Rotary Day at the UN November 2011

On a cool and sunny autumn Saturday morning on November 5, 2011 hundreds of Rotarians were lining up at the front gates of the United Nations on 1st Ave in New York City. Rotarians, in their usual fashion introduced themselves to each other, discussed some of their club projects as they watched the thousands of marathoners across the street preparing for a 5K warm-up race. This was the day before the New York City marathon.
For more than twenty years, Rotary International has been welcomed to the United Nations Headquarters to review their progress of the partnership with the United Nations in reducing global poverty in the areas of health, clean water, disaster relief and literacy.

As is customary, more than two dozen or so of the current or past officers, directors and trustees of RI from around the world attended. This year, there were 1,176 attendees from thirty-three countries and twenty eight states. One third were not from the United States, with seventy-five from Canada and twenty visitors from Italy. There were eighty-five Rotaractors, and 532 Interactors for their own customized program.

After the required security announcements, Past District Governor, Brad H. Bradley Jenkins - RI Representative to the United Nations, from the Berkley Heights Rotary Club in New Jersey introduced Under Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information for the United Nations, Kiyotaka Akasaka. A national of Japan and a former senior negotiator in the Kyoto Conference on Climate Change, as well as member of the Secretariat of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, welcomed the Rotarians to the UN’s world headquarters. He thanked the assembly for the “sterling record” of Rotary’s contribution in economic as well as environmental contribution to alleviating many of the world’s problems. Rotary assistance was especially helpful this year with so many events such as the creation of South Sudan, and the Arab Spring.

Sustainable development is currently the top priority of governments, the UN, and Civil Society, and this is where Rotary can help provide some solutions. While health, disaster relief, agriculture, ethnic tolerance, and literacy have improved since 1992 because of partnerships with civic-minded organizations such as Rotary, he concluded, yet more needs to be done. He called attention to the fact that two billon of the world’s seven billion people are less than twenty years old. Around the world, many young people are voicing disapproval because of the lack of opportunity available to them.

Rotary International President–elect Sakuji Tanaka welcoming one of the Rotaractors.Immediately following was a welcoming statement from Rotary International President-elect Sakuji Tanaka. Also a national of Japan, President-elect Sakuji, a former trustee of the Rotary Foundation, a past director of Rotary Intentional, Chairman of the Daika Company, and president of the National Household Papers Distributers Association of Japan has been a member of the Rotary Club of Yashio since its charter in 1975. "Since I joined Rotary, I have embraced every new challenge of Rotary service. To me, challenge is a very important word. It inspires us. It also helps us to be and to do our best. It allows us to bring out our fullest potential." President-elect Tanaka encouraged all to help Rotary reach its potential by finishing the job of polio-eradication and using the organization's strengths to enhance its ability to "do good in the world."
The President of the United Nations Foundation, the Honorable Timothy E. Wirth also addressed the audience. Mr. Wirth was the first president of the United Nations Foundation that was founded by Ted Turner more than fifteen years ago. When Mr. Worth first joined the UNF, Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommended that his first trip should be to meet with Rotary officials in Evanston Ill. Mr. Wirth chronicled how Ted Turner loved the tie designed for the Rotary Centennial with all the flags of the world. Ted Tuner would wear that tie often.
Helen Reisler PDG (Center) and the Rotaractors from the Youth Panel were Amna Bhatti (left) and Arooj Javaid (right).Mr. Wirht also informed the gathering that current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was recently reappointed for his second five-year term, and strengthening UN partnerships is the main theme for his second termxxxxx. Rotary’s commitment to partnerships is cited often and is considered the paradigm of public –private partnerships, he said.

The Health Panel was moderated by New York Rotarian Sylvan M. Barnet (aka Barney) and he pointed out that there is an emergent shift of emphasis from communicable and non-communicable diseases.
Barney introduced Dr. Jacob Kumaresan, the Executive Director of the World Health Organization (WHO) who detailed that it was Rotary’s energy and commitment and the one billion dollars raised by Rotary that motivated other NGO’s and governments partners to join Rotary’s efforts. Rotary has mobilized twenty million volunteers, and as a result two billion children were vaccinated and eight million people have been saved from contracting the dreaded polio virus. This is probably the largest health undertaking in history, the doctor stated.

He outlined several essential strategies to enhance polio immunization including full coverage, surveillance and follow up. “While we are at the last mile to rid the world of polio, it still will take courage because it is dangerous on the Pakistan boarders. We need to support the volunteers, and the local leaders must provide safe-passage to the volunteersxxxxxxxxxx. Rotary expects to have raised a total of $1.4 billion dollars for the Polio-plus program by 2015.

