Good News Agency – Year X, n° 165



Weekly – Year X, number 165 – 18th December 2009

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph. D.

Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.           

 “…In conveying the appreciation of the Head of State for the passion and the professionalism with which you spread, above all among the young, the culture of "good news", I would like to take this opportunity of adding my personal greeting”. (From the letter of the Adviser for the Press and Information of the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, to the Editor of Good News Agency, 12 October 2007.)



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. It is distributed free of charge through Internet to 10,000 media and editorial journalists in 54 countries and to 2,800 NGOs and 1,700 high schools, colleges and universities. It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, an educational charity associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace” and it is a member of the World Association of Non Governmental Organizations.




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education


International legislation



UNESCO and ICANN sign partnership agreement to promote linguistic diversity on internet

Paris, 10 December - A significant step was taken on 10 December 2009 towards greater linguistic diversity on the internet when UNESCO signed an agreement with ICANN - the body that assigns online addresses to internet users - to help put into operation the first multilingual domain names. The cooperation agreement follows the recent decision by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to introduce IDNs, or Internationalized Domain Names, in non-Latin script. Until now, domain names in internet addresses (e.g., .org, .com) were written using characters from the Latin alphabet exclusively. (...) Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, welcomed ICANN’s move to introduce IDNs. “This is a development that UNESCO has long been advocating. The internet must be linguistically diverse so that all language groups can harness its unique potential,” she said. “Through this new agreement, UNESCO and ICANN will work together to bring more people into the information network.” (...) The UNESCO-ICANN agreement covers a variety of cooperation areas so that the new development can benefit as many language groups as possible. (...)


New climate change measurement agreement signed 

Brazilian space institute and FAO partner to monitor GHGs

Rome, 10 December - Recognizing the importance of monitoring greenhouse gas emissions in climate change mitigation, FAO and Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) signed an agreement today, to work together in the field of emissions measuring and reporting.

The agreement, signed by FAO Director-General, Jacques Diouf and INPE head, Gilberto Câmara, lays the groundwork for a major push to assist developing countries in monitoring climate change impact. (...)

The work done by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) leads the way for large-scale monitoring of deforestation and forest degradation in order to provide accurate and transparent data to the public. This same data and systems will now be made available to other countries to help them advance their own forest monitoring. (...)



Human rights



Uganda bans female genital mutilation

11 December - According to the BBC, genital mutilation is still practised by the Sabiny, some Karamojong sub-groups, the Pokot in eastern Uganda and the Nubi people of West Nile

Ugandan MPs have voted to outlaw female genital mutilation - also known as female circumcision. Anyone convicted of the practice, which involves cutting off a girl’s clitoris, will face 10 years in jail, or a life sentence if a victim dies.

The BBC’s Joshua Mmali in Uganda says it is not officially condoned but is still practised in several rural areas. Rights groups welcomed the move, but urged awareness campaigns to ensure the centuries-old practice stops.

MP Alice Alaso said the move was “a very significant achievement”. “It’s a very bad practice. It’s cruel, it traumatises people, it’s led children to drop out of school, it’s a health hazard,” she told the BBC’s Focus on Africa programme. “This is a warning signal - whoever dares practice female genital mutilation will be subject to the law.”


UN marks Human Rights Day with call to end all forms of discrimination

10 December - The United Nations marked Human Rights Day today, the 61st anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by stressing the enduring need to eliminate all forms of discrimination, with officials in the world’s most crisis-plagued regions - from Iraq to Afghanistan to Somalia - appealing for tolerance in the interests of peace.

“No country is free of discrimination,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a message for the Day whose theme this year is ‘Embrace Diversity, End Discrimination.’ “It may appear as institutionalized racism, as ethnic strife, as episodes of intolerance and rejection, or as an official national version of history that denies the identity of others.


International Human Rights Day sparks national action

Quaker Group, activists sound call across the U.S. for Humane Immigration Policy

Philadelphia, USA, 9 December - The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), the Quaker peace and social justice organization, is hosting nine days of action beginning on International Human Rights Day, December 10, and concluding on International Migrants Day, December 18. Through this effort, AFSC calls on Congress to pass humane immigration reform.

Sixteen events in 12 cities will bring immigrant and refugee communities together to urge swift passage of legislation that protects the rights of immigrants and refugees. The AFSC is hosting or co-sponsoring hearings, vigils and more from Newark New Jersey to Portland Oregon. (…)

AFSC has outlined concrete policy recommendations in A New Path: Towards Humane Immigration Policy released earlier this year. To download a copy of the document, please visit the website (...)

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.


Enditnow: in Kenya, girls say no to FGM

Silver Spring, Md., USA, 8 December - In Kenya, where Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) remains a serious problem, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is implementing a project that is changing the attitudes and behavior towards the procedure in practicing communities within the country’s western and northeastern regions. ADRA’s Anti-FGM project addresses the dangerous effects that FGM, also called Female Genital Cutting (FGC), has on young women and girls in communities where the procedure is currently practiced. (…) ADRA’s Anti-FGM project raises awareness of the impact of FGM on young girls in communities where the practice is prevalent, educating key stakeholders on the dangerous effects of FGM through workshops, meetings, and public campaigns, working with local radio programs and community theater groups to increase coverage of on-going anti-FGM campaigns, and partnering with other organizations to effectively disseminate the message throughout the targeted regions. (...)

