Rotary International at the United Nations: November 6, 2009

Findings by Thomas V. McConnon A.G.
Rotary Club of New York

On November 6, 2009, more than 250 New York area Rotarians, and their guests from around the world, had just spent the night celebrating the 100th Birthday black-tie bash of the legendary Rotary Club of New York #6. The festivities continued way into the early- morning hours. Nevertheless, many of the celebrants including some of the panelists were still able to arrive at the United Nations bright-eyed to celebrate Rotary International’s sixty-five year collaboration with the United Nations.

By 8:00 am, the line of enthusiastic Rotarians, Ambassadorial Scholars, Rotary Peace Scholars, Rotaractors, and Interactors already stretched more than a city-block. There were more than 1,600 attendees in all, and many had traveled overnight, for this standing room only, sold out, annual symposium. In fact, participants came from more than thirty-six states, and forty-six countries. Two hundred and fifty attendees came from Canada, twenty-five from Nigeria, twenty-six from Taiwan, twenty-seven from Mexico, twenty-one from Germany, ten from France, and hundreds of others from more than forty other countries.

During the morning, in Rotary fashion, the comparatively newly established Metro-New York Rotary Club(established in 2002) was able to accumulate a truck-load of food items, and pockets-full of cash donations from the generous visiting Rotarians as they sauntered through the quick-moving security line. There are four new Rotary clubs that have been established in Manhattan since 2001, including the Inwood Rotary Club (2003), the Rotary Club of Wall Street (2009), and the soon to be established Rotary Club of Harlem. All these 21th century clubs have 90 percent of the membership under the age of 40, and already have earned an exemplary reputation of community service and contributions to The Rotary Foundation.

The president of Rotary International, John Kenny, along with R.I. President-elect Ray Klinginsmith, Glenn Estess, Chairman of The Rotary Foundation, and most of the RI directors also attend the conference. As is customary, PDG Brad Jenkins, the RI Representative to the United Nations, with support from the four Alternate RI Representatives to the UN that included Sylvan Barnet, Robert A. Coultas, William A. Miller and Helen B. Reisler were the panel moderators.

The main theme of the day that developed clearly encouraged and accentuated the significance of partnering with other like-minded organizations. The global problems that Rotarians endeavor to alleviate around the world cannot be solved by any one government, or any one foundation, or any one service organization. In fact, the track record of dozens, even hundreds of organizations working together at what they do best, was clearly evident during the conference.
Moderator Brad explained that this will be the last meeting in our usual large conference room for several years. The UN buildings are being thoroughly renovated, and the conference room that Rotary International has used for the last decade or so will be used as the temporary meeting-room for the UN’s Security Council. All the buildings at the UN are being restored with modern infrastructure, yet will maintain their original architectural design which is considered by many as an iconic example of the 1950’s architecture. The renovations are estimated to cost $1.9 billion and will be completed by 2013.

At the start of the conference, Rotary International Treasurer, Michael Colasurdo, introduced the directors and officers of Rotary International and also the past-President of Kiwanis International, Tony Kaiser.

“The Welcome to the United Nations Panel”
Moderated by H. Bradley Jenkins PDG
The Sergeants at Arms from the Smithtown N.Y. ClubThe first panelist was Maria-Luisa Chavez who is the Chief ,NGO Relations Officer at the UN Department of Public Information and a national of Mexico. Having worked for the United Nations since 1981, she welcomed the Rotarians to the United Nations headquarters, and pointed out that Rotary was one of first non-government organizations of the UN. Ms. Chavez reminded all that in 1942, Rotarians from 21 nations help to create what was to become UNESCO, and that 49 Rotarians were at the conference to sign the UN Charter in San Francisco. Ms. Chavez also thanked Rotarians for the two billion children vaccinated against polio. She highlighted that Rotary’s greatness is the partnerships it has developed with other organizations, and that Rotary is a very valuable partner to the United Nations, and to the world.

“The Future of Rotary is in Your Hands.”

