On 23 February, Rotarians will celebrate World Peace and Understanding Day – the 113th anniversary of Rotary’s founding.
Peace has been at the core of our organization from its earliest days. We established the Fourth Object of Rotary in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1921. We were in London when the seeds were sown for what became UNESCO after World War II. In Havana in 1940, we adopted a resolution calling for “freedom, justice, truth, the sanctity of the pledged word, and respect for human rights,” which became the framework for the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
We were active in the formation of the United Nations. In 1945, almost 50 Rotarians served as delegates, consultants, and advisers at the San Francisco Conference when the UN charter was written. Today, almost 73 years later, Rotary maintains the highest consultative status with the United Nations of any nongovernmental organization. A number of our Rotary Peace Fellows work in UN agencies. Rotary’s representatives to the UN also host a Rotary Day every November to celebrate our partnership for peace.
Today we also have a new partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace, which was founded in Australia by tech entrepreneur Steve Killelea. The institute emphasizes what is called Positive Peace, based on eight “pillars”: a well-functioning government, a sound business environment, equitable distribution of resources, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbours, free flow of information, high levels of human capital, and low levels of corruption.
Between now and June, we have the opportunity to participate in Rotary President Ian H.S. Riseley’s Presidential Peacebuilding Conferences in six cities across the world. Take a look online at rotary.org/presidential-conferences. We will continue to explore how the eight Pillars of Peace align with our areas of focus.
We also are joining with the University of Chicago to host Pathways to Peace, a series of talks featuring leading scholars, practitioners, Rotary Peace Fellows, and thinkers in the field of peace and conflict prevention and resolution. Watch the first one, which was held in September, at bit.ly/2j9cSUh.
Together with our partners, we will work to establish ourselves as global thinkers and leaders to advance understanding, goodwill, and international peace.
Let us work together on this journey.
Paul A Netzel
Foundation Trustee Chair