Moderator Barney introduced Dr. Zulfiquar A. Bhutta a professor at AGA-Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. His research interest including newborn and child survival and micronutrient deficiencies. The doctor personally thanked Rotary because forty-five years ago, he received a Rotary scholarship and it had a significant impact on his life’s work and goals. His university is working to transform the customary medical educational system with broad refinement and more coordination between education and health sector to ensure that the type of health professionals trained matches the health needs in every country.

The Water Panel was moderated by PGS Edwin H. Futa. He introduced the New York based Senior Advisor of Water Sanitation, and Hygiene Section (WASH) of UNICEF Andrew Trevet. Mr.Trevet was a lecturer at the Water and Sanitation at Cranfield University in the UK before joining the World Health Organization in 2006.
Mr.Trevet emphasized the importance of creating an “improved drinking water source”. The improved water source should be clean and within one mile from your home and simple latrines need to be built. The real problem is that many diseases, including polio are water borne. Yet, almost fifty-percent of the developing world’s population lack improved sanitation facilities, and over 880 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, he remarked.
The second guest speaker was fellow Rotarian Ron Denham, the chairman of The Water And Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (WASRAG). Rotarian Ron received his Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering in England and has consulted in several continents and is involved in many water projects. With currently 4,000 individual Rotary WASH programs going on this year alone, WASRAG was created in 2007 to provide the know-how, consistency and credibility essential to achieve success over the long term. Ron emphasized that sustainability is critical to a successful water project which requires not only securing local support for a water project but also making sure the community can keep it going.
There are too many number of non-functioning wells. Too often, Rotary clubs start with the idea of putting in a well or delivering filters in one year. Rather, it should be considered as a long term- three to five years - project. More importantly, the development of “software” (local community commitment) is more important than “hardware” (the donation of the well) that is the key to a sustainable well.
Members of the Rotaract of the United Nations acted as Sergeant at Arms with Leon Horwitz PDG of the White Plains N.Y. Rotary Club(right).The AM Closing Panel was launched with John Hewko, the new Rotary International General-Secretary. Three months ago, Rotary International hired John to be its new top executive. In this position, John will manage more than 600 employees at RI headquarters in Evanston, Ill., and its regional offices in seven countries. From 2004 to 2009 John was vice-president of operations for the Millennium Challenge Corporation that delivered foreign assistance to the world's poorest countries. In the early 1990’s, he also assisted in the working-group that prepared the initial draft of the Ukrainian Post-Soviet constitution. Having just completed his first one hundred days in office, John reviewed the role of Rotary in the early years of the United Nations and pointed out that five of the UN’s General Assembly presidents were Rotarians.
The next speaker in the AM Closing Panel was Rotarian Barry Rassin (PRID) from District 7020 in the Bahamas. He outlined Rotary's Haiti Earthquake Relief program. His district established the Haiti Task Force as the conduit for all Rotary Foundation-related projects to review the initiatives, advise clubs, and to help designate the appropriate club projects. First created in 2007, this task force was very helpful and knowable during the 2010 Haitian earthquake relief.
Rotary clubs worldwide have contributed to a special Haitian Relief Fund with an emphasis on projects that address the issues of education, sustainable housing, and the need for prosthetic limbs. More than fifty projects have been approved for funding, a majority of them education-related.
Rotary clubs have provided more than $18 million to Haiti by leveraging their donations with District Matching Funds and The Rotary Foundation Matching grants. One of the projects was the earthquake-proof reconstruction of six classrooms.
Also included in this panel were Past RI President William B. Boyd and currently Chairman of the Rotary Foundation.
Chairman Bill stated that we support peace because we are Rotarians, we dream for those who themselves who have no hope. The world is a better place because of Rotary. In concluding Chairman Bill sang out the title song of a Sesame Street “Why Are There So Many Songs About Rainbows”?
President of the Rotary Club of New York Giorgio Belistrane welcomes visiting Rotarins form Italy
The next speaker in the panel was Dickson Despommier PhD and a professor at Columbia University. As the author of The Vertical Farm: Feeding the World in the 21st Century he outlined the benefits of the experimental “Vertical” (hi-tech indoor) farming. These farms are particularly useful in Korea and Japan where there is a shortage of productive farmland. Just like the cell phone, the professor anticipates that with a learning curve Vertical Farming will become more economical and productive over time.

We face the challenges of rapid population growth, climate change, and dwindling resources. As such we need to find alternative sources of food, water, and energy and Vertical Farming will allow us to: Grow food 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, protect crops from unpredictable and harmful weather, re-use water collected from the indoor environment, provide jobs for local residents and utilize abandoned factory buildings, eliminate use of pesticides, fertilizers, or herbicides, drastically reduce dependence on fossil fuels, prevent crop loss due to disease or pests, and stop agricultural runoff.
The next speaker was Ginny Wolfe who is the Senior Director of U.S. the “One” campaign which was co-founded by rock star, Bono. It currently has close to three million signed-up members and this organization asks for their advocacy and voice for many of the same issues that RI has been working toward, including extreme poverty, preventable diseases, raising public awareness, and persuading political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that save lives.

