Good News Agency – Year X, n° 2



Weekly - Year X, number 2 – 6th February 2009

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph. D.

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

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 the editorial offices of 4,000 media in 49 countries and to 2,800 NGOs and 500 high schools, colleges and universities. It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO 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 has been included in the web site




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education



International legislation



Regional States sign pact to fight piracy off Somali coast

30 January - Indian Ocean and Red Sea countries have pledged to cooperate in seizing, investigating and prosecuting pirates off the coast of war-ravaged Somalia in a stepped-up campaign to curb a scourge that has wrought havoc with international shipping, including United Nations delivery of emergency food aid. (...) Nine countries - Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and Yemen - have already signed the Code, which calls for shared operations, such as nominating law enforcement or other authorized officials to embark in the patrol ships or aircraft of another signatory.(...) In December, the UN Security Council unanimously called on countries and regional bodies with the necessary capacity to deploy naval ships and military aircraft off the Somali coast to fight piracy, including possible action against pirate bases on land. (...)


Customs: EU and China agreements to strengthen cooperation on protecting Intellectual Property Rights and on preventing illicit imports of chemical substances used for synthetic drug production

30 January - Commissioner László Kovács, responsible for Taxation and Customs, today signed an Action Plan with the Chinese Ambassador Song to strengthen customs cooperation on protecting Intellectual Property Rights. They also signed an agreement to enhance customs co-operation in monitoring trade and preventing trafficking and the diversion of drug precursors (chemicals that are essential to the illicit manufacture of narcotic drugs).

Commissioner Kovács said: “Today’s agreements constitute a step forward in customs cooperation between the EU and China. Since my first visit to China, there has been visible progress. China is aligning its customs legislation to the EU rules, and has increased controls to protect Intellectual Property Rights. Despite this, China remains a main source of fake goods or illicit drug precursors entering the EU. While those problems need to be addressed through more than just Customs intervention, I am convinced that today’s cooperation agreements will contribute towards providing better protection for EU citizens.” (…)

EU and China sign nine cooperation agreements (…)


India Safeguards Agreement signed

3 February - An Agreement between the Government of India and the IAEA for the Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities was signed today in Vienna by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and Ambassador Saurabh Kumar of India. The safeguards agreement, which is the result of several rounds of consultations conducted between India and the IAEA since November 2007, was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in August 2008. The agreement will enter into force on the date the IAEA receives from India written notification that its statutory and/or constitutional requirements for entry into force have been met. The IAEA currently applies safeguards to six nuclear reactors in India under safeguards agreements concluded between 1971 and 1994. In the future, additional reactors are expected to be under IAEA safeguards under the newly-signed agreement.



Human rights



Netherlands signs accord to use UNHCR Refworld research tool

Geneva, 21 January (UNHCR) - The Netherlands signed an agreement on Wednesday that will make it the first country to use UNHCR’s internet-based Refworld as its main information tool in determining asylum claims. (…) Access to accurate, reliable and updated information is vital when trying to determine whether someone is a refugee, because a wrong decision based on unreliable information can have very serious consequences for the person concerned.

Refworld - an innovative online protection database developed by UNHCR - has a wealth of information related to conditions in the country where any particular asylum seeker originates from. It also contains tens of thousands of legal and policy documents that can help decision-makers, be they UNHCR staff round the world, national asylum officers, judges, lawyers and so on. (…)


Fifty-three death sentences commuted in Zambia

16 January - Following the commutation of the death sentences of 53 prisoners to custodial sentences by the President of Zambia, Amnesty International renewed its call for the government to join the worldwide trend towards the abolition of the death penalty. 

“We are encouraged by the commutation of these sentences by President Banda. The next move should be to take all the necessary steps to end capital punishment and bring about legislative changes to abolish the death penalty in Zambia” said Amy Agnew, Amnesty International’s Zambia campaigner. (...)


20 February:  World Day of Social Justice 

At its sixty-second session, in November 2007, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice. The day is to be observed for the first time in 2009. Member states were invited to devote this special day to the promotion of concrete national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly, entitled “World Summit for Social Development and beyond: achieving social development for all in a globalizing world”.

