domingo, 4 de abril de 2010


It is a great pleasure and distinct privilege for me to be a part of this important gathering of the ICC officers. Please allow me to express my deep appreciation and thanks to PRIVP Serge Gouteyron and PDG Gianni Jandolo, who invited me to address you at his session.
I will speak on how the Inter Country Committees may be a major component of the Rotary Peace Initiative for the Mediterranean Region. As I do so, I will challenge you all to lead a new Peace Initiative in our Mediterranean Region. In this regard, I will propose a new perspective to our ICC, which I developed jointly with my colleague Director Raffaele Pallotta d'Acquapendente, who inspired me on the subject.
Coming from Republic of Turkey, whose founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk has guided its worldwide strategy and policies by his very well known epigram “Peace at home, Peace in the world”, makes me proud to address on peace at this meeting.
World Peace has always been a major item on Rotary’s agenda. Climbing tendency of conflicts, tensions and distrust in international relations confirm the observation of our founder, Paul Harris, who said, “the way to war is a well-paved highway and the way to peace is still a wilderness.” Our world is continuously struggling to find peaceful and long lasting solutions to global tensions.
The Mediterranean Region is one of the most sensitive parts of our world, boiling in all kinds of disputes and conflicts throughout history. In this area, we have 16 countries, three religions practiced with different faiths, 8 spoken languages, all in a profile of diversified cultures.
It is always easy for people to build up prejudices and even hatred against other people with whom they have no communication. Most of the people on earth are predetermined against each other by perceptions that source out of:
- Economical, historical and social conflicts.
- Politicized religious movements.
- Radical political disputes that divide communities sharply into camps
- Ideologies closing doors to international communication and world understanding.
Rotary, by its international structure, communication network and membership profile is an exceptional opportunity to compensate the strong base of this offensive behavior. Evidently, our Inter Country Committees also serve for the same purpose as activists of Rotary dedicated to Peace. With this understanding, I will make a proposal today to start a Rotary Peace Initiative at the Mediterranean Region, which has been a cradle for many civilizations of different cultures throughout history.
The purpose of my proposal is to build bridges between the communities around the Mediterranean and facilitate common denominators with the objective of improving living conditions of people in the region in a peaceful environment. I believe that Inter Country Committees can play a major role in developing this peace initiative.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are living in a world of contradictions.
On one side, science and technology has expanded its targets aggressively, far beyond our planet, to the limitless horizons of universe. Progress in science and technology, during the last century, has been more than that ever accomplished during the history of mankind.
Yet on the other side, 800,000,000 people do not have literacy and numeric skills on our planet earth. With the functionally illiterate, this figure goes up to two billion.
While numerous people enjoy living in the present age, masses of people practically live 100, 200 or even more hundred years behind. As the information and communication era continue its amazingly fast progress, this big gap of knowledge and information will grow even worse. Sharp and dangerous disputes will rise up between people of knowledge and people of ignorance.
Another controversy of our globe is the way that we treat our threatening ecologic issues. Environment of our planet earth is getting out of control. Erosion is expanding. Increase in the heat of our planet is now alarming.
Our seas, including the Mediterranean and water sources are polluted. Existing water sources become insufficient as the population grows. One billion people do not have access to clean water. We complain from these happenings on one side, and yet we are a part of the environmental destruction on the other side.
By the existing technology, we can produce the food needed to feed our entire population on earth. However, one billion people are starving in this world. At every three and a half seconds, someone dies from hunger. 30,000 children, under the age five, will die today.
If someone is suffering from hunger, if mothers and fathers see that their children fade away because they are desperately helpless, if people do not have a shelter to live in peace, if they do not have access to clean water in sufficient quantity and if billions of people live the Dark Age, without literacy and numeric skills; my friends, it is not possible to talk about values, rules, love and good human relations to these people. Apparently, it is not possible to talk about peace and common cultural denominators in an environment, where such controversies characterize communities as polarized camps.
While everybody talks about peace in our world, we spend billions of all kinds of currencies on all kinds of weapons. How can we talk about Peace if we do not have the necessary basic conditions for it to foster?
This asymmetric outlook may grow nowadays even worse upon the effects of the economic crisis that has hit the whole world recently, but particularly the low income countries. Our world has never seen such a big crisis since 1928.
Assigned by our President John Kenny, I attended the joint meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, in last October, in Istanbul, as the representative of Rotary. After long discussions of six days, the end result shows that the effects of the crisis on living conditions of people will continue for a considerably long time.
