Peace Is Not an Absence of War

The major event of the e-Medicon was the 8th Mediterranean Peace Forum. To celebrate 75 years of UNESCO which has historically partnered with Rotary International, we collaborated with the UNESCO Mediterranean Office Valencia as well as Rotary Representatives at UNESCO.

The three key speakers emphasized the importance of peace-building and creating a long-term impact through collective efforts and engaging entire communities to effectively achieve the goals and results we aim for. 

International Day of Living Together in Peace

Mr Said Bensellam, responsible for the area of coexistence, diversity and peace culture at UNESCO Valencia (Spain); President of Aisa NGO International (Spain delegation) and member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council, introduced the Universal Declaration of Human Responsabilities, a lesser-known initiative following the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948 that was announced in Valencia about 20 years ago. Rights, he says, must be complemented by duties and responsabilities that we respect and apply to our daily lives because sadly, even after decades since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we constantly witness severe violations of human rights and freedoms worldwide – two essential values that NGOs, for example, such as Rotary, continuously promote.

The complementary text, therefore, protects the original from 1948, and is open to modification. To help implement responsabilities and duties with the objective of »social peace« (meaning peace not as in absence of war), UNESCO needs Rotary and other similar organisations as well as aims to encourage youth to take part in building dialogue and assuring a harmonious coexistence of all – within diversity.

In 2017, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 16 the Day of Living Together in Peace.

Rotary and UNESCO Bonds and Synergies & Rotary Inter-Country Committee

Cyril Noirtin, Rotary Respresentative at UNESCO and the OECD and Rotary ICC Executive Council Chairman 2020–2022, described the historical connection between Rotary and world’s key peace-building organisations such as the UN and UNESCO.

The key dates and events are:

  • -1921 Rotary International Convention in Edinburgh, Scotland – adoption of Rotary’s 4th object, »the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace«;
  • -1940 RI Convention in Havana, Cuba, that set the foundation fort he Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948);
  • -1943 conference in London for promotion of cultural and educational exchanges, organised by Rotary, that laid the foundations for the establishment of UNESCO (San Francisco, USA, 1945) where 49 Rotarians were present.

The role of Rotary’s Representatives in these organisations is to promote Rotary’s activities, influence key decision-makers and enhance its public image.

What Rotaractors might find particularly interesting is that with Elevate Rotaract, they, too, can apply for these positions. All you have to do is show your motivation and contact those in charge or the President of RI himself. Mr Noirtin, who regularly includes Rotaractors in his work, admits Rotary does need Rotaract, especially because Rotaractors are, in fact, much more skilled in many ways.

These days, Rotaract Mediterranean is getting in touch with Rotary’s Inter-Country Committee to explore options for future collaboration.

Thinking Global, Acting Local: The Importance of Small Actions in Long-Term Change

Alejandra Castro-Giron, environmental scientist, Communications and Development Officer at the Center for Rural Empowerment and Agricultural Transformation for Sustainability, pointed out that peace-building also concerns our attitude towards nature. Being an environmentalist since a young age, she has, after many disappointments, learnt to be critical about actions we take to help save the environment – often we do take action but soon things go back to how they were. That is why, she says, we must learn to change our approach. Furthermore, we need to start small for it is through small actions we can achieve global impact.

She proposes six steps to do so:

  1. Be critical of your ideas
  2. Break down the problem
  3. Engage your community
  4. Dive deeper into the issue
  5. Scale solutions to your context
  6. Ask experts for input

<strong>By</strong> <strong>Nina Gostiša</strong>
By Nina Gostiša

July, 1, 2020

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