Holding leaders accountable helps prevent and resolve conflicts
Watch the video of Jan Egeland speaking at the Rotary World Peace Symposium on 19 June. You can embed this video on your Web site.
Accountability and telling it like it is are critical components of building peace, said Jan Egeland, director of the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs. Egeland was the UN secretary-general's special adviser for conflict prevention and resolution from 2006 to 2008.
At the second Rotary World Peace Symposium in Birmingham, England, on 19 June, Egeland discussed what he has learned during his career of more than 30 years in humanitarian relief and conflict resolution, which included participating in secret negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians to produce the Oslo Accord of 1993.
As a peace negotiator, said Egeland, it's important to hold leaders accountable for their action or inaction. "We have to speak the truth. I have tried to say it as I saw it."
He also observed that "we're making progress, thanks to the good work of Rotary and hundreds of other good, nongovernmental movements." For example, when the December 2004 tsunami hit Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia, the response was highly coordinated and effective, he said. "We have succeeded more often than we've failed, and we've shown that we can do remarkable things when we work together."
Egeland said he feels optimistic knowing that a new generation of peacemakers coming out of Rotary's peace programs will have unparalleled knowledge, technology, and training to do the much-needed work.
"What he said about accountability is crucial," said Rebecca Gasca, a Rotaractor and 2003-04 Rotary Foundation Ambassadorial Scholar. "Not only is it at the leadership level that we have to hold each other accountable, but also at the grassroots level. I think there is a place for Rotary in both regards."
Ahamed Imthiaz Ismail, a member of the Rotary Club of Colombo Mid Town, Western Province, Sri Lanka, has mentored three Foundation Scholars and is involved in humanitarian land mine action and the resettlement of internally displaced people in his country. "His presentation was based on real-life experiences, and it had diverse views that you could relate to different circumstances and situations," said Ismail.
"I thought it was really inspiring to hear positive things and put a number of current conflicts in perspective," said Zélie Pollon, a Rotary World Peace Fellow from Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA, who graduated from Rotary's professional development program at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and will enter the University of Bradford in a few months. "In tandem, it's also good to be reminded of the things we're not focusing on that we can do."