As recognized by the World Summit, social development aims at social justice, solidarity, harmony and equality within and among countries and social justice, equality and equity constitute the fundamental values of all societies. To achieve “a society for all” governments made a commitment to the creation of a framework for action to promote social justice at national, regional and international levels. They also pledged to promote the equitable distribution of income and greater access to resources through equity and equality and opportunity for all. The governments recognized as well that economic growth should promote equity and social justice and that “a society for all” must be based on social justice and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The observance of the day should contribute to the further consolidation of the efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all. (…)



Economy and development



International competition launched to improve the design of classrooms around the world

Orient Global and Architecture for Humanity challenge the global design community to partner with teachers and students to design the classrooms of tomorrow.

Davos, Switzerland, January 29 - Worldwide, 776 million people are illiterate. To address this crisis by providing access to a quality education for all children, there is a pressing need to upgrade the crumbling infrastructure of tens of millions of existing classrooms, and build ten million new classrooms. Meeting this challenge represents the largest building project the world has ever undertaken. In response, Orient Global, Architecture for Humanity and a consortium of partners are launching the 2009 Open Architecture Challenge: Classroom, the first large-scale initiative to improve the design of classrooms around the world.

The 2009 Open Architecture Challenge invites the global design and construction community to collaborate with primary and secondary school teachers and students to create smarter, safer, and more sustainable learning environments. Teams can partner with a school of their choice or design a classroom for one of our school-building partners. (…) Competition details - Starts: January 29, 2009;  registration ends: May 1, 2009; entries due: June 1, 2009

The winning school will receive up to $50,000 to build or improve its classrooms and its design team will receive a $5,000 grant to help make it happen. The design competition will be judged by an international, inter-disciplinary panel of experts in the fields of both education and architecture (including students themselves). The resulting entries will be available and accessible to all on the Open Architecture Network.


US$12.3 million IFAD grant to Tajikistan for Khatlon livelihoods support project

Rome, 27 January - A US$12.3 million grant from IFAD to the Republic of Tajikistan for the Khatlon Livelihoods Support Project will help reduce poverty, increase incomes and improve the lives of farmers in 250 villages in five districts. The grant agreement was signed today in Rome by Safarali Nazhmudinov, Minister of Finance of the Republic of Tajikistan and Jessie Rose Mabutas, IFAD Assistant President. Khatlon is the poorest region of Tajikistan, where 78 per cent of the rural population is poor. Most farmers in the region are constrained by low productivity due to land degradation, limited availability of inputs and credit, lack of irrigation facilities, and poor access to improved technologies and markets. The project will help to address some of these constraints by organizing farmers and providing them with improved technologies, and by financing productive infrastructure schemes based on community priorities. Some 18,750 households are expected to benefit from the project, which will ensure that at least half of the beneficiaries are women.

IFAD is an international financial institution and a specialized United Nations agency. It is a global partnership of OECD, OPEC and other developing countries. Today, IFAD supports close to 250 programmes and projects in 87 developing countries and one territory.


FAO: International Year of Natural Fibres begins

Rome, 22 January - The UN Organization today officially launched International Year of Natural Fibres (IYNF) 2009 to celebrate the virtues of cotton, flax, sisal and hemp, but also of wool, alpaca, camel hair and angora. And, why not, cashmere too.

IYNF - quickly dubbed Wild and Woolly 2009 - follows on IYP (International Year of the Potato), while 2004 was International Year of Rice and 2002 International Year of Mountains. All were coordinated by FAO at the request of the UN General Assembly to help promote and raise public awareness of the importance of familiar natural resources that are often taken for granted.

At a ceremony launching Natural Fibres Year, Hafez Ghanem, FAO Assistant Director-General for Social and Economic Development, said production of animal and vegetable fibres was a major agricultural sector, worth some $40 billion annually to the world’s farmers. Fibres, he noted, could in some cases account for up to 50 percent of a developing country’s exports. “Farmers and processors in these countries depend on proceeds from the sales and exports of these natural fibres for their income and food security.” (…)

Celebrations of IYNF will include conferences, exhibits, and fashion shows in many countries, including an International Mohair Summit in South Africa and a Creative Fibre Festival in South Caterbury, New Zealand. (…)


Nepal: Water projects improve living conditions for thousands of people

Kathmandu, 20 January (ICRC) - On 21 January, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Nepal Red Cross Society will hand over to local water users’ committees water projects worth 4.5 million Nepal rupees (almost 60,000 US dollars) completed in Dailekh district.