The Anti-FGM project is a component of ADRA Kenya’s larger Girl Child/Women Empowerment Programme, which has been active in Western Kenya since 2003. (…)


Sri Lanka: Civilians in displacement camps gain freedom of movement

by World Vision staff

3 December - The Government of Sri Lanka this week lifted all restrictions on the freedom of movement of the people held in displacement camps in the north of the country, signaling an important victory in the advocacy efforts of the humanitarian community.

Aid group World Vision and its partners have been calling for the speedy return of displaced families to their original homes and the freedom of movement for all those still remaining in the camps. Until now, displaced people have been unable to leave the camps to work, to visit relatives and friends or to obtain vital civil documents.

Several thousand people have already taken advantage of their newly established freedom and left the camps to visit friends and relatives living in the region - with many returning to the camps in the evening to spend the night with their families. To remain registered at the camps, civilians must not be gone for more than 15 days. (...)


1st Meeting of the Permanent Forum of Arab-African Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights

2 December - The first meeting of the Permanent Forum of the Arab-African Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights took place from 7 to 9 December 2009 at the headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo (Egypt), with the primary objective of examining the impact of migratory flows in these two regions. Placed under the high patronage of Suzanne Mubarak, the First Lady of Egypt, the 2009 Permanent Forum of Arab-African Dialogue on Democracy and Human Rights organized by the UNESCO Office in Cairo and the Egyptian National Council for Human Rights focused on migration in the Arab and African regions.

The goal was to provide African and Arab States’ governments with information for the formulation of policies more consistent with the reality of migration flows in these two regions. (...) On this occasion, African and Arab experts on migration held two workshops: on “national migration policies bringing coherence in immigration and emigration policies while respecting the human rights of migrants”, and the other on “inter-regional migration and regional agreements on human movements”. (...)



Economy and development



Architecture for Humanity launches concept design challenge

December 16 – Today Architecture for Humanity  launched a 30 day concept design challenge for a Youth and Women's Leadership Center nr. Rio. The Winner gets the commission and the building will be built by summer 2010.

With the Homeless World Cup arriving in Rio de Janiero, Brazil in fall 2010, Architecture for Humanity, Homeless World Cup, and Nike are teaming up with local partners Organização Civil de Ação Social (OCAS), and Bola Pra Frente (BPF) to establish multiple Legacy Centers to implement the Homeless World Cup influence beyond the week-long Tournament and Leadership Conference. This program will establish a legacy of the Homeless World Cup with two pilot Legacy Centers, a football-based Youth and Women's Leadership Center in Rio and the Women's Enterprise Center in Sao Paulo. Defined by the success of the pilot project, Architecture For Humanity and Homeless World Cup intend to expand the influence of the Leadership and Enterprise Centers to a global scale.

Architecture for Humanity is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and brings professional design services to communities in need.


A better future for coastal fishers in South and Southeast Asia

Spanish support aims at improving livelihoods of millions of small-scale fishers

Bangkok/Madrid, 9 December - Driven largely by awareness of marine resource depletion and vulnerability of their coastal communities, six south and south-east Asian countries today signed on to a Spanish grant of US$19.5 million aimed at improving livelihoods and the future of millions of small-scale fishers.

The Spanish grant will allow FAO to implement over the next four years a Regional Fisheries Livelihoods Programme in six participating countries. This is the most important programme in fisheries Spain is supporting in Asia in terms of the vast number of people to benefit from the assistance, remarked the Ambassador of Spain to Thailand, Ignacio Sagaz, during the signing ceremony today. There are an estimated 7 million fishers in Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste and Viet Nam, of which approximately 80 percent are small-scale fishers. The total number of people directly or indirectly employed in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture in these countries is on the order of 25 million. (...)


Seized mafia assets put to good use

EU supports the development of southern Italy by providing funding to convert former mafia property into educational and business centres

2 December - (...) The EU has helped Italian authorities transform 50 seized properties into educational, farm tourism and other businesses - to help create new jobs and give young people an alternative to a life of crime. The projects send a clear message to local people - it is possible to fight the mafia and build successful businesses on the right side of the law.

In Palermo, the EU has also co-funded work to transform land belonging to Giovanni Brusca into a playground and garden of remembrance for young victims of the mafia. (…) In Casalesi (Campania), a youth centre providing educational and recreational activities for young people and the new local police headquarters were built on land seized from Giorgio Marano, a former head of the Camorra crime group. Every bottle produced at the “Centopassi” winery is dedicated to a victim of the mafia. The land was seized from Giovanni Genovese, who was jailed in 2007 for extortion and other criminal activities.

