United Nations diplomats and officials gathered with 1,300 Rotary members on 2 November to discuss ways to engage youth activists, prevent disease, promote peace, and resolve conflict around the world.
Held annually at United Nations headquarters in New York City, Rotary-UN Day celebrates the enduring partnership between Rotary and the UN and their common goal of peace.
RI President Ron Burton opened the daylong event by heralding the two organizations’ worldwide impact.
“The collective efforts of Rotarians around the globe could have an impact at a real level on what happens here at the United Nations,” Burton said. “[We are] helping to make our world a much better place.”
Jan Eliasson, UN deputy secretary-general, echoed Burton’s sentiment, thanking Rotary not only for its ongoing work in the fight against polio but also for addressing other important issues, such as water and sanitation needs.
“The United Nations needs organizations that work together with us, that work horizontally. Rotary does this,” Eliasson said.
Zeroing in on social issues
New at this year’s event were sessions on topics such as youth innovation, peace and conflict resolution, disease prevention, clean water, and maternal and child health. Leaders in each area highlighted the discussions, which aimed to motivate participants to take action in their communities.
The recent polio cases in Syria were addressed during a panel discussion that emphasized the importance not only of eradicating polio in the final three countries, but also of responding to any outbreaks in countries where polio is no longer endemic.
Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair D.K. Lee said that although the Syria outbreak presents a new and significant challenge, Rotary has been successful in equally volatile countries in the past.
“We have been told many times that we cannot do it, that we will never do it. But we know better. We will conquer this challenge, as we have conquered so many before,” Lee said. “We will stop these new outbreaks. And we will continue to fight polio, until we have reached every last child.”
Noted speakers included Peter Crowley, director of Polio Team, UNICEF, Carlos Enrique García González, ambassador of El Salvador to the United Nations; Ambassador Dnyaneshwar M. Mulay, consul general of India; Rob Raylman, executive director of Gift of Life International; Patricia Shafer, Rotary Peace Fellow alumna; Sharon Tennison, founder of the Center for Citizen Initiatives; and Deepa Willingham, founder of PACE Universal.