As many already know, President John Kenny is from the Grangemouth, Scotland Rotary Club and is a past-dean of his local law faculty, a judge, and a notary. During his keynote address, President John outlined that for more than one hundred years, Rotarians have been working for peace, understanding, and good-will around the world. He emphasized that Rotary and the UN share a similar vision to bring about peace. He warned that poverty is the worst form of violence, because those that have nothing, have nothing to lose. While Rotarians conduct thousands of projects to promote literacy which breaks the cycle of poverty, bring health care where it is most lacking, provide fresh water and sanitation facilities to villages that lack basic sanitation, “the one thing we cannot do is nothing”.
President John also went on to say that International partnerships, with government and non-government organizations can give the tools for people to help themselves. For example, twenty years ago, Rotary made a promise to eradicate polio from the planet, and shortly afterwards the World Health Organization (WHO) joined our efforts. While we have come very close, with only a few small pockets in four countries still with polio, coming close is not enough. So we still need to finish the job. “And we will.” President John emphatically stated.
President John also reiterated that no single organization can achieve the Millennium Development Goals alone. But together we could bring about a greater and safer world. Rotarians cannot stand ideally by, and “a better future is in our reached, and the future of Rotary is in your hands”. He also invited Rotarians to support the upcoming “Concert to End Polio” at New York’s Lincoln Center on December 2, 2009.

Climate Change Is the Most Formidable Challenge Of Our Time”

Mr. Jonos Pasztor, who is the director of the Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team, made clear that climate change is a huge global threat. In fact, he stated that it is the most formidable challenge of our time, and it is at the top of the international agenda. Furthermore, he stated that climate change is not just an environmental issue. It is also the key economic issue of our time, and as such, the world must be determined to develop clean-energy alternatives for the world. In the upcoming The United Nations Climate Change Conference will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark between December 7 and December 18, 2009. The member states need to reach agreement on:
· Reduced emissions.
· Financial support for the vulnerable communities.
· Provide market incentives to develop clean-energy alternatives.

The Water Panel
Moderated by Sylvan M. Barnet, Jr.
Dr. Nicholas Alipui, Director of Programs UNICEF, a physician and a native of Ghana, received his medical training in Obstetrics and Gynecology from the University of Clug-Napoca, Romania. The doctor started his presentation stating that that conditions are getting better for the world’s poor, but warned that national averages do not tell the whole story. Many times there are pockets where progress in not being met.
According to the UNICEF website: “Almost fifty per cent of the developing world’s population – 2.5 billion people – lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 884 million people still use unsafe drinking water sources. Inadequate access to safe water and sanitation services, coupled with poor hygiene practices, kills and sickens thousands of children every day, and leads to impoverishment and diminished opportunities for thousands more.
Poor sanitation, water and hygiene have many other serious repercussions. Children – and particularly girls – are denied their right to education because their schools lack private and decent sanitation facilities. Women are forced to spend large parts of their day fetching water. Poor farmers and wage earners are less productive due to illness, health systems are overwhelmed and national economies suffer. Without W.A.S.H. (water, sanitation and hygiene), sustainable development is impossible.”

Some of the diseases caused by lack of sanitation are:
· Pneumonia,
· Diarrhea , 80% caused by unsafe drinking water
· Malaria,
· Measles

Bringing Clean Water to Honduras
New York Rotarian Takako Johnson hosts a visiting Rotarian from Japan
One Rotary partnership that is helping to bring clean and safe water to local communities is the collaboration of the Rotaract of the United Nations, Engineers Without Borders, and the Peace Corps. Joanna Bonfiglio and Svetiana Fisher of the Rotaract Club at the United Nations, who are also mechanical engineering students at the City College of New York explained their Rotaract financed water project.
The project was constructed in the Omoa region of Honduras and consisted of the Engineers Without Borders reinforcing a water tank in the center of the village. Locals were able to draw water from several spigots, and a half-mile pipeline connecting the stream’s water to the tank.
Sylvan Barnet, the moderator of the Water Panel, reiterated that water is about “War and Peace”. One billion people have no safe water, and two billion people have no sanitation facilities.