In total, the EU has earmarked €64m for the conversion of former mafia land and other property under the European regional development fund (ERDF) in 2007-13. Three-quarters of this money will go to a security for development programme in the four southern Italian regions of Calabria, Campania, Apulia and Sicily. (...)


IFAD makes US$25.04 million loan to Mali to consolidate microfinance services for poor rural people

Rome, 1 December - A US$25.04 million loan from IFAD to the Republic of Mali will fund an innovative programme to build on the strengths and successes of existing rural microfinance networks to help them expand their reach and ensure their sustainability over time. 

The Rural Microfinance Programme will support three networks created during the implementation of IFAD-supported projects, which have now grown to comprise some 94 credit unions. It will help restructure the networks where needed and identify new products to meet the needs of poor rural people, in particular women and young people.

The loan agreement for the programme was signed in Rome on 20 November by Gaoussou Drabo, the Ambassador of Mali to Italy, and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD.

The principal objective of the programme is to provide poor rural people with easier and sustainable access to tailored financial services and to build the capacity of the rural microfinance networks to achieve sustainability. (...)






Save the Children helps 1 million survivors in five countries in historic 5-year tsunami response

Hundreds of thousands of surviving children are now healthy, attending school

Westport, Conn., USA, 11 December - Five years after responding to one of the world’s worst natural disasters, Save the Children reported today that its tsunami relief and recovery program has assisted an estimated 1 million survivors in five countries impacted by the earthquake and sea surge that struck Asia and Africa on December 26, 2004. In a report available online, Save the Children said hundreds of thousands of children who survived the tsunami are alive, healthy and attending school today - thanks in part to the largest single relief and development effort in Save the Children’s 90-year history.

The tsunami claimed more than 260,000 lives, including 167,000 in Indonesia, the report noted. Save the Children, which helped reunite hundreds of separated children with parents or loved ones following the tsunami, raised $284 million for assistance in five countries: Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Somalia. (...)


Zimbabwe: Red Cross to extend food aid into 2010  

11 December - The Red Cross is appealing for 38.4 million Swiss francs (USD 33.2 million / € 26.2 million) to continue its emergency food operation until September 2010. The operation, led by the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) aims to provide a range of food and livelihoods support for 222,035 people. (...) The ZRCS/IFRC food security operation was first launched in September 2008. Originally planned for nine months, it was extended earlier this year until September 2009 and will now run until September 2010. (...) As well as ensuring that vulnerable communities have access to food, Red Cross volunteers will offer longer-term, developmental assistance through the provision of agricultural inputs like seeds and fertilizers, agricultural training, and by increasing community access to safe water. (...) In the coming months, Red Cross volunteers are set to rehabilitate 500 water points as well as re-establishing ‘water point committees’: groups made up of community members who will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of these precious assets.


Valentine’s Day Card contest launched by Save the children to engage kids on childhood poverty in U.S.

Save the Children Youth Art Contest supported by actor Julianne Moore and American Federation of Teachers

Washington, DC, 9 December - In an effort to promote kids unity as a force against the childhood poverty crisis in the United States, Save the Children and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) have launched a Valentine’s Day youth art contest for students across America, with winning art designs to be voted on starting December 16th.

The contest encouraged children to create card designs and submit them through their schools to Save the Children by December 4, 2009. Select cards will be posted online on December 16, where kids will vote for their favorite in each of five grade categories. The five winning designs will be printed on Valentine’s Day cards available in January and offered as part of a gift with a donation to benefit Save the Children’s anti-poverty programs in the United States.

Actor and Save the Children Artist Ambassador Julianne Moore conceived Save the Children’s Valentine’s Card project and acted as its spokesperson for the last two years, during which professional designs were featured on the cards. (...)


Spain commits €228 million for children

Madrid, Spain, 9 December - UNICEF and the Government of Spain today signed a special agreement that will provide some €228 million ($336 million) over three years to support programmes that help children in need. This new commitment by Spain takes the form of a three-year partnership agreement with UNICEF. It will enable increased activities focussed on the survival of young children, on basic education, on the protection of children, and on advocacy for government policies that support children’s rights and wellbeing, particularly in Africa. (...)

The commitment was formalized today in a framework agreement signed in Madrid by the Director of the Spanish Cooperation Agency, Elena Madrazo, and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Hilde F. Johnson. The agreement will give additional impetus to a long-standing partnership between UNICEF and Spain, which has also resulted in the provision of urgent assistance to children caught up in humanitarian emergencies.

UNICEF has signed similar framework agreements with 15 other countries (...). Their objective is to help meet the needs of children.


Donors pledge initial US$477.5 million to UNHCR’s 2010 funding appeal

Geneva, December 8 (UNHCR) - Donor nations on Tuesday committed an initial US$477.5 million towards the UN refugee agency’s US$3 billion funding appeal for 2010, its largest ever such request and aimed at meeting the basic needs of a growing number of people under its care.

The commitments came during UNHCR’s annual pledging conference in Geneva, where High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres asked donors to fund a US$3.007 billion requirement. The 2010 funding appeal is based on the most comprehensive assessment to date of the needs of people under UNHCR’s care. The budget is to help more than 34 million refugees, asylum-seekers, stateless and internally displaced people in 118 countries. Donors commended UNHCR on this new approach. (...)