‘‘The repair work and upgrades carried out will improve the lives of some 2,400 people,” said Mary Werntz, head of the ICRC delegation in Kathmandu. “The new pipelines and improved sanitation facilities will result in a cleaner and more healthful environment for local people.”

The projects provided three Dailekh communities with over 9,000 metres of new pipeline, upgrades to existing pipelines, seven water tanks, 24 tapstands, and over 20 school sanitation facilities. In addition, information was provided on how to maintain adequate personal hygiene.

Families displaced from the three communities had received assistance from the ICRC and the Dailekh chapter of the Nepal Red Cross during the conflict period. Upon their return to their homes, they discovered that their water supply network had been damaged during the conflict and was in urgent need of repair. The ICRC and the Nepal Red Cross have been providing water and sanitation facilities for victims of the armed conflict since 2004. (...)


US$16 million for an IFAD rural rehabilitation project in the Niger

Rome, 15 January - US$16 million to the Republic of the Niger from IFAD will help boost good local governance in the Maradi region and enable rural communities to be more actively involved in creating suitable pro-poor policies to improve their livelihoods and decrease hunger. A loan of US$8 million, and a grant for the same figure, will finance the second phase of the Agricultural and Rural Rehabilitation and Development Initiative Project - Institutional Strengthening Component (ARRDI-ISC). The financing agreement was signed today in Rome by Mireille Fatouma Ausseil, Ambassador to Italy from the Republic of the Niger, and Lennart Båge, President of IFAD. ARRDI-ISC, that runs through to 2012, is co-financed with the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank/International Development Association (IDA). The project will help strengthen the ability of 56 rural communes to run local affairs competently - in line with the government’s decentralisation process. (…) To date, IFAD has funded nine projects and programmes in the Niger for a total of approximately 111 million dollars.


Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awards over $16 million in new grants

Los Angeles, 14 January - The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation today announced the approval of more than $16 million in grants to organizations focused on some of the foundation’s strategic initiatives including: the provision of safe water access, sanitation and hygiene in West Africa, measuring human development in the United States and addressing chronic homelessness and hunger in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

“The organizations receiving these grants are helping to improve the lives of the most suffering populations, which is the primary mission of the Hilton Foundation,” said Steven M. Hilton, president and chief executive officer of the Hilton Foundation. (...)

Based in Los Angeles, the Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by the late hotel entrepreneur and business leader, Conrad N. Hilton, who left his fortune to the foundation when he died in 1979 with instructions to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout the world without regard to religion, ethnicity or geography. (...) The foundation along with its related entities has assets exceeding $4.2 billion and, since its inception, has committed more than $780 million for charitable projects throughout the world.






Japan and UNICEF sign agreement for US$ 7.5 million to rebuild Rwanda’s earthquake affected western province

Kigali, 30 January - The Government of Japan and UNICEF signed an agreement today for US$ 7.5 million to rebuild the earthquake affected western province of Rwanda. (...) Rwanda was hit by a series of earthquakes in February 2008 that killed 37 people and injured 646. A joint government-UN assessment at the time found that 45 schools sustained damage, depriving 27,000 students of the chance to continue their learning. This grant of US$ 7.5 million will be used to reconstruct 15 of the most heavily damaged schools and the three health centers in Rusizi and Nyamasheke districts, as well as to empower communities in the two districts to undertake their own development projects, including responding to the needs of affected women, children and youth and maintaining and managing newly-built facilities, latrines and water points.


Wet meals and water for isolated areas in Gaza

29 January - Since January 12th DanChurchAid has distributed meals to 1300 people (150 families) in Jabalya Refugee Camp, where people have no access to food and water. The meals are prepared by a small, local partner, National Agency for Family Care (Food Bank) and distributed by DCA Coordinator Omar al Majdawali and a team of volunteers. Collections in Denmark also made it possible to start distribution of baskets with vegetables to 1000 families (around 7000 people) and baskets filled with canned food to 700 families (around 5000 people).

DanChurchAid is a faith-based and ecumenical, non-missionary organisation working with churches and non-religious civil organisations to assist the poorest of the poor. Aid is given regardless of race, creed, political or religious affiliation.


Spanish artists help fight malnutrition among African refugees

Madrid, Spain, 26 January (UNHCR) - A close partner of the UN refugee agency has persuaded some of Spain’s top artists to support an exhibition and online auction to raise money to tackle malnutrition among young refugees in four African countries.

