Mimi Boussouf serves as the International Service Chair for Rotaract DC.
The conference began with a fascinating workshop exploring the role of artificial intelligence in conflict resolution. Dr. Jean Marc Rickli presented on the realities of AI use through the challenges of war, and its future role in humanity, while Mr. Marc Oliver Gewaltig took a slightly opposing view exploring the benefits of AI and delving into its true definition. After the panel discussion and instead of the traditional Q&A, Moderators Myrna Lewis and Justin Friedman facilitated an open dialogue between 50 participants in the audience to come on stage and represent their viewpoints for two perspectives on Artificial Intelligence presented during the panel: AI is good for humanity vs. AI will be the demise of humanity. The moderators wanted to demonstrate that everyone has the right to be heard, that every perspective and opinion is valid, and there is no fundamentally right answer. The purpose of the dialogue between the two sides was to listen to all perspectives and statements and then when coming to a decision between the two, to mention what resonated or “hit home” amongst the comments made and what it helped you understand about yourself.
The second part of the evening consisted of speeches from heads of government, parliament, and civil society. They spoke about their perspective on how to ensure we work together to reach the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The ultimate challenge presented to Rotarians and Rotaractors was; What can you do in your daily life that contributes to the grassroots movement of coming closer to achieving the SDGs? Secretary General of Rotary, John Hewko, confidently remarked that Rotarians in their global projects, global grants, and local community service projects, take steps every day towards achieving the SDGs. The evening closed with an enchanting classical music concert performed by the talented UN Orchestra of Geneva, followed by a networking reception.
The second day of the conference opened with speeches from UN and Rotary leadership. Following their discourses were moving accounts of service by the six Rotarians Peace Honorees, who each made significant and impactful contributions to their communities in promoting a more peaceful world. Interactors joined us for this discussion as well; where Interact International leaders presented their thoughts on peace and making a difference among the future generation of Rotarians.
In the afternoon, attendees broke out into discussion workshops. President Amanda represented the club at Workshop 1; Sustainable Development, Peace, Rights and Well-being. The workshop focused on the importance of diversity and perspective when working together. Dr. Achim Wenmann, Executive Coordinator, Geneva Peacebuilding Platform, and Senior Researcher at the Graduate Institute’s Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), noted the significance of having women and people of all ages included in this effort. Other speakers expanded on this by emphasizing that war comes from separateness and having decision-makers that do not reflect the reality of our societies.
The closing plenary honored attendees and conference organizers, and reflected on the impact Rotary has had in helping the UN achieve their previous developmental goals. As a result of Rotary and UN’s direct partnership in polio eradication, only three countries in the world remain polio endemic in which 40 cases were confirmed worldwide as of 2016. This is a 99.9% reduction from the 1980’s, when the world saw over 1,000 cases per day.
A repeated saying at the conference this year were words from international peace leader Mahatma Ghandi ‘There is no pathway to peace, peace is the pathway.’ Words that we as Rotaract DC members take to heart as we continue to prioritize the peace, rights and well-being of our community members through dedicated service.
Rotaract DC would like to thank our parent organization, the Rotary Club of Washington DC, for their generous sponsorship of this event.