The Literacy Panel

Moderated by Robert A. Coultas, PRID
Ms. Caryl M. Stern, the President and CEO of the U.S. Fund for UNICEF affirmed that many lives have been saved over the last twenty years because of partnerships with UNICEF. In 1985, over thirty million children were dying before age five from preventable diseases, and today it is now below nine million. But nine million are still dying from preventable diseases, and therefore too many, she illuminated.
Ms. Stern also confirmed that tetanus, a disease we rarely think about in the developed world, is a very serious one in poorer countries, primarily because of illiteracy. Mothers have to learn to read and learn how to prevent diseases that could harm their children. When a child cannot read, they only know the village, and there is less hope and less opportunity.
“Progress in global literacy has been made. “
In 2002 more than 115 million did not attend primary school, yet by 2007 this number has been reduced to 101 million. Consequently, global adult illiteracy has decline from twenty-five percent to twenty percent. Ms. Stern concluded her address with a quotation from Thomas Jefferson: “If we solve all the problems of the world, but fail to solve the problem of education, our children will destroy what we bequeathed them. But if we solve only the problem of education, our children will solve their own problems.”

Mr. Roger J. Hayward, PDG of District 7070 in Canada, who earned advanced degrees from both Canada and the U.K. affirmed that ninety-seven percent of adults in developed world are literate, but in Africa it is less than fifty-percent. There are 9oo million adults in Africa who cannot read or write. He counseled that there are two key instructional technologies that can increase literacy. The first is Computer Assisted Learning Solutions (CALS) which is a computer based reading system that has benefited more than 1,800 students in California. The other program that he recommends is the Concentrated Language Encounter (CLE). This program does not require any equipment, and it is being successfully used in the northern part of Egypt.
He also recommend that “Reach Out to Rotary Membership in Africa” is an important project because there are only 23,000 Rotarians on the continent of Africa. The African clubs are primarily located in only four countries: South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt, and Uganda with only sixteen clubs in Tanzania. More Rotarians in Africa could help to promote more literacy programs.

The A.M. Closing Panel
Moderated by H. Bradley Jenkins
RI President-elect Ray KlinginsmithRay Klinginsmith, President–elect of Rotary International is from the Kirksville, Missouri Rotary Club and is an attorney who works primarily in commercial and corporate law. He comes from “cattle country” in Missouri, and made it known that the core Rotary-values of Service Above Self, and to make Rotary membership more attractive for younger members will be important issues for his upcoming year. In fact, he specified that if we could put the same effort that we did for the Polio-Plus Program to attract younger Rotarians, “our greatest days are still ahead.”
The second panelist was the Vice President of the National Basketball Association, Mr. Todd Jacobson. Mr. Jacobson is responsible for community relations for the NBA, and launched “The NBA Cares” program in 2000. He is a native Long Islander and a retired professional soccer player. He asked Rotarians to support sports as a way to achieve development, peace, education, family development, and health. Also, he mentioned that sports can help break down political borders and barriers.
The four main components of the “NBA Cares” program are:
· Philanthropy: $115 million donated.
· Service: Players and former players are promoting community service.
· Legacy: How we give back to the community such as computer center and libraries.
· Buildings: NBA Cares built eighty-one centers with partners where kids could work and play in nineteen countries.
· Basketball Without Borders: There are four camps around the world, and over 150 current and past NBA players who participate to break down political barriers, in partnerships with the United Methodist Church.
Mr. Jacobson also stressed the importance to measure a program’s success by implementing a five year plan, and then conduct an honest evaluation of the program’s effectiveness.
“Rotary brings hope with every local and district project”.
Glenn Estess,, Chairman of The Rotary Foundation The Chairman of The Rotary Foundation (TRF), Glenn Estess is originally from Pike County, Mississippi and earned a degree in chemistry and physics from Tulane University. Glenn conveyed to the conference that Rotarians know that war will never be alleviated by military action. Poverty, inequality, deprivation, and lack of hope, are the causes of war. Furthermore, since we have eliminated polio by 99.9 percent through steady progress, we have earned the trust of many.
The last panelist was Gavin Powers, Deputy Executive of the UN Global Compact. Mr. Powers has the responsibility to recruit private companies to embrace a set of core values in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment, and anti-corruption practices.
The ten principles are:
· Principle 1: Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights.
· Principle 2: make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
· Principle 3: Businesses should uphold the freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining.
· Principle 4: the elimination of all forms of forced and compulsory labor;
· Principle 5: the effective abolition of child labor.
· Principle 6: the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
· Principle 7: Businesses should support a precautionary approach to environmental challenges.
· Principle 8: undertake initiatives to promote greater environmental responsibility.
Twenty-five participants were from NigeriaPrinciple 9: encourage the development and diffusion of environmentally friendly technologies.
· Principle 10: Businesses should work against corruption in all its forms, including extortion and bribery.

