By Rotarian Action Group for Peace, January 30, 2019

RAGFP Top 5 Membership Countries

Message from RAGFP Executive Director Reem Ghunaim:

Hello, Rotarian Action Group for Peace members, peace partners and friends,

I am inspired by the following quote from Paul Harris: “I would like to think that the pioneering days of Rotary have only just begun. There are just as many new things to be done as ever there were. Kaleidoscopic changes are taking place, many of them without our will. Even to hang on to the fringe of this fast-changing world is about all most of us can do. Rotary simply must continue to pioneer or be left in the rear of progress.” 

As I read the words of my hero, Paul Harris, I reflected on why Rotarians are uniquely qualified to lead peace. Every time I read a story of a Rotarian peacebuilder, I realize how each one of them is pioneering a path to peace. They are collectively inspiring and leading a futuristic vision of a world beyond war.

Rotarian peacebuilders are leaders who advance peace through constant and dynamic social innovation. First, they utilize their collective knowledge and experiences to analyze the needs of their communities and offer dynamic approaches to address these needs. Second, once Rotarians decide on solutions, they generously fund them. To Rotarian peacebuilders, money invested in peace is a strategic and wise investment. The compounding impact of their peace investments leads to sustainable positive peace outcomes because they spill over to wider communities and expand peacefulness to all humanity. Third, Rotarian peacebuilders are the best conveners for peacebuilding. They reach out to other organizations, partners and experts, and utilize the best ideas, resources, and networks to achieve peacebuilding goals.

After World War II, Rotarians led the formation of basic Human Rights articles that are still relevant 70 years after their declaration. Further, ShelterBox was created by Rotarian peacebuilders to respond to humanitarian disasters, and now the increasing refugee problems that overwhelm our world. ShelterBox was even nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize last year. Finally, Rotarians took it upon themselves to EndPolio, a disease that disturbed peace for millions. Partnering with the Gates Foundation and other world leaders, Rotarians from every corner are now echoing the phrase: “We are This Close to ending polio.”

Rotarians see beyond the status quo as they aspire to reach new heights for the betterment and peacefulness of our world. They never “pass” on challenging problems or conflicts because they recognize their responsibility to lead in Waging Peace. You might often hear Rotarian peacebuilders ask, “If we don’t solve this problem who else will?” Rotarians are inspiring humanitarians, effective peacebuilders, and daring leaders. In fact, as you will read in this newsletter, not even “outer space” can intimidate Rotarian peacebuilders.

RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs offer an example of our socially innovative ideas on the ground. Peacebuilder Clubs create local and global infrastructures and platforms for peacebuilding, just as the United Nations provides an international platform for peace among nations. It is worth remembering Paul Harris’ words as he traveled to Rotary clubs advocating for the establishment of the United Nations after WWII: “The plan of the United Nations is not an idle dream; that it is practical, and that given half a chance, it will succeed.” I can imagine Paul Harris would champion our modern Peacebuilder Clubs with this same passion.

This is our 2nd annual Top 5 RAGFP Membership Countries newsletter. It highlights only a fraction of the stories you generously and courageously create on the ground, daily, in 74 countries around the world. Thank you for leading countless stories such as these every day in your Rotary clubs and districts. Your stories are our inspiration at RAGFP. We hope you enjoy reading and learning from each other’s experiences, initiatives, and ideas.

Go Wage Peace,

Don’t see your country on the list? Ask fellow Rotarians in your area to join Rotarian Action Group for Peace! Will your country be in our top 5 membership list next year? Act now!

#5 United Kingdom

The United Kingdom remains in our Top 5 membership countries this year due to their ‘smashing’ efforts in Rotarian peacebuilding. Rotarians throughout the United Kingdom always look for new opportunities for peace through service and provide ways to include everyone in one of our world’s oldest Democracies.

RAGFP Board Member Alison Sutherland is current chair of our Peace Education Committee. She wrote an article for The Rotarian Magazine UK that exemplifies all Rotarian peacebuilders. She sat in busy traffic one morning, noticing a group of people outside an old building in her home town of Cardiff, Wales, and recognized an opportunity of Rotarian service. These were refugees seeking asylum and she found a way for Rotary to help them. She assisted Rotarian partnerships that currently integrate many of the 1,000 foreign refugees per month who arrive in Cardiff into their community. The Welsh Refugee Council now refer refugees who wish to integrate into British society to the City of Cardiff Rotaract.

