Good News Agency – n° 12
Good News Agency carries positive and constructive news from all over the world relating to voluntary work, the work of the United Nations, non governmental organizations, and institutions engaged in improving the quality of life – news that doesn’t “burn out” in the space of a day.
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Tiny state of Nauru becomes 120th nation to sign Rome Statute
17 December – Nauru (Oceania) became the 120th country to sign the Rome Statute to establish the International Criminal Court.
"The Republic of Nauru is pleased to join the other 119 nations who have recognized the need for the court," said Inci Niel Clodumar, Nauru's representative to the United Nations.
The court will be the first permanent court to have the ability to prosecute individuals who commit crimes of genocide, war, crimes, and crimes against humanity including torture and sex crimes. Currently, 25 countries have ratified the statute. The court needs 60 countries to ratify it in order for it to come into force.
122 nations agree to ban or reduce persistent organic pollutants
Delegates from 122 nations reached agreement on 11 December in South Africa on a treaty to ban or reduce the use of 12 persistent organic pollutants (POPs), chemicals such as PCBs and pesticides that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and genetic abnormalities in humans and wildlife. The ban, which must be ratified by 50 countries to become legally binding, will require some industries to find new ways to make their products without using POPs or creating POPs as a byproduct. Twenty-five developing nations will be allowed to continue to use the pesticide DDT to combat malaria until better alternatives are found. Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund praised the treaty as an important first step toward ending toxic pollution.
The agreement includes a promise by industrialized nations to pay $150 million each year to help developing countries find alternatives to the POPs.
Saving the ozone layer also helps reduce poverty says UNDP’s Associate Administrator
21 December - Calling the Montreal Protocol to protect the ozone layer the most successful environmental protection agreement ever forged, UNDP Associate Administrator Zephirin Diabre underscored the strong links between protecting the environment and reducing poverty at the global meeting on the Protocol last week in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Mr. Diabre gave a keynote address on behalf of UN Resident Coordinators in countries around the world on 13 December at the Ministerial segment of the 12th Meeting of Parties to the Montreal Protocol.
The ozone layer in the earth's atmosphere is essential for shielding humans, plants and animals from the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. The ozone layer can gradually recover from the effects of damaging chemicals if the Protocol continues to be strongly enforced.
Under the Protocol, industrialized nations have rapidly eliminated most ozone depleting substances. Developing countries are following suit, with critical assistance from the Protocol's Multilateral Fund, which has already committed over $1 billion to assist developing countries in the difficult transition to ozone-friendly substances.
15 December – United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, Gabriela Rodriguez, today urged countries to give the "final push" that would ensure the entry into force of the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.
Marking the first International Migrants Day – 4 December - the High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur termed the abuse of the human rights of the 97 million migrant workers and their family members around the world "a major international problem".
The High Commissioner and the Special Rapporteur said the status of ratification of the migrants' Convention was indicative of the priority previously accorded to the problems of that vulnerable group. Although adopted in 1990, the treaty still has not obtained the required ratification by 20 countries that would allow it to enter into force. The situation has improved recently and today only five more ratifications are needed. The Convention is expected to garner those signatures in early 2001.
ILO joins celebration of United Nations' International Migrants Day
Geneva, 18 December - On the occasion of the first UN International Migrants Day, Mr. Juan Somavia, Director-General of the International Labour Office (ILO) underscored the large and growing contribution to the global economy made by the world's more than 100 million migrants, immigrants and their families: "Migrant workers provide valuable services with their labour and furnish an often invisible subsidy to the national economies that receive them. They work in factories, produce food, provide domestic service, staff hospitals and contribute to a wide range of basic needs, often for low wages and with little recognition of the value of their contribution."
According to ILO estimates, there are roughly 20 million migrant workers, immigrants and members of their families across Africa, 18 million in North America, 12 million in Central and South America, 7 million in South and East Asia, 9 million in the Middle East and 30 million across all of Europe. Western Europe alone counts approximately 9 million economically active foreigners along with 13 million dependents.
UNHCR receives early funding pledges from main donors
Geneva, 15 December - UNHCR was promised nearly one-fourth of its 2001 budget on Friday when several donor governments pledged US$214.7 million during the launch of the agency’s annual global appeal. Another $23 million had been pledged earlier.
