Rotary Day at the United Nations, which we celebrate each November, is an important reminder of the historic relationship between our organizations. But this year’s event is even more important than usual, because we are building up to the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter in June 2020.
You might ask, why celebrate this anniversary? For Rotary, it is entirely appropriate, because we played such a critical leadership role in the San Francisco Conference that formed the United Nations in 1945. Throughout World War II, Rotary published materials about the importance of forming such an organization to preserve world peace.
Not only did Rotary help influence the formation of the UN, but this magazine also played a leading part in communicating its ideals. Rotary educated members about plans to create the UN through numerous articles in The Rotarian and through a booklet titled From Here On! When the time came to write the UN charter, Rotary was one of 42 organizations the United States invited to serve as consultants to its delegation at the San Francisco Conference.
Each organization had seats for three representatives, so Rotary International’s 11 representatives served in rotation. The people officially representing Rotary included the general secretary, the current and several past presidents, and the editor of The Rotarian. In addition, Rotarians from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North and South America served as members of or consultants to their own nations’ delegations.
We have a deep and lasting relationship with the UN that deserves to be celebrated and appreciated. To recognize this relationship, Rotary will host five special events between now and June: Rotary Day at the UN in New York on the 9th of this month; three presidential conferences next year in Santiago, Chile, in Paris, and in Rome; and a final celebration just before the Rotary International Convention in Honolulu.
The focus on the UN in the year ahead is not only about the past; it also lights a path to our future. There are so many parallels between the work we do through our areas of focus and the work of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. While those goals are indeed incredibly ambitious, they provide inspiration and direction — and are similar to many Rotary goals, which have proven to create lasting, positive change in our world. The goals can be achieved, but only if undertaken with the same long-term commitment and tenacity that Rotary understands so well. Alone, we cannot provide clean water for all, we cannot eliminate hunger, we cannot eradicate polio. But together with partners like the United Nations, of course we can.
Please consider attending one of our five UN celebrations. I look forward to sharing news of these special events with you throughout the year.
Mark Daniel Maloney