The Spanish Committee for UNHCR, with the emceeing skills of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Jesús Vázquez, launched “Refugi@rte” in Madrid last Tuesday. Almost 50 works of art went on display at the BBVA exhibition hall, including pieces by artists such as Miquel Barceló, Eduardo Chillida, Joan Genovés, Cristina Iglesias, Antonio Saura, Antoni Tàpies and Manolo Valdés. The art was donated by the artists and various art galleries (…). There are a wide range of different styles, including paintings, etchings, lithographs and ceramics. (…)


Vietnam: MAG honoured for its fight against poverty

MAG has been recognised by the Vietnamese government as one of the most proactive international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in the country’s fight against poverty.

20 January - MAG was one of only a handful of international NGOs invited to attend the “Noi Vong Tay Lon” (“Joining the Great Fold”) event, held on the night of 31 December 2008 and broadcast live on Vietnam television. Organised by the Vietnam Fatherland Front (VFF) and Vietnam Television (VTV), the annual event aims to build support for its “For the Poor” foundation and express gratitude to individuals and organisations who have made practical contributions to poverty alleviation. The show, the seventh of its kind, was attended by President Nguyen Minh Triet and many other senior politicians. This year, international NGOs were part of the programme for the first time. Out of 700 such organisations working in Vietnam on food security and poverty reduction, MAG was one of just 11 invited to be honoured on stage. Country Programme Manager Jimmy Roodt announced that MAG’s budget for 2009 would be US$3 million, to be used for landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance in Vietnam’s marginalised post-conflict provinces. (…)

MAG (Mines Advisory Group) is a neutral and impartial humanitarian organisation clearing the remnants of conflict for the benefit of communities worldwide. MAG is co-laureate of the 1997 Nobel Peace Prize, awarded for its work with the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL), which culminated in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty - the international agreement that bans antipersonnel landmines, sometimes referred to as the Ottawa Convention.


China: Sichuan earthquake, Thousands to benefit from Red Cross Red Crescent quake reconstruction effort

15 January - For the past few months, the Red Cross Society of China (RCSC), supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has been focusing on reconstruction, recovery and disaster risk reduction actions.

The IFRC and RCSC are supporting beneficiaries with an owner-driven model of home reconstruction in a total of 17,540 village homes in the townships of Jiulong, Banqiao and Zundao in Sichuan. With just a few days to go before the Chinese New Year, it will be a muted celebration for many survivor families, emotionally and financially. Against a background of sharp economic downturn, the Red Cross Red Crescent programme of livelihoods support is set to become increasingly crucial. (…) In the face of the quake zone’s shattered infrastructure, the RCSC has also identified 56 township schools, 132 township clinics and 169 village health stations within Sichuan and the other two worst-hit provinces of Gansu and Shaanxi, that will require support from Red Cross Red Crescent partners. Further, the RCSC is also looking to construct disaster preparedness centres and continue developing capacities in this field. (…)


Costa Rica: Red Cross Red Crescent supports earthquake survivors

13 January - The Costa Rica Red Cross has sent a team of trained volunteers from its psychosocial support unit to support those affected by an earthquake measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale. Many of those living in areas hit hardest by the quake, which happened on 8 January, are still coming to terms with the event and are expressing stress, fear and feelings of insecurity. Rapid action from the psychosocial unit can prevent this type of stress from turning later into depression, sadness, anxiety, sleeping difficulties or social isolation. (…) Children receive special attention from the unit’s volunteers, and youth specialists have also been deployed to organize recreational activities and help young people forget about the trauma they just went through. At least 18 people died during the quake, and more people are still missing. According to Costa Rica Red Cross - which mobilized about 400 volunteers to support the rapid response efforts - more than 2,300 people have been affected. (...) Costa Rica Red Cross has additionally deployed more than 50 specialized rescue teams. Access to some areas has been complicated because of destruction to roads and bridges. (…)



Peace and security



Vote to expand Somali parliament shows commitment to restore stability – UN envoy

26 January - The top United Nations envoy to Somalia today welcomed the decision by the Transitional Federal Parliament, tasked with electing the strife-torn nation’s next president in the coming days, to increase its size by another 275 members. The new president is expected to take office on 31 January, appoint a prime minister and form a government of national unity, in a bid to bring stability to a nation that has not had a functioning central government since 1991 and has been plagued by violence and humanitarian suffering. “This is a very good result and will demonstrate to the Somali people that their leaders are committed to moving forward together to restore peace and stability,” said UN Special Representative for Somalia Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah.