The pledges follow hard lobbying by UNHCR’s outgoing High Commissioner, Sadako Ogata, who repeatedly warned donors that underfunding jeopardised the essence of UNHCR’s work.
The United States topped the list of donations with $125 million, followed by Sweden with $40 million, the Nertherlands with $23 million and Norway with $18 million. The other major donors included Denmark with $14.5 million and Switzerland which donated $8 million. Other major donors indicated that they would make pledges later.
UNHCR needs a total of $953.7 million* next year to help and protect more than 22 million people driven from their homes or otherwise affected by war, violence and contempt for basic human and civil rights around the globe.
An African regional conference on racism, xenophobia and related issues is to be held on 22-24 January in Dakar (Senegal). The meeting is a prelude to the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Intolerance to be held in Durban, South Africa from 31 August to 7 September 2001.
Celebration of the New Year 2001: Ramadan and Hanukka - in the IFLAC Tent of Peace.
Palestinians, Israelis, Moslems, Jews, Bedouins and Druze, feasted together on "The Feast Of Feasts" at their December Conference. The celebration was heart warming and hopeful speeches were presented in an atmosphere of harmony and peace. A Plea for Peace and the immediate stopping of the shootings was sent to Mr. Arafat, Head of the Palestinian Authority, and to Mr. Barak, Head of the Israeli Government. Now that the Peace Talks have started again between the Israelis and Palestinians, there is again hope in the hearts of both people that the much yearned for peace will at last materialize at the beginning of 2001.
IFLAC: PAVE PEACE http://tx.technion.ac.il/~ada/home.html
(In spite of the latest shooting and the acts of terrorism, CNN reported tonight, Dec. 29, the words of the US President Bill Clinton that “they (Israelis and Palestinians) are closer to peace as they have never been before” – GNA Editor’s note)
WCRP in Japan urges end to anti-missile defenses
The World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) called on world leaders to halt the development of ballistic missile defense systems being developed by the US. A statement was released on 30 November by a newly formed WCRP Standing Commission on Disarmament and Security, which met during the week in Kyoto. The WCRP also released plans to strengthen conflict prevention and peace initiatives.
from religious and disarmament organizations from 14 countries attended the
meeting. Members of the commission stated that the use of nuclear weapons
contradicts their shared moral and spiritual beliefs, and they should be
eliminated. In particular, the commission voiced concern over the
development of missile defense systems that would require renewed testing of
nuclear weapons and intensify resistance to further
reductions in existing nuclear arsenals. The commission stated that missile defense legitimizes nuclear weapons as an important factor in international relations, and it reaffirmed the importance of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. It also called on world leaders to realize their commitment to eliminate nuclear weapons.
Abolition 2000 Newsletter, December 2000 http://www.abolition2000.org
"Breakthrough for children" contained in peace report from Guatemala
19 December 2000: The United Nations Children's Fund today hailed as a "major breakthrough" a report from the UN Peace Mission in Guatemala that focuses on children's rights as a crucial element of peace-building efforts.
The report, issued last week by the United Nations Mission for the Verification of Human Rights in Guatemala (MINUGUA), analyzes how children's rights have been fulfilled – or left unfulfilled – as part of the legal, social and economic reforms that lie at the core of peace-building efforts underway in Guatemala.
Economic success in Vietnam allows WFP to close doors
Rome December 18 - The United Nations World Food Programme is ending its assistance operations in Vietnam after 25 years that have seen the economic and social transformation of this Southeast Asian country.
WFP will close its doors on 31 December following a careful assessment of food needs in the country, which today stands as the second-largest rice exporter in the world. Additionally, Vietnam’s sturdy economic growth has attracted foreign aid at record levels.
“Vietnam has now reached a level of national food security where we at WFP are confident we can close our programme here and devote our food aid to people who are in greater need,” said Vietnam Country Director Julian Lefevre.
WFP, the world’s largest food aid agency, played a major role in Vietnam’s protracted post-war rehabilitation, feeding tens of millions of people. The agency has been Vietnam’s largest grant donor of the entire UN system, investing approximately $500 million of food and non-food aid in the country between 1974 and 2000.