Help to El Salvador children in emergency

Westport, CT, USA, 7 December - Children and their families in El Salvador remain in desperate need of food and water two weeks after landslides and mudslides claimed lives and caused widespread damage across the Central American country. Staff on the ground in El Salvador are moving quickly to distribute emergency items to help children and their families through this crisis, including food, water, mosquito nets and plastic sheeting for shelter. Efforts are focused directly on specific communities leading response teams in the La Paz and Cuscatlan departments. So far, about 3,768 people have been reached with emergency supplies. Staff on the ground also have purchased 20 Child Friendly Spaces Kits and have set up 12 play areas in 5 of the most severely affected communities so far. In addition, Save the Children is training local volunteers to work in each location. (...)


Pakistan: ICRC remains active in North-West Frontier Province

Peshawar, 30 November (ICRC) - Contrary to what some recent media reports have indicated, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) remains active in the North-West Frontier Province and the Tribal Areas. Neither its sub-delegation in Peshawar nor its offices in Timergara and Mingora have closed down.

“We are here to serve the victims of the fighting,” said Benno Kocher, the head of the ICRC’s sub-delegation in Peshawar. “We have international staff going out to the field every week, be it in Buner, Dir or Swat,” he added. “We actually have a team living in Dir.”

The ICRC and its national partner, the Pakistan Red Crescent Society, have just completed the first phase of an agricultural support programme in Buner and Dir, helping 45,000 families (...); have just set up a new camp in Lower Dir for over 1,000 people who fled their homes in Bajaur, in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, over the past couple of months. (...) The ICRC’s surgical hospital for weapon-wounded patients in Peshawar also remains open and active, operating on over 30 victims of bullet wounds, shrapnel and explosive devices every week. (...) Together with the Pakistan Red Crescent, it aims to maintain its humanitarian services over the coming months.


International Human Solidarity Day, 20 December 2009

In the Millennium Declaration world leaders identified Solidarity as one of the fundamental values essential to international relations in the twenty-first century and emphasized that “Global challenges must be managed in a way that distributes the costs and burdens fairly in accordance with basic principles of equity and social justice. Those who suffer or who benefit least deserve help from those who benefit most.” In the context of globalization and the challenge of growing inequality, the strengthening of international solidarity and cooperation is indispensable for the realization of the Millennium Development Goals.

Convinced that the promotion of the culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing was important for combating poverty, the General Assembly proclaimed 20 December as International Human Solidarity Day. (...)



Peace and security



Cyprus: UN peacekeeping mission extended for another six months

14 December - The Security Council today renewed for another six months the 45-year-old United Nations peacekeeping mission in Cyprus, citing “a rare opportunity to make decisive progress in a timely fashion” to reunify the Mediterranean island after a history of fighting between the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities.

In a resolution adopted by 14 votes to one, with only Turkey opposing, the 15-member body strongly urged the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot leaders “to increase the momentum in the negotiations to ensure the full exploitation of this opportunity to reach a comprehensive settlement based on a bicommunal, bizonal federation with political equality.” (...)

The Council extended the mandate of the UN peacekeeping mission in Cyprus (UNFICYP) until 15 June, 2010. (...)


Top UN envoy welcomes peaceful end to voter registration in Sudan

14 December - The top United Nations envoy to Sudan today welcomed the peaceful ending of the registration process for next year’s elections, the first multi-party polls in the country in decades, with more than 75 per cent of people of voting age registering to cast their ballots.

More than 15 million people were registered in the most inclusive voter registration exercise ever held in Sudan. Millions registered in person between 1 November and 7 December in centres across the country. (...)

The staging of elections is one of the key benchmarks of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which ended the long-running war.

“We are now one step closer to the holding of Sudan’s first multi-party elections in 24 years and to achieving a major milestone in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement,” Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said.


Liberia: UN Envoy hails contributions of peacekeeping mission personnel

12 December - The top United Nations envoy to Liberia today praised the tireless efforts by uniformed and civilian personnel serving the world body’s peacekeeping operation in the West African country at an award ceremony in the capital Monrovia.

In honour of their contributions to stabilizing the security situation in Liberia, which is recovering from a brutal 14-year civil war, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Ellen Margrethe Løj presented peacekeeping medals to 56 military observers and 28 staff members - representing 29 countries - deployed in the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL). (...)

UNMIL was set up in 2003 to bolster a ceasefire agreement ending a war that killed almost 150,000 Liberians, mostly civilians, and sent 850,000 others fleeing to neighbouring countries.


Iraq: Kurdish lawmakers confirm support for new electoral laws with UN envoy

12 December - The top United Nations envoy to Iraq met today with parliamentarians from the Kurdish Alliance Bloc to discuss the recently brokered electoral laws that allow for national elections expected to take place early next year.

