By P. S. T. SAYI, Bar-at-Law
The advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace, through a world fellowship of business and professional men united in the ideal of service, is one of the principal objects of the Rotary. The importance of this object is becoming increasingly evident from day to day in the present context of world affairs. One of the signs of the present time is a widespread demand for international protection of the rights of man. The common aspirations in the First World War were freedom of the seas, freedom of trade, and right to national self-determination. The emphasis then was on the rights of nations rather than of individuals. It was then assumed that free National States would bring their citizens the blessings of all freedoms.
The ideals of the recent global struggle are expressed in the Atlantic Charter and in Roosevelt’s four freedoms. In the Atlantic Charter, while mentioning the freedom of nations, emphasis is laid upon human rights, rights belonging to all men. The Charter of the United Nations pledges its members to take joint and separate action for the promotion of universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all mankind without distinction of race, sex, language or religion. There is now a new emphasis on positive social rights such as those of freedom from fear and freedom from want. It is now universally realised that the need for action in this regard is by international means and agencies. Therefore, the expansion of the field of positive rights and the demand for their support by international action, are the two characteristics of our present aspirations. These aspirations have their explanation in the realities of the present day society. A mere declaration of human rights would not indeed take us far. It was done at the time of the French Revolution. It was done at the time of the creation of the United States of America, and it was then natural to do so. Under the present regimes of representative government and National Planning it would be both incongruous and useless to do so. The problems that now arise for solution are not due to the arbitrary rule of kings or privileged classes or the functions of a National State.
The remedy for the present ills in the field of human rights and human progress and human freedoms will have to be found less in constitutional checks to arbitrariness than in the refinement of the outlook of individual citizens and in creating effective international systems. Without these life in the world will be ruled by Power, in which there is no room for freedom and no room for the proper fulfillment of human destiny. It is further observed that the freedom of the individual in such conditions would not only be hard pressed but would be frequently suspended in times of national or international conflicts. Hence the survival of the individual depends first and foremost on a peaceful international order, international understanding and international goodwill. It cannot be ignored how men in the mass readily surrender their individual rights when they are faced with peril to their collective national existence and national freedom. The freedom of the individual can be sought within the State; the freedom of the State, on which the freedom of the individual depends, can be secured only under a system of international order. A proper international order can only be created by fulfillment of the fourth object of the Rotary, viz., the advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional men, united in the ideal of service.
Material intellectual and emotional motives should stimulate the will for international association. Cultural affinity is absolutely essential to develop a sense of world, fellowship and order. The right to live includes a claim to protection as well as a provision of the means of subsistence.
Racial prejudice should be replaced by racial understanding. Life in effect is a conscious contact with the environment. Man is a bundle of contacts. He has natural powers of apprehension. Contact has, therefore, to be established with the various quasi-universal cultural and other systems, as otherwise they are bound to become refuges and rallying shelters of all opposing forces. The world should be secured against any reaction towards private monopolisation, romantic nationalism, religious eccentricism and social fission.
Properly nourished people would not take to gluttony. Properly disciplined people are not overwhelmed by sex or other considerations. With sound education of mind and body and a rigorous protection from dishonourable impulses, it is possible to give every human being such a liberty of movement and general behaviour as would now seem incredible to the modern mind and to the modern world. By a stern and thorough cleansing of human life we can live in freedom. The human brain released from hunger, fear and other primary stresses of life, is very easily amenable not only to creative and directive desires but also to kindly and helpful impulses. The history of mankind is a story of ever increasing communication and ever increasing interdependence. The material side of individual freedom should be modified into co-operation with the community. The individual should accept restrictions upon his freedom and aggressiveness, and utilise every opportunity for human service and for development of higher aspects of life. There should be a complete confluence of racial, social and political destinies. There should be a stable confederation of mankind. Exploitation for profit and strangulation for dominance should disappear. Progressive enslavement of the race is an inseparable aspect of free competition for profit. A new means of communication and a new economic life which demands that the products of every zone and soil should be utilised for the needs and purposes of humanity, envisages a re-organisation of human affairs. There are only two courses open to mankind, either to arrange the coalescence by rational arrangements to meet the new needs or to allow steadily intensified mutual pressure to develop ultimately into a world conquest or conflagration.
Peace must be a positive thing well designed and properly sustained. Why is there always war and bloodshed? The clue lies in the fact that there is practically no philosophical or truly humanitarian education or understanding in the world. There is no intelligent criticism of generalisations and general ideas. There is no science of social processes. People are not trained to understand the correlations of things for the most par. The industrialists, the financiers, the political adventurers build up monstrous instruments of destruction and impose them on the States for the time being in utter disregard of consequences. The idea of the naturalness and inevitability of conflict is spread every-where in the world.
The conception of a revolutionary world reconstruction, on the basis of advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship united in the ideal of service, has to be spread from the few to the many,–spread to them not merely as an idea or as mere suggestion, but in such force as to saturate their minds and determine their lives. The present mutual distrust, suspicion, misunderstanding, irritation and quarrelsomeness should disappear and be replaced by understanding goodwill and peace, united in the ideal of service. Democracy should mean an equal opportunity for every human being, according to his ability and the faculty to which he belongs, to serve and to have a voice in collective affairs. Selfishness should be banished altogether.
The Rotary International has declared in unequivocal terms in favour of liberty of the individual, freedom of thought, speech and assembly, freedom of worship and freedom from persecution. It is obvious that everything for which the Rotary International stands is the very antithesis of Communism, Fascism and Totalitarianism.
