PARTNERS PROMOTING PEACE
Rotary Club of Tuscaloosa, Alabama USA
Rotary International and the United Nations began more than a decade
ago an annual “Rotary Day at the UN” program, identifying how the
two organizations might work together to create a better world.
Gathering this year on November 6, they focus on health, education,
and safe water. Among those attending are RI President Glenn
Estess, several past presidents, and other Rotary leaders.
At the 2003 meeting, then-president Jonathan Majiyagbe noted
the connection between humanitarian service and peace, saying that
“hunger, poverty, and ignorance breed despair, anger and fear, which
often fan the flames of intolerance, conflict, and war.”
The previous editorial that appeared in Breadbasket was titled,
“Can Rotary Make Our World Safer?” It
asked the question, “Is there a role that Rotary can play in
reducing hostility?” (If you missed it, or want to review it as an
introduction to these related thoughts, go to
Can Rotary Make Our World Safer?.
Yes indeed, Rotary has played a significant role in improving
the human condition, reducing the temptation to hostility and making
the world a safer place. Many of Rotary’s humanitarian and
educational programs are well known to members. But what may be
less obvious are Rotary’s cooperative efforts over the past 60 years
with the United Nations and many of its agencies.
As early as 1942, Rotary participated in a London conference
promoting cultural and educational exchanges. Chaired by a past
president of RI and attended by ministers of education from around
the world, this meeting laid the foundation of the United Nations
Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
At the 1945 United Nations Charter Conference, 49 Rotarians
were included among 29 national delegations. One signer of the
charter was Filipino Rotarian Carlos Romulo, a former RI
vice-president and later to become president of the UN General
During his UN tenure, Romulo cited Rotary’s Four-Way Test,
saying, “Without goodwill, no international agreement is possible.”
In a letter to his home club, he said Rotary had “enriched my
international outlook, and helped to prepare me for this difficult
Admittedly, the UN has been criticized for certain action or
inaction, and some Rotarians are counted among the critics. Most
charges seem to be aimed at decisions of the General Assembly and/or
the Security Council. In truth, some of those actions have, in
hindsight, been judged erroneous. But it is in the cultural,
educational, and humanitarian endeavors of the UN where the human
condition and the human spirit have been lifted. The fledgling
UNESCO, envisioned in 1943 with Rotary influence, has accomplished
American Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., citing
Rotary contributions to UNESCO, commended the “practical part
Rotary’s members play in the development of understanding among
nations.” Rotary International appoints representatives not only to
UNESCO but also to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
World Food Programme (WFP), Environmental Programme (UNEP), World
Bank (WB), and High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR).
Working with these and other UN agencies, Rotary addresses
critical world issues, offering health care, education, family
planning, and shelter; and working to overcome adult illiteracy and
to abolish polio, AIDS, and other childhood diseases.
Kofi Annan, secretary-general of the United Nations, summed up
his evaluation of Rotary contributions: “Rotary has the ability to
mobilize support for some of the worthiest causes that exist, and
that makes Rotary a precious resource.”
Paul Harris, in 1945, commended Rotary participation in UN
efforts. Noting Rotary’s belief in the brotherhood of man, he said
Rotary “offers a preview of a world at peace.”
Yes, the world can become safer, as Rotary works to reduce the
causes of hostility. Relieving poverty and suffering cannot help
but promote peace.