Economy seems under control in figures for the time being, but the social effects of the crisis are expected to appear in an increasing manner especially at the low income countries. Neither the World Bank, nor IMF can predict the nature and the strength of the waves that will come as the result of this phenomenon. Unemployment will stay high. Growth in food scarcity is envisaged especially at the developing economies. Infrastructure investments will slow down.
The effect of the crisis in low income countries has already shown itself by 89 million more people moving in the extreme poor income bracket which is 1.25 dollars per day. Families in Africa are reducing the number their meals to one and moving their young girls out of their schools.
As another ironic controversy, 20 percent of the world population living at the high income brackets share 85 per cent of the world income, while the low 20 per cent share only 1.4 per cent.
Hunger, illiteracy, lack of sufficient education and poor health services go hand in hand with extreme poverty in many parts of the world, including some parts of the Mediterranean Region. In the 21st century, this state of desperate living conditions for hundred millions is an insult to human race.
So, what can we do to facilitate Peace, at least in the Mediterranean, within our capabilities?
Although Rotary cannot initiate political solutions, our organization fulfills an effective role in the world in preparing the basic environment for peace, by bringing people of different nationalities, different religions, different races, and diversified cultures, speaking different languages together. In this regard, Rotarians contribute to peace as “catalysts” on “human to human” basis.
While accomplishing this function, we can contribute to the efforts on the subject by three strong assets of our Organization:
Our international network.
Our capable and experienced organizational structure focused on a wide range of humanitarian services aligned with the Millennium goals of United Nations.
Our active, diversified and intellectual membership dedicated and committed to improve living conditions of people and to facilitate peace.
So, we can mobilize these assets to facilitate peace in our region, and then turn our practices into a model which can also be implemented in other regions of our Globe. In this sense, I propose to establish an organization called as “Mediterranean Peace Initiative”.
The first objective of this Organization will be build bridges between the communities in the Mediterranean Region and to facilitate common understanding by reconciliation of wrong perceptions and prejudices.
The second objective will be to mobilize Rotarians for partnerships with the volunteers of other civil society organizations as well as state and public officers in the Mediterranean Region to develop joint service projects that address community needs.
The third objective will be to facilitate communication and better understanding among the public opinion leaders of the Mediterranean Region as they work together.
When I say “public opinion leaders”, I mean the Rotarians, volunteers of other effective Civil Society Organizations, and members of Vocational Institutions, Health and Education Organizations as well as state and public authorities of different nations, religions and cultures. This will open the opportunity for Rotary to communicate with other intellectual sectors of the Mediterranean communities and empower Rotary’s effectiveness by service partnerships.
The fourth objective will be to involve youth and the Family of Rotary in this Peace Initiative to extend bridges of understanding to wider scales of community segments.
Apparently, this initiative will also enable us to Promote Rotary values and develop our membership as we improve the image of Rotary.
To realize the four basic objectives that I mentioned, I propose an action plan of three phases.
At the first phase our Inter country Committees will build up awareness for the initiative, by establishing the necessary intellectual environment for it to foster. For this purpose, Our ICC Organization will facilitate formation of Inter Country Committees ambitiously in the Region. Since we have 16 countries in the area, we can increase the number of our existing Inter Country Committees in the Mediterranean up to 140. This is an outstanding goal focused to development of a particular objective. I believe that we can realize this achievement.
At the second phase, I propose to establish “Country Committees” of the Mediterranean Peace Initiative, where Rotary exists.
In our model, each Country Committee will consist of about 30 to 50 Rotarian members, with honorary members invited from public opinion leaders and public authorities.
This Organization will have a General Assembly, Executive Committee and Functional Committees.
General Assembly will meet once a year in a Mediterranean Country.
At the third phase, Functional Committees will start action by organizing bilateral and multilateral activities. This process will merge Rotarians with members of the other civil societies and the state and public officers of the Mediterranean Region on a platform of humanitarian, social and economic problems of their communities.
Apparently, Inter Country Committees will be the energizer and the major component of this Initiative in action. Within the scope of this initiative, we shall also be able to activate other Rotary International activities like all kinds of Exchange Programs, Rotary Peace Fellows and The Rotary Foundation Programs.
Of course, this model is open to discussions for modifications.
You may ask, why Mediterranean?
Because, in spite of all the controversies and diversities, the Mediterranean culture at large, has been a common component among the communities in the Region. And, as to the service scope of the Rotary Clubs of this Region, where else can be a better place for us to activate the peace mission of Rotary?
In this sense, no organization of Rotary, other than the Inter Country Committees, can be more effective for facilitating this peace movement.
