A sprinkling of politics

Mention the Womens’ Institute and former Prime Minister Tony Blair in the same conversation and it conjures up only one image.

Could something like the slow-hand-clap heckling he received ever have happened at a RotaryGBI event – absolutely not. In fact whether a serving Prime Minister would be ‘allowed’ far less accepted to attend a Rotary event and talk the politics of the day would be extremely unlikely.

It has been said through the blog on a number of occasions that the one of Rotary International’s greatest strengths lies in the fact it is neither religious nor political and therefore is able to walk a very neutral line in terms of the affairs of states across the globe.

However, last week RotaryBlogger picked up on an article that was published online by vox.com titled, “181 Clinton Foundation Donors who lobbied Hilary’s State Department” which identified, “At least 181 companies, individuals, and foreign governments that have given to the Clinton Foundation also lobbied the State Department when Hillary Clinton ran the place, according to a Vox analysis of foundation records and federal lobbying disclosures.”

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Surely there cannot be a problem if Rotary International subscribes to the Clinton Global Initiative in order to assist with better positioning for the organisation?

The donations to the Clinton Foundation range from $250 through to $26,000,000 passed over to the organisation from a list of very high profile and well known worldwide companies and organisations . And there wedged between Shell and HBO sits Rotary International with a donation of between twenty-five and fifty thousand dollars.

When RotaryBlogger approached Rotary International about the donation they explained that Rotarians around the world are consistently concerned about the media profile the organisation receives. For this reason, one of Rotary’s key pillars is to address ways in which its public image can be enhanced.

The statement goes on to say, “As an additional element of this broad-ranging plan, Rotary representatives take part in high-level meetings, conferences, and events organized by the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the World Economic Forum, CGI, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, and many other public and private foundations and entities around the world. Participation helps position Rotary in the international development community as a key influencer of the humanitarian agenda.”

Again, surely an entirely reasonable position to take and not one for criticism?

However, when Rotary goes on to refer specifically to the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) it is here that Regular Rots could obviously become slightly tetchy as they confirm Rotary International pays an annual membership fee to the Clinton Organisation in order to attend CGI Conferences. It goes on that since 2011 Rotary has paid in $54,000 from its international budget in order to be a member of the Clinton initiative. Remember we’re apolitical in Rotary!

It seems that Rotary’s world-wide President and other senior Rotarians have attended events run by the Clinton Foundation offering what can be read in no other way than what must be fantastic networking opportunities with “high-level government, business, and civil society leaders, who come from a wide variety of political, ideological, religious, ethnic, and geographic backgrounds.”

Rotary International goes on to mention that the connections, contacts and exposure achieved by the world-wide organisation at these events has contributed “in no small measure in positioning Rotary”.

And why would this not be the case?

Why shouldn’t Rotary be at the table rubbing shoulders and breaking twinkies over a coffee with Politicians and key business people if doing so takes the organisation to a bigger audience and more influential stage.

Some will argue the fact that Mrs Clinton has thrown her hat in the ring to obtain the Democratic Party’s nomination as the next President of the United States of America means that the matter now becomes political. However, the Clinton Global Initiative is an entirely non-partisan organisation working to achieve many of the same outcomes as Rotary – so why wouldn’t the organisations work together? Is it any different to working with the World Health Organisation or with Bill and Melinda Gates?

Yes, the CGI uses the Clinton name and therefore is intrinsically linked with the past and potential future White House residents. But there are politicians around the world (including US Presidents on the other side of the soda-bar) who also have Foundations that they operate on exactly the same principle.

Why wouldn’t the foundation wish to use the name of what was once one of the most powerful men in the world – and a name that looks increasingly likely to be directing the removal trucks back into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC in the next Presidential term.

In an ever-changing world there is no reason – providing a position of neutrality is held and maintained during any discussions – that an organisation with 1.2 million members should not become a real partner organisation supporting Governments around the world in their humanitarian initiatives providing they sit correctly with the aims of Rotary International. Regular Rots need to see the organisation as a desirable partner for leading politicians and high level businesses while trusting those in charge not to allow Rotary to become partisan.

The RI General Secretary, President and senior members should be commended for taking what could obviously be viewed as a controversial decision to spend money from the international budget in order to achieve top-table discussions with some of the real movers and shakers around the globe.

Surely it can only be a positive thing to be in the same room as representatives from Microsoft, Walmart and Coca Cola with their donations of literally tens of millions of dollars compared to the $50,000 passed over from little old Rotary International.

There will undoubtedly be those who will not share this view point. And it would not be unreasonably to presume that those who disagree will themselves take a partisan view or base their view on not liking the individuals involved in this particular blog. If that’s the case let’s make one final point.

If Rotarians are toasting their organisation along with ‘peace the world over’ at their regular meetings then they have to accept that in certain parts of the world there will not be peace. If human rights are being breached in these areas why would Rotary not wish to take a particular viewpoint and where necessary speak out for or against a particular position if it saves lives of those affected. As outlined earlier 1.2 million voices can be pretty loud when they speak with one voice…

 

Image by Keith Kissel by CC