The compromise in the electoral law centres on the allocation of seats in parliament, which the Secretary-General’s Special Representative Ad Melkert and the Kurdish lawmakers reaffirmed would be used exclusively for the 2010 Council of Representatives election. (...)

In today’s meeting, both sides stressed the importance of gathering census data in 2010 to support long term planning for the rebuilding and prosperity of Iraq, agreeing that the census data should be used for the development of proper civil and voter registries.


R.O. CONGO: 750,000 dangerous items demolished in two years

In the same year as its 20th anniversary of saving lives around the world, MAG will celebrate its second birthday in the Republic of Congo in style tomorrow

11 December - It won’t be two candles blown out, but over 35,000 different types of lethal ammunition, making a bang to drown out the Happy Birthday chorus. This brings the number of remnants of conflict destroyed since MAG began working in the country on 12 December 2007 to 771,162. Among the most significant items disposed of over the past two years were 70 Man Portable Air Defence Systems (MANPADS), more than 125 huge aircraft bombs, 867 rockets of various sizes and shapes, and 4,803 anti-personnel landmines. (…) In addition to putting these extremely dangerous weapons beyond use, vital to MAG’s work in the Republic of Congo is providing quality, certified Explosive Ordnance Disposal training for the army (Forces Armées Congolaises / FAC) explosive handlers. To date, MAG has successfully trained 14 FAC members to EOD level one, with seven more individuals to be trained in January 2010. (…)


Four new countries declared mine-free at Landmine Summit  

Cartagena, Colombia, 4 December - Over 1000 activists, survivors and government delegates celebrated the close of the Cartagena Summit on a Mine-Free World with the announcement that four new countries - Albania, Greece, Rwanda and Zambia - are now mine-free. The Summit closed with more than 120 governments adopting the Cartagena Action Plan, a detailed five-year plan of commitments on all areas of mine action including victim assistance, mine clearance, risk education, stockpile destruction and international cooperation.

“The Cartagena Action Plan provides a clear and concrete roadmap of what is required over the next five years to bring us significantly closer to a mine-free world,” said Steve Goose, Head of Delegation of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “We, as civil society, commit to remain active and engaged to ensure that all of the many declarations of support for the Plan are turned into meaningful actions.”

More than a decade after he Mine Ban Treaty was first signed, a strong commitment to fully realize the vision of a mine-free world was demonstrated this week by the unprecedented levels of participation by States Parties (including dozens of ministers and other high-level officials), states not party, mine ban activists and survivors. (…)






Zimbabwe’s HIV infection rate drops 5%

11 December - Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS infection rate has dropped to just more than 13 percent, one of the few countries in sub-Saharan Africa to have an annual drop in new infections. The country’s health service is starting to recover nine months after the unity government was sworn into power.

Zimbabwe’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, which started at least 23 years ago, used to record infection rates of more than 25 percent of the population. A demographic survey conducted in 2006 it found the infection rate had dropped to 18 percent. Now, the health care authorities, say it has dropped nearly five percent since then and is at 13.75 percent.

Zimbabweans, health-care workers say, changed their behaviour over the years.

The drop in the infection rate was announced at an event in Harare to mark the life of one of the first Zimbabweans to go public with her HIV/IDS status. Auxillia Chimusoro died in 1998 after several years as an HIV/AIDS activist. USAID runs an annual competition in her name to reward community workers who fight the disease.


UN-backed anti-drug centre opens in Central Asia to curb flow of Afghan heroin

9 December - A United Nations-backed intelligence sharing centre for Central Asian countries on the front line of the battle against drug trafficking from Afghanistan opened in Kazakhstan today, just a day after Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council called for greater global cooperation in the war on narcotics. (...)

“This trans-national problem requires a regional solution,” he added of the Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Centre (CARICC), a UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) project bringing together the five Central Asian States - Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan - as well as Russia and Azerbaijan. (...)

“CARICC will facilitate the exchange of intelligence to identify and disrupt trafficking networks, strengthen regional criminal justice capacity, and build security and confidence among neighbours,” Mr. Ban said.


UN envoy reviews progress, challenges in controlling malaria in Nigeria, Kenya

9 December - Close to half of the population now has access to a mosquito net. In addition, a month-by-month distribution strategy has been established to ensure that nets are delivered across Nigeria’s 36 states until universal coverage is achieved by the end of 2010.

Ensuring universal access to malaria-control tools - insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor spraying with insecticides, and effective medication - by 2010 is critical for both countries to reach the Secretary-General’s goal of near-zero global malaria deaths by 2015. (...)

Nigeria is working to achieve funding for all 70 million nets needed for universal coverage. Some 60 million nets have already been funded thanks to resources from, among others, the UN-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and the World Bank. (...)

Meanwhile, in Kenya, malaria has been on the decline but a “final push” toward universal coverage of prevention and treatment is needed to protect the gains made, according to the Special Envoy’s office, which added that the country is facing a “critical” shortage of funding for 11 million nets that must be addressed. (...)


UNICEF hails South Africa’s new strategy for tackling HIV/AIDS

4 December - The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has applauded the big leap taken by the South African Government towards achieving universal access to treatment for HIV for the country’s women and children living with the virus.

