Posted by Susan Weaver on Nov 08, 2019
Foundation Month Focus
Peace and Conflict Resolution

As Rotary nears completion of its goal of eradicating polio, many have asked “what's next?” Where will the incredible talent and resources of Rotary be directed now?  The challenge that has in recent years risen to the forefront is that of increasing peace and resolving conflict.

For many, the pursuit of Peace (with a capital P) seems amorphous, hard to get one’s arms around, difficult to know where to start and what exactly to do. The challenge of eradicating polio must have seemed equally daunting when the End Polio Now campaign began, but that didn’t stop determined Rotarians. And that same determination can be used to promote peace and resolve conflicts. The key in this, as it was in the fight against polio, is to enlist able partners and bring our resources to bear on the effort.


This emphasis on Peace is not new. It dates back to 1917 when Paul Harris said:

"It is easier to interest men in war than in peace; it therefore requires more moral courage to talk peace than war." 

With the creation of Rotary Peace Centers in 2002, Rotary clearly announced its intention to tackle more directly the issue of Peace and Conflict Resolution, which is one of the Six Areas of Focus.  Clubs which actively engage in projects that fall under this umbrella are now eligible for recognition as Peacebuilder Clubs. Funding for these projects come largely from donations to The Rotary Foundation. 
In 2017, Rotary made its next bold move - it formed a strategic partnership with the Institute for Economics and Peace and launched the Positive Peace Campaign, and John Hewko, General Secretary of Rotary International, announced:
"All gathered here are unofficial diplomats and peacebuilders of our age. When you build a system for clean water, you are a peacebuilder. When you help out a student struggling to graduate, you are a peacebuilder. When you launch any project to support education, health, or economic development in your local community, or elsewhere ... YOU ARE BUILDING THE OPTIMAL CONDITIONS FOR POSITIVE PEACE. "
But what is Positive Peace?  What does that phrase mean to you?
At its most basic, peace is an open and nonviolent way of being. Peace is both a state of mind and a state of society, encompassing a wide range of actions. Martin Luther King Jr. imagined peace as unfolding in a straight line — running from “inner peace,” based in the heart, to family, community, nation, and the world. Peace is associated with a range of values, from kindness and justice to safety, security, and freedom. 
And what in the world might Negative Peace be?
Negative Peace can be thought of as being the absence of something bad, rather than the presence of something good.  Negative Peace is fraught with tension. An analogous way to think of it is this - Negative Peace is to an emergency room visit as Positive Peace is to a well-baby check-up.

Negative Peace is the absence of war, or fear of violence.

Positive Peace creates the conditions for individuals to flourish. Equal access to education gives children the knowledge and skills they need to become successful, contributing global citizens.  

Positive Peace consists of attitudes, institutions, and structures that, when strengthened, lead to a more peaceful society. 

Positive Peace provides the optimum environment for human potential to flourish.


Rotary’s Partner in Creating Positive Peace

The Institute for Economics and Peace has devised the most widely respected and used measure of peace. It tracks trends in 163 countries and publishes its findings each year in The Global Peace Index report. You can access this year’s report and prior years’ as well here.

And as you can see in this graphics  below, the IEP’s Pillars of Peace and Rotary’s Six Areas of Focus overlap in multiple ways:

  • Fighting Disease and Providing Clean Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene support several pillars of peace by maintaining the heath of the populace.
  • Supporting education helps build an informed citzenry, critical to well-functioning government. It also is key to accepting the rights of others, demanding a free flow of information, and discouraging corruption.
  • Growing Local Economies helps promote sound business environments, encourages the equitable distribution of resources, and bolsters the level of human capital.
  • Saving Mothers and Children also bolsters the level of human capital, and strengthens society as a whole by maintaining public health and welfare.
  • Promoting Peace results in good relations with neighbors and supports each and every pillar of Positive Peace.
(If you cannot see the video below on your device, click here).

Opportunities to Be Involved

When our club was chartered, the E-Club of One World D5240 chose the 4th part of the Object of Rotary - the advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service - as it’s primary focus. Through the years we have actively supported that goal by our association with the Rotary Peace Fellows, several of who have been members of our club or are currently honorary members. And we have sponsored and supported global and district grants that support positive peace in various ways, among them projects with a strong peacebuilding component as in the project in Bosnia and Herzegovina and several in Niger.  

There are multiple ways for you to be involved as an individual. You can:

  • Sign up for the Rotary Peace Academy. Find information here: 
  • Join the Rotary Action Group for Peace. Find information here: 
  • Look for ways to invest in Positive Peace in the community where you live.
  • Propose a project that promotes Positive Peace to the club and pursue a district or global grant.

And, importantly, 

Any way you chose to contribute to TRF will benefit projects that promote Positive Peace, but if you want your contribution to go explicitly to peace projects, you can contribute to specific Global Grants (by number) within the Peace and Conflict Resolution Area of Focus or to the Rotary Peace Centers.

With clubs in 163 countries and over 1.2 million members, Rotary is in the unique position to lead a bottom-up campaign to fully implement our mission. 

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