Alison says many of these immigrants “did not always fall within the prescribed Rotaract age range,” yet Rotary created a space for them. Rotarians in her District 1150 now help provide refugees in the UK with English classes, sports and craft facilities, community social events, and even help asylum seekers with complicated government form fillings. Alison demonstrates how Rotarian peacebuilders are committed to meeting the basic needs of their communities as their approach to creating peace. Read More

RAGFP member Caroline Millman, (pictured right with Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum), is the Chair of PeaceJam UK. Caroline works with PeaceJam UK to tailor teacher-friendly curricula materials for youth, based on the lives of the Peace Laureates. All of their curricula features global “Call to Action” projects aligned with high-quality service-learning standards and is linked to the One Billion Acts of Peace campaign established by the Peace Laureates. PeaceJam is an international education program for schools and youth groups. It is unique as it is the only educational program working directly with Nobel Peace Laureates. PeaceJam itself has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times. Their aims are to teach and inspire a new generation to be active citizens and agents for change.

RAGFP supports PeaceJam affiliates around the world. Find more information about Peacejam in our Peace Curriculum Matrix. Caroline’s leadership of PeaceJam UK is an example of how RAGFP members support innovative initiatives for positive peace.  Read More

#4 India

India stands alone at #4 on our list of RAGFP membership countries this year because they provide unmatched energy for Rotarian peace action. India has 3,700 Rotary clubs and 146,000 Rotarian members. Rotarians in India join RAGFP to become connected to a global network of peacebuilders and they reach across borders for peace.

RAGFP members in Districts 3011 and 3070 (India) and District 3272 (Pakistan) have joined forces with Rotarians in six other Rotary districts worldwide to build a Peace Park in the disputed border zone between India and Pakistan. The Indus Peace Park Project seeks to promote peace and international cooperation along the border.

The Indus Peace Park Project was conceived in 2015 when a Rotary District 5080 Friendship Exchange group was unable to attend certain events in the region, due to border tensions between India and Pakistan. RAGFP members came together to provide peace action.

The Indus Peace Park Project seeks to secure an area of 10 hectares (25 acres) of land (5 in Pakistan, 5 in India), on either side of the border. To be maintained by Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Interactors from both countries. The park will be a neutral location where everyone can gather in a spirit of lasting peace, cooperation and goodwill. This project and the RAGFP members who lead this project emphasize the notion that “if Rotarians didn’t change the status quo- who else would do it?” This mindset is demonstrated in our live-stream videos recorded with park organizers at the RI Convention 2018 in Toronto.

Rotarian Action Group for Peace is a partner in this project. RAGFP leaders are signators of a global petition to show political leaders on both sides of the border there is overwhelming worldwide support for this Peace Park within the disputed borderlands. You can also sign the petition here, and provide financial support. Learn how your Rotary club or district can support The Indus Peace Park.  Read More

The fourth Rotary International President from India, Sushil Kumar Gupta, will begin his term as RI President on July 1st, 2020. “When 1.2 million Rotarians work together, there is no limit to what we can achieve, we can truly change the world,” he says. As a Rotarian for 41 years, serving in the Rotary Club of Delhi Midwest, he wants to increase Rotary’s humanitarian impact as well as the diversity of its membership. Read More

#3 Australia

Australia holds steady at #3 this year on our Top 5 membership list. It is the home of Immediate Past RI President Ian Riseley, who hosted six Presidential Peacebuilding Conferences last year. Rotarians in Melbourne became the very first “E-Club” (and the first Rotary Club in Australia) to form a RAGFP Peacebuilder Club in August 2018.

The Rotary E-Club of Melbourne (RECM) is an active RAGFP Peacebuilder Club. They are among the growing numbers of “E-Clubs” around the world within Rotary International. Rotary E-Clubs provide a convenient way for Rotarians to meet online, especially if they are restricted from attending traditional meetings due to work, travel, or other issues.

Melbourne is a city of Rotarian pioneers. The Rotary Club of Melbourne (RCM) was Australia’s very first Rotary Club chartered in 1921 and members of RCM helped District 9800 launch this E-Club five years ago as a means of helping the district adapt to changing needs of Rotarians in the area.

Rotary E-Club Melbourne conducts their weekly Rotary meetings online and then go “into the field,” as they close their laptops and seek peacebuilding opportunities in their local community and globally. They often travel together internationally to remote locations so they may personally identify opportunities for Rotarian service. They sponsor water and sanitation projects in underdeveloped areas of India and visit these areas to see for themselves “if the toilets are working.” They promote peace in local schools, actively recruit fellow Peacebuilder Clubs throughout Australia, and consider personal engagement as the most important philosophy in all of their peacebuilding activities.