Among the momentous and historic decisions announced by President Jacob Zuma on Tuesday, which was World AIDS Day, were the expansion of access to antiretroviral treatments and preventing new infections among children. (...)

UNICEF said in a press release that South Africa’s adoption of new HIV treatment guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and making such services available at all health facilities demonstrates the country’s commitment to normalizing the virus as an integral part of primary health care services to save lives and avert new infections. The new measures build on efforts already under way in South Africa to expand access to prevention of mother-to-child transmissions (PMTCT) to all women living with HIV and AIDS, increase the availability of early infant diagnosis and provide treatment to HIV positive children. (...)


Concert raises awareness, funds for polio eradication

by Antoinette Tuscano

Rotary International News, 3 December - Violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman played to a sold-out audience in New York City’s Avery Fisher Hall at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on 2 December, during a benefit concert to raise money and awareness for Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio. (...) The polio eradication effort resonates strongly with Perlman, who contracted the disease at age four and overcame physical challenges to become one of the world’s most celebrated musicians, winning 15 Grammy Awards as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008.

Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Glenn E. Estess Sr. presented Perlman with an award for his help in fighting polio during a reception after the concert. (...)

The polio eradication campaign received more good news this week with the announcement that Rotary has surpassed the halfway mark in its effort to raise US$200 million to match $355 million in challenge grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. (...)

For now, the battle continues, and ending polio is Rotary’s top priority.

Rotary International, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988. Since then, the number of polio cases has been slashed by more than 99 percent, preventing five million cases of childhood paralysis and 250,000 deaths. However, the final 1 percent of cases are the most difficult and expensive to prevent. The wild poliovirus remains endemic in just four countries: Afghanistan, India, Nigeria, and Pakistan.



Energy and safety



Wind energy can meet 65% of tabled 2020 emissions reductions by industrialised countries

Copenhagen, 14 December - Against the backdrop of the ongoing climate negotiations in Copenhagen, the Global Wind Energy Council today released calculations showing that wind energy alone could achieve up to 65% of the emissions reductions pledges by industrialised countries.

"Wind power is rapidly emerging as a key technology towards a low carbon, resource efficient Green Economy," said Achim Steiner, UN Under Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, when presenting the figures at a joint UNEP/GWEC press conference in Copenhagen. "A serious and significant deal in Copenhagen represents a golden opportunity to accelerate its uptake and widen its penetration into many more countries in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions, generate electricity, get clean energy to those without access to it and boost employment." (...)


Recovery investment in offshore wind shows its strategic importance for Europe

10 December - The €565 million investment in nine offshore wind energy projects and infrastructure - approved yesterday by the European Commission as part of its European Economic Recovery Plan - shows that the European Union sees the offshore wind industry as a strategic sector for Europe’s future, said the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA).

“Measures such as these can contribute to strengthening Europe’s competitive lead in wind energy at a time of economic uncertainty and in which strong financial measures are being taken by governments outside Europe to challenge European companies’ leadership position”, said Christian Kjaer, CEO of EWEA. “As Europe’s largest untapped energy source, offshore wind can contribute significantly to Europe’s economic recovery, reduce import dependence and slash CO2 emissions.” (...)[tt_news]=1744&tx_ttnews[backPid]=259&cHash=de92c83578


EIB to provide €300m to interconnector project

9 December - The European Investment Bank (EIB) has agreed to provide €300m for the construction of the BritNed Interconnector, a new electricity transmission cable between the United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

Paul Wilczek, EWEA’s Regulatory Affairs Adviser, commented: “Today’s decision by the EIB is a small but highly significant step towards what everyone in the business knows is absolutely essential - a European offshore grid to integrate 150 GW of offshore wind power by 2030. This grid is essential for improving European energy security, reducing costs for consumers and meeting Europe’s emissions reduction and renewable energy targets.

An effective pan-European offshore grid requires investments of €20-30 billion to 2030. The €300m from the EIB sends a very positive signal to future investors.”[tt_news]=1741&tx_ttnews[backPid]=259&cHash=d322d00987


Over $5.5 billion in new investment for clean energy technology in the Middle East and North Africa region

Washington, DC, 9 December - The Clean Technology Fund (CTF) approved financing of $750 million on December 2, 2009, which will mobilize an additional $4.85 billion from other sources, to accelerate global deployment of Concentrated Solar Power (CSP). It will do so by investing in the CSP programs of five countries in the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia.  The CTF is a multi-donor trust fund to facilitate deployment of low-carbon technologies at scale.  (...)