Middle East and North Africa: Sign Treaty Banning Cluster Weapons

Lebanon and Tunisia have recognized how important it is to free the world of these deadly weapons. No Arab state has used cluster bombs in the past 15 years, and they now should promise never to do so in the future and join this treaty. (Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch)

Beirut, 26 January - Governments of the Middle East and North Africa region should sign the new international treaty banning cluster munitions, Human Rights Watch said today. So far, Lebanon and Tunisia are the only two countries from the region to have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was opened for signature in December 2008. Lebanon signed the treaty in December 2008, and Tunisia signed on January 12, 2009. (...)

A total of 94 countries, including Lebanon, signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo, Norway on December 3-4, 2008. The treaty is now open for signature at the United Nations in New York. Thirteen states from the region participated in meetings that led to the creation of the convention, but have not yet signed: Algeria, Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Iran, Israel, and Syria refused to participate in the process that created the convention, and also have refused to sign the agreement. (...)


Brazil: Red Cross photo exhibitions at World Social Forum

Brasília, 27 January (ICRC) - At the ninth World Social Forum, held from 27 January to 1 February in the northern Brazilian city of Belém, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is exhibiting a series of photographs that illustrate three themes: its work in Colombia, the dangers of landmines, cluster munitions and explosive remnants of war, and the presence of antipersonnel landmines on Latin American soil. The Brazilian Red Cross is displaying photographs depicting its assistance programme in the northern state of Pará.

The exhibition An Emblem for Humanitarian Action shows the neutral and impartial activities carried out by the ICRC in Colombia, where the organization assists tens of thousands of victims of armed conflict each year. The photographs underscore the importance of respect for the Red Cross emblem, which enables the ICRC to assist and protect people affected by armed conflict and other situations of violence throughout the world. (...)

The ICRC supports the efforts of the Brazilian Red Cross to strengthen its administrative and operational capacities. The ICRC also carries out activities designed to promote compliance with human rights norms by police forces, in particular by training some 1,000 police instructors throughout the country.


Security Council extends UN presence in Nepal for further six months

23 January - The Security Council today extended the mandate of the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN) for a further six months, and endorsed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s proposals for a phased, gradual drawdown and withdrawal of the world body’s staff.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body expressed its continued readiness to support the peace process in Nepal, where an estimated 13,000 people lost their lives during a decade-long civil war that came to an end when the Government and the Maoists signed a peace deal in 2006. In addition to assisting the country with the holding of landmark elections last year, UNMIN is also monitoring the management of arms and armed personnel of the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist (CPN-M) and the Nepal Army. (...)


UN, African Union to ramp up deployment of peacekeepers in troubled Darfur

21 January - Hundreds more troops will arrive in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region within the next two months in an effort to boost protection of civilians, the African Union-United Nations mission there, known as UNAMID, said today. (...)

Earlier this week in Addis Ababa, the UN, African Union and the Government of Sudan met to discuss ways of accelerating the deployment of UNAMID to reach the strength of 26,000 military and police personnel authorized by the Security Council. At the end of the meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding on air operations was signed by the Government of Sudan and UNAMID to enable the latter to make a more effective use of the infrastructure of Sudanese airports to speed up the process. (...) One year on from transferring the task of suppressing the violence to UNAMID from the AU Mission in Sudan (AMIS), some 12,374 blue helmets are now in place across Darfur, which is 63 per cent of the 19,555 authorized military personnel. (...)


Burundi: peace process is making further progress

On 9 January, the last active armed rebel group in Burundi, the FNL-Palipehutu, agreed to remove Palipehutu (referring to the ethnic composition of the party) from its name. They will seek accreditation as a political party, the FNL, Forces for National Liberation.

The FNL had long refused to rename the movement. This latest move is a major element of the agreement signed between the government and the FNL on 4 December, intended to implement a 2006 peace accord.

