By Reem Ghunaim, RAGFP Executive Director
and Al Jubitz, RAGFP Co-Founder
Empowering Communities to Act
Not all of Rotary’s 1.2 million members think of themselves as Peacebuilders but many do, and more are every day. The Rotary International Global Network includes members in 35,000 clubs worldwide plus over 800,000 youth and young adult members of Rotaract and Interact clubs. Overall, two million world citizens assemble in the name of Rotary for service to humanity. We come from different nationalities, backgrounds, professions, religions and political affiliations. However, this diverse global network has common philosophy and goals. We believe in Service Above Self with service projects focusing on improving life through six areas of focus:
- Peace and conflict prevention/resolution
- Disease prevention and treatment
- Water and sanitation
- Maternal and child health
- Basic education and literacy
- Economic and community development
Reem Ghunaim, RAGFP Executive Director, Rotary Peace Fellow, Member of Rotary Club of Portland (District 5100)
The Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) is a semi-autonomous nonprofit organization operating in conjunction with Rotary International as a catalyst in the Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution area of focus. We help wage peace by offering Rotary members resources and support to advance world peace and turn ambitious ideas into life-changing realities. We empower and support the peace work of Rotarians by offering structure, connectivity, guidance and resources to further their efforts. One of the objectives of The Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) is to forge a path for existing Rotary peace programs.
Rotary International has a very strong historical commitment to peace efforts around the world. Rotary believes in the power of the community and the effectiveness of grassroots initiatives. That is evident in their model for operating at the community level through the Rotary club. The Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) believes in the power of Rotary Clubs and views them as organized groups of community leaders who are serving their communities by giving them a platform to affect positive change. Rotary clubs conduct local and international peace and development projects and are highly effective due to the power of Rotary’s global network. For more, watch our 5-minute “Peace is…” video.
Peace Background in Rotary
Rotary founder Paul Harris said, “The road to war is well paved and the road to peace is a wilderness”. Since 1905, when he spoke these words, Rotarians have been tirelessly paving the road to peace. Not only have Rotarians envisioned and promoted peace in their local communities but also throughout the world. Rotary’s role in advancing The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and establishing the United Nations mark are highpoints in its contribution to international peace. In addition, Rotary started various international exchange programs to advance mutual understanding. Rotary established the Global Grants programs under which peace is a major focus, and invested in educating peace leaders around the world by establishing the Rotary Peace Centers and the Rotary Peace Fellowship program. Rotarians didn’t stop there. In 2012, a group of Rotarians created the Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) to support and help guide peace initiatives among the global network of Rotarians and community partners
Al Jubitz, RAGFP Co-Founder and Honorary Board Chair, Director/Membership Chair, Member of Rotary Club of Portland (District 5100)
Within Rotary, peacebuilding opportunities are examined in all six areas of focus at all regional, sectoral, economic, political and social levels. Peacebuilding is not an isolated sector nor can peace be achieved by one set of expertise. The common threads between the diverse structures of Rotary and various peace challenges are vital, and indicate significant rhythms and relationships. For example, if a Rotarian medical doctor operated in a conflict zone, he or she would significantly enrich the problem-solving approach to the challenges of the medical sector in the region. The doctor’s proposed solutions would be refined further if a Rotarian lawyer from that conflict zone addressed the legal venues in which such solutions could thrive or diminish. A Rotarian journalist from a different country would bring awareness of the medical needs in that conflict region to an international audience. Such a diverse set of expertise allows new resources, connections and opportunities to be used in solving the medical challenges in the conflict zone. Peacebuilding in Rotary has a remarkable potential because Rotary structures can be utilized to solve complex conflicts by enriching the depth and scope of efforts and to innovate flexible, realistic and dynamic solutions that can work and thrive in the right context.
Rotary Current Commitment to Peace
At the 2017 Rotary Atlanta Convention, Rotary International signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Institute for Economics and Peace in support of the Global Peace Index, the world’s leading measure of countries’ peacefulness, and the implementation of positive peace in communities worldwide. The Global Peace Index 2017 defines positive peace as follows: “Peace is more than just the absence of conflict. Well-developed positive peace represents the capacity for a society to meet the needs of its citizens, reduce the number of grievances that arise, and resolve remaining disagreements without the use of violence.”
It is important for Rotarians to understand positive peace. Measures of peace indicate that there has been a decline in our world’s peacefulness. However, Rotarians have a recognizable history of fixing complicated global problems effectively. Rotarians have a mindset in which they are not intimidated by big problems. In fact, Rotarians see themselves as change initiators and leaders.
At the Atlanta Convention, Rotary International combined technology and peace to highlight empathy and stimulate positive peace towards populations affected by conflict. Around 2,000 people watched the debut of Rotary International’s new 1-minute virtual reality (VR) film, “One Small Act,” at one of the largest simultaneous viewings of a VR film. The film follows the journey of a child whose world has been torn apart by conflict. The story evoked strong emotions and sensations from the crowd.
Our biggest hurdle in building a more peaceful world is our lack of imagination. What we need to do now is to become educated and then to practice techniques that we know work better than war or violence. Peacebuilding in the 21st century will require cooperation with various partners to be successful. Rotarians stand ready to provide leadership and financial resources for the long haul.
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This article appears in: 2017 Catalyst, Issue 14: Inspiring Positive Social Change