UN Day 2006

UN Day 2006, provided by RGHF Past Chairman Matts Ingemanson

More than 1,200 Rotarians from 42 countries gathered in New York to learn how to meet humanitarian needs worldwide by working more effectively with United Nations agencies.

The annual Rotary Day at the UN, held 4 November, featured panels on literacy, water, health, and hunger. Speakers included officials from the UN and its agencies, who encouraged collaboration and praised Rotary’s work with the World Health Organization and UNICEF in the global effort to eradicate polio. Since 1985, Rotary has contributed more than US$616 million to a polio-free world.

Keynote speaker Margarita Wahlstrom, a top UN official, outlined the world’s leading humanitarian priorities and said $1.5 billion is needed for the crisis in Darfur, Sudan. “The brutality is almost beyond belief,” she said. She also cited problems related to global warming, such as an island in the Pacific that floods every year. “We’re not prepared for this,” she said.

A few attendees questioned the UN’s effectiveness and pointed to allegations about misconduct. Wahlstrom and other speakers outlined how the UN is addressing such issues. “We are working to create a culture of individual responsibility,” she said.

The UN should be “congratulated for seriously looking at these issues,” RI President Bill Boyd said. “It’s easy to look at the United Nations and see its mistakes. It’s important to look forward.”

Rotary’s relationship with the UN dates to 1945, when 49 Rotarians acted as delegates, advisers, and consultants at the UN Charter Conference. Sylvan Barnet was honored by RI President Boyd at the event for his years of service as an RI representative to the UN.

Panelists also included Rotary leaders and club members, who showcased related projects in Brazil, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. This year, the program included a separate event, held at the UN complex, for youth interested in humanitarian service.

Addressing this year’s theme, “Rotary’s unfinished business,” Boyd told the audience: “Even though we will never bring about a perfect world, we have no excuse not to try….And if we leave a better world than was left to us, then we have not failed.”

Following the afternoon’s discussions at the UN, Rotary Foundation Chair Luis Vicente Giay hosted a dinner and brunch the following morning on the topic of Rotary’s role in promoting world peace. The events included presentations of alumni of the Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution program, which the Trustees have identified as the Foundation’s top fundraising priority. Trustees have approved an initiative to raise $95 million to permanently endow the Rotary Centers.