness toward eradicating illiteracy.
"Promoting literacy for all is a goal close to the heart of both UNESCO and Rotary," Fordham said. "The denial of literacy is the denial of a basic human right, social inclusion, empowerment, and economic growth. It's a development imperative, not a luxury."
Past RI President William B. "Bill" Boyd spoke about water, sanitation, and hygiene projects in Ghana, the Philippines, and the Dominican Republic as part of the RI/USAID International H2O Collaboration during a panel on water.
"We are learning that Rotary does have a place on the world stage and there are many people who want to work with us," says Boyd. "Because of our partnerships with large organizations such as USAID, we do have the ability, through major water projects, to make a significant difference for many people around the world."
Other water panel speakers included Frederik Pischke, UN-Water's adviser to the Secretary, and Claire B. Lyons of the PepsiCo Foundation.
Nancy Binkin, chief of the Policy and Evidence Unit, Health Section, UNICEF, spoke on the progress being made in increasing child survival and remaining challenges.
H. Bradley Jenkins, RI representative to the United Nations in New York, served as lead organizer of the event, along with alternate RI representatives Sylvan M. Barnet Jr., Robert A Coultas, William A. Miller, and Helen B. Reisler.