Combating desertification: IFAD announces a second contribution of 2.5 million US dollars to the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD
Bonn, 18 December 2000 - The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), announced today the release of a second tranche of 2.5 million US dollars to the Global Mechanism (GM), a conduit to assist the implementation of the Convention to Combat Desertification (CCD). While making the announcement, the IFAD President, Mr. Fawzi H. Al-Sultan, urged delegates from about 170 countries, attending the Fourth Conference of Parties (COP-4) December 11-22 in Bonn, Germany, to help "save the lives of millions of people" threatened by drought and desertification.
Established by the State Parties to the Convention as the hub of a dynamic network of partners, the GM became operational in 1998. It not only mobilises financial resources, but also channels their flow, thereby guaranteeing increased financial effectiveness and efficiency and ensuring a holistic and equitable approach to resource distribution in support of land degradation issues. The Global Mechanism is hosted in Rome by the IFAD.
IFAD to provide 8 million dollars for Agricultural Financial Services in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Rome, 13 December 2000. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide a loan of 8 million dollars on highly concessional terms to finance the IFAD-initiated Agricultural Financial Services Project in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The total cost of the project is 17.2 million dollars. The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters by the President of IFAD, Mr. Fawzi Al-Sultan, and by Mr Nenad Georgiev, State Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.
The overall goal of the project is to raise the standard of living of the population in the rural areas through increased economic activity, responsive to the emerging market. The project will establish an Agricultural Credit Discount Fund, which will provide financial services to smallholders and entrepreneurs in rural areas. The Fund will expand credit availability for incremental agricultural production at a national level, and begin to shift credit risk to commercial banks that will lend to borrowers who qualify as the target group.
South Africa selected to host UN World Summit in 2002
South Africa announced on 10 December that it has been selected to host the U.N. World Summit on Sustainable Development, a.k.a. the Earth Summit 2002. More than 40,000 delegates will likely attend the conference, which will mark the 10th anniversary of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where world leaders agreed to an agenda for protecting the environment and alleviating poverty.
Vienna, 20 December - H. E. Mr. Vincenzo Manno, Permanent Representative of Italy to UNIDO and Carlos Magarińos, Director-General of UNIDO, signed a Trust Fund agreement today at the Headquarters of UNIDO in Vienna. In the agreement the Italian Government pledges US$1,715,000 to promote investment and technology within the framework of the UNIDO integrated programme for strengthening the competitiveness of the industrial sector in Morocco, estimated at US$ 10,315,000. The contribution will allow the establishment of an Investment Promotion Unit in Morocco that will work closely with the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office based in Milan and Bologna.
WFP renews food aid to more than one million drought stricken Tanzanians
NAIROBI December 13 - The United Nations World Food Programme today launched a five-month emergency operation in Tanzania, following four years of continuous hardship due to drought.
The WFP initiative will reach 1.3 million people, across 11 regions, at a cost of $15 million. The food aid agency has been actively involved with drought assistance in Tanzania for several years.
After visiting drought stricken regions, a team of experts which included WFP, indicated that Tanzania’s most recent harvest has been seriously affected by irregular and premature rainfall, exposing the rural poor to "extreme levels of food insecurity".
The Gambia: ADB funds rural electrification and road construction
The African Development Bank (ADB) announced on 21 December it has approved:
- a loan of US $3.80 million to electrify 46 towns and villages in the Greater Banjul area. It said the project should "contribute to the reduction of poverty in those rural areas". The 26-month project, scheduled to begin in April 2001, would involve the construction of six power stations, one network substation, transmissions lines and underground cables
- a loan of US $11.40 million to be used mainly for surfacing a 27-km road linking Ambam to Eking in Cameroon. The project, it said, should help improve living conditions in the southern and central provinces, "as well as enhance regional integration". The loan would also enable the construction of 11 classrooms and the implementation of an STD/AIDS prevention programme. Work is expected to begin in June 2001 and last 29 months.
Guinea Bissau: US $790 million for debt relief
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Development Association (IDA - the World Bank's soft-loan affiliate) have allocated a debt-reduction package of US $790 million to Guinea-Bissau, the IMF announced on 15 December. The relief package, approved under the organisations' Heavily Indebted Poor Countries initiative, would enable the country to increase spending on poverty reduction.
