Dec. 2006 - In a farewell address
on 11 December, outgoing United Nations Secretary-General Kofi
Annan cited Rotary International as an example of a private
organization or nonstate actor whose partnership with public
agencies helps achieve major social goals.
Speaking at the Truman Presidential
Museum and Library in Independence, Missouri, USA, Annan said
the “wonderful partnership between the UN family, the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control [and Prevention] and, crucially,
Rotary International” is close to eradicating polio worldwide.
The UN secretary general explained
that he has been guided during his 10-year tenure by the principle
that nonstate actors can help the organization accomplish its
aims. According to Annan, a result of that principle is the
Global Compact he made with international business leaders in
1999 to harness private-sector goodwill to meet the challenges
It’s impossible for governments alone, especially in the
face of limited public resources, to solve all humanity’s
ills, the UN chief noted. Instead, much more can be achieved
through public-private partnerships and initiatives, he said.
Annan, who steps down on 31 December,
chose the venue of his farewell speech to signal the need for
the international community to return to the ideals that inspired
world leaders, including U.S. President Harry Truman, and humanitarian
organizations to establish the UN after the horrors of two world
More than 40 Rotarians served
as advisers, consultants, and delegates at the UN charter conference
in 1945. Rotary and the UN have enjoyed a close relationship
ever since, with Rotary currently represented at the UN by 23
Rotarians. Rotary also has high-level nongovernmental organization
consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council,
which oversees many specialized UN agencies. In addition, Rotary
has its own day at the UN, marked by panel discussions to pinpoint
new opportunities for the two organizations to work together.
Cordial relationships among Rotary
and UN leaders help strengthen the ties between the organizations.
Annan, in particular, has openly expressed his admiration for
Rotary’s educational and humanitarian initiatives.
On 4 November, for example, the
UN chief acknowledged Rotary’s invaluable partnership
to hundreds of Rotarians gathered at UN headquarters in New
York to celebrate Rotary-UN Day.
He said in a written statement, “Rotary is living proof
that people with diverse backgrounds can learn to get along
with each other and concentrate more on the things we have in
common, rather than on the things that drive us apart.”
India Steps Up
Efforts to End Polio
Despite the stiff challenge posed
to India’s polio eradication efforts by a 2006 outbreak,
the country’s health minister, Anbumani Ramadoss, is optimistic
that India will soon be free of the disease.
Because of the outbreak, India
reported more than 600 cases of polio in 2006, a sharp increase
from only 66 cases in 2005. Most of the new cases occurred in
Uttar Pradesh, an impoverished northern state. From there, the
virus spread to Angola, Bangladesh, Namibia, and Nepal.
In mid-December, Ramadoss said
he was confident the battle for a polio-free India would be
won with stepped-up immunizations. “In three years, we
will do away with polio,” he said. “We are at the
end of the problem and will hit the final nail in the coffin.”
Julie Gerberding, head of the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the outbreak
“is a warning that we can’t be complacent.”
She also noted that the last few cases of polio are often the
most difficult to deal with.
India is countering the challenges
of polio eradication through intensified immunizations with
monovalent oral polio vaccine. Because most of the cases reported
in 2006 were from poor Muslim communities, the Global Polio
Eradication Initiative is working with religious leaders to
persuade more families to have their children immunized.
Partly because of the Muslim
clerics’ support, India reported an overall increase in
the turnout of children during Subnational Immunization Days
(SNIDs) in July, September, and November.
Indian Rotarians and their international
counterparts are closely involved with the heightened immunizations.
Robert Hall, past governor of District 6900 (Georgia, USA),
led several U.S. Rotarians in the November SNIDs in Uttar Pradesh.
The team was encouraged by the collaboration they witnessed
among government officials, religious leaders, local Rotarians,
UNICEF, and the World Health Organization.
“This trip was the experience
of a lifetime for all 20 Rotarians who visited Uttar Pradesh,”
Hall noted. Pledging the continued support of District 6900
and Rotarians in Zone 34, which includes the Caribbean, Guyana,
and Suriname, along with Florida and Georgia, USA, he said he
was confident that India would soon eradicate polio.
Major Donors Jim and Donna Philips,
whose recent contribution to PolioPlus Partners helped fund
the SNIDs, also traveled with the group.
At least nine rounds of National
Immunization Days and SNIDs are planned for India this year.