International Understanding and Goodwill - David VANDERMEULEN
Advancing world understanding and peace, which is expressed in the fourth part of the Object of Rotary, is an important focus of Rotarian service. It is the impetus for numerous service efforts and other cooperative ventures among Rotarians from different parts of the world. It is the reason Rotary International has a long-standing, close collaboration with the United Nations and many of its member agencies. Appropriately, every year the anniversary of the founding of Rotary, 23 February, is celebrated as World Understanding and Peace Day.
It was once thought that international understanding would be a byproduct of world trade and instantaneous communication. However, although globalization may be bringing the world closer together, universal tolerance and peace sadly remain out of reach.
• Twenty-seven major armed conflicts were under way throughout the world in the late 1990s, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute — all but two of them internal conflicts.
• Conflicts have produced some 31 million refugees and other displaced persons, most of them women and children.
• Imbalances of power among nations, tensions between religious and ethnic groups, and the widening gap between rich and poor within and between nations cause deep resentments, which can easily turn into clashes.
The internationality of its membership puts Rotary in a unique situation to promote peace and goodwill. Through club-to-club contacts, international service projects, peace programs, and cultural and educational exchanges, Rotary clubs worldwide make a meaningful contribution to world peace. But Rotary clubs make an equally meaningful contribution to peace through service in their own communities. Given the communal nature of many of today’s conflicts, the homefront is an excellent arena for local Rotary clubs to begin advancing international understanding and goodwill.
• Sponsor a Model United Nations program so that young people can experience the challenges and mechanics of global problem solving.
• Help build friendly reciprocal relations with Rotary clubs in other countries by developing club-to-club links or by participating in an Intercountry Committee.
• Plan — and invite the public to — a club program on Rotary peace activities in honor of World Understanding and Peace Day, 23 February.
• Encourage ethnic diversity in club membership and invite the participation of Rotary scholars, exchange students, and Rotary Foundation alumni in club activities.
• Sponsor a peace-themed essay, art, or drama contest for youth, or use your international Rotary contacts to locate pen or e-mail pals for local youth.
• Participate in RI programs like World Community Service, Rotary Friendship Exchange, and Rotary Recreational and Vocational Fellowships.
• Take part in a Rotary International Convention or other meeting that stimulates mutual understanding, resource sharing, and networking among new friends.