The proposed gigawatt-scale deployment through 11 commercial-scale power plants over a 3-5 year time-frame would provide the critical mass of investments necessary to attract significant private sector interest, benefit from economies of scale to reduce cost, result in learning in diverse operating conditions, and manage risk. (...),,contentMDK:22412791~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html


Alternative energy reduces poverty in Somalia

Silver Spring, Md., 8 December - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is running an energy and livelihood project that aims to increase access to renewable energy sources and reduce poverty for hundreds of thousands of impoverished individuals within the states of Puntland and Somaliland in northern Somalia. (...) Some of the activities that ADRA conducts to meet the primary goal, include the installation of solar and wind energy equipment in schools and health centers and raising awareness of alternative energy options through trainings and trade fairs. ADRA also works with local institutions, providing training on how to install, manage, and promote the sustainable use of these services and helping them to build marketing and dissemination strategies that promote alternative energy services in rural areas. (...)

By the project’s conclusion in October 2010, ADRA will have assisted more than 281,000 people through this initiative. (...) The European Commission funds this project, in partnership with the ADRA United Kingdom office for approximately $3 million. (…)



Environment and wildlife



WFP launches Safe Stoves Initiative to protect women and save fuel

Copenhagen, 16 December - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today launched a pilot project to provide fuel-efficient stoves to women in Sudan and Uganda, to reduce the risk of violence they run while gathering firewood and at the same time protect the environment.

The Safe Access to Firewood and Alternative Energy in Humanitarian Settings (SAFE) stoves initiative will be rolled out in 2010 to reach up to 6 million refugees, internally displaced people, and returnees located in 36 nations. (...)

Refugees and women living in drought conditions are forced to walk further and further into the bush to collect firewood. They chop down trees and uproot grasses, harming the fragile eco-system. They venture out into unsafe areas and are left vulnerable to rape and other attacks.(…) WFP’s SAFE project will scale up distribution of fuel-efficient and “improved mud” stoves to assist almost 100 000 women in North Darfur. These stoves consume less firewood and lower health risks associated with smoke. In Uganda, WFP will focus on refugees and pastoralists in the drought-hit Karamoja region. It will provide more than 35,000 households and 50 schools with fuel-efficient stoves, as well as helping women to find other sources of income. (…)


Billion Tree Campaign patron Wangari Maathai appointed UN Messenger of Peace

Copenhagen, 15 December - The Nobel Peace Prize laureate and green advocate Wangari Maathai became a United Nations Messenger of Peace with a special focus on the environment and climate change, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced today.

Ms. Maathai of Kenya was inducted as a Messenger of Peace at a ceremony in Copenhagen, where the UN climate change conference is taking place.

"Professor Maathai's lifetime record of environmental achievement, education and grassroot activism makes her an ideal choice," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). "This award recognises her tireless work as one of the world's most effective and persuasive advocates for a greener world, where everyday citizen actions combined with policy go hand in hand to catalyze a transition to a low carbon, resource efficient green economy so urgently needed," he added. (...)


UNEP and ICLEI launch the carbonn climate centre

Copenhagen, 14 December - ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) join forces to create the Bonn Center for Local Climate Action and Reporting - carbonn.  "Cities will be one of the main drivers of climate change action so recording what they do is crucial," said David Cadman, President of ICLEI - Local Governments for sustainability. "Mitigation projects are a first step to achieving climate neutrality in cities and carbonn will be key to that transition."

carbonn is a joint project of UNEP and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability and aims at facilitating the access of local governments to climate benchmarking instruments on a global scale. (...) Through carbonn, UNEP and ICLEI will work together for the development of low-carbon cities and communities and engaging cities in the UNEP Climate Neutral Network.


100.000 marched for the climate

12 December - Around 1000 Countdown to Copenhagen Activist joined the big, peaceful climate demonstration with around 100.000 participants.

People dressed as polar bears joined activists with clown costumes, lifewests and clocksuits. Flags and banners in all colours of the rainbow, inflatable snowmen and gigantic, melting icebers crowded the square in front of the Danish parliament, and almost 100.000 participants met up and joined the march towards Bella Center. (…)

The demonstration carried the heading “Planet first - People first”, and is arranged by a large group of NGO’s, focusing both on the environmental and humanitarian aspects of climate change, and demanding a fair, ambitious and binding climate deal at COP 15. (…)


World Bank launches ‘green’ index of businesses in emerging markets

10 December - The private sector arm of the World Bank today launched the first ever eco-friendly stock market index that allows investors to track the carbon efficiency of companies doing business in emerging economies. In partnership with the giant financial services corporation Standard and Poor’s (S&P), the International Finance Corporation (IFC) established the S&P/IFC Investable Emerging Markets Index expecting it to mobilize more than $1 billion for carbon-efficient companies over the next three years. The pioneering index is meant to encourage carbon-based competition among emerging-market businesses, give carbon-efficient companies access to long-term investors and result in lower carbon emissions in developing countries, as well as reducing the carbon footprint of investors’ portfolios. (...)



Religion and spirituality



Africa/Congo DR - Blessing of first stone of the Pan-African Institute for the Social Doctrine of the Church: a laboratory for the culture of peace and promotion of the common good, without any kind of discrimination

Kinshasa 14 December (Agenzia Fides) - Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, blessed the foundation stone of the Pan-African Institute for Social Doctrine of the Church in a ceremony that was held in Kinshasa, capital of Democratic Republic of Congo. Cardinal Martino was in Kinshasa for the Silver Jubilee of ACERAC (Association of Bishops’ Conferences of Central Africa) and the Gold Jubilee of the Catholic Hierarchy in Burundi, DRC, and Rwanda.

