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Lisbon (3 June 2013) – The “oldest city in Western Europe” will host Rotary’s annual international convention featuring the theme, “Lisbon - A Harbor for Peace,” on 23-26 June, attracting more than 20,000 member registrants from more than 150 countries and geographical areas.
Often described as a “mini-United Nations” because of its global scope and cultural diversity, the always-colorful Rotary International convention is expected to inject about EUR 80 million into the local economy. The area around Pavilhão Atlântico and Feira Internacional de Lisboa will be transformed into a kaleidoscope of energy, color, and excitement as Rotary members participate in a broad agenda of plenary sessions, workshops, and other activities.
Each year, Rotary strives to make the convention relevant to its host city. The theme, “Lisbon – A Harbor for peace,” focuses on the significance and history of the Lisbon harbor. "In Rotary's 108 years of humanitarian service, Portugal will host a Rotary Convention for the first time. This will be the biggest convention ever held in Portugal where Rotary members from all over the world will join to embrace the Portuguese universal spirit of understanding and goodwill," said Luis Miguel Duarte, chair of Rotary’s Host Organizing Committee. The annual convention will feature success stories, idea exchanges and strategies to promote peace through volunteer service.
Participating in international humanitarian projects also allows Rotary members to connect with people from around the world and promote cross-cultural understanding. During his one-year term which ends 29 June, Rotary International President Sakuji Tanka held a series of international gatherings to advance peace and understanding in Berlin, Honolulu, and Hiroshima, cities heavily impacted by the events of World War II. The peace summits focused on youth and the healing power of sustainable peace between nations.
“As a member of the first generation to grow up in Japan after World War II, I understand the importance of peace and its connection to our well-being,” Tanaka said. “Peace is not something that can only be achieved through agreements, by governments, or through heroic struggles. It is something that we can find and that we can achieve, every day and in many simple ways."
Rotary clubs have long embraced the call for peace at the grassroots level by addressing the underlying causes of conflict and violence, such as hunger, poverty, disease, and illiteracy. Today, Rotary builds peace and international understanding through education, humanitarian service, and by connecting with youth. Since 2002, Rotary clubs, each year sponsor up to 60 scholars who embark on one to two years of study to earn master’s-level degrees in peace and conflict resolution at Rotary Peace Centers for International Studies at leading universities in England, Japan, Australia, Sweden, and the United States. Established in 2004, the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand offers a three-month professional development certificate in peace and conflict studies each year for up to 50 mid-level professionals from related fields, such as public health, education, international law, economic development, journalism, and social justice.
Rotary has two robust adjunct organizations that cater to youth while promoting volunteer service, leadership and professional development. Interact is a service organization sponsored by Rotary clubs for youth ages 12-18. There are more than 14,963 clubs in 133 countries – with 32 clubs in Portugal. Rotaract is organized by Rotary clubs to promote leadership, professional development, and service among young adults ages 18-30. There are more than 9,539 clubs, of which 58 are in Portugal. Rotary’s Youth Exchange program fosters international goodwill by enabling 8,500 high school students to live and study abroad each year in 115 countries.
Rotary’s top philanthropic goal is the global eradication of polio, a crippling and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Europe was declared polio free in June 2002, but remains at risk as long as the disease has not been eradicated worldwide.
Rotary launched its polio eradication program in 1985, and in 1988 helped launch the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). Since then, Rotary has contributed more than EUR 913,861,000 (US$1.2 billion) and countless volunteer hours. Portugal’s 157 Rotary clubs have contributed EUR 590,400 (US $773,670) to polio eradication, and the Portuguese government has contributed EUR 763,114 (US$ 1 million).
Rotary’s convention in Lisbon will feature keynote speeches by several individuals whose humanitarian work is closely aligned with that of Rotary’s mission, including peace-building and polio eradication:
- Archie Panjabiis best known to millions of TV viewers as the sultry, enigmatic investigator Kalinda Sharma on the hit series, “The Good Wife.” The Emmy-award winning actress is also one of Rotary’s “This Close” celebrity polio ambassadors and recently joined Rotary volunteers to immunize children against polio in India.
- Dr. Jane Goodallis founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and a UN Messenger of Peace. She is also one of Rotary’s “This Close” polio ambassadors, helping raise awareness and support for the effort to eradicate the disabling disease.
- Craig Kielburgeris co-founder of Free The Children as well as co-founder of Me to We. He is a social entrepreneur, New York Times best-selling author, and syndicated columnist.
- Céline S. Cousteauis founder and executive director of the non-profit organization CauseCentric Productions. She is the daughter of ocean explorer and filmmaker Jean-Michel Cousteau and granddaughter of the legendary Jacques Yves Cousteau.
- Emmanuel Jal is a former Sudanese child soldier, social justice advocate, and entertainer. As the central figure of the internationally acclaimed WarChild documentary, Jal has quickly become an international icon representing social justice and human rights.
- Leymah Gbowee is a Liberian peace activist and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate responsible for leading a women's peace movement that brought an end to the Second Liberian Civil War in 2003.
- Dr. Bruce Aylward is the Assistant Director-General for Polio, Emergencies and Country Collaboration for the World Health Organization (WHO). Dr. Aylward, a Canadian physician and epidemiologist, joined WHO in 1992. Since 1998, he has been responsible for the oversight and coordination of all polio eradication activities across WHO's Regional Offices and the GPEI partnership, of which Rotary is a spearheading partner.
Rotary is a worldwide organization of business and professional leaders who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. Rotary’s global membership is approximately 1.2 million men and women who belong to more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in more than 200 countries and geographical areas. For images and broadcast quality video visit Rotary’s Media Center.