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February-March 2020 | Features

How Rotary connects the world through its influence

How Rotary connects the world through its influence

Judith Diment, who was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List and is Rotary’s Representative to the Commonwealth, reflects on 75 years of the United Nations and the Commonwealth of Nations, and Rotary’s role.

Rotary Connects the World’ is the theme of President Mark Maloney this Rotary year.

The Rotary Representative Network to the United Nations (UN) and other agencies is a prime example of Rotary connecting the world, and its history starts in the 1940s.

Rotary played a critical leadership role in the San Francisco conference that formed the United Nations in 1945.

Throughout World War Two, Rotary published materials about the importance of forming such an organisation to preserve lasting world peace.

Rotarians had organised the 1942 conference in London which inspired the creation of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and, as early as 1943, had advocated for a “central world organisation”.

Rotarians were educated about plans to create the UN through numerous Rotarian articles and a booklet entitled “From Here On”.

Rotary President, Mark Maloney, has adopted the theme of Rotary Connects the World

When the time came to write the UN charter, Rotary was one of the 42 organisations the United States invited to serve as consultants to its delegation to the San Francisco conference.

Each organisation had seats for three Representatives, so Rotary’s 11 Representatives served in rotation and included the General Secretary, the editor of the Rotarian, and several Past Presidents. Other Rotarians from Africa, Asia, Europe, North and South America served as members or consultants to their own nations’ delegations.

The Rotary Representative Network grew out of this deep and lasting relationship with the UN.

Through various Rotary International Board decisions, the network assumed its current size and configuration between 1991 and 2013, with 31 Rotary Representatives at UN Agencies and key international organisations in 15 capital cities around the world including:

  • United Nations – New York & Geneva.
  • World Bank & Organization of American States – Washington, D.C.
  • United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization & Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – Paris
  • European Union – Brussels
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Rome
  • Commonwealth of Nations – London
  • Arab League – Cairo
  • African Union – Addis Ababa
  • United Nations Environment Programme & United Nations Habitat – Nairobi
  • United Nations offices in Bangkok, Santiago & Beirut

Selected each year by the Rotary International President, the Representatives serve as Rotary’s unofficial ‘ambassadors’ and are headed by the Dean, Peter Kyle.

Rotary Representatives make the UN and other officials aware of Rotary’s programmes and relay back information about the UN’s humanitarian and educational work.

Rotary played a critical leadership role in the conference that formed the UN in 1945.”

Through personal contacts developed over time, Rotary Representatives ensure the organisation has access to the highest UN and other officials when needed by Rotary senior leaders.

Representatives organise high level meetings including, for example, Rotary Days at the UN in New York, Geneva and Nairobi, and at UNESCO in Paris and FAO in Rome.

The UN is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020 and President Mark Maloney is celebrating with three Presidential conferences in 2020 at UNESCO, Paris, FAO in Rome and in Honolulu, prior to the Rotary Convention.

Rotary Representatives also perform a variety of other valuable services including attending and speaking at the UN, as well as at other meetings.

They assist district conferences to secure UN speakers or prestigious meeting locations, and educate Rotarians on the work of the United Nations and its parallel humanitarian goals to create a healthier, better educated, and peaceful world.

The Commonwealth of Nations is the latest addition to the network in 2013.

It is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, and to mark this occasion it has provided a number of grants to accredited Non-Governmental Organisations.

The UN is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020 and President Mark Maloney is celebrating with three Presidential conferences in 2020 at UNESCO, Paris, FAO in Rome and in Honolulu, prior to the Rotary Convention.

One was awarded to Perez Bress, a Rotaractor from Nairobi, who is currently being mentored as part of the Commonwealth Women’s Mentoring Programme. This is an initiative which I helped launch in 2017 along with Rotarian mentors.

The grant allowed Perez to attend the Rotary Day at the UN in New York in November. The theme of this event was refugees, challenging assumptions and creating opportunities.

Perez has conducted research on refugee camps in Kenya. Perez said: “I was humbled and honoured to get such a life changing experience by attending the event in New York.

“It was particularly special to me due to the fact that this year’s theme was on refugees. Coming from a country which hosts the largest refugee camps in Africa, I learned that there is so much that we can do in terms of policy and advocacy to change the refugee narrative.”

Other opportunities afforded by the Representative Network in December include another Rotaractor, Winnie Chepkemoi, also from Nairobi, who was invited to speak by Clara Montanez, Rotary’s Representative to the World Bank, at the World Bank Youth Summit in Washington, D.C.

Rotaractors Ssanyu Mellisa and Purity Bolo, who are students at the University of Keele, attended a three-day Commonwealth workshop on Governance and the rule of law to help set the agenda for the Youth Forum at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda in June 2020.

The Rotary Representatives provide an extraordinary amount of outreach value to Rotary. They ensure Rotary has a voice in the international community and is viewed as a relevant player on the international stage, thereby strengthening Rotary’s reputation and effectiveness in the international community.


For more information visit United Nations website

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