This February, let’s celebrate the success of our Rotary Peace Centres and the important work that graduates of the programme are doing throughout the world to honour Peace and Conflict Prevention/Resolution Month. I think it’s also important to note that the launch of the peace centres in 2002 built on many decades of peacebuilding efforts supported by our Foundation.
In the 1930s, clubs in France and Germany formed the first petit comité, now known as an intercountry committee. Both countries were still recovering from a devastating war, but the former adversaries knew that peace, however fragile, was worth keeping. Although a second world war dashed their hopes, these peace-minded Rotarians reconvened in 1950. Since then, Rotarians have formed 250 intercountry committees to promote international friendship and service.
Rotarians have long believed that international understanding develops most quickly through personal relationships. Before study abroad programmes and international business travel became commonplace, our Foundation sent scholars and young professionals to other countries to experience different ways of living and doing business. For many participants, these life-changing adventures helped them view the world through the eyes of their hosts, who often became close friends.
Every year, our Foundation allocates millions of dollars for projects that attack the root causes of conflict — lack of access to education, health care, economic opportunity, clean water, and adequate sanitation. Our global grants have a unique requirement that moves the needle on peace even further: To qualify, project sponsors must include clubs from at least two countries. In addition to combining local knowledge with international and Foundation resources, these projects build friendships that often lead to long-lasting service relationships between the sponsoring clubs.
Of course, one of the best places to form international friendships is at our annual convention, where Rotarians from dozens of countries come together. This year in Atlanta, we will celebrate The Rotary Foundation’s 100 years of Doing Good in the World. I hope you will join me and thousands of your fellow Rotarians for the biggest birthday party of the year!
Foundation Trustee Chair