Top of Form
Bottom of Form

The Health Panel
Moderated by William A. Miller, PDG
Mr. Tom Grant, a graduate of the NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and the producer of the “The Final Inch” was the first Health panelist. A 2008 Academy Award nominee, The Final Inch is a 38 minute snapshot of the grassroots mobilization for polio eradication in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan and was aired on HBO last year. It can also be viewed on YOU-TUBE.
Mr. Grant made clear that there are two essential items to make a documentary: access and funding. Google.com provided the funding of the documentary, but it was difficult to get access to many parts of Afghanistan due to the war.
“Banishing the horrific iron-lung in to the proverbial trash bin of history is ninety-nine percent completed.”
The panelist often accepted questions from the audience

The Health Panel also summarized the 2001 Measles Initiative. This is a partnership led by the American Red Cross, the United Nations Foundation, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. It has helped reduce measles deaths by 74% globally and 89% in Africa (compared to 2000). Working closely with national governments and local communities, the partnership has supported the vaccination of more than 600 million children in more than 60 countries.

The third panelist was Dr. Robert Ziner PDG, is the only European recipient of Nigeria’s Shahon of Zarrau award, in recognition of his fifteen years of humanitarian service to the poor of northern of the country. The doctor outlined the “Save the Mothers and the Children Program”, a joint Nigerian-Austrian-German Rotary project to treat and prevent obstetric fistula, a painful birth injury that often results in a stillborn child and leaves the woman with chronic incontinence.
Dr. Ziner emphasized that the treatment of fistula patients is a humanitarian commitment to help the weakest in Nigeria’s society. But this can only be the first step. “What we actually pursue is a comprehensive approach to raise awareness for medical care for women and THUS prevent obstetric fistula in the first place. “

The Youth Panel

Moderated by Helen B. Reisler
Sohia Hameed was a student at Miami High School Interact Club and is currently studying at New York University. She spoke about her former high school’s Interact program. Sohia was born in India, but raise in the United States. When she returned to India as a high-school student she observed with how little supplies the school children had. Her club decided to raise funds to send backpacks filled with school supplies. Her Interact Club sold 1,000 paper heart necklaces and a Walk- A- Thon for the Project “B4US” and raised $3,000. The Rotary Club of Miami matched the funds up to $2,500. The Interact club was them able to sent 400 backpacks to the students of an Indian School. Sohia’s most significant lesson was the critical importance of youth involvement, and she states that the “Future of the world is in our hand” Sohia received an extended standing ovation.
The Youth PanelThe other impressive panelist was Anne-Charlotte Perrin, a member of the Rotaract of Paris and a former Rotary exchange-student in the United States. Her Rotaract club started a “Microcredit Project” in Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world and one of the poorest countries. .Anne-Charlotte’s Rotaract club raised funds to purchase zebus, sometimes known as humped cattle, to the poorer families in Madagascar. An investor purchases the zebu and rents it to Madagascar farmer, and the farmer sends a small repayment.

The conference ended at 4:00 pm sharp and many Rotarians attended either the cocktail reception hosted by the Rotaract Club of the United Nations or The Rotary Foundation Alumni reception on Madison Ave. ( End.)