"Rotary International Day At The United Nations" - November 4, 2006

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

The full-day program was planned and conducted by the RI Representative to the United Nations, H. Bradley Jenkins, and Alternate RI Representatives Sylvan Barnet (New York), Joan Fyfe (New York), Doris Lewis Sargeant
(New York), and James Spencer (Connecticut) . The informative and well organized program was designed to give Rotarians an overview of the developmental needs of many countries as presented by UN experts. This would be followed by one of the hundreds of project that Rotarians are performing at the club and district level. By the end of the day it became increasing evident that global poverty reduction is a gargantuan effort, and it cannot be solved by the UN or government alone. It requires a concerted effort by many organizations perhaps spearheaded by the UN. But it is clear that Rotarians from all over the world are working together to be part of the solution.

Many of the Directors and Officers of Rotary International participated or attended the conference including, President of Rotary International, Bill Boyd
(New Zealand), President Elect of Rotary International Wilfred J Wilkins (Canada), and, the Chairman of the Rotary Foundation, Luis Vincente Giay (Argentina).

As many already know, Rotary has a long history with the United Nations. In fact, many Rotarians were active participants in the UN creation and were original signers to the UN Charter. In a letter to commemorate the Rotary Day at the United Nations 2006 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 many of 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 MDG's 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.

The President of Rotary International, William Boyd, presented opening comments outlining 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.

Later on in the day's program, President Bill also presented Sylvan Barnet (Rotary Club of New York) a crystal plaque in recognition for his years of service as one of the main architects in building the bridge to strengthen the United Nations - Rotary International Partnership in providing global humanitarian service.

Margareta Wahlstrom, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator (second from right) presented the Keynote Address. Ms. Wahlstrom (a native of Sweden) also served as the UN Special Coordinator for Humanitarian Assistance to Tsunami - Affected Communities from December 2004 to July 2005
She gave an informative outline of the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) which was established to facilitate the work of all organizations that deliver emergency humanitarian assistance to populations and communities in need. Their goal is to coordinate humanitarian assistance to be more effective, more efficient and more flexible.
OCHA solicits donations through the consolidated appeals process (CAP) and emergency appeals on behalf of countries affected by disasters. The world responded spectacularly to the tsunami disaster, however, on average, there are some 20 appeals are made annually to meet the needs of nearly 40 million people. Needless to say, one of the most difficult tasks is to bring attention to the most neglected and forgotten emergencies. There are more than a dozen neglected emergencies such as Niger or the Sahel in Africa.

Rotary International and United Nations Partnership Update Panel

H. Bradley Jenkins, Luis Vicente Giay, Chairman of the Rotary Foundation, H.E. Mr. Ahmed Al Haddad Ambassador/ Office of the President of the 61st Session of the UN General Assembly, Gillian Sorensen Senior Advisor of The United Nations Foundation, and RI President Elect, Wilfred J Wilkinson all spoke about the UN and Rotary Partnership

RI President Elect, Wilfred J. Wilkinson(Rotary Club of Trenton, Ontario, Canada) addressed the conference and added that for true peace, there must be a healthy and educated population. 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 for hundreds of years. But most importantly, Rotarians have built thousands 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 (Rotary Club of Arrecifes, Argentina - Accounting) humorously stated that he only was only allocated five minutes to speak about the great success of the Rotary Foundation, however, in most South America countries five minutes is not even enough time to say hello. Nevertheless, Chairman Luis provided stirring insight into our Foundation. He informed Rotarians that larger donations are increasing to the Rotary Foundation because of the credibility of Rotary. 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, Chief of the Office of the President of the General Assembly
thanked Rotarians for their contributions to achieve the MDG's. Private sector participation is vital to the success of the MDGs. In fact it is one of the goals in itself because it has long been recognized that the task is too great for any one organization. He asked for continued Rotarian support of the UN's Global Compact.

Ms. Gillian Sorensen, Advisor to the UN Foundation (New York) informed Rotarians that her father was a life-long Rotarians and she heard about Rotary projects every week while growing up.
She focused on that the UN is all about peace, human rights, and development and the MDG's are at the heart of this. Gillian gave an optimistic outlook that the UN organization is transforming. 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 that are rapidly becoming more transparent.

She noted that all of us have listened to the shortfalls of the UN over the last few years. However, most of us have not heard what Gillian called "The good news that does not make the news, news". For example:
-The UN is currently successfully conducting sixteen Peace Keeping missions
-Currently sheltering more than 20 million refugees
-Promoting policies of reserving the global environment
-Successfully conducting World Health Organization health projects including eradicating polio in partnership with the Rotary
-Weapon reduction progress is being made every year.

