Saturday morning of UN Day came early, since I was scheduled to be on duty at the United Nations by 7:30 am to help prepare.  When we arrived there was some confusion, caused by facility complications as a result of the hurricane.  I was scheduled to help with registrations inside the main UN building.  But that area was closed because of flooding, so we had to make alternate arrangements.

UN Security staff insisted we check everyone in at the outside entrance gate, so in windy conditions two of us were assigned to the task.  Imagine a one inch thick printed list of approved registrants, a large line up of impatient attendees, the wind blowing and us trying to check everyone to the list as they entered.  My Rotary colleague tried to look up folks on the single list while I worked with one of the UN security guards.

While there, the guard and I developed good rapport while discussing the activities and projects of Rotary.  He was from Kenya and had great respect for Rotary who had helped his people there.  "I know Rotary has good people and you seem to know many of them coming here with their confirmations,"  he said.  "So if you vouch for the ones you know, I will let you wave them through without the tedious list check."   Thus I exercised the power of Rotary and streamlined things to the delight of many standing in line.

One of the things that surprised me during the process, was the number of non-Rotarians who came to enter.  Since the UN was closed to public visitors on this day, they were all frustrated at the rejection. Yet at the same time they expressed a sense of awe a those who were allowed to enter, thinking we were all very special VIPs.

As usual, there was a program for the Rotarians and a separate session for the youth.  Speakers covered a variety of topics, with some representing the United Nations and others representing Rotary programs and projects.  After the panel members had presented, the audience was invited to comment or ask questions in the same format as the UN General Assembly sessions.   

UN Under-Secretary-General, Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal spoke of Climate Change and the unmistakeable reality with clear signs of it all around the world.  He said that evidence is rising every day and now Hurricane Sandy was teaching us first hand that we need to get better at disaster risk reduction.  He felt it is an issue of establishing priorities, having better warning systems and infrastructure, integrated with sustainable development.

He commented on the recent Rio+20 UN Conference, where nations shared knowledge and a need to collaborate more if we are to have the resources and tools necessary to deal with these disasters.  "The UN counts on Rotary International's support and we look forward to deepening our relationship even more in the future," he concluded.

UNICEF Chief of Health Systems, Ian Pett spoke on Child Mortality, regarding the knowledge and tools we have to prevent child deaths.  From 1999 to 2010 the death rate of children under 5 years has fallen to 41% which seems good.  But he indicated the target is 29% by 2015.  "Eight out of the ten highest countries are affected by either violence or are in "fragile situations," he said.  "Efforts need to be accelerated to be more effective and this can be done."

UNESCO Water Expert, Andras Szollosi-Nagy covered the importance of clean water in our world.  Currently 800 million people do not have access to clean water, which is an improvement over an earlier number of 1.4 billion.  But it is much worse when we look at the poor sanitation and things are not on track to meet the UN Millennium Development Goal (MDG).  He commented that we need more attention and more water science experts globally to obtain the future results that will be required to achieve the MDG.

In other presentations I have heard Andras speak about water becoming a source of future conflict in our world.  Conflict is often driven by the gap between haves and have-nots.  So in this case, the lack of water sharing could become a serious issue.  To compound this problem, there are many global situations where water goes into aquifers in one country, but comes out in a different jurisdiction.  A serious question is 'Should the rights of one country upstream overshadow the rights of another nation downstream?' and who will regulate this?

"Anyone who solves the water and sanitation challenges of our world should get two Nobel Peace Prizes," he said. "One would be for water and the other would be for science."

Rotary Perspective on Literacy by Rich Carson, RI Rep to OAS (Organization of American States). It has been determined that in the developing countries there is a 50% more chance of success if the mother is literate.  Currently it is disturbing that 775 million adults in our world cannot read and 2/3 of them are women.

Other interesting statistics were that 85% of children who are illiterate at the end of grade 3, become young offenders.  This is an important fact that our governments and law enforcement agencies need to deal with.  Students in grade 1 to 3 can learn and by grade 4 to 8 they should have developed the skills to read well.

Rotarians have been busy with numerous literacy programs around the world.  Members in Australia developed the CLE (Concentrated Language Encounter) teaching method, which was adopted and developed further in Thailand and Egypt.  In the past few years 3.5 million students in Brazil received enhanced education through our TRF Matching Grants programs.  I am proud to say that I helped on a committee to deliver a MG of $500,000. for this CLE training and this past summer had a personal visit to schools in Brazil using the technique.

More recently Rotary introduced a CALS (Computer Assisted Learning System) globally, which has enhanced and elevated student grade averages in Math and English to remarkable levels.  Members or Clubs can sponsor schools or students to participate in this proven and effective on-line learning method.   In Guatemala a group of 354 Rotary Clubs worked to support 194 poor schools with books, computers and resources for 32,000 students.  Great results! . . with drop-out rates cut in half over 16 years.

You can promote World Peace.  Let me end this report by saying that Peace needs to start in our own homes and families.  Then it needs to progress into our streets and communities, schools and local organizations.  Through this process it will permeate throughout our towns, villages and cities . . then spread across our nations . . and overflow around our world.  It requires a strong active approach and recognition that it is an incremental process.

Peace has to start somewhere and having a positive attitude and opportunity helps.  Through Rotary we can build world peace with both our personal involvement and by supporting our Rotary Foundation programs, including the World Peace Scholars.  Through Rotary and our initiatives, we have the power to bring people together to share and develop world understanding and better relationships.  That is the foundation for building world peace, one friendship at a time.

. .  and a closing UN Day quote from RI President Tanaka:.
"Rotary changes us and Rotary changes the world, through the promotion of Peace Through Service."

With best regards,
Doug V

PDG Douglas W Vincent,  RC Woodstock-Oxford
Rotary United Nations Representative, Z24
COL Representative 08-14, District 7080

Box 1583,  684288 Hwy 2 W,
Woodstock, ON  Canada  N4S 0A7
Phone (519) 537-3753, Fax 519 537-8925