Rotary Day at the UN (2013)

Written by Jennifer Hays

I have never been more proud to be a part of Rotaract than I was on Saturday, November 2nd. Thanks to the generous support of a stipend provided by the Rotary Club of Milwaukee, I was able to travel to New York City to attend Rotary Day at the United Nations. Prior to attending UN Day, I knew that Rotary had done great things to promote peace, global health, and economic development around the world, but my experience at the UN helped me to better understand the profound impact of these Rotary initiatives. Rotary’s areas of focus closely align with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, providing a strong framework for collaboration. For instance, both organizations are working to fight disease, and Rotary’s extensive work to eradicate polio has helped the UN towards its goals.

One of the highlights of the program was the engaging and inspiring keynote speech delivered by Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson. Mr. Eliasson was a former Rotary Youth Exchange student, so he has unique insight into the relationship between Rotary and the UN, which dates back to the founding of the United Nations in 1945. Secretary Eliasson specifically thanked Rotary for its efforts to provide polio vaccines to people around the world. He said that in the recent past, polio cases have been limited to three countries: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. Unfortunately, the disease is now spreading to Syria and Somalia due to extreme instability in those countries, creating new challenges for Rotary’s campaign to end polio. The UN’s peacekeeping work in Syria and Somalia will be essential to ensuring that the disease does not spread further. Secretary Eliasson also noted that going forward, the UN will focus on eradicating extreme poverty (people living on less than $1 per day) worldwide by 2030. This speech helped me realize that despite all that has been accomplished, there is still much work that needs to be done to truly promote peace, global health, and economic development on a worldwide basis.

After the keynote speech, I attended some of the UN Day Youth Program sessions. The room was full of energy and enthusiasm, and there was a strong focus on connecting to each other using social media and other tools to build movements that will impact global health and development. I also had the opportunity to see a ShelterBox, a kit that contains a tent and other supplies to help families worldwide that have been affected by natural disasters. ShelterBox has experienced extraordinary growth since it was founded in 2000, and thanks to the support of Rotary clubs around the world, it has been able to provide thousands of boxes each year to people in more than 80 countries. ShelterBox is a prime example of Rotary’s power to impact people in need, and I look forward to being a part of Rotary’s continued effort to make the world a better place for all of its people. I would like to thank the Rotary Club of Milwaukee for their generous support which enabled me to take part in this truly inspiring experience.