The new Pan-African Institute (whose working languages are English and French) is an autonomous institution within the Catholic University of Congo. According to the Congolese Agency DIA, Cardinal Martino expressed the hope that the Institute may become a laboratory for the culture of peace, providing training to those who aspire to peace in Africa, and promoting the common good without any type of discrimination. (...) (LM)


Dalai Lama challenges Parliament attendees to action

Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama speaks to the audience at the closing ceremony for the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne December 9, 2009

By D. Andrew Kille, San Jose Interfaith Examiner

Melbourne, Australia, 9 December - (...) The Dalai Lama challenged those who had attended the Parliament to work to ensure that the gathering had not simply been a social occasion. He urged them to draw closer together to make love and compassion real and to implement the dreams and possibilities that had been discussed there. He spoke of the need for a strong secularism- not a secularism that denies the importance of religion, but one which respects the practitioners of all religions and of none. Beliefs may differ, he said, but the core practices of love and compassion are common in all traditions. (...)


Orthodox and Catholic leader met

7 December - Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, leader of the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania and one of the eight presidents of the World Council of Churches, met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican on 4 December 2009.

The Roman Catholic pontiff expressed gratitude to the Orthodox leader for his “personal contribution to fostering fraternal relations with the Catholic Church.” He concluded, “Be assured that we, for our part, will do all that we can to offer a common witness of brotherhood and peace, and to pursue with you a renewed commitment to the unity of our Churches in obedience to the new commandment of our Lord.”

It was the first time an official delegation from the Albanian church has visited the Vatican.



Culture and education



UNESCO and FEMNET launch resource book on right of African women to information

11 December - Supported by UNESCO, the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), a pan-African organization working to promote women’s rights and development in the continent since 1988, published a resource book Freedom of Information (FOI) & Women’s Rights in Africa. This publication is one of the outputs of the Freedom of Information and Women’s Rights in Africa Project, a regional programme launched by FEMNET in partnership with UNESCO. The project aims to demonstrate the relevance of freedom of information in the promotion and protection of women’s rights as promulgated in national laws, and regional and international human rights instruments.

The publication, compiled by Carlyn Hambuba and edited by Rachel Kagoiya, collects case studies from five African countries: Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Zambia. It thus documents insights from the experiences of women’s participation in the processes that have led to the formulation, enactment and implementation of laws and policies enabling citizens to enjoy freedom of information. (...)


UN Agencies agree on need for closer collaboration in favor of visually impaired

Geneva, 8 December - A meeting hosted by WIPO on December 7, 2009 with a number of United Nations (UN) specialized agencies in Geneva concluded with agreement on the need for closer inter-agency collaboration in favor of visually impaired persons (VIPs). During the meeting, WIPO Director General Francis Gurry outlined the Organization’s VIP Initiative, which aims to facilitate and enhance access to literary, artistic and scientific works for the blind, visually impaired and other reading-disable persons and stressed the importance of common activities in this area.

The meeting offered an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas about potential areas of cooperation, as mandated by WIPO member states. It brought together senior officials and experts from the International Labor Organization (ILO), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO). (...)


EDC extends support for education in Democratic Republic of Congo

Washington, DC, 1 December - Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), will be working to improve learning in math and French in the Democratic Republic of Congo by building the capacity of teachers, schools, and communities in three Congolese provinces. The $40 million program, known as the Package for Improving Education Quality, is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The project is expected to reach 3,600 schools, 21,000 teachers, and 900,000 students. EDC will collaborate with the National Ministry of Education to help primary school teachers learn and use effective teaching practices. Professional development courses will build teachers’ knowledge in their subject areas and skills in student-centered teaching. In addition, an existing interactive radio education program will be extended from the current grade 1 and 2 programs through grade 6, ensuring that students receive quality daily lessons based on the Congolese curriculum, and teachers receive support practicing the interactive techniques they learn in training. (...)

EDC partners RTI International, Catholic Relief Services, and New Generation Media Initiative for Africa will help to implement the new program, which extends to August 2014.


EDC expands youth education work to Liberia

Newton, MA, USA, 18 November - Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), will expand its reach to the West African country of Liberia, leading a project aimed at improving education and skills training for young people, ages 10–35. EDC will direct the project in partnership with the YMCA of Liberia and RTI International. The project, funded with $13 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), targets overage and out-of-school youth, whose needs are not met through the country’s formal education system.

The new initiative will place an emphasis on work readiness and life skills training, with the launch of a new non-formal education curriculum that teaches literacy and numeracy through real-life examples and experiences. (...) This work, known as Core Education Skills for Liberian Youth, expands on USAID/Liberia’s Accelerated Learning Program PLUS for Liberian youth and will run through August 2011.



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Next issue: 15th January  2010.


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Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next. Past issues are available at . Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.

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