Rotary-UN Day focuses on promoting global peace
A participant looks over the program during Rotary-UN Day 3 November.
Nearly 1,000 Rotarians, UN officials, Rotary youth program participants, and guests gathered at the United Nations in New York City on 3 November to hear panelists discuss ways to advance global peace.
The annual Rotary-UN Day event drew slightly fewer people than usual this year because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Sandy, which had slammed into the Northeastern United States several days earlier. But those who were able to attend celebrated the relationship between the two organizations, which dates back to 1945, when Rotary members acted as delegates, advisers, and consultants to the United Nations Charter conference.
During the opening panel, RI President Sakuji Tanaka said the relationship between the two organizations is a natural and enduring connection because both are committed to peace.
“I truly believe that the world today is a better place with Rotary and the United nations in it,” Tanaka said. “Neither the United Nations nor Rotary is in a position to solve all of humanity’s problems. But that is not our goal. Our goal is simply to make things better. We take what we have, and do what we can.”
Tanaka, who chose the RI theme of Peace Through Service for his year in office, said there is a connection between service and peace. “It has to do with caring for other people and understanding their needs.”
“When we recognize that the purpose of our lives is being helpful to others, it changes the way we feel about other people,” he said. “If our goal is service, we do not want to argue or fight. We want to live together in peace, and have greater inner peace ourselves.”
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Wilfrid J. Wilkinson asked attendees to continue to advocate for a polio-free world and to keep up the momentum toward eradicating the disease. In doing so, he said Rotary and the UN will be building a world of peace.
“We can create one of the great miracles of polio eradication: days of tranquility, when those involved in an armed conflict call a cease-fire to allow children access to health care,” Wilkinson said. “To save children from polio, we’ve convinced people to lay down their arms in Afghanistan, Southern Sudan, and Somalia. That’s something no one else has been able to do. And if that’s not practicing peace, I don’t know what is.”
Peace Centers celebrates 10 years
Carolyn E. Jones, chair of the Rotary Peace Centers Committee, saluted the 702 alumni of the Rotary Peace Centers program, established 10 years ago. Since 2002, Rotary clubs have sponsored 50 to 70 scholars a year who pursue a master’s degree in peace and conflict resolution at leading universities worldwide. The Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, which opened in 2006, offers a three-month professional development program for mid-level and upper-level professionals.
According to Jones, 95 percent of the alumni are working with governments, nongovernmental organizations, UN agencies, or in academia in fields related directly to peace-building.
“Ten years ago, Rotary decided to take a direct approach to peace and world understanding by providing future leaders with the tools they need to wage peace on the global stage,” said Jones, a past Foundation trustee and member of the Rotary Club of Anchorage East, Alaska, USA. “By educating future peace-builders and working to ease the conditions that breed violence and conflict, Rotary would show the world that peace truly is possible.”
Said RI General Secretary John Hewko: “I think what’s really valuable about Rotary-UN Day is the opportunity it allows us to take a step back and gain some perspective on just how it is that Rotary’s work builds peace. Rotary has historically had a strong institutional focus on peace, it’s part of our mission, and we have some very successful projects and programs specifically designed, in whole or in part, to help build peace.”
Other panelists during Rotary-UN Day were Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, UN undersecretary-general for communications and public information; Ian Pett, chief of health systems and strategic planning for UNICEF; Carolyn Crowley Meub, executive director of Pure Water for the World; Rani Hong, special adviser to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking and cofounder and president of the Tronie Foundation; András Szollosi-Nagy, rector of the UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education; Tim Wallis, executive director of Peaceforce; Interactor Leo Lanberg Hastings; Rotaractor Rana Ghouraba; and Rich Carlson, RI representative to the Organization of American States.