A Global Perspective from Minchinhampton

Internationally, 2015 was effectively dominated by the terrible events in Syria and the resultant refugee crisis with political leaders in Europe wholly unable to formulate any coherent policy to address the problem. The refugee statistics have been added to by events in Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and Libya and further afield in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

This depressing scenario entailing misery for so many people has meant that the media have had neither time nor space to cover any good news, particularly when the good news is simply statistics. Yet 15 years ago the UN assembly agreed 8 Millennium goals designed to bring to an end “the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty”. These 8 goals are being updated and partially replaced by the Sustainable Development Goals. In the circumstances it is relevant to look at what progress has been made on achieving these original goals.

Extreme poverty in the developing world has been reduced from some 50% of the population to 14%, the number of children of primary school age not attending school has declined from 100 million to 57 million, gender equality in education has basically been achieved, the global under-five mortality rate has declined by half as has the maternal mortality rate, and deaths from diseases such as malaria have been drastically reduced. Obviously we cannot be complacent but for a great many people the world has become a better place to live and we should take satisfaction from this.

One of the organisations which contributed to the debate on setting these goals was Rotary International, which has just been categorised by Charity Navigation as one of the top 10 charities changing the world in 2015. Internationally, Rotary is best known for its tremendous efforts to rid the world of polio (50 years ago polio was endemic in 125 countries whereas now it is only in Afghanistan and Pakistan) but it also has a great many projects focussed on the Un goals; virtually all these projects involve a hands-on approach working directly with communities.

For Nailsworth Rotary Club, as for the majority of Rotary Clubs, whilst the charitable aspect of the Club’s activities will focus primarily on support for local charities, there will always be an international dimension. For example, there is recognition of the humanitarian importance of ShelterBox when natural disasters occur and which is facilitated by having a Club member as a ShelterBox volunteer, working on site in many countries. This year the Club, with the support of Rotary International, will be helping with the provision of some items of equipment for a newly built maternity unit for a clinic in a remote rural area in Kenya. Last year the Club supported a week’s camp in Slovenia, run by a local Rotary Club for disabled and special needs young people.

Does an article of this sort have a place in the Parish magazine? Well, the Editor thought so. I hope you, the reader, will as well.

Gerry Robbins (Nailsworth Rotary Club)