Taking the pulse of global economic change
As Canada's high commissioner to Ghana in 2006, Donald Bobiash worked with village residents on economic development. Photo courtesy of Donald Bobiash
Canadian diplomat Donald Bobiash believes international relations is in the midst of a major shift given the tremendous rise of living standards in developing countries in Asia, South America, and parts of Africa.
As wealthier nations work to accommodate a growing global middle class, Bobiash, a former Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar, says Rotary has the experience and structure in place for effective development assistance.
"Rotary is an incredibly international organization. It bridges race, religion, rich, poor, East, and West," says Bobiash, director-general for Africa at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. "For decades, thousands of wealthy clubs have partnered with clubs in developing countries on projects to increase literacy rates, improve health, and promote peace. It's a great example of how Rotary improves lives."
Bobiash says modern India and China represent remarkable change, emerging as economic giants from among the poorest countries in the world. He also notes that while much of Africa is still fragile, it is home to some of the fastest growing nations.
"I love international relations because there are always new countries to see and new issues to address," says Bobiash. "The themes don't change much, but there is always a novelty factor in being involved, as previously poor and developing countries, such as India and China, become stronger and more powerful."
As a career diplomat, Bobiash has traveled extensively and worked with developing nations on ways to support each other's economic development. He joined Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada in 1989 and has undertaken diplomatic projects in Japan and Pakistan. He has also worked in divisions responsible for policy planning, including South Asian Relations, Economic Relations with Developing Countries, South American Relations, and the International Organisation of La Francophonie (a group composed of French-speaking countries).
Bobiash received a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University, where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar.
He began his career as a Rotary Scholar in Africa. Originally he planned to study in Europe, but Rotary asked him to go to Senegal instead. Spending his year there was life changing, he says.
"The great thing about Rotary scholarships is the opportunity to send students to places in the world they normally would never see," says Bobiash. "Working in a developing country gives you an insight into its development, politics, and culture you wouldn't get unless you lived there."
Growing up on a family farm tucked away in a small town in Saskatchewan, Canada, Bobiash dreamed of traveling the world.
"Rotary opened the door to the world for me," he says. "The richness of my year in Senegal was visiting other clubs and meeting a cross section of society, from businessmen to academics to the rich and the poor. I think in many ways each club is a microcosm of its community."
Bobiash will be a speaker at the Rotary Alumni Celebration on 19 June in Montréal, Québec, before the RI Convention.
Written for Reconnections .
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