More than 1200 Rotarians and Rotaract Fill United Nations to Combat Global Poverty!

By Thomas McConnon
Director, Rotary Club of New York

On Saturday, November 4, 2006, more than 1200 Rotarians and Rotaract, the largest Rotary Day at the UN attendance ever, filled the conference center as well as the viewing balcony at the United Nations. The energized participants spent the day outlining Rotary projects and methods to strengthen the long-standing working partnership between Rotary and the United Nations to reduce global poverty.

The full-day program was planned and conducted by the RI Representatives to the United Nations, H. Bradley Jenkins, RI Representative to the United Nations, and Alternate RI Representatives Sylvan Barnet, Joan Fyfe, Doris Lewis Sargeant, and James Spencer.

Many of the Directors and Officers of Rotary International participated or attended the conference including RI President Bill Boyd, President Elect Wilkenson, and RI Foundation Chairman Luis Giay.

Rotary has a long history with the United Nations, if fact many Rotarians were active participants for the creation of the founding and were the original signers to the UN Charter.

In a letter, outgoing Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan wrote:

"For more than 100 years, Rotary has been at the forefront of efforts to improve the lives of people around the world. And, since the United Nations was created, Rotary has been a wonderful partner to us. You have joined forces with us in efforts for health, literacy and poverty eradication. You have spread the word about the work of the United Nations. You have promoted peace through your exchange programs. And, you have played a critical and historic role in our joint mission to eradicate polio worldwide.
Rotary is living proof that people with diverse backgrounds can learn to get along with each other and concentrate more on the things we have in common, rather than on the things that drive us apart. That is what our humanitarian work is all about.
This is the last time I will be writing to you as Secretary-General of the United Nations. So, this is the time to thank all of you for the wonderful support you have given me and the Organization for the past 10 years. Thank you for understanding that this is your United Nations. Thank you for understanding that it is up to all of us to make the most of this indispensable instrument, in the interests of the people it exists to serve. I wish you continued success in your valiant mission."

At the July 2000 World Summit meeting at the United Nations, all the world’s countries and the world’s leading development institutions galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest and agreed to achieve the UN's eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) by the target date of 2015.
The eight goals are:
1. Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
2. Achieve universal primary education
3. Promote gender equality and empower women
4. Reduce child mortality
5. Improve maternal health
6. Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
7. Ensure environmental sustainability
8. Develop a global partnership for development.

President of Rotary International, William Boyd, presented opening comments outline his support for pragmatic Rotarian contributions in support of achieving the MDG's, especially in fighting illiteracy and expanding programs to bring clean water to where ever it is needed, one community at a time. "It is only through hard work and cooperation will we bring about a better world". President Bill emphasized.

President Bill also presented New York Rotarian, Sylvan Barnet (Barney) a crystal plaque in recognition for his years of service as the architect in building the bridge in strengthening the United Nations - Rotary International Partnership in providing global humanitarian service.

RI President Bill Boyd (second from left) presents a plaque to , Alternate RI Representative Sylvan Barnet (third from left) for his essential contributions in strengthening the partnership with the UN. Also present (from left to right) are RI Representatives H. Bradley Jenkins, Joan Fyfe, Doris Lewis Sargeant, and James Spencer.

Rotary International and United Nations Partnership Update Panel

RI President Elect, Wilfred J. Wilkinson address the conference and added that for true peace, there must be a healthy and educated population. And whenever Rotarians are faced with problems too large to even contemplate, they start small and keep on going. The President-elect also noted that Rotary builds bridges of friendships, and while the bridges may be small they may last hundreds of years. But most importantly, we have built thousand and thousands of these bridges. He concluded his remarks with "We may never live in a world of total peace, but we as Rotarians know that we have helped achieve peace, and let today's meeting encourage us to do even more."

RI Foundation Chairman, Luis Vicente Giay cautioned that he only was only allocated five minutes to speak about the Rotary Foundation, where in most of South America countries, five minutes is not even enough time to say hello. Nevertheless, Chairman Luis provide motivating insight into our Foundation. He noted that larger donations are increasing to the Rotary Foundation because of the credibility of Rotary. Many donors know that Rotary funds go strait to the project and not for more fund raising or high salaries. He concluded by assuring Rotarians that it is our Foundation that also makes us proud to be Rotarians .

Mr. Ahmed Al Haddad from the Office of the President of the General Assembly thanked Rotarians for their support of the MDG's. Private sector participation is vital to the success of achieving the MDGs and in fact it is one of the goals in itself because the task is too big for any one organization. He asked for continued Rotarian support of the global compact.

Ms. Gillian Sorensen, Advisor to the UN Foundation informed the Rotarians that her father was a life-long Rotarians and she heard about Rotary projects every week while growing up. She noted that all of us heard a lot about the shortfalls of the UN over the last few years . However, most of us have not heard what Gillian calls "The good news that does not make the news". For example:

The UN is currently successfully conducting sixteen Peace Keeping missions
Sheltering more than 20 million refugees
promoting policies of reserving the global environment
Successful World Health Organization projects including eradicating polio
Weapon Reduction Progress

The focus of the UN is peace, human rights and development and the MDG's are at the heart of this. Gillian gave an optimistic outlook that the UN is transforming, and it is becoming a leaner and a more effective organization. Of note, there is a new Peace Commission, and implementation of new hiring practices and procurement policies are rapidly becoming more transparent.