The FNL leader, Agathon Rwasa, claimed this is a significant step demonstrating the movement has ended the war and stands for peace. He called on the government to demonstrate its goodwill. Between the 3 and 5 December, the government released 80 of 247 political prisoners in accordance with the December agreement. However, the FNL pointed out that the international mediator had established the number of political prisoners at 442. (...)






Improving sanitation in Madagascar

by Ryan Hyland

Rotary International News, 29 January - To improve sanitation and fight waterborne disease, the Rotary clubs of Paris-Est, Val-de-Marne, France, and Tamatave, Madagascar, are teaming up to provide more than 900 septic tanks and water filtration systems to families in Tamatave’s poorest areas, Mangarivotra and Mararano. The project is supported by contributions totaling US$100,000, including a $42,000 Matching Grant from The Rotary Foundation. Other clubs and districts in France and the United States have also donated funds.

Charles de Talhouet, the project coordinator and a member of the Paris-Est club, says the new equipment will benefit more than 7,000 people in a place where a lack of sanitary latrine areas often exposes families to waterborne diseases such as cholera. (…) Charles Welch, a member of the Rotary Club of Chapel Hill-Carrboro Sunrise, North Carolina, USA, lived in Madagascar for 15 years and was a former member of the Tamatave club. (…) His club raised $2,000 for the project, and Welch has been in frequent contact with Talhouet on the initiative’s progress. (…)

The clubs also have partnered with Frères de Saint-Gabriel, a nonprofit that supports educational, social, and economic development in Madagascar, because of the group’s track record in installing 2,500 filters and septic tanks in Tamatave.  The organization’s staff will select recipients and instruct them how to use and care for the equipment. To foster a sense of ownership, families will pay a $6 fee for the tanks and water filters and help build, transport, and install them. (…)


UNA-USA applauds President Barack Obama's decision to restore US support for UN Population Fund

New York, 26 January - The United Nations Association of the USA (UNA-USA) commends President Obama’s quick decision to work with Congress to restore American financial support for the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The announcement of this decision within days of the inauguration is a promising indication of the president’s commitment to UNFPA’s important work and his determination to strengthen America’s role in the world through active participation in multinational efforts and institutions. 

Founded four decades ago with US support, UNFPA promotes safe pregnancies and childbirths, HIV/AIDS prevention and gender equality in approximately 150 countries and territories worldwide. Although UNFPA has helped to substantially reduce maternal mortality rates in places like Bolivia, Egypt and Zimbabwe, globally the statistics tell a more difficult story, with a woman dying during childbirth every minute. And halfway beyond the 2015 target date for the Millennium Development Goals, the goal dedicated to improving maternal mortality has had the least progress and is the most underfinanced. (…)

President Obama’s decision paves the way for America to join the rest of the world - more than 180 donor nations - in supporting UNFPA’s efforts to improve the health of women and children across the globe. To make this happen, UNA-USA urges Congress to provide critically needed funding for UNFPA in its unfinished FY2009 foreign aid spending bill.

UNA-USA contact: Chris Tangney


Documentary on polio eradication receives Oscar nod

by Ryan Hyland

Rotary International News, 26 January - In a week when Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced millions more in funding toward polio eradication, a short documentary film, The Final Inch, received an Academy Award nomination on 22 January for its intimate look at the massive mission to rid the world of the crippling disease. Nominated in the documentary short subject category, The Final Inch, a 38-minute film commissioned by the philanthropic division of Google, chronicles the challenges health organizations and governments face during the final stages of polio eradication.

Director and producer Irene Taylor Brodsky captured workers immunizing children in the poorest slums of India and Pakistan in 2007. In several scenes Rotarians were filmed working during a National Immunization Day on 22 April. Led by M.S. Jain, past governor of District 3100, NID volunteers administer polio vaccination drops to children in Meerut Samrat, Uttar Pradesh, India.

The Final Inch will air on HBO in early April.


Rotary and Gates announce major new funding for polio eradication

New contributions clear vote of confidence in intensified polio eradication effort.

21 January - Rotary International and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a further joint financing commitment of US$355 million towards the global effort to eradicate polio. Additional significant funding commitments were also announced by Germany and the United Kingdom. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said: “Rotarians, government leaders and health professionals have made a phenomenal commitment so polio afflicts only a small number of the world’s children. Rotary in particular has inspired my own personal commitment to get deeply involved in achieving eradication.” Worldwide, indigenous wild poliovirus transmission has been eradicated from all but four countries (India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Afghanistan). Watch video

WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan commented: “Together with enhanced commitment by the last four endemic countries at all levels, the new funding commitments are precisely what is needed to help the governments in these countries overcome the remaining barriers to reaching every child with polio vaccine.”  (...)


