Several big names in business, medicine and civil society spheres are coming to Sri Lanka to attend the Rotary South Asia Conference on Development and Cooperation in Colombo from 4-6 September.
Overall around 300 delegates and speakers of repute from the corporate and state sectors from the South Asia region, comprising countries, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka are scheduled to attend the conference, while President Mahinda Rajapaksa is scheduled to be the Chief Guest at the inauguration on 4 September at the Galadari Hotel.
Among participants are Wockhardt Chairman and former President of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry Habil Khorakiwala, Hero Group Managing Director and CEO Sunil Kant Munjal and Narayana Hrudayalaya Hospital’s Cardiac Surgeon Dr. Devi Shetty, considered as the Henry Ford of heart surgery, all from India whilst several other top names are slated from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Nepal as well. Among them are President of SAARC Chamber Bangladesh Anisul Huq, and President of Fed Chamber of Commerce, Pakistan Haji Gulam Ali.
Some of the political personalities who will attend the Conference are India’s Minister of Law and Justice Salman Khurshid, Pakistan’s Senior Minister and Commerce Minister Makdoom Amin Fahim and Bangladesh Minister Women's Affairs Dr. Sheron Sharmin Chowdhury and India’s Additional Solicitor General Vivek Tankha.
Rotary International President Kalyan Banerjee and The Rotary Foundation Chairman Bill Boyd, former Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF and Asst Secretary-General of the UN Gul Chandra Gautam are some of the other popular personalities.
A plethora of Sri Lankan experts will also address the conference including Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal and Special Adviser to the President of Sri Lanka Milinda Moragoda.
The sessions and events which will continue thereafter are as follows:
4 September: Galadari Hotel. Dinner banquet at Cinnamon Grand Hotel.
5 September: Cinnamon Grand. Evening fellowship and dinner at poolside of Cinnamon Lakeside.
6 September: Cinnamon Grand; concludes with lunch.
There will be ‘Break-Out Sessions’ as well including one led by members of the print media from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The primary objective of the conference is to have discussions and deliberations on close cooperation in areas of economic, health, education and culture among the countries and seek to establish a declaration that could be further pursued with the respective governments.
Rotary plays a role as a ‘catalyst’ of hosting the conference.
The Rotary movement is the first international service organisation, founded 106 years ago. It has 33,000 clubs world over with over 1.2 million Rotarians. The first Rotary Club in Sri Lanka was formed in Colombo in 1929. Currently there are 65 Rotary Clubs in Sri Lanka, with nearly 1,800 Rotarians. Rotary International has an observer status in the United Nations.
Rotarians serve the community by implementing educational and humanitarian projects. One of the major projects implemented worldwide by The Rotary Foundation is the Polio Eradication Project, which began in 1985. The deadly polio virus exists in only four countries, due to the untiring efforts of the Rotary movement, along with the support of UNICEF and WHO.
The Rotary Foundation spent over US$ 700 million to purchase oral polio vaccine for this project. Sri Lanka has been polio free since 1995.
A spokesman for organising committee of the conference said the South Asian Region has close historical, religious, economic, ethnic and linguistic relationships between the countries involved. There are many common factors that naturally and logically must bind them together and could be important force for growth in economic and human development.
“Unfortunately, this region, home to one fourth of humanity is woefully behind the rest of the world in the quality of life. A combination of inequalities in income distribution, internal conflicts and external rivalries has combined to prevent this talented multitude from reaping the harvest of its true potential. Consequently, the region is trapped in national sub-optimisation,” he added.
According to him Rotary as an international organisation of business and professional people, dedicated to world peace, continue to engage itself in tackling these issues.
“Continuing its efforts from the past, Rotary in South Asia has to play a significant role at this juncture at the beginning the second decade of the new century,” the spokesman said.
Noting that Rotarians have the advantage of being able to bring about direct people-to-people contacts, the spokesman said with the objective of enhancing the people-to-people diplomacy, and bringing the various influencing sections of the society from South Asian countries, the upcoming conference proposes to bring together all for critical, objective and collective deliberations, significant for the region’s development.
“Rotarians from South Asia must take benefit of such an event when the world leader Kalyan Banerjee, President of Rotary International, happens to be from this region. It is hoped that at the end of the Conference it would be possible to come out with an action plan involving Rotarians and others to have a road map for cooperation and development of the people of South Asia,” the spokesman said.