11-05: Rotary - UN ties celebrated at New York event

More than 800 Rotarians from across the United States and 15 other countries flocked to United Nations Headquarters in New York City on 5 November to celebrate the many ties between their organization and the UN.

An annual event, Rotary-UN Day helps focus attention on the ideal of world peace shared by Rotary and the UN and on the collaborative humanitarian initiatives carried out by the entities of both organizations. One such joint effort is the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, in which Rotary International and UN agencies World Health Organization and UNICEF are partners.

Organized by the RI representatives to the United Nations in New York, the 2005 Rotary-UN Day featured more than 20 speakers who addressed development issues focusing on health, hunger, literacy, and water.
Jeffrey Sachs, economics professor and a special adviser to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, said during the opening session that Rotary is one of his favorite examples of an organization whose values and members enable it to get things done.

Sachs, who also is the director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, made a presentation on the ways in which Rotary's initiatives can help achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals, which are aimed at reducing extreme poverty, disease, and hunger throughout the world by the year 2015.

"I appeal to Rotary to lead the efforts to implement the Millennium Development Goals," said Sachs, after explaining that Rotary's polio eradication effort through its network of more than a million volunteers in 170 countries presents a great model for action. "I believe the peace of the planet depends on it. Because the Millennium Development Goals are achievable, it compels us to reach [those] goals. We cannot bear to see them not achieved."

Outstanding Rotary club- and district-sponsored efforts featured at the sessions include the Temple Solar Project of Rotary District 6450, which has distributed 45 environmentally friendly sun ovens in more than 20 countries; HungerPlus, which collaborates with Rotary clubs to meet food needs in more than 10 countries, including the United States; BioSand Water Filter Project, which provides clean water in the Caribbean, Central America, and South Asia; and the Malawi Children's Village, which takes care of HIV/AIDS orphans in Malawi.

Other similar undertakings highlighted were the Balashikha Project, which provides health care to children and mothers in Russia; a binational case management and referral system set up by federal health care agencies in the United States and Mexico to monitor and treat tuberculosis patients in both countries; the Guatemala Literacy Project, which distributes locally published textbooks in Guatemalan schools; and educational initiatives using the concentrated language encounter method that are addressing illiteracy in more than a dozen countries.

The missions of both Rotary and the UN are intertwined, according to several speakers, partly because of their shared histories. When the UN Charter was adopted in 1945, the official delegations of 29 countries included 49 Rotarians.

RI President Carl-Wilhelm Stenhammar, Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Frank J. Devlyn, and RI President-elect William B. Boyd were among attendees and speakers at the event.

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