016 - Rotary dreams for the XXI century

RC.Milano S.Ambrogio – 12-1996

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At the urging of James Lacy, our international president, and encouraged by the presidents of District 2050 and the St. Ambrose club, I present my contribution, which could be one of the missions of Rotarians in the early 21st century: a bridge between different cultures and peoples.

People are getting richer and poorer and richer in the world

We see that the world’s population has more than doubled in the last 50 years, while the production of world wealth has grown by far more, but the gap between rich and poor has not narrowed. On the contrary:

  • 79% of the total wealth produced in the world is in the West,
  • 20% of the world’s population consumes 80% of total wealth and is located in the West,
  • 20% of the world’s least affluent population has 0.5% of world production.

One billion five hundred thousand people, that is 30% of the world’s population, are deprived of fresh water, while ten thousand children die of hunger every day. Half a million women die as a result of pregnancy every year. The twenty-five poorest countries in the world are in Africa where serious genocides and wars between different ethnic groups take place.

Migrating in search of a better life

During the last decades, millions of people have sought better living conditions by migrating to urban areas. The number of cities with a population in excess of one million has risen from 111 in 1960 to 288 in 1990; two thirds are in developing countries. While waiting for countries to solve the social problems that drive people to leave their homeland, the emigration of young people is a forced step in the search for improvement. The land is full of infinite resources; the problem is formation, distribution, reallocation of resources, all issues that men have the power to solve. With the advance of modern technologies and communications, the planet has become a great country; the time is right to exploit the potential synergies given by the mixture of peoples and cultures to prepare us for a 21st century of peace and economic development.

Peaceful invasion of the poorest

The demographic development of the poorest countries is not matched by an appropriate economic growth and exposes the richer and older Western population to a “peaceful” invasion by peoples who are culturally very distant with different customs, traditions and traditions. In fact, they often grew up in countries that do not separate religion from the state system and where freedom of religious choice is not allowed to be a personal matter. It is expected that the trend of the imbalance between North and South will tend to assume dramatic features in the near future. The temptation of the West would be to raise a wall to protect it from invasion and to give up thinking of a common universal destiny in the name of peace and justice.

Mare Nostrum: inequalities between North and South

Focusing our attention on the demographic and economic situation of our geographical area, the Mare Nostrum, we find the same anomalies and inequalities that exist throughout the globe.

In the last fifty years the population of the southern part of the Mediterranean, North Africa, has more than doubled, with a high percentage of young people under twenty, while the population of southern Europe has remained stable and has aged. The following statistics reflect the economic gap between the two shores of the Mediterranean: The volume of trade in France, Italy and the North of the Mediterranean is 15% of total world trade, compared to just 3% in the 15 countries of the South. Some 70% of the Maghreb Union’s trade is with the European Union, but this represents only 4% of the EEC’s trade volume. The gross domestic product per inhabitant (GDP) is $600 in Egypt, $20,000 in France.

Tourism: The Mediterranean welcomed one third of world tourism in 1990 with 147 million tourists, but 80% of the flow was concentrated in Italy, France, Spain and Greece.

Culture: The economic gap affects the cultural field: the states of the Mediterranean basin publish a quarter of the world’s books (125,000 titles every year), but 85% of new publications are concentrated in the four northern countries.

Technology: Brain drain to the West. In the absence of serious scientific research, the South is technologically largely dependent on the West; the brain drain from the Maghreb Union alone amounts to 10,000 each year.

A common fate full of contrasts

We note that immigration trends will continue to increase as long as there is no cultural and economic development in the poorest countries and as long as the governments of the richest countries do not implement a long-term policy of programming economic aid targeted at human resources.

The economic gap, accompanied in the opposite direction by the demographic gap, continues to widen between the North of the Mediterranean and the South and can cause people to feel frustrated; frustration that is exploited for political purposes and also on a religious level when the majority is of a different religion. The globalisation of the media (TV, internet, etc.) and the speed of transport have physically brought the peoples closer together, making the inequalities and consequently their frustration even more evident; this causes a sense of revenge against the rich West, first colonialist and then defined as exploiting the wealth of the poorest under the cover of economic imperialism.

The demographic evolution combined with the speed of communications allows even the most distant peoples to establish relations at all levels of human action. As a result, opportunities for a profound enrichment of human value are growing, no longer the privilege of the lucky few, but made available to all fast. On the other hand, individuals and organized communities often find themselves in serious difficulty in metabolizing, so to speak, the rapid changes to which they are exposed. The Rotary spirit is well integrated into this framework to give organization and efficiency to the process of integration among different peoples for a world of peace.


We have seen that the media have lowered physical barriers between nations and have increased the movements of peoples. Rotarians can use the available media to lower cultural barriers and allow people to interact in a beneficial and painless way. To handle change, Rotarian clubs must act in concert North and South, East and West, and leave no room for those who claim to have a monopoly on Truth and want to use coercion to impose their Truth and isolate themselves. Our world is like a single human body with two lungs: it needs both to breathe. The majority of Europeans have only a superficial knowledge of the culture of people living in the Middle East and North Africa, and of the difficulties faced by a young person coming from cultural contexts so far away from us, impacting with the mentality of the West.

History teaches that the factors that give rise to the momentum and development of a civilization are the return to the roots but also to the culture. I believe that the West must rediscover the values on which society has evolved through the rediscovery of the cultural and religious heritage of the East, the origin of the three monotheistic religions in the world. In the same way, in order for immigrants to integrate well into the European context, they will have to gain a better understanding of the values, culture, history and religion most widespread in their host country.

The rediscovery of the values from which societies have evolved has shown that cultures are dynamic. We are driven by a deep respect for the local cultural traditions and at the same time we are urged by the fact that the Mediterranean basin is progressively shrinking, on which men increasingly mix and interact.

A Rotarian dream for the 21st century

To bridge the cultural gap that separates the two shores of the Mediterranean starting from the experience of Rotarians and their international network: this could be our goal in the hope that the differences will finally turn into instruments of mutual enrichment.

The attention of international organizations is mainly focused on the economic development of faraway countries, and little interest has been given so far to the coexistence among peoples, to the mutual knowledge and rediscovery of the values of each ethnic group within our cities. It is necessary to bring our attention to coexistence within our cities, aimed at preventing differences from turning into violence on the part of the poorest and most marginalised groups. Once we have established the willingness to make this dream come true, it will be necessary to create a task force to develop the strategies to be adopted and the actions to be taken.

It is necessary to send true and clear information to the people, who are too often besieged by approximate and misleading information. This is perhaps an overly pretentious goal that requires enthusiasm and self-denial.

Giuseppe Samir Eid

Free web translation from the original in Italian

 he published articles intend to provide the tools for a social inclusion of the migratory flow, shed light on human rights and the condition of life of Christians in the Islamic world from which the author come from. Knowledge of the other, of cultural and religious differences are primary ingredients to create peace in the hearts of men everywhere, a prerequisite for a peaceful coexistence and convinced citizenship in the territory.

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