South Asian Peace Initiatives Take Shape
The Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, states that “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” Rotary International recognises that peace, not only is the absence of conflict, but also requires a positive, dynamic participatory process where dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are solved in a spirit of mutual understanding and co-operation..
Governments have an ¬essential role in promoting and strengthening a culture of peace. All forms of peace initiatives undertaken by Rotary or other organisations will have to be backed up by the Governments in the area. As the Government, many times, may not be able to bring all the people in the community under one umbrella due to political compulsions, an organisation such as Rotary International can be successful in promoting peace within the community and in ensuring that the civil society to be fully engaged in fuller development of a culture of peace.
Rotary International President-elect Kalyan Banerjee’s ambitious programme to prod people and Governments in South Asia to talk about peace is based on his vision that peace is possible and that Rotary International can be the major catalyst to make this happen. It was in this context a meeting on peace initiatives was held in Chennai. This first meeting decided to set up a committee that can work with Rotary clubs, Chambers of Commerce, Social and Religious bodies in promoting a climate of peace in the region. The meeting brought into focus the common thread amongst the people in South Asia and the scope for a coordinated effort to promote peace through development. This development of the region will be the first step in achieving peace. The areas that needed ¬special focus were identified and more members were added to the committee when the second meeting took place in Mumbai on October 14, 2010 at Hotel Hyatt Regency. Past RI DirectorO P Vaish, Rtn. Madhav Mohan from RI District 3201 and Rtn. Gul ¬Kripalani from RI District 3140 were invited to give their inputs on the steps that could be taken to first popularise the initiatives being considered by Rotary International.
Arising from these discussions , The Rotary South Asia Conference for Development and Co-operation, scheduled to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka in July 2011 will discuss alternate milestones in the march towards achieving peace in this area. RI Director K R Ravindran, will be the Convener for this conference The business session of the conference will aim to increase social awareness amongst the people, especially the Rotarians, in these countries. This is imperative for any effort at reducing global tensions.
The need to bring together citizens of India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan is greater now than ever before. Community empowerment that can be done by the involvement of Rotary International can influence the political will to bring the people closer to each other and can probably result in a visa-free travel environment between these nations, increase trade and commerce, facilitate exchange of sports and cultural teams and also provide relief and assistance during times of calamity.
The proposal of Rtn. V K Madhav Mohan to use the Human Development Index as a basis for Rotary’s developmental programmes in the South Asian countries was accepted since it provided a measurable unit to monitor the impact of Rotary projects in these countries. The Human Development Index resulted from the Human Development Reports of United Nations Development Programme. The Index was developed in 1990 by Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq and Indian economist Amartya Sen. It had served to shift the focus of development economics from national income accounting to people centred policies which resulted in an improvement of the quality of life The Human Development Index (HDI) covers 180 member states of United Nations out of the 192 members.
The HDI combines three dimensions. The first is Life Expectancy at birth, as an index of population health and longevity. The second dimension is Knowledge and Education, as measured by the adult literacy rate (with two-thirds weighting) and the combined primary, secondary, and tertiary gross enrollment ratio (with one-third weighting). Finally it takes into account the Standard of Living, as indicated by the natural logarithm of gross domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity. The countries in South Asia have been classified as having medium Human Development Index. A study done in 2007 shows that Sri Lanka tops the list in Human Development Index amongst the countries in South Asia, followed by India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
The formal structure of this committee will be in place with the formation of a society with representatives from all the countries. Matters related to co-operation in the field of education, health, agriculture, water resources management and skills development within these countries will be discussed and a plan of action to take the initiative forward will be discussed at the conference in Colombo.
It is the desire of RI President-elect Kalyan Banerjee to support the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. All the member countries and twenty three International Organisations have agreed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by the year 2015. The eight Millennium Development Goals are: Eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, promoting gender equality and empowering women, reducing child mortality rate, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development. The aim of RI President-elect Kalyan Banerjee is to bring all the Rotary clubs in South Asia within the ambit of the development goals and also take up issues related to water resources management and low cost housing and building schools. RI President-elect Kalyan Banerjee wishes to develop a low cost housing programme and it was suggested that the scheme being implemented by Habitat for Humanity may be able to provide some inputs in this project.
The secretariat of the Society, which will function from Chennai, will assist in preparing a plan of action for Rotary clubs and propagate the initiatives taken by the members of the Society. The secretariat will also receive inputs about the ‘Best Practices’ that clubs follow in the area and share them with the clubs in the South Asian countries. The secretariat will serve as a valuable nodal agency to Rotarians who are strategists, theoreticians and workers at the grassroots.
One of the many pleasures of working with a dedicated team which is putting all the thoughts of RI President-elect in place is that every detail is being given due importance and people will never be left wondering what to expect. The team which will implement and monitor the progress constantly includes RI Directors-elect Y P Das, Shekhar Mehta and PDG Gulam Vahanvaty.
[Extracted from an article in Rotary News by Rtn T K Balakrishnan.]