By Charles Bartlett
Rotary International President Jennifer Jones visited the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) headquarters on 30 August 2022 and met Executive Director Inger Andersen. The two leaders reaffirmed their joint commitment to scaling up collaboration on environmental action to promote the Sustainable Development Agenda.
UNEP caught up with Jennifer after her meeting to ask a few questions about Rotary’s new focus on the environment and plans to scale up collaboration with UNEP, especially on the Adopt-a-River initiative.
UNEP: Adopt-a-River has had some initial successes during its pilot phase over the last 18 months. Rotary has tremendous reach with 46,000 clubs around the world. How can UNEP help Rotary to ramp up action to protect and restore rivers over a wider geographical area than District 9212?
Jennifer Jones (JJ): People of action are excited about the opportunity to take on big or small challenges and make a positive difference. Sustainability is at the core of – and runs right through – Rotary’s entire structure. In terms of a planet-wide perspective, there is no more appropriate thing than an environmental focus.
UNEP: Rotary has 1.4 million paid up members globally. If we are going to shift the needle on environmental sustainability, youth engagement is vital. To what extent are environmental projects such as Adopt-a-River attracting youth to Rotary?
JJ: This new area of focus is attractive especially to our younger members, volunteers and thinkers. Rotary clubs are seeing more and more young people coming forward to take action – even children from age 12 upwards. This can excite individuals and ignite collective action, and it resonates well with all generations.
UNEP: What does environment becoming an area of focus mean to clubs and districts that are seeking support to conduct environmental projects? How can UNEP and Rotary work together to promote environmental action at the community level?
JJ: The partnersip with UNEP lends additional credibility to environmental initiatives. Knowing that we are aligned and that there is mutual respect is a great boost. I believe this is an exciting new chapter for our new focus on environmental issues. We have a grant structure that is available to support clubs to get things done at the community level. We are collaborating with a number of national and international voluntary organizations. Knowing we are not going it alone is super important. We are always on the lookout for partnerships with other like-minded organizations to scale up our work.
UNEP: Do you have a message for Rotarians and UNEP relating to World Rivers Day on 25 September?
JJ: Rivers Day is a great metaphor for all of us to stream together to build collaborative efforts with each other, and to raise awareness in communities outside the big cities. The UNEP-Rotary partnership is a chance to build messages and capacity behind that.
See also a conversation between Jennifer Jones and Inger Andersen, Executive DIrector of UNEP here.