One of the significant highlights of the Rotary Peace Conference hosted by Districts 3281 and 3282 at Dhaka, Bangladesh in February was the ‘Dhaka Declaration’ signed to initiate a certificate course with the BRAC University. It spelt out that “through this effort we wish to expand the knowledge of microcredit and microfinance, and in turn, create an environment of economic empowerment of the marginalised population.” The District will co-find an institute for studies on peace and microfinance.
The Conference of which the Rotarian Action Group For Peace (RAGFP) was a strategic partner, was organised by RC Dhaka Mahanagar, D 3281, and highlighted TRF’s significant area of focus: Peace and Conflict Resolution, and brought together political, economic and cultural leaders from various communities to share their thoughts on the subject.
The Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the event and RIPE K R Ravindran with his powerful address, inspired Rotarians.
The Prime Minister appreciated its initiative and lauded Rotary’s role in promoting peace at national and international levels. Elaborating on Bangladesh’s commitment and contribution to global peace, she said, “Bangladesh contributed the highest number of women police to UN peacekeeping, commensurate with our credentials of empowerment of women.”
Ravindran in his address said, “My home country, Sri Lanka is no stranger to war, poverty and strife. Since 1929, when the first Rotary club was chartered in Sri Lanka, Rotary has brought peace, health and hope to my country. When polio raged through South Asia, Rotarians from all around the world gave their time and resources to lead National Immunisation Days, with the result that Sri Lanka has been polio-free since 1994. When a terrible tsunami struck in 2004, Rotarians were some of the first people to respond. Today, Rotarians in my country promote education among our children and peace between groups that have been enemies.”
Sessions on ‘Peace through economic empowerment’ and ‘Conflict resolution through cultural exchange’ contributed by the local and global experts were moderated by the State Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Md. Shahriar Alam and Rtn Gordon Crann, Chair-elect, RAGFP.
Distinguished speakers such as Baroness Shreela Flather, Member of House of Lords, UK; Khalida Azbane, Board Member of Middle East and North Africa Businesswomen’s Network; Maj Gen Piyal Abeysekera, former Deputy Chief of Army, Sri Lanka and Rotary Peace Fellow from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand; RRFC Rafiq Ahmed Siddique; and others provided valuable inputs.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG, Founder and Chairman of BRAC, the largest NGO in Bangladesh, spoke on bringing peace through economic empowerment. Operating in 69,000 Bangladeshi villages it covers an estimated 110 million people through its development interventions ranging from primary education, healthcare, agricultural support and human rights and legal services to microfinance and enterprise development.
District Governors Safina Rahman and M A Latif provided guidance and support in making the event a huge success.
(The author is Assistant Governor and Chief Coordinator of the Peace Conference.)