Global Heart Hour to be launched around Valentine’s Day 2009 

A new concept, Global Heart Hour, will be launched by cardiologist Dr VS Rambihar, University of Toronto medical students, and others, on February 12, 2009, to start and sustain a global heart movement and network to make a better world. Confirmed to speak at the Event are Dr Catherine Whiteside, Dean of Medicine, University of Toronto, Dr Peter Liu, Scientific Director, Canadian Institute of Health Research, Cardiac and Respiratory Health, Dr Anne Dipchand, Head of Heart Transplant Program, Hospital for Sick Children Toronto, Dr Shafiq Qaadri, Member of Ontario Parliament and a physician writer, and medical students and residents with global health experience.  Just as we turned lights off for Earth Hour and climate change, now we can turn on hearts for Global Heart Hour, needed now more than ever with the global crises we now face. This idea builds on 25 years of a Valentine's Day for Heart Health, and 4 years of a Global Heart project. A 21st century complexity based organizational method of networking will be used, both centralized and distributed like the Obama campaign, suited for our rapidly changing, interconnected instant communication world.  You are invited to use creativity and ingenuity to design your own event or action around Valentine’s Day, or use our ideas like a Global Heart themed fundraising party on Friday 13th, a heart health event on Wednesday 11th, or using money saved from buying less cards and flowers to help those in need.  For more on global heart, please look at Tsunami, Chaos, Global Heart at with more suggestions on page 271 or . Contact info:

Dr VS Rambihar, Cardiologist Toronto



Energy and safety



India Safeguards Agreement signed

3 February - An Agreement between the Government of India and the IAEA for the Application of Safeguards to Civilian Nuclear Facilities was signed today in Vienna by IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and Ambassador Saurabh Kumar of India. The safeguards agreement, which is the result of several rounds of consultations conducted between India and the IAEA since November 2007, was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in August 2008. The agreement will enter into force on the date the IAEA receives from India written notification that its statutory and/or constitutional requirements for entry into force have been met. The IAEA currently applies safeguards to six nuclear reactors in India under safeguards agreements concluded between 1971 and 1994. In the future, additional reactors are expected to be under IAEA safeguards under the newly-signed agreement.


Wind now leads EU power sector

2 February - In 2008, more wind power was installed in the EU than any other electricity generating technology. Statistics released by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) today show that 43% of all new electricity generating capacity built in the European Union last year was wind energy, exceeding all other technologies including gas, coal and nuclear power.

For the first time, wind energy is the leading technology in Europe. A total of 64,949 MW of installed wind energy capacity was operating in the EU by end 2008, 15% higher than in 2007. “The figures show that wind energy is the undisputed number one choice in Europe’s efforts to move towards clean, indigenous renewable power”, said Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive. On average, 20 wind turbines were installed for every working day of 2008. By the end of the year, a total of 160,000 workers were employed directly and indirectly in the sector, which saw investments of about €11 billion in the EU. The wind power capacity installed by end 2008 will, in a normal wind year, produce 142 TWh of electricity, equal to about 4.2% of the EU’s electricity demand, and avoid the emission of 108 million tonnes of C0 2 per year, the equivalent of taking more than 50 million cars off Europe’s roads. (…)[tt_news]=1441&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1588&cHash=cc199246b3


Italian fuel-cell airplane

30 January - In few months time, Skyspark, the first ultralight airplane will fly. It has an electric engine fed by fuel cells and able to fly for 500 Km to an average speed of 300 kilometers per hour. The initiative hase been taken by the pilot Maurizio Cheli, the department of aeronautical and space engineering of Turin Polytechnic , and the DigiSky society born in 2007 in the incubator for innovative enterprises created by the Polytechnic itself. The official launch will take place during the Turin World Air Games in June 2009, while the record attempt is previewed for the second semester of 2009. Some innovations introduced from Skyspark: a propeller electrical engine with electronic control of the power integrated with avionics on the vehicle. Moreover it is previewed the installation of lithium polymer batteries in order to improve the dynamics of the system, of an electric brushless engine, of an automatic compensation system in order to optimize the hydrogen cells power during the flight. (...)


