I was really young when my mother took me to a hospital with children suffering from HIV. Due to my enthusiasm and energy I was looking forward to play with all the children, although I was told not to do so as it was dangerous. What did dangerous mean? It made no sense to me. I was a child who loved being surrounded by children. With eyes glittering of excitement, I entered the building looking forward to make some new friends. I then immediately understood that it was different from a playground. The children were shy, with a tired and sad face. I felt confused – children are always happy, they smile, run and brighten the places around them. But not there.

It was then when I realized that I was privileged; that out there realities differ and children suffer. I also had my first feeling of solidarity, an inner motivation to make a change, to help and to share what I have. Ever since then I participated in many charities and showed my and my family’s support to those in need. I volunteered for UNICEF, for Save the Children and supported charities within my highschool and university.

Serving the community was no longer a choice, but a way of living. There is no joy in doing anything in life individually. Life is about sharing feelings, objects, food, ideas…anything. That first experience was a proof for me that a smile brings a smile. Those children were grateful for receiving sweets, presents, but above all they were happy to see me playing with them and sharing their excitement. They were happy to see me smiling or even shaking hands: those little gestures that are casual for most of us.

Whether it was Romania or the United Kingdom I wanted to continue making a change. And this is the opportunity Rotaract offered to me. For me, Rotaract is neither a name to put in my CV nor a club that brings me exclusivity. Rotaract is a community that shares value, experience and feelings. Rotaract introduced me to likeminded people who brainstormed for innovative activities that could impact the society. Rotaract has a reputation for being a leader in offering support to those in need and it has a responsibility towards the world. But I am not going to reiterate something that you have lived.

Let me take you further to a changing point in my career. This ambition to help drove me to working for the world’s biggest international organisation: the United Nations. Yes, I am only in my third year of university, but this did not stop me from grabbing this lifetime opportunity.  What do Rotaract and UN have in common?

The answer is simple: the world. Yes – both organisations committed to help the world and they must continue so. It is interesting that I am mainly involved with the Millennium Development Goals and the progress made to achieve them, as well as with designing the post-2015 agenda (basically what UN will do after 2015).  The eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – which range from halving extreme poverty rates to halting the spread of HIV/AIDS and providing universal primary education, all by the target date of 2015 have galvanized unprecedented efforts to meet the needs of the world’s poorest. This is beautifully put in words, but the facts are saddening. Not even half of these millennium goals have been achieved – too many unnecessary agencies, duplicate projects, wasted money, too bureaucratic systems. UN is living a crisis of identity and the most worrying problem is that the society does not have a reaction. How many of you did know about the Millennium Development Goals? Did Rotaractors around the world commit to supporting these goals?

During my internship in New York I did realize that the society needs to raise up its voice. We can no longer establish goals without action. There are two more years until 2015 so let’s start working. Let’s begin with a project and then grow up more and more. Let’s show that we believe in humanity and in the UN being the main organisation to provide multidimensional human security. Let’s make Rotaract part of this process.

Diplomats from around the world are deciding for a future agenda, but what are the priorities? They do have the expertise in coordinating actions if we flag out the problems. Look around you and find what is missing. Look around you and see if people are happy. Look around you and define your priorities. And then speak up. Take attitude and make yourself heard to these people who are there for creating a better world.

Does Rotaract have an agenda? Does Rotaract work with the UN or at least in the same direction as the UN? I do believe in the tight relation between both of them and I urge members to analyse the real problems societies face and work together to improve them. Rotaract benefits from a worldwide connection. Rotaractors are everywhere, just like the UN. So why not work together?

I am looking forward to your opinions about the connection between Rotaract and the UN and I challenge you with some questions: do these two organisations have a mutual influence? Can they share experiences and ideas?


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0 thoughts on “Life – a shared experience. Rotaract vs the United Nations

  1. Janice Mason says:

    Passion leads to action, and passion usually stems from personal experiences or connections. Rotary International were consulted when the United Nations was set up and there has been a continued special relationship between these 2 organisations that are powered by people passionate about our World. Where will our passion lead us?

  2. Steffy says:

    The world is evolving – new global matters emerge, the world is more vulnerable to external factors (financial crisis, natural disasters). One of the issues that we discuss at the UN is how should we reform this organization, what partnerships do we need to foster progress and achieve poverty eradication, health sector improvements or provide education worldwide. In this context, does the partnership between Rotary and UN need to be redefined? What role should the Rotaractors, the leaders of tomorrow, the future Rotarians generations take in order to embrace this passion?

    In my opinion, we need a better linkage and coordination between both the Rotaract and Rotary clubs worldwide. The passion is waiting to be channeled towards making a better world. Which are our priorities? And how can we achieve them by looking at the resources we have? If we answer these two questions, half of the problem is sorted. We will only need to cooperate for an efficient implementation plan.

    But this asks for action. We cannot wait for the UN itself to achieve the Millennium Development Goals ( which I strongly recommend to read), we need to step in. But how – at a local , national or regional level? by involving the communities?

  3. Mary Nettle says:

    The UN is a hive of activity going in many different directions. Is it the voice of the people maybe. I am involved with work on the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. An amazing piece of work which included civil society. Unfortunately getting governments to implement the convention is far more difficult. Why should this be? I think a bit of joined up thinking is what is needed. Do you have any ideas Steffy?

  4. Steffy says:

    It is a pleasure to meet you! From my experience so far there is definitely a lack of synergy between the governmental institutions and the civil society. This lack of implementation might stem either from a lack of transparency or communication. They are currently promoting a stronger collaboration between different stakeholders such as the society, the private sector, the government and the UN. However it is hard to interfere with the national sovereignty and order to the government what should be done. But it does depend from case to case – sometimes the governments do not have the funds, other times the will. Having a proper monitoring system is a necessity that was identified as one of the major gaps in the UN system.

    These are my thoughts Mary. What do you think?

  5. Mary Nettle says:

    It is frustrating and monitoring is great as long as the right questions are asked of the people involved. I think there should be an overarching human rights approach which can not be dodged by lawyers advising governments. I know there is a civil society forum soon but it should be virtual and interactive though this may exclude some people it will include a lot more.

    How long have you got left at the UN, what next…..?

  6. Steffy says:

    The human rights will hopefully be the basis of the sustainable development goals in the post-2015 agenda. It is just so hard to monitor and improve without actually interfering with national sovereignty.

    I have one more week of a UN Summer School on International Diplomacy and then another week at the UN. After that I will go traveling for a month and a half, before moving to Hong Kong to finish my studies. As part of my degree, I will study for one semester in HK and then return to Bath for my final 5 months of undergraduate studies. Hopefully next year I will be accepted for a master’s degree, either in strategic management or public administration.

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