Millions of people all over the world are currently displaced by armed conflict or persecution. In fact, 90% of casualties in armed conflicts are civilians, half of which are children. But, what is peace and what does it mean for us as Rotarians to commit ourselves in creating a peaceful world?
Peace, a concept of societal friendship and harmony. To some, peace is defined as the absence of war. But have you ever felt that you are not at peace with your own self?
Globally, there is peace and turmoil in equal measure. Tensions between Iran and the USA are a contradicting scenario from that retired teacher happily enjoying his pension somewhere in the Denakil plains, Northern Ethiopia. Thanks to Africa’s own efforts and to enhanced international support, the continent is more peaceful today than it was a dozen years ago. Yet, in addition to those nations still afflicted by armed conflict, others remain politically fragile. Closer home, it’s a promising half Rotary Year and New Year we continue making huge strides towards peace building. We have seen the timely establishment of a Rotary Peace Centre in Makerere University (Uganda), a launch of the Programs of Scale grants and the much-anticipated renewal of the long outstanding commitment to ending polio, by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation in partnership with Rotary International.
Indeed, these are great and promising times for Africa as a continent, since it’s squarely placed at the Centre of each of these great milestones and can reap great benefits; not as a partial beneficiary but as a key stakeholder.
This February, we stir the discourse and shift towards the discussion on Peace building and conflict prevention. Coincidentally, there is a New Peace Centre next door at Makerere University – the first Peace Centre in Africa. Rotary started the peace fellows program in 2002 and a total of 810 students have graduated with Master’s degrees while 514 have completed the certificate Program. However, only 148 are from Sub Saharan Africa. With the establishment of a New Peace Centre in Makerere, this brings the much needed program closer home and provides a great opportunity for people in Africa to exploit.
“… We can’t wait for governments to build peace, or the United Nations. We can’t expect peace to be handed to us on a platter. We have to build peace from the bottom, from the foundation of our society…” RI Past President K.R. Ravindran
Rotary’s most formidable weapon against war, violence, and intolerance is its Rotary Peace Centers program. Through study and field work, peace fellows at the centers become catalysts for peace and conflict resolution in their communities and around the globe.
The Peace program offers invaluable knowledge and skills to the Peace Fellows through academic training, practice and global networking opportunities to development professionals to act as catalysts for Peace. All too often, we are caught up in situations that require us to intervene by making fair and sound judgement to help resolve a conflict amicably. This happens more often than not in our day to day personal lives as well as in our professions. The opportunities to resolve conflict and the uniqueness that it demands are unlimited.
The same is reflected from our personal lives to our extended families, our workplaces, communities, country and globally. Kofi Anan in his book “Interventions; A life in War and Peace” begins by asking a critical question: “What do we stand for as a Global Community? What are the responsibilities for our common fate in a world that is simultaneously coming together and falling apart…..?”. In this memoir, he goes on to talk about his over 40 years of service to the United Nations with the last 10 as Secretary general. Indeed, he has been at the center of the major events of our time and Kenya and East Africa only know this too well following his intervention in Kenya during the Post-election violence period in 2008-2009.
During this month, Rotarians refuse to accept conflicts as a way of life and are encouraged to actively participate in facilitating that there are more and more professionals in the Peace space. There are numerous ways Rotarians can take action to address the underlying causes of conflict. To find out more about promoting peace either by donating or becoming a peace fellow as well as the Peace Centre in Makerere University please follow this link https://www.rotary.org/en/rotary-establishes-peace-center-makerere-university
There is need to inculcate a spirit of voluntarism among Rotarians and rotaractors, which would be essential in establishing comprehensive peace building efforts that need to target the mitigation of conflict structures with all available resources. With these, 2020 and beyond is going to be a year of flight of reaching an entirely new level of impact driven by our great participation and contribution.
Article by Elizabeth Ng’ang’a – Fund Development Specialist | Foundation Services ROTARY INTERNATIONAL