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Rotary Club Teaches Peace - 2002-04-19

The Rotary Club, an international organization of business and professional leaders, is lending its hand to world peace. This September, the Rotary Centers for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution will start their classes.

Since the end of World War II, over 120 so-called "smaller" wars have been waged around the world. Over 100 million people have either been killed or seriously injured in these conflicts.

Rotary Club officials say that right now, some 30 wars are raging on our planet, and only two of them, in Sri Lanka and in Angola, show any signs of abating. The Rotary Club hopes to add to the peace dividend..

The goal of the Centers for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution is to churn out a new generation of experts in conflict resolution.

Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University in England, is a key player in the new Rotary program. "There have been a number of universities, ours included, who have been developing this kind of work over the last 30 years or so. But it has been relatively small and often operating against the odds," he says. "In a sense, the Rotary's significance in this is bringing new funding in, bringing a number of centers together some with a great deal of experience, some just developing their interest to produce a kind of consortium."

Mr. Bradford says the program will work in various capacities with the United Nations in educating young scholars to resolve and prevent conflicts "for many decades to come."

It may sound like a massive undertaking, but Richard Burnett, Chairman of the Rotary Center's Implementation Group, says the program is consistent with the long-term goals of the organization. "For about 25 years, Rotary had been interested in establishing a "University for Peace." We talked about it, and we talked about it, and as we talked, the price kept going up and up, and it finally got to the point where it was obvious: we weren't going to be able to do that," he says.

The vast majority of young scholars heading into the program hope to work for non-government-organizations dedicated to conflict resolution. But Conor Fortune, an Irish-born, U.S.-raised member of the Center's first class, hopes to apply his skills to a career in international journalism. "Most reporting on conflicts right now is in a ... conflict mode, where you have an aggressor and an underdog," he says. "But in a lot of cases, it is just not that simple. I think that studying with this program in peace and conflict resolution, I will be able to effect better coverage."

Conor is one of the 70 students, from 30 countries, making up the Center's first class. They will each earn a Master's-level degree in international relations at one of eight universities in Japan, France, Argentina, England, Australia and the United States.