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

Panel Moderator Sylvan Barnet 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. He also pointed out that in 1943 it was Rotary International tha t sponsored the conference in London that lead to the creation of UNESCO. Furthermore, Rotarians that wrote the first line of the preamble to the UNESCO constitution: "War Beings In The Minds of Men". Also, when UNESCO was officially established in 1947, after WWII, Rotarians were instrumental in including the word "Scientific" in the organization's name.

Helene-Marie Gosselin, (Montreal, Canada) the Director of the UNESCO's New York Office pointed out that there still remains an estimated 781 million adults, two thirds are women who are unable to read and write. There are also 77 million children of primary age who are not enrolled in school and more than three-quarters of these out-of-school children live in sub-Sahara Africa and south and west Asia. Moreover, there are millions of children who are enrolled in school but do not attend regularly, and consequently do not learn to read and write.

UNESCO launched an initiative known as Literacy Initiative for Empowerment (LIFE). This initiative aims to create learning opportunities for illiterate adults in the poorest 35 countries where literacy rates are under 50% or the illiterate population is greater than 10 million.

She encouraged Rotarians to continue their local community projects as well as their international literacy projects because illiteracy is prevalent in pockets of even the most developed countries: and Rotarians have be terrific partners with such groups as Literacy Volunteers of America, as well as English as a Second Language programs.

Martin Postma of the Rotary Club of Westminster, Colorado spoke about the Socially Conscience Coffee project that is providing for the first time education, healthcare, and economic opportunity to the coffee bean growers of northern Brazil. This program is also providing vocational skills training, and is purchasing products from regional businesses to help develop the local economy. Known in Portuguese as the Centro Rural Educafe, children from the Sinay Neves coffee farms and several neighboring coffee farms are now receiving a quality education and regular meals. In addition, local adult coffee farm workers and their wives also have the opportunity to learn how to read and write.

Water Panel
Dr. Roberto Lenton Senior (left) Advisor, The Earth Institute, Columbia University
David Spicer, (right) Past President and Ezra Teshome (second from left) PP of the Rotary Club of University District ,Washington USA Ethiopia Water Projects ,Doris Lewis Sargeant Moderator
Rotary Club of Smithtown, New York

Dr. Roberto Lenton, (Argentina )from The Earth Institute - 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 one billion people lack clean, safe drinking water and over two billion lack access to hygienic sanitation. These two facts allow water and air borne, preventable diseases to claim 6 thousand lives daily around the world, - the majority of them being children. In addition, in many villages, water may be two to three miles away. Too often, women and children have to carry up to 40 pounds of water on their back and too often the water is unsafe to drink.

In addition providing more clean water can enhance 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 University District Rotary Club in Seattle, 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 operational and sustainable. Very often water wells last only a few years after construction from over-use, lack of maintenance, and accountability. This program builds water wells, provides training and encourages responsible villagers to charge a small fee to finance the maintenance and supervision of the wells to insure sustainability.

The Rotary Clubs in 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 a physician born in the Philippines represented the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS, or UNAIDS, the main advocate for coordinated global action on the HIV epidemic. He gave an insightful presentation of the world's fight against the spread of the infection.

As of January 2006, UNAIDS estimates that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized in 1981, making it one of the most destructive epidemics in recorded history. In 2005 alone, AIDS claimed an estimated 3 million lives, of which more than 570,000 were children. A third of these deaths are occurring in sub-Saharan Africa, retarding economic growth and destroying human capital. While drug treatment reduces both the mortality and the morbidity of HIV infection, access to the necessary medication is not available in all countries. The doctor also noted that blood transfusions of unsafe or untested blood is a significant cause for the spread of AIDs.
He pointed out that UNAIDS' mission is to lead, strengthen and support an expanded response to HIV / AIDS that includes preventing transmission , providing care and support to those already living with the virus, reducing the vulnerability of individuals and communities to HIV, and alleviating the impact of the epidemic. The doctor also emphasized that the UN is assertively seeking Civil Society engagement and the development of strategic partnerships with organizations like Rotary.

Warren Kaufman, Rotary Club of Carmel Valley, California outlined his club's Safe Blood Africa program. While as a 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 forced to purchase a pint or two from someone who was not healthy, primarily from lack of food or alcohol use. The blood was then transferred "hot" without the benefit of disease testing, HIV/AIDs positive, or typing. When 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.

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 $12,100, with the $24,200 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 project.

Hunger Panel

Janice S Chambers (right) ,Senior Editor of "The Rotarian", Rotarian James A Spencer (center) Oscar Avalle (left) Special Representative of the World Bank to the United Nations

Janice Chambers , Senior Editor of the Rotarian Magazine gave a very insightful presentation on the Crisis in Niger where she visited and wrote the 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. Inaddition, 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 RI Matching Grant project. Belgian and German Rotarians are working on a number of RI Matching Grant project, partnering with Niger Rotarians and UNICEF to build wells. Rotarians worldwide have 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.

Thomas McConnon
Director, Rotary Club of New York