On Saturday 4April 2014, over 500 Rotary members from more than 20 countries gathered in Paris for a Rotary Conference organized at UNESCO Headquarters, in support of UNESCO’s 70th Anniversary Celebrations.
Rotary, which is an official partner of UNECO since 1948, was indeed actively involved in the preparatory conferences which led to the creation of UNESCO. The vision, objectives and programmes of Rotary and UNESCO converge on many levels. Both organizations defend education for all regardless of race, gender, beliefs and cultures. They advocate for the protection and diversity of cultures, and for dialogue as a source of tolerance and mutual respect. They also believe in and work for a sustainable development.
The conference highlighted Rotary’s history with UNESCO and ongoing work for peace, with particular emphasis on the role of Rotary’s Inter-Country Committees (ICCs). ICCs are cooperative relationships established between districts in two countries to promote bi-lateral communication and cooperation between Rotarians, leading to greater understanding and peace between peoples.
Building peace through intercultural dialogue was a theme addressed by UNESCO representatives, Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Rotary programme alumni alike. Mr Eric Falt, Assistant Director General for External Relations and Public Information, was the first of several UNESCO staff to quote the Organization’s Constitution: “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”
The Conference ended with the presentation of a declaration approved by RI President Gary Huang. Rotarians reaffirmed their commitment to sustain civil peace through Rotary’s culture. This encourages loyal and fair behaviours, the respect of human rights, mutual understanding, sustainable social and economic progress, and ethical governance. All these elements help build the social cohesiveness of a country, which is a prerequisite to peace.