Bosnia-Herzegovina: Single Red Cross Society set up
21 December – The Red Cross Society of Bosnia and Herzegovina held its constitutive assembly in Sarajevo on 15 December, paving the way for formal recognition by the ICRC and subsequent admission to the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. During the historic meeting, Dr Midhat Haracic, head of the Sarajevo Blood Transfusion Institute, was elected to chair the National Society on a rotating basis. His two co-chairmen will be Mr Brano Dursan, a lawyer from Trebinje, and Ms Adela Skaro, a social worker from Tomislavgrad.
This move towards recognition is the outcome of a long process during which representatives of the Red Cross organizations of the country’s two entities met regularly for 30 months, through a contact group. The decision taken by the Bosnia-Herzegovina Council of Ministers in September to recognize a single Red Cross Society in the country, combining the entity organizations, was a milestone.
Poorer half of the world can expect better health and prosperity within the next decade
New report from six UN Agencies shows that the main diseases that cause and perpetuate poverty can be successfully controlled
Geneva, 19 December 2000 - A new report jointly issued by six United Nations agencies claims that worsening AIDS, TB and malaria epidemics are not inevitable, shown by the many successful strategies to turn back these diseases, and prevent the deaths they cause, deployed by several developing countries. The targets for reducing the toll of these illnesses, set by the world's leaders at successive summits over the last year, are feasible. What is needed are the funds and systems that will enable widespread implementation of actions that have shown to be effective, the report says.
In the joint report issued today - "Health, a key to Prosperity: Success Stories in Developing Countries" - the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the World Bank outline key factors for combating AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, childhood diseases and maternal and perinatal conditions, even in resource-poor settings.
UN hails Laos' new "Get Tough" approach to opium poppy eradication"
VIENNA, 8 December - UN drug control officials are today celebrating clear indications that Laos - the world's third largest producer of opium - has turned the corner towards a "very courageous" approach to poppy eradication.
An order released today by the Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic specifically commands all provinces to eradicate opium by 2006. In a humanitarian gesture, however, it allows elderly addicts to grow opium poppy on limited plots exclusively for their own consumption. Poppies grown for commercial purposes are targeted for destruction.
According to the Vienna-based UN Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP), the order "goes beyond our most optimistic expectations of what we could get done in Laos". If followed through, the UN will herald it as a major achievement in the field of drug control.
GUINEA-LIBERIA: US $1.5 million EU grant to fight yellow fever
The European Commission (EC) has approved
on December 21 a grant of US $1.5 million for
emergency yellow fever vaccination campaigns in Guinea and Liberia. Vaccination will be carried out by Medecins sans frontieres (MSF) and Hopital sans frontieres (HSF). Additionally, the EC will provide US $1.2 million for a vaccination project in the western Guinean areas of Kindia and Mamou, as well as Labe and Kankan in the east. These are the regions most affected by the recent outbreak in the country. The money will also be usedto buy and transport 300,000 additional doses and syringes for these areas.
Sierra Leone: ICRC commits US $20 million
The International Committee of the Red Cross announced in its report issued on 15 December that it will give Sierra Leone US $20 million in humanitarian and development aid in 2001. The money would be used in accordance with government's priorities in the agriculture and health sectors, and for the National Commission for Reconstruction, Resettlement and Rehabilitation.
IAEA Director General expresses satisfaction with shutdown of Chernobyl nuclear plant
14 December - The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed El Baradei, today expressed his satisfaction with the decision of the Government of Ukraine to close the Chernobyl nuclear power plant on 15 December in response to concerns about the safety of the plant.
After more than six years of debate, the U.S. EPA agreed it would draft standards to require coal-fired power plants to reduce their emissions of mercury. The National Academy of Sciences has determined that as many as 60,000 babies may be exposed to unhealthy levels of mercury each year because either they or their mothers have eaten contaminated fish. The EPA has already imposed mercury limits on sources such as medical incinerators, and EPA Administrator Carol Browner said that power plants were the greatest remaining source of mercury emissions. She said standards would be proposed in late 2003. The Edison Electric Institute, a utility lobbying group, responded that the science was still out about mercury's health risks.
Global coral reef monitoring now feasible with new landsat 7 data archive
Coral reef ecologist Bruce Hatcher of Dalhousie University says the structure and extent of coral reefs can now, for the first time, be monitored globally in near real-time, thanks to new observations from NASA's Landsat 7 spacecraft, unique and valuable scientific resource.