RECM demonstrate how Rotarians are on the cutting edge of modern tools and technology, and the most visible peacebuilders where ever they meet in our world. Read More 

The RECM Peacebuilder Club is on the organizing committee of the Peace Through Service Summit to be held in Melbourne on February 15th, 2019. he conference is part of Rotary’s Victorian Multi-District Conference which starts on the 16th of February. The Summit has high profile speakers including immediate past RI President Ian Riseley, Dr. Edna Adan Ismail, and other world-renowned peacebuilders.  Learn more about this Peacebuilding Conference.

The Right to Housing is the economic, social and cultural human right. This is recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. ShelterBox’ Rotarian volunteers keep advancing this human right every time they intervene in a humanitarian crisis. Rotarians founded ShelterBox in the UK. ShelterBox remains Rotary’s only relief charity. A third of Rotary’s funding of ShelterBox is donated by grassroots Rotarians and Rotary clubs worldwide. 80% of ShelterBox aid is administered because of man-made conflicts. This emphasizes how Rotarians contribute to creating a world beyond war. ShelterBox Australia and Australian Rotaractors worked alongside Indonesian Rotarians to deliver vital aid to communities devastated by the Lombok earthquake. The earthquake response highlighted how Rotarians build peace. Read More

#2 Canada

Canada, the host country of last year’s Rotary International Convention in Toronto, surged into the #2 RAGFP membership spot this year. The influx of RAGFP members in Canada is due to a national “culture of peace” cultivated by Rotarians who form community peace partnerships and alliances throughout their country.

The Rotary Club of Winnipeg is a RAGFP Peacebuilder Club. They formed District 5550/World Peace Partners 13 years ago, and this Rotary/community partnership is now an international standard for all Rotarian peacebuilders.

Rotarian Action Group for Peace Board Member David Newman is leading the World Peace Partners initiative and integrating it into RAGFP’s work. David provides outstanding leadership in developing peacebuilding projects and initiatives in District 5550 that serve as blueprints for Rotarian Peacebuilder Clubs and Peacebuilder Districts worldwide.

Their peace initiatives focus on the value of human rights, comprehensive peace education, and include, Peace Days 365 including Festival of Peace and Compassion, an annual festival of events celebrating of the United Nation’s annual International Day of Peace. This Peace Days Festival is a nearly month-long schedule of daily events leading up to, and extending beyond, September 21st each year. The entire community of Winnipeg and District 5550/WPP is involved in hosting peace-centered events that focus Canadians upon shared values of human dignity, compassion for one another, and respect for our environment. Peace Day 2018 events featured a film premiere of the Canadian TV series, First Contact, and the series built bridges between Indigenous Peoples and Canadians across the nation.

Their peace education in human rights programs helped foster Canada’s very first interdisciplinary Master of Human Rights program to be offered at The University of Manitoba in 2019. These Rotarian peacebuilders and RAGFP members provide examples of how all RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs can develop effective peace projects and initiatives within their own local communities around the world. Read More

Rotarians throughout Canada support Rotary Peace Fellows and the six Rotary Peace Centers globally. They elevate these peace professionals and support them to lead successful peacebuilding efforts in their spheres of influence. Rotary Peace Fellow Eduardo da Costa is a RAGFP member. Eduardo is also a Global Peace Ambassador for the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP).

He is a peace scholar who advises Rotarians in ways to quantify tangible results in all their peacebuilding projects and initiatives. Rotarian Action Group for Peace also supports the IEP in providing all Rotarian peacebuilders with tools designed to codify Rotary’s Peace Area of Focus as measurable and sustainable peace actions. We are proud to support Eduardo in his outstanding work with Rotarians in Canada and worldwide. Read Eduardo’s article published by Rotary International.

#1 USA

Rotarians in America helped keep the birthplace of Rotary International in our #1 membership spot this year. There are now 78 RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs spread across the continental United States, in Alaska and the Pacific. These Rotarian peacebuilders are actively engaged in promoting positive peace projects, planting Rotary Peace Poles, and creating inclusive platforms for peace.