Literacy Panel
Martin Postma (left) President of RC of Westminster Colorado , Sylvan M. Barnet (center) Rotary Club of New York and Alternate RI Representative to the UN, Helene-Marie Gosselin (right) Director of UNESCO in New York

Helene-Marie Gosselin, the Director of the UNESCO's New York Office informed the conference that promoting literacy and universal education is an important step out of poverty. and is one of the millennium developing goals. It is UNESCO (United Nations Education and Scientific and Cultural Organization) that is responsible to meet the literacy challenges for the UN. The director pointed out that in 1943 it was a Rotary International sponsored conference in London that lead to the creation of UNESCO. Furthermore, It was Rotarians that wrote the preamble to the UNESCO constitution: "War Beings In The Minds of Men". Also, when UNESCO was officially established in 1947, after WWII, it was Rotarian that were instrumental in including the word "Scientific" be included in the name.

Socially conscience coffee:

Water Panel

Dr. Roberto Lenton, from Earth Institute at Columbia University ( Secretary - General Kofi Annan's advisory organization on the Millennium Development Goals) outlined that clean and safe water is essential to human life. Yet, over 1 billion people lack clean safe drinking water and over two billion lack access to sanitation. These two facts allow water and air borne, preventable diseases to claim six thousand lives daily around the world and the majority of them being children. In addition, in many villages, water may be two to three miles away. Very often, primarily women and children carry up to 40 pounds of water on their back and many times the water is unsafe.

In addition providing more clean water can affects the progress of many
of the MDG's. For example:
Health -Healthy people can better help themselves.
Hunger - Illness from unsafe water brings caloric loss and hunger.
Education -The hours not spent getting water can be spent in school.
Environment - Less pressure on fresh water supplies.

It was pointed out that currently Rotarians are conducting more than 8,000 club-to-club water projects.

Rotarians David Spicer and Ezra Teshome from state of Washington spoke about their partnership with four countries and four districts in the Ethiopian Water Project. This project trains local villagers to keep water wells clean and to charge a small fee to cover maintenance and supervision of the wells. The Rotary Clubs of Addis Ababa in Ethiopian (District 9200) helps provide funding and coordinates with the Seattle Rotary Clubs and "Water Partners" in prioritizing the most critical areas of need. They also provide oversight of the water projects and financial accountability.

Health Panel
Warren Kaufman, President of the Rotary Club of Carmel Valley California
Moderated by Joan J. Fyfe and Doctor Ortega UN project on HIV/AIDs

Dr. Ortega gave an insightful presentation of the world's fight against AIDS and the spread of the infection throughout the world. He noted that blood transfusions of unsafe or untested blood is a significant cause for the spread of AIDs. It was pointed out that a pint of safe blood can saves the life a of women that hemorrhage giving child birth, an accident victims, and an anemic child.

A Rotary health project was outlined Warren Kaufman, a Californian Rotarian. While as group Rotary Group Study Exchange Team Leader in Nigeria, Warren noticed many unnecessary deaths due to unsafe blood transfusions. Too often when a Nigerian needed an emergency transfusion, a family member was asked to go purchase a pint or two from someone who was not healthy from lack of food or alcohol use. The blood was then transferred "hot" without the benefit of disease testing, HIV/AIDs positive, or typing. If a person receives a transfusion from an AIDS infected donor, the patient will 100% of the time contract AID/HIV or hepatitis as well as most other blood borne diseases. Warren's Rotary Club developed The Safe Blood Africa that sends refrigerated Blood Banks with a generator and training material for safe blood handling to selected sites selected by Nigerian Rotary clubs.

The cost for the blood bank package is about $20,000. However, the Rotary system of matching grants makes participation in the program affordable for most clubs. Each blood bank is funded through a partnership that includes one or more clubs in District 6780 in California, a Nigerian club in District 9120, and the Rotary Foundation. For example, the donor club raised $6,000 , the district governor can then contributed $6,000 in District Designated Fund (DDF is the district portion of Rotary Foundation contributions) and District 9120 in Nigeria contributed $100 in DDF. This total is then matched by the Rotary Foundation in the amount of $12,000, with the $24,000 now available.

In 2005 the Safe Blood Africa program sent four blood banks to Nigeria and twenty more blood bank are planned for this year. It is estimated that 11,000 lives have already been saved in Africa by the Safe Blood for Africa Project.

Hunger Panel

Janice Chambers , Senior Editor of the Rotarian
gave a very insightful presentation on the plight of Niger where she visited and wrote a cover page article in the September 2005 Rotarian. She pointed out that Niger ,very often confused with Nigeria, is one of the 14 African countries in Rotary District 9100 and has the dubious distinction of being the world's poorest nation. The average birth rate is also among the highest with 8 births per women and a life expectancy of only 44 years. Each year, it suffers from cyclical famine when all the grain has been consumed before the new harvest. As a result the country slides even further into poverty. In September 2005, nearly a third of the country's 12 million people faced starvation. UNICEF officials report that the situation is still critical.

Aman Iman,
L'Eau, C'est la Vie
Water is Life

Recent droughts have pushed millions of Niger's people, who depend on rain water to sustain crops and livestock, to the brink of starvation. Two-thirds of Niger's surface is covered by the Sahel desert, which limits its people from migrating to more fertile grounds within their country.
Janice noted that Rotarians from District 1030 (England) set up the West Africa Trust to support projects in Niger. IN addition, The Nomad Foundation, a U.S.-based nonprofit , joined the new Rotary Club of Agadez and teamed up with U.S. Rotarians on a new Matching Grant project. Belgian and German Rotarians are working on a number of RI Matching Grant project, partnering with Nigerian Rotarians and UNICEF to build wells. Rotarians worldwide contributed more than $700,000 for humanitarian efforts in Niger last year, much of it for long-term, sustainable aid that will end help end the cycle of poverty.