By Ryan Hyland, Rotary International News

More than 1,000 Rotarians, UN officials, Rotary youth program participants, and guests celebrated the special relationship between Rotary and the United Nations on 5 November. 

Rotary-UN Day, held annually at United Nations headquarters in New York City, included panels on health, water, and literacy, highlighting Rotarian projects that advance the goals of the UN and improve lives around the world.  

Kiyo Akasaka, UN undersecretary-general for communications and public information, commended Rotary for its ongoing collaboration with the United Nations to improve the health of children worldwide, and for its contribution to polio eradication.  

"Our shared vision for a safer and better world is what brings us together here today," Akasaka said. "It's your model of Service Above Self and your sterling results in improving health that makes Rotary one of the most important partners of the UN." 

Peace and justice
Both organizations are striving to create a more peaceful and just world, noted RI President-elect Sakuji Tanaka. 

"If you were to seek the one idea, the one goal that is at the core of Rotary, you would find the same goal that you find in the charter of the UN: to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors," Tanaka said. 

Timothy E. Wirth, president of the United Nations Foundation and Better World Fund, stressed the importance of partnerships. 

"Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recognizes that every problem the UN faces cannot be [solved] by the UN alone," he said, adding that Rotary's "understanding and commitment to partnerships will make so many of these goals we share possible."  

Rotary is committed to partnering with organizations like the UN, said John Hewko, RI general secretary. 

"Rotary is learning by experience that it can accomplish more in concert with others than it might on its own. Working together multiplies our success: one plus one equals three," Hewko said. "This new formula provides a unique opportunity to enhance humanitarian service, which is what Rotary is all about. It helps build understanding and peace -- the mission of Rotary and the UN."

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, head of the Division of Women and Child Health at Aga Khan University, discussed the strategic partnership between the university and Rotary, and the challenges of promoting maternal and child health in developing countries in Africa and parts of Asia.  

More than 300,000 women die each year from complications related to pregnancy and childbirth, Bhutta said. "Our biggest challenge is reaching these poor women, families, and infants to give them adequate health care." 

"I believe we are at the beginning of the journey with Rotary International to improve child and maternal health in the hardest-to-reach places in Central and South Asia and Africa," he added.  

Other panelists during Rotary-UN Day included Jacob Kumaresan, executive director of the World Health Organization, New York; Paul Edwards, senior adviser for UNICEF on water, sanitation, and hygiene; Ginny Wolfe, senior director of U.S. communications for the ONE Campaign; Philippe Kridelka, director of UNESCO, New York; and Ron Denham, chair of the Water and Sanitation Rotarian Action Group.

Rotary, which has a 66-year history with the UN, holds the highest consultative status offered to any nongovernmental organization by the Economic and Social Council, which oversees many UN agencies.