There are three RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs in Hawaii. RAGFP Founder Al Jubitz helped install a Rotary Peace Pole with the Rotary Club of Kona Sunrise at the West Hawaii Civic Center. This club represents the energy and momentum RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs are infusing into Rotarian peacebuilding. Read a flyer RCKS placed in a local newspaper announcing their “official” certification as a RAGFP Peacebuilder Club.

Mahalo Hawaiian peacebuilders!

As “gateway to the Rockies,” the Rotary Club of Boulder is an exemplary RAGFP Peacebuilder Club and the largest club in District 5450. They celebrate 100 years of Rotary service on April 1st, 2019. Many of these outstanding Rotarian peacebuilders are RAGFP members who promote peace throughout the state of Colorado and internationally.

The club formed in 1919 shortly after WWI when four local businessmen walked out of a Lions Club meeting and decided they would rather charter a club in another growing service organization called Rotary. A century later, this Rotary club is now over 200 members strong and Rotarians helped transform this entire region into a thriving center of education and commerce.

The Rotary Club of Boulder has set their next century of Rotarian service on peacebuilding. Their peace initiatives allow school children to access engaging peace education, focus their community upon peace in public spaces, inform social justice in Colorado, and introduce innovative minds from around the world to Rotarian peacebuilding. They also contact and recruit other Rotary clubs in their district to become active Peacebuilder Clubs offering mentorship and an example of excellence. RAGFP is pleased to honor their centennial of Rotary service.

Read More

RAGFP member Cynda Collins Arsenault serves on the peacebuilder committee of the Rotary Club of Boulder. This visionary Rotarian peacebuilder is also involved in international peacebuilding, working to secure peace in the oceans, on land, and even in the sky. She is Co-Founder and Board Member of One Earth Future (OEF) and the Arsenault Family Foundation. She is also a founder of Our Secure Future (OSF)- Women Make the Difference. These foundations promote positive peace and help provide economic empowerment for women from Colombia to Lake Victoria in Africa.

OSF-Woman Make the Difference offers the Dear World, Move Us Toward Peace campaign showcasing young women’s voices from around the world through letters sharing their personal visions for peace. It teaches girls to grow as negotiators, mediators or peacemakers, by providing the personal space to explore solutions and to understand they have the agency and capacity to be change-makers.

Cynda is co-founder and President of Secure World Foundation (SFW). She demonstrates how Rotarian visionaries solve current conflicts on earth, and seek innovative solutions to potential conflicts, even in outer space. According to the SFW, more than 21,000 pieces of debris larger than 10 cm (4 inches) are being tracked in earth’s orbit.

There are an additional 500,000 pieces of untracked debris less than 1 (cm) endangering more than 1,800 operational satellites. The growing “space industry” and potential “space billboards” only add to the already crowded sphere of earth’s orbit. Just one minor space collision could cause a cascade of failures that might damage or completely disrupt the sustainable use of outer space for all humanity.

Our world now depends upon satellites to guide everything from cell phones to traffic lights. The potential for chaos and conflict on earth under a cascading space collision scenario is unimaginable. As a Rotarian peacebuilder, Cynda looks to prevent these conflicts by promoting cooperation among all space actors.

SWF works at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva and in the First Committee of the UN in New York to develop ways to reduce the potential for conflict in space. Secure World Foundation facilitates multistakeholder dialogue and international cooperation. The increasing numbers of States, commercial organizations and international organizations entering space make it increasingly important to develop new international agreements on appropriate behavior in space. As a Permanent Observer at the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) SWF works with delegates to COPUOS to support the efforts of the Working Group on Space Sustainability. SFW provides education, resources, and a space index to all space actors so all may work in cooperation and peace, high above our earth’s atmosphere.

This RAGFP member’s contributions to global peacebuilding are astounding, and she values her work as a Rotarian peacebuilder promoting positive peace locally (on the ground) with the Rotary Club of Boulder. Read More

Visit the RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs Map

Rotarians are on the leading edge of peacebuilding globally. Form a Peacebuilder Club in your local Rotary club with step-by-step instructions here. Locate RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs on our Peacebuilder Clubs Map and learn more about how your Rotary club can create infrastructures for peace in your local community. The mission of RAGFP is engaging, educating and empowering Rotarian peacebuilders around the world. Visit the many peacebuilding resources we provide on this website. Visit our E-Newsletter archive to discover more inspirational stories and examples of Rotarian peacebuilding. Send us your Rotarian peacebuilding stories and help put your country in our RAGFP Top 5 Membership Countries next year by asking fellow Rotarians in your area to join Rotarian Action Group for Peace.

Go wage peace!