Don-HigginsBy Don Higgins, Rotary Club of Pinellas Park and Honorary Board Member, Rotarian Action Group for Peace

Within the next few years it appears that Rotary International (RI) working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations around the world will complete the worldwide eradication of polio initiative started in 1985. (1)  This paper proposes that the next big Rotary initiative after eradication of polio be a Rotary Global Peace Building Initiative (RGPBI).

This proposal is in response to Rotary International President Nominee Ian Riseley’s suggestion that the next big project be in the focus area of peace (15) with the proviso that Rotary would need to arrive at a goal that could be both measured and monitored, so that Rotary would know when its peace goal has been fulfilled.

In the 1940’s Rotary became known for its active role in forming the United Nations (UN) and each November the UN celebrates Rotary Day. (2)  Since 1985 Rotary has become well known for its polio eradication initiative.  In the 2020’s and beyond I would like Rotary to become well known for its Global Peace Building Initiative.

This proposed initiative consists of peace building teams (17) that go to countries around the world to work with regional groups to resolve conflicts.  The proposed teams are made up of volunteer members with multi-discipline skills including peace building, knowledge of regional groups, conflicts, languages, cultures, etc.  The team members could include:

  • Volunteer Rotary Peace Fellows which number over 1,000 graduates from the Rotary Peace Center universities (3),
  • United Nations Development Program Volunteers in 170 countries (4),
  • Peace Corp Volunteers in 140 countries (5),
  • Rotarian volunteers from over 30,000 clubs in 206 countries (6), and
  • Volunteers from other peace focused organizations including over 500 organizations on the Rotary Action Group for Peace Map (7).

In June 2015 a review of UN Peacebuilding was completed and the recommendations included that if the UN is to carry out its mission of achieving sustainable world peace, then much more focus must be placed on peacebuilding by both the United Nations and other organizations (8).  Rotary could become a world leader in building a path to sustainable world peace in this century by starting now to plan how to support a Rotary Global Peacebuilding Initiative following the polio eradication initiative.

One of the first critical planning requirements is to set the scope of the initiative with measurable goals.

My proposal is that Rotary commit to supporting Peace Building Teams to go into the 20% least peaceful countries based on the Global Peace Index (GPI) (9).

The GPI is published once a year with 162 countries currently ranked from most peaceful (Iceland is ranked 1 with index of 1.1) to least peaceful (Syria ranked 162 with index of 3.6).  The GPI rankings have been published since 2007.  And while it is not perfect and can be improved, it is supported by many peace experts within the UN and other organizations.

Over the next several years prior to official launch of this proposed initiative, we should support several pilot teams with members from Rotary, UN, and Peace Corp to learn more about what is required for success and adapt training and support accordingly.

In addition to direct feedback from the pilot teams, we should see a corresponding improvement in the GPI ranking for the countries in regions where teams have been deployed over time.  If we do not, we should learn why not.

For the eventual launch of this initiative, I would propose that the goal be to improve the GPI average for the 30 least peaceful countries by 10% over the first 5 years.

The current 2015 average GPI index for the 30 peaceful countries is 2.8.  In 2011 the average GPI index for the 30 least peaceful countries was 2.6.  A reduction in the average GPI index should be reflected in fewer cases of open warfare and violence.  But sadly the index has gone up from 2011 to 2015 indicating those 30 countries are less peaceful today on average.

Another more tangible measure could be to track the number of UN Peace Keeping Forces (10) deployed to prevent open warfare, but that measure would not reflect the improvements in countries where there was no open warfare to start with.  Teams would only be deployed to countries where there was open warfare if UN Peace Keeping forces or other armed security forces provided adequate security for peace building teams.

Peace building team makeup would depend on the target region, estimated duration of deployment, funding sources, and the availability of team volunteers with the pre-requisite knowledge and skills.  The teams would travel to region and arrange to work with representatives of regional groups to try and resolve conflicts and develop plans required for sustained peace.

The plans may require additional efforts to address food, water, and shelter as first priorities.  Only after these basic necessities are met can additional human rights, education, economic development, cultural, and religious issues be addressed and plans developed to resolve them.  The proposed peace building teams would consist of the following type members:

  1. Rotary Peace Fellows including men and women (now numbering over 1000) who have earned advanced degree in peace building from one of the Rotary Peace Centers where they have learned about peace building and have done peace work in the field (3).
  2. Peace Corp Volunteers working in the target region who are living in the region for a period of two years(5).  Currently the Peace Corp has volunteers in 140 countries.   Rotary International and the Peace Corp. have signed an agreement (11).
  3. United Nations Development Program volunteers currently deployed in 170 countries (4).
  4. RAGFPRotarians including men and women from over 30,000 clubs in 206 countries.  Many are familiar with the conflicts in target regions and speak the languages in region.  Many are members of the Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGFP) and can be found by country on the RAGFP Peace Map (7).  Also some have completed 3-month professional development certificate covering conflict prevention and resolution from one of the Rotary Peace Centers (3).
  5. Additional volunteers from other organizations including different Rotary Action Groups (12) to meet specific needs of peace building teams.

For optimum success of the initiative, an administrative oversight team of experts needs to be formed to identify the regions with greatest need for peace building balanced with other need factors such as level of risk and need for other type resources such as food, water, shelter, health, etc.  Once priorities are identified, the search for qualified team members and corresponding funding can be made.  Each organization would fund its own team members.  For Rotary Peace Fellows and Rotarians funding could come from both the Rotary Foundation and from individual districts through the grant process or through specific Foundation funds established for this initiative.