It is no doubt true that the Rotary International affirms that no Rotary Club should engage itself in any effort to influence governments, world affairs or international policy, but nevertheless it reaffirms at the same time that Rotary Clubs should devote their energies towards informing individual Rotarians and non-Rotarians on all important matters, viewing such activity in the light of the fact that where freedom, justice, true sanctity of the pledged word and respect for human rights do not exist, Rotary and the ideal for which it stands cannot survive. We have a recent statement of policy on Rotary’s participation in political affairs. The present policy is nothing more than a summary of a series of declarations evoked in response to world crises.
It was in 1921, at the convention in Edinburgh, that Rotary adopted the nucleus of the 4th object which has since been an integral part of the Rotary’s programme. International service appealed deeply to men whose memories of the First World War were fresh. Intimate groups of Rotarians were started in the Netherlands in 1930 to bring about further goodwill by personal contact, and these programmes flourished in Europe through the Thirties. Rotary’s institutes of international understanding were started in 1936.
World War II was declared in September 1939 and there were Rotarians in lands both neutral and belligerent. A Committee was appointed in 1940-41 to undertake an initial study and make recommendations with regard to what the Rotarians might be doing for the ending of the war. In 1941-42, post-war Committees carried the study further and drew up many statements as to how Rotarians could help building an enduring peace and world order. These ideas resulted in a series of programme outlines in 1942-43 which concluded with the setting up of a Central World Organisation. In 1942-43 about 40 post-war articles were published in a book called the “World to Live in” of which 60,000 copies were distributed to many Rotarians and study groups. It was followed by a companion volume “Peace is a Process’ and a third book in the series was “Peace Requires Action”.
In 1944, the Rotary International sent the text of Dumbarton Oak’s proposals to all the clubs with suggestions for using them to create an informed public opinion behind the efforts of the nations to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war. Rotarians’ interest in the United Nations Organisation was recognised by an invitation by the State Department of the United States of America to send consultants to the United Nations Conference on International Organisation which was convened at San Francisco on 25th April 1945. Eleven Rotary International officers and Secretariat staff members took an informal part in the session, and since that time the United Nations Charter Week is being celebrated in Rotary Clubs from 11th to 17th of November. The Rotary International is taking every necessary step towards world stability and for making the international Organisation effective as a vehicle of world co-operation. Several books were published emphasising the grave responsibility of the free peoples themselves to put the United Nations Organisation to effective uses. The observer for the Rotary International, who is an accredited representative appointed by the President of the Rotary International, is admitted into every session of the various Councils and agencies of the U.N.O. and thus gets first-hand experience of the way the international organisations function and the problems they face. This attendance and experience enable the observer to report to the President of the Rotary International, for the information of the Board itself and the Secretariat, his impressions and his suggestions as to how Rotarians, can further the objectives sought.
The United Nations Charter (Article 55) defines as “conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations”, the following: “Higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development; solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems; international cultural and educational co-operation; and universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without our distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.” The similarity between these goals and those visualized by the Rotary under its Second, Third, and Fourth Objects is startling. Small wonder, then, that the Board calls upon Rotarians to “encourage, foster and support” the United Nations.
The Fellowship plan is international service of the highest order. This plan which has been in operation for some years has proved beyond all doubt the great value of frequent contacts made by the students outside the study hours. The recipients of these fellowships, are really goodwill ambassadors from their country to the country of their temporary domicile.
There are now in existence more than a thousand international non-governmental organisations in world affairs, excluding numerous other international business and commercial enterprises. Their activities cover practically every aspect of man’s interests. These organisations have made a significant impact on international life. Their importance was recognised for the first time when the charter of the United Nations was framed. Article 71 of the Charter provides specifically that the Economic and Social Council may make arrangements for consultation with such organisations. By 1951, 87 such organisations were accorded consultative status, the Rotary International, of course, being one of them. It is now universally recognised by all serious thinkers and observers that the world must develop an international mind, fully appreciating inter-dependence of nations, if the United Nations is to succeed. An enlightened world opinion is an essential factor in the successful functioning of these organisations. These international organisations should create international understanding between peoples of various nationalities as moulders of public opinion and as “pressure groups” both on the national as well as the international level. It is indeed difficult to estimate accurately the achievements and influence of all these organisations on the international level. These organisations began to gather impetus from World War II. The international organisations we are referring to in this context are non-profit organisations. These organisations are to be found in the economic and social fields, in Agriculture, Science, Education, Religion, Arts, Land, Communications and Sports. Pressure groups are formed by way of Trade Unions, Chambers of Commerce, Banks and Churches. The International Chamber of Commerce represents over 3 million firms. The International Cooperative Alliance consists of 71 million members. The International Federation of Trade Unions has on its rolls more than 20 million members. The Rotary International has an income of over it million dollars a year and nearly 400,000 members in about 89 countries. If these international organisations increase in numbers and expand their membership and activities, the future would appear to be assured.
It is in answer to this challenge to leadership that the 4th object of the Rotary International was adopted in 1921. This challenge is now intensified and the necessity for service has increased. A Rotarian should cross the frontiers of national patriotism and consider himself a world citizen. He should always seek and develop common grounds for agreement. He should defend the rule of Law broadbased upon individual freedom. He will support all action towards improving living standards of all peoples, realising that poverty anywhere endangers prosperity everywhere. He will eschew hatred altogether from his thoughts, words and deeds, realising that it injures the hater more than the hated. He will uphold all principles of justice for mankind as being fundamental. He will strive to promote peace and be prepared for personal sacrifice. He must practise the spirit of tolerance and understanding of every other man’s beliefs, as a step towards international understanding and goodwill.