After lunch, The RI Representatives Panel was moderated by Brad Jenkins to review some of the United Nations and other Global Organizations in other parts of the world that RI observes. These include Rotarians working with African Union, Council of Europe, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia ,Economic Commission for Africa, World Bank World Food Program Economic Commission for Europe , Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, International Fund for Agricultural Development ,Organization International de la Francophonie, Organization of American States, UNESCO and United Nations Environmental Program.
RI Representatives are asked to establish relationships and contact their XXXXXXX assigned organization and to inform their assigned organizations about Rotary’s humanitarian programs and projects and discuss potential opportunities for collaboration with Rotary.
The first speaker was Dr. Michael P Jazzar, RI Representative to United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, (UN-ESCWA). Rotarian Michael, a dental surgeon who lives in Beirut, Lebanon informed the audience that ESCWA was established in 1973 and headquarter in Beirut with the objective to support economic and social development to promote cooperation between the countries of the region. Dr. Michael was instrumental to have Rotary International’s forms and brochures are translated into Arabic, for example.

The final speaker of this panel was Richard S. Carson, a computer consultant and owner of Carson Industries. Richard is RI’s Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarter in Washington DC. The OAS four main pillars are democracy, human rights, security, and development. He outlined the work of the OAS and applied for Rotary to be accepted as a credentialed NGO of the organization. In 2008, sixty participants from Rotary International attended an OAS briefing and hosted an evening reception. The OAS is asking Rotary for assistance in teacher training programs throughout the Americas.

The Youth Panel was moderated by New York Rotarian Helen B. Reisler PDG. Helen asked the winner of her district’s The Four Way Test Essay Contest to read her essay. XXXXAmna Bhatti, born in Pakistan and moved to New York as a child, read her award winning essay about the relevance of “The Four Way Test In Today’s World.”

The next panelist was Arooj Javid from the Rotaract Club of Mississauga, Ontario. Arooj is a sales operations representative at Hewlett Packer and lead the program that raised $9,500 for Pakistan Flood Relief Drive through her Rotaract club. More than 300,000 sq. miles and twenty million people were affected by these floods. Arooj’s club collected boxes of supplies and send approximately 750 boxes of supplies to the flood victims.

The last panel was the Literacy Panel that was moderated by Joseph xxxxxxxx of the Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Laurie Noe, a professor at HousatonicXXXXXX Community College in Early Childhood Education, and Barbara Welles-Nystrom of Fairfield University spoke about their South African Literacy Project. This project was to bring Bridgeport, Connecticut teachers to several South African communities looking for qualified early education preschool teachers. Many of the classrooms in South African communities they attended were in poor condition and lacking furniture and books.
Afterwards, South African teachers were invited to Bridgeport Ct. preschools for three weeks to interact with Bridgeport teachers and students. Dr. Noe and Professor Welles-Nystrom concluded that teachers from both countries learned from each other with long lasting consequences and dividends.

President Wayne Chales of the Rotray Club of Harlem New with Marlend a RI Ambasaadorial Scholar who will be stdying in Hong Kong
Lise Monty, the PP of the Rotary Club of Wilmington outlined her club’s Pakistan Project which is a multi-faceted program promoting international understanding and good will. The project featured distinguished speakers from the Embassy of Pakistan, hosted in the homes of Wilmington Rotary members. who will serve as host and moderator and featuring a discussion leader from the Pakistan-American community, and the development of a long term relationship with the Lahore Mozang Club in Pakistan. It aims to build understanding and relationships between the two countries while promoting education and literacy among Pakistani girls.
The most recent initiative under the project involves supporting the Ghazali School, founded in 2001 Lahore Mozang club, renamed the Unity School to mark the club’s partnership with the Wilmington Rotary Club. The club had raised $23,000 to cover schooling costs for nearly 30 girls for five years. The club raised an additional $5,000 to add a girls’ sixth-grade class.
Twelve delegates from the Wilmington club recently completed a 10-day trip to Lahore to meet with members of the Lahore Mozang Rotary Club and observe their work in promoting education and literacy across Pakistan.

Only twenty-percent of school-age girls in Pakistan attend school. Yet one visit from the Wilmington delegates not only had a remarkable effect on motivating more children to get enrolled in the school but also brought a fresh wave of understanding between the people of America and Pakistan.”