To learn from past peace building efforts, here are three references that focus on peace building within regions where there has been conflict between groups with different cultures and beliefs.  The first is a book titled, “Broken Olive Branch” by Dr. Harry Anastasiou, current Executive Director Rotarian Action Group for Peace (19).  This book documents peace building between Greek and Turkish Cypriots in Cyprus.

The second reference is a Rotary Action Group for Peace webinar video presented by Dr. Joseph Bock which talks about how Rotarians are the glue within a community that can bring different groups together to resolve conflicts and learn to live in peace (20).

And finally the third reference is a study by the United State Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Alliance for Peace titled, “Proof of Concept: Nine examples of Peacebuilding Evaluation(18).  This 58-page study summarizes key issues and lessons learned from the results of nine peace building cases.  Here is a table with summary results:

  1. Better reporting of peace building efforts is required to communicate results to those who are not familiar with peace building methodologies or terminology.
  2. Reporting of peace building results is complicated by security concerns and political sensitivity.
  3. Better quantitative and qualitative methods to evaluate the effectiveness of peace building efforts are required.  Here is a table summarizing a few of the 9 cases using GPI as quantitative measure for specific countries involved plus qualitative summary comments:

Building cases

Global Peace


Title Country 2011 2015 Qualitative Summary Comments
Peace building in Kosovo (21) Kosovo 69 72 Included in GPI starting in 2013.  This case evaluated peace building results during 2004 riots.  Evaluations showed need to identify key drivers for violence and need to build network of ethnic group communications.
Social transformation through TV (23) Macedonia 71 78 Evaluation of 5-year TV program for children designed to find common ground between ethnic groups. Conclusions included that TV alone does not bring about behavioral change and additional interactions arerequired .
Good water neighbors (25) Jordan 71 64 Evaluation of education and feedback sessions on shared water resources used to build understanding and peace between 3 Middle East countries. Reporting limited by political sensitivity.
Palestine Palestine not reported by GPI yet.
Israel 148 145 All 3 countries less peaceful now due to terrorism.
Building bridges to peace (28) Uganda 111 96 Evaluation of survey and focus groups to measure effectiveness of efforts to build peace through shared efforts to improve economy.  Results showed improved security, economy, and level of trust in region.
Cross boarder peace building (9) Kenya 133 111 Evaluation of 5-year program to teach leadership and management of conflict in 5 countries in the horn of Africa.  Evaluation works best when integrated into project rather than applying at end of project.
Somalia 157 153
Ethiopia 119 131
Uganda 111 96
Sudan 156 151


The majority of Rotary sponsored peace efforts to date have been focused on education including Rotary Peace Fellowships at Rotary Peace Centers (3), Rotary Youth Exchange, Rotary Youth Camps, and Rotary Peace Conferences.  In 2014 I represented the Rotary Action Group for Peace at the first Build Peace Conference at MIT (30).  The conference included 5 minute “ignite talks” by dozens of peace builders summarizing their work as peace builders around the world.

Now is the time for Rotary to build on its peace education efforts and start planning for the launch of a Rotary Global Peace Building Initiative.  Between now and the time that the polio eradication project is completed, much work can be done to develop more detailed plans including administration, training, funding, and support.  Several Rotary peace building team pilot projects could be done now to identify potential problems and find ways to resolve them prior to launching initiative.  Let’s take action!  Peace is possible!



  1. Global Polio Eradication Initiative:
  2. United Nations Rotary Day:
  3. Rotary Peace Fellowships:
  4. United Nations Development Program Volunteers:
  5. Peace Corp Volunteers:
  6. Rotarian Volunteers:
  7. Rotary Action Group for Peace Map with over 500 Peace Organizations:
  8. Report on the AGE 2015 Study of UN Peacebuilding Review: Word Doc (Cashed Google PDF Version)
  9. Global Peace Index:
  10. 10.UN Peace Keeping Deployments:
  11. 11.Peace Corp and Rotary International Collaboration Agreement:
  12. 12.Rotarian Action Groups:
  13. 13.Example Rotary and UN peace building project in Bosnia:
  14. 14.Remaining challenges to peace in Bosnia:
  15. 15.Overview of the Rotary Foundation Focus Area of Peace:
  16. 16.Peace building team education between Myanmar and Philippines:
  17. 17.Definition of peace building:
  18. 18.Alliance for Peace evaluation of nine peace building examples:
  19. 19.Book about peace building on Cyprus title, “Broken Olive” by Dr. Harry Anastasiou:
  20. 20.Rotary Action Group for Peace webinar on peace building by Dr. Joseph Bock:
  21. 21.Case Study #1:
  22. 22.Case Study #2:
  23. 23.Case Study #3:
  24. 24.Case Study #4:
  25. 25.Case Study #5:
  26. 26.Case Study #6:
  27. 27.Case Study #7:
  28. 28.Case Study #8:
  29. 29.Case Study #9:
  30. 30.Build Peace Conference at MIT Media Center 2014:
  31. 31.Rotary Global Peace Building Initiative:
  32. 32.Rotary Global Peace Building Initiative PDF:

To download the original see Don Higgins ( PDF as of March 9, 2016