International Renewable Energy Agency founded in Germany

IRENA is reality - on 26 January 2009, 75 countries signed the statute in Bonn

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) truly came into being on January 26, 2009 at the Founding Conference of IRENA in Bonn. More than 120 government delegations from across the world attended the conference and a total of 75 nations, a broad cross-section of developing and industrialized countries, signed the Agency’s statute. Many others expressed their strong commitment to IRENA’s goals and their intention to join in the near future. The conference was chaired by Germany's Federal Environment Minister, Sigmar Gabriel, and Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul. As Denmark and Spain from the outset had actively supported the preparation together with Germany, the respective Ministers, Connie Hedegaard (Danish Minister for Climate and Energy) and Miguel Sebastián Gascón (Spanish Minister for Trade, Industry and Tourism) were elected Vice-Chairs.(…) Swift action has to be taken in order to change current trends in climate change. In addition to energy efficiency, increasing the use of renewable energy will be an essential factor in mitigating climate change. (…)


Presentations online H2IT seminar EU Project results January 23 in Milan

23 January - On January 23, 2009 H2IT organized a half day full of presentations of EU project results from the promotion of joint procurement of clean and energy efficient vehicles (, to a guide for the installation of stationary fuel cells (, to the devleopment of clean urban vehicles running on hydrogen (, to an on-line course for technicians on the use of hydrogen in stationary and transport applications we try to inform you on the latest development. It also was an opportuntiy to exchange ideas for new national and european projects in 2009 . For more info:


Modern uranium mining

IAEA Promotes safe, responsible development of uranium resources.

14 January - Growing demand from a much anticipated nuclear power renaissance and consequent soaring prices for nuclear fuel have recently spurred greater investment in uranium exploration in an increasing number of countries. Through several initiatives, the IAEA is facilitating the transfer of information and knowledge from states with extensive experience in uranium mining and production to “newcomers” to the sector. The overarching aim of these initiatives is to help the uranium industry share best practices, train a new generation of experts and comply with IAEA safety standards so that people and the environment are protected. “The IAEA has been and will continue to be very active in the future to promote the safe, responsible development of uranium resources,” says Russel Edge, an IAEA waste safety specialist. This is crucial to the future of the industry worldwide. Promoting good practices in all phases of uranium production, for example, mitigates the environmental impact of mining and reduces future remediation costs of uranium mining sites.


US Additional Protocol enters into force

Five nuclear-weapon States now have APs in place.

7 January - An Additional Protocol to the nuclear safeguards agreement (AP) between the IAEA and the US entered into force on 6 January 2009. US Ambassador Gregory Schulte formally handed over the notification of the completion of the US´ ratification procedures to IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, marking the effective date for the entry into force of the AP for the country. With the entry into force of the US AP, all five nuclear-weapon States party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) have fulfilled their undertaking, assumed at the time of approval by the IAEA Board of Governors of the Model Additional Protocol in 1997, to conclude such APs.

The entry into force of the US AP brings the number of States with APs to 89 and contributes to efforts aimed at achieving universal application of APs.



Environment and wildlife



New plan to save Doñana highlight of global wetlands celebration

2 February - Spain’s Doñana National Park, a historic wetland now dangerously isolated by strawberry farms, is the centrepiece of today’s World Wetlands Day celebrations.

World Wetlands Day, held each year on the anniversary of the 1971 signing of the first ever global environmental treaty in the Iranian city of Ramsar, this year has the theme of Upstream, downstream: Wetlands connect us all. A highlight of the day is a scheduled balloon overflight of Doñana, highlighting the risks posed to the wetland and its wildlife by encroaching mainly groundwater-fed agriculture - as well as the innovative steps that WWF-Spain and partner organizations are undertaking to keep the wetland connected with surrounding areas.

Doñana has a special place in the history of environment activism, with WWF owing its origins to a fund set up to save the wetland vital to millions of migrating birds from 1950s proposals for extensive eucalypt plantations. Scientists and philanthropists prominent in saving Donana then went on to lobby governments for a framework to protect wetlands of international significance and the International Convention on Wetlands (the Ramsar Convention) was the result. (…)

In a pilot project for the WWF One Europe More Nature programme, WWF is working with farmers, the tourism industry and government authorities develop nature corridors through the farms to