The '09 R. I. Conference Opening Plenary Speakers
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moom praised Rotarians for their work at the opening plenary in Birmingham, England, on 21 June.
At a special appearance at the opening plenary session of the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England, on 21 June, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Rotarians for their work in advancing social justice. Speaking to a packed hall, Ban called Rotary the heart and soul of the worldwide polio eradication effort and pledged the UN's continued cooperation and support.
"Rotary's vision of a polio-free world is in sharp focus," the secretary-general said. "I am with you in this campaign. "Now is the time to finish the job. I call on global governments all around the world to help us," he continued. "Together, we can fulfill Rotary's vision and give future generations a polio-free world."
More than 14,900 attendees from 154 countries and geographical areas are convening in Birmingham for the 100th RI Convention. It is the second RI Convention for Birmingham , which hosted its first in 1984.
Ban's appearance demonstrates the close ties maintained by Rotary and the UN , which date back to 1945, when Rotarians helped draft the UN Charter. Ban said his appreciation for Rotary has deepened since he became secretary-general.
"I am deeply convinced the UN can continue to count on you to keep doing your part. One of the hallmarks of this new multinationalism is collaboration -- all partners must work together," he said. "And nothing will better convince the world that we can succeed than through completing the effort to eradicate polio." Ban also asked Rotarians for their help in addressing other global challenges, including climate change, hunger, and a lack of access to energy.
RI President Dong Kurn Lee, a personal friend of Ban's, followed the secretary-general on stage. Lee talked about how a business trip to Africa sparked his commitment to reducing child mortality. During that trip, he said, he was escorted to a village of mud huts by a local Rotarian. From one of the huts, he heard a cry, then saw a mother and child dying of hunger.
"At that moment, in my shock and horror, I wanted to do anything -- anything at all -- to help that mother and child," Lee said. "But then I realized that I was looking in only one hut, in only one village, in only one country, of the many, many poor and developing countries in the world.
"That was when I resolved to do everything I could to reduce the rate of child mortality and to Make Dreams Real," he said. Noting that the child mortality rate has dropped 27 percent in the past decade, Lee said he is certain Rotarians will continue the work and keep "making this great Rotary dream of a polio-free world into a reality."
The opening plenary session also included an East Meets West celebration that featured a variety of entertainment, including a reenactment of a royal court procession followed by the Little Angels children's choir, who sang "Greensleeves" in Korean and English, and a martial arts demonstration by the Tae Kwon Do Association of Great Britain.
Accomplishing more together - Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF's chief of water, sanitation, and hygiene, speaks to Rotarians on 22 June, at the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England. Casting a wide net through collaboration helps Rotary and other organizations accomplish great things. This was the message of the second plenary session at the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England, on 22 June.
"Let this partnership for polio eradication be a beacon that shows how it is possible when people from right around the world come together in common purpose, with strong hearts and clear minds about the work that together we need to do," said Douglas Alexander, a member of the British Parliament and secretary of state for international development for the United Kingdom.
Infrastructural problems, such as a lack of access to clean water and improved sanitation, also require collaborative solutions, said Clarissa Brocklehurst, UNICEF's chief of water, sanitation, and hygiene.
About one billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water, and about 2.5 billion don't have proper sanitation, Brocklehurst said. Diarrhea, which can be caused by poor sanitation, is the second-leading killer of children after pneumonia. The three sectors of "taps, toilets, and soap" are related, inseparable, and vital to all communities, she said.
Brocklehurst described how addressing these areas is more than an infrastructural problem -- it is a question of changing behavior as well. "Education, communication, and promotion are becoming crucial activities," she said.
UNICEF is developing educational programs in schools to foster greater attention to sanitation and hygiene, and it's aiming for all primary schools worldwide to have water and sanitation facilities. "These are ambitious goals, and clearly UNICEF cannot reach them alone," said Brocklehurst. "We need partners with energy, commitment, and influence. We need partners like Rotary."
Another effort that relies on collaboration for its success is ShelterBox, a charity started by Rotarian Tom Henderson and the Rotary Club of Helston-Lizard, Cornwall, England. Since 2001, it has helped provide shelter to more than 800,000 people in 57 countries during natural disasters and other crises.
During the plenary session, Henderson thanked Rotarians who have sent funds and worked to deliver the boxes. "I like to say I've got 1.2 million friends in 32,000 offices," he said, referring to Rotary's global network of club members. "When there's a disaster in the world, I can lift the phone, and within minutes I can be speaking to a Rotarian friend somewhere in the world, and I can ask them what's going on. I trust them because they're a Rotarian."
The project also has helped raise awareness of Rotary in communities and attract new members. Because of ShelterBox, "There are people in this room today who are Rotarians who [weren't] two years ago. People are becoming Rotaractors because of the work we're doing and the work Rotary does," said Henderson.
Source: Rotary International News