When all countries around the Mediterranean establish ICC with each other, and all of them focus on making use of the RI and TRF programs for building up peace, we can demonstrate to the World, by tangible examples, how Rotary can contribute to peace as “catalysts” on “human to human” basis.
I believe that this perspective will revitalize and energize the activities of our Inter Country Committees as well and make our services more meaningful.
Fellow Rotarians,
PEACE may sound unreal or impossible to some people, while we say “Peace is Possible”. We must keep in mind that there are always new horizons beyond what looks as impossible.
British author of science fictions and inventor Arthur C. Clarke has said, “The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible.”
Our capabilities as Rotarians and our commitment for Service above Self oblige us to originate and facilitate resolutions to conflicts among human kind even if some solutions may seem almost impossible at the first glance.
Eradication of Polio seemed like an impossible mission when we started 25 years ago. But now it is a reality.
Of course, we have restrictions and challenges, but we can turn such restrictions into opportunities. As we work out our business strategies, we often create new opportunities out of negatives. We can do it in our Rotary organization as well.
We must not suffice by accepting things as they are. We can make Rotary the leading service organization of the 21st century that serves for peace by its efforts of making always a positive difference. If people like us cannot do it, who will do it?
So, let us continue using our creativity and vision as we appeal to the present and future issues of peace in our restless globe. All it requires is commitment and dedication with positive mind.
We do not stay indifferent to the problems of mankind. We do not say “it is not my business.” We do not say, “I don’t care.” On the contrary, we make it our lifestyle to care for others. We allocate considerable amount of our time, which we could use for leisure. We spend considerable amount of our money, which we could utilize for our comforting and luxurious needs.
So, hand in hand, let us explore how we can contribute to building up a peaceful world beyond politics, through our services. And let us make this meeting of Inter Country Committee officers a new milestone of Rotary in its tireless efforts to facilitate world peace as a “catalyst”.
We may not see the results of our good initiatives in our lifetime. But the next generations will benefit from the results of such efforts, which we seed now as gifts to our children and grandchildren.
As I thank you once again for giving me the opportunity of sharing my vision with you, please allow me to repeat my firm belief about the exceptional role that our Inter Country Committees may play in facilitating peace in the Mediterranean Region.
Örsçelik Balkan, RIPD

Adress to ICC leaders in Council of Europe
March 2010

PHOTOS: Örsçelik Balkan during his adress «Role of ICC in the Mediterraen Peace Initiative« in the Council of Europe; Örsçelik Balkan (Turkey), Tony Polsterer (Austria), ICC President Elect, and Serge Gouteyron (France), ICC executive president, during lunch in Concil of Europe; Stasbourg Cathedral; a Stasbourg street; Tony Polsterer, Catherine Noyer-Riveau, RID (France), Serge Gouteyron and Arthur Bowden (England); Marc Lamirey, DG (France, Strasbourg), Catherine Noyer-Riveau and his husband François and Henrique Pinto (Portugal), during lunch in the Council of Europe;   Gwenael de Bergevin, Tony Polsterer, Catherine Noyer-Riveau, Serge Gouteyron, Arthur Bowden and Michael (member of Council of Europe); Örsçelik Balkan, The former president of ICC executive, Henrique Pinto and Vicente Juan (Spain); Uwe Richardsen (Germany); Arthur Bowden, Serge Gouteyron and Tonino di Magio, during the hommage to this one in the Maison Kammerzell (at dinner); Olga Kutuzova (Russia), International Investment Center, Andrei T. Ibragimov (Russia) and Uwe Richardsen (Germany); Andriy Bahanych (Ukraine), Mário Queirós (Brazil) and Marcel Tilken (Belgium);  Gwenael de Bergevin, Tony Polsterer, Catherine Noyer-Riveau; Ferit Biren (Turkey), member of International Yachting Fellowship of Rotary, and Gianni Jandolo (Italy), both at the righ side of the picture;Tony Polsterer and his wife; Strasbourg National Theater; Serge Gouteyron addressing in the Council of Europe; Two monuments in Strasbourg and the Opera House;  Andrezj Ludek (Poland),  Andrei  T. Ibragimov (Russia)  and Andriy  Bahanych (Ukraine);  Guy Cahané and his wife (Italy) having dinner at La Maision Kammerzell; he houses on the right side of the Cathedral; The whole good Alsacian foods, in an original draft from Unterreiner
NOTE: Photos and  respective captions, as well as the underlined sentences ,are not Örçelik Balkan responsability (Henrique Pinto)

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