Rotary & UNESCO

UNESCO HQ in Paris

“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed.”

Constitution of UNESCO

A Conference of Allied Ministers of Education started in 1942 in London, at the instigation of Rotary, led to the creation of an organization dedicated to education, science and culture in order to prevent conflicts.

This organization was UNESCO created in 1945.

Since then, Rotary has enjoyed a close relationship with UNESCO.

Both share the same goal, UNESCO as an intergovernmental institution and Rotary International as a private service organization.

We both focus our efforts on peace, education, water, ethics and fighting poverty.

But we are both apolitical and have an approach developed according to each region through the creation of models that reflect the diversity of our organizations.

Rotary has been a non-governmental organization in official partnership with UNESCO since 1996. In March 2012, UNESCO decided to upgrade its partnership with Rotary to “Associate partnership”. Among the 400 NGOs with official partnership with UNESCO, only 60 have the associate status.

Our collaboration goes all the way back to the end of World War II with scholarships awarded by Rotary and managed by UNESCO.

An agreement was signed by RI President Luis Vicente Giay and the Director-General of UNESCO Frederico Major in 1996 to strengthen the partnership between the two organizations.

Another agreement was signed in 2003 by RI President Jonathan Majiyagbe to implement a partnership between Rotary districts and clubs and UNESCO’s national commissions on education, water and fighting poverty. There are 123 national commissions, the main agents of UNESCO’s work in the field.

UNESCO, and then the national commission, sponsor the National Professional Ethics Contest organized by the French Districts and the Schools of Higher Education Conference since 2005.

Since 2012, The Rotary Foundation awards scholarships to UNESCO’s Institute for Water Education in Delft, the Netherlands, to train experts in hydrology from developing countries. In the early years, 16 scholarships were awarded every year.

First Class of Rotary Scholars

Rotary has been a member of the NGO-UNESCO Liaison Committee (as treasurer) during the last two terms (2012-16). The Liaison Committee is responsible for overseeing the partnership between UNESCO and official NGOs (international forums, NGO forums, general conference).

In this capacity, for the first time this year, Rotary was able to speak in front of the UNESCO’s Executive Council (its board of directors) and the Member States gathered for the general conference.

Rotary was in charge of organizing the “From promoting to building peace with NGOs” forum held in Querétaro, Mexico, in 2016.

In 2013, in Albi, France, at the initiative of Rotary Clubs that are located near a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an organization called Rotary Clubs – UNESCO Sites.

This organization has already held meetings in Albi, Fontenay, Carcassonne, and Le Havre and will meet in Provins in 2017, in Valenciennes in 2018, in Gavarnie in 2019, and in Lyon in 2020.

The France-USA Inter-Country Committee organized in October 2016 the conference Diplomacy, Peace, and Cultural Heritage with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and UNESCO: World Heritage is a peace factor and heritage preservation is a challenge.

Those past years, Rotary has organized several international conferences with the participation of UNESCO leaders:

  • In 2006, at UNESCO’s headquarters, “Taking Action for Water” with RI President Carl Wilhelm Stenhammar;
  • In 2008, in Cannes, France, “Peace is Possible” with RI President Wilkinson and Past RI Presidents Stenhammar and Ravizza;
  • In 2011, at UNESCO’s headquarters, “Culture of Peace – A Vision Shared by Rotary and UNESCO” with RI President Kalyan Banerjee;
  • In 2015, at UNESCO’s headquarters, “Building Peace with Rotary and UNESCO – Inter-Country Committees’ Peace Initiatives” with RI President Gary Huang;
  • And, Rotary Day to be held on 24 March 2018, “Sustainable Development – Getting Involved in the World We Want” with RI President Ian Riseley.

Reaching the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is an essential challenge for humankind and a great opportunity for Rotary to promote its identity and image.

Rotary’s representative network impact : Bond with the United Nations enhances Rotary’s visibility and resources

Ask almost anyone at the United Nations and they will know that Rotary, having helped to spearhead the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, has contributed to the 99 percent worldwide reduction in polio cases since the initiative began.

That recognition is no accident. For the last three decades, a network of Rotary representatives has been strengthening ties with the United Nations, its specialized agencies, and other international organizations like the League of Arab States and the European Union. They monitor activities and advocate for Rotary’s causes within most of the major international institutions. They regularly attend functions at the White House, United Nations, the Commonwealth, and European Union, and they arrange private meetings and organize special events. These connections have enhanced Rotary’s global visibility and resource network.

Representatives Dean Ed Futa (in the middle) with Rotary  Representatives to UNESCO Serger Gouteyron and Cyril Noirtin

Representatives Dean Ed Futa (in the middle) with Rotary Representatives to UNESCO Serge Gouteyron and Cyril Noirtin

Over time, the influence of nongovernmental organizations at the UN has increased, as issues concerning the environment, health, education, and human rights have taken over a larger portion of the agenda. As a result, Rotary’s influence has grown. Rotary’s efforts in child and maternal health, water and sanitation, and education, have benefitted from these ties, and they dovetail with many of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Rotary’s Board of Directors has gradually expanded the representative network to include UN specialized agencies headquartered in Geneva, Vienna, and Paris. Representatives are also linked to other major international groups, including the World Food Program, the Organization of African Unity, and the Commonwealth of Nations. The network today includes 30 Rotary leaders, appointed by the RI president, who communicate Rotary’s priorities on a regular basis to these various bodies.

In 2013, the Board added two youth representatives to the UN, and appointed former Rotary General Secretary Ed Futa to serve as dean, in charge of setting the direction and strategy for Rotary’s outreach in the international community.

Rotary International representatives to UNESCO are task to inform UNESCO’s divisions about Rotary programs, guidelines and activities. They meet regularly with officers and staff from the organization to discuss parallel concerns and potential areas for cooperation. They gather information about organizational developments and opportunities for local-level cooperation.