Posted by Peter Roaf on Nov 29, 2017
Conflict and violence displace millions of people each year. Half of those killed in conflict are children, and 90 percent are civilians. Often conflict starts and continues over long periods in competition for dwindling resources and as environmental changes force people to migrate. The 1.2 million members of Rotary International, in 35,000 clubs around the world, refuse to accept conflict as a way of life. On February 10, 2018, in Vancouver, BC, Rotary is holding the first of its six presidential peacebuilding conferences around the world on the theme of environmental sustainability and peace..
Drought in rural Syria has pushed over a million people to the country’s urban centers which could not cope because there were simply not enough resources, escalating the conflict. In turn, over one million people sought refuge and a better life in Europe throughout 2015, the greatest migration crisis in Europe since World War II.
Peace is one of Rotary’s major areas of focus: not on conflict, violence and warfare, rather on peacebuilding. One of the most effective ways to build peace is through environmental sustainability.
This commitment to peace is the same commitment of Rotarians since 1985 when they started the global campaign to rid the world of the 350,000 cases a year of child-crippling polio in 120 countries now down to 15 or so in 2017 in three remaining countries.
The conference will examine sustainable global and local environmental practices, and their contributions to peacebuilding and peacemaking. Participants will discuss the impact of environmental issues on health, fresh air, clean water, vegetation, and food production - and how improved environmental conditions are a fundamental condition of building peace within communities.

The conference will bring together global and local community leaders, youth, and representatives from the public, private, and government sectors.

Environmental Sustainability and Peace
Volatile rainfall and temperature trends in many parts of the world have exerted significant pressure on available land, water and food resources leading to diminishing food stocks, inadequate water supply, mass migration and desertification, according to the United States Institute of Peace.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change projects that rapidly changing variables in the atmosphere could expose an additional 250 million people to increased water stress in Africa by 2020, with yields from rain-fed agriculture dropping by 50%. The likelihood of flooding in Asia could rise from 10 to 40%, affecting lives and livelihood of millions. The loss of biodiversity in Latin America would have global ramifications and could precipitate mass displacement.

By 2050, water resources in Caribbean and Pacific Islands are expected to be insufficient to meet demand. Subsequently, millions will be pushed from subsistence to desperation and heightened competition for scarce resources would create flash points that could trigger violence.  These developments have dire implications for peace and sustainable economic development. 

Environmental peacebuilding, as described in a Wikipedia article on environmental peacebuilding, examines and advocates environmental protection and cooperation as a factor in peaceful relations. Those engaged in peacebuilding aim to identify the conditions that lead beyond a temporary cessation of violence to sustainable processes of conflict management and mutual cooperation between those who have previously been adversaries.
Advocates of environmental peacebuilding examine the role of environmental factors in moving towards a sustainable peace. For instance, warfare devastates ecosystems and the livelihoods of those who depend on natural resources, and the anarchy of conflict situations leads to the uncontrolled, destructive exploitation of natural resources.

Preventing these impacts allows for an easier movement to a sustainable peace. From a more positive perspective, environmental cooperation can be one of the places where hostile parties can sustain a dialogue, and sustainable development is a prerequisite for a sustainable peace.
Rotary’s global commitment
Rotary is dedicated to six areas of focus to build international relationships, improve lives, and create a better world to support our peace efforts and end polio forever. All six areas of focus form one integrated system for a more peaceful, collaborative world all co-habitating a shared sustainable environment. In promoting peace, Rotary sponsors every year 100 peace fellowships – 50 Master’s degree and 50 certificate programs -- at Rotary Peace Centers at universities around the world, with over 1,000 graduates from the program.
Promoting peace
Rotary encourages conversations to foster understanding within and across cultures. We train adults and young leaders to prevent and mediate conflict and help refugees who have fled dangerous areas.
Fighting disease
We educate and equip communities to stop the spread of life-threatening diseases like polio, HIV/AIDS, and malaria. We improve and expand access to low-cost and free health care in developing areas.
Providing clean water, sanitation, and hygiene
We support local solutions to bring clean water, sanitation, and hygiene to more people every day. We don’t just build wells and walk away. We share our expertise with community leaders and educators to make sure our projects succeed long-term.
Saving mothers and children
Nearly 6 million children under the age of five die each year because of malnutrition, poor health care, and inadequate sanitation. We expand access to quality care, so mothers and their children can live and grow stronger.
Supporting education
More than 775 million people over the age of 15 are illiterate. Our goal is to strengthen the capacity of communities to support basic education and literacy, reduce gender disparity in education, and increase adult literacy.
Growing local economies
We carry out service projects that enhance economic and community development and create opportunities for decent and productive work for young and old. We also strengthen local entrepreneurs and community leaders, particularly women, in impoverished communities.
Ending polio forever Rotary has been working to eradicate polio for over 30 years, and our goal of ridding the earth of this disease is in sight. We started in 1979 with vaccinations for 6 million children in the Philippines. Today, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Pakistan are the only countries where polio remains endemic.