Over 5,000 detailed coral reef images from nearly 900 locations around the world have been collected in the first year of the Landsat 7 scientific mission, and archived, processed, distributed by the U.S. Geological Survey,
USA will launch initiatives to preserve coral reefs
U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta announced four initiatives to help preserve coral reefs yesterday, after a monitoring group released a report saying that 27 percent of the world's reefs were gone and that 70 percent would be dead by 2050. Mineta's plan includes creating several "no anchoring" zones for large ships near reefs in the U.S. and moving ahead on research sponsored by the U.S. and Australia to study coral reef bleaching and the effects of global warming on reefs. The report by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network found that bleaching destroyed 16 percent of the world's reefs in 1998 alone.
Several communities use Christmas trees to make effective sand- and soil-erosion barriers, especially on beaches and river.Kenneth Bahlinger of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources said that discarded Christmas tree "It is one of the best tools we have”.
The goal of this donation is to promote further research into the conservation of natural resources at Earthwatch's Latin America Conservation Research Center, launch an Africa Center replicated after the Latin America Center and establish other Conservation Research Centers in the U.S., North America and Asia.
The first alliance between Ford and Earthwatch began two years ago, and this new accelerates the conservation process in some of the world’s most threatened and valuable habitats.
European Union grants 3 million Euros to “green” NGOs
In 2001 the “Community’s Action Programme for the support of NGOs mainly active in the field of environment protection”, established by the European Commission with resolution 97/872, will aim at financing NGOs committed to the development and implementation of communitarian environmental norms and policies. Funding will be up to 50% of budget expenses.
At a ceremony in Stockholm on 8 December, scientists and activists from Ethiopia, Indonesia, Turkey, and the U.S. received Right Livelihood awards, commonly known as the "Alternative Nobel Prizes," for their work on environmental and human rights initiatives. Tewolde Berhan Gebre Egziabher, the chief environmental official in Ethiopia, was honored for leading an international effort to set rules for trade in genetically engineered products that protect biodiversity and the rights of developing countries. The Turkish environmentalist Birsel Lemke was recognized for her fight against cyanide-based gold mining. Wes Jackson from the U.S. received the award for his two decades of work with the Land Institute to develop a sustainable agricultural system based on perennial prairie plants.
27. Opening of first Peace Museum in Spain
The first Peace Museum in Spain was opened in La Vall d’Uixo in Valencia on 10 December. The director is Ms Natividad Fartea, who set forth this initiative after taking a post-graduate class in Spain on “Creating a Culture of Peace” conducted by Prof. Kazuyo Yamane of the Japanese Network of Museums for Peace. Photo panels of atomic bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were presented from Grassroots House to the Peace Museum. A video of “Hiroshima” was also sent from Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
The Japanese Network of Museums for Peace was founded in 1998 when the third International Conference of Peace Museums was held in Osaka and Kyoto. The aim of the association is to promote peace through exchanging information, opinions and exibits among peace museums. Newsletter called Muse is published twice a year in Japanese and in English.
Launch of virtual “Global Heritage Pavilion” for Japan Internet Fair 2001
Paris, December 20 - UNESCO will launch the “Global Heritage Pavilion”, a website entirely devoted to the world's cultural and natural heritage on December 31, 2000 to represent the Organization in Internet Fair 2001 (INPAKU), a web-based event organised by the Government of Japan to promote the Internet.
UNESCO’s Global Heritage Pavilion (http://www.inpaku.unesco.org) demonstrates what the “very latest technologies can do to help make the abundant diversity of the world's great cultures better known to all the world’s peoples”, UNESCO Director-General Koďchiro Matsuura says in his on-line welcome address on the website.
by Robert Muller
“I have received a letter from Mr. Helmut Schmidt, former President of Germany and now chairman of an InterAction Council of 24 former heads of states, sending me the draft of a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities submitted to the General Assembly of the UN. I have endorsed it with enthusiasm. In his communication, Dr. Schmidt underlined these seven social sins signalled by Mahatma Gandhi:
1. Politics without principles
2. Commerce without morality
3. Wealth without work
4. Education without character
5. Science without humanity
6. Pleasure without conscience
7. Worship without sacrifice
We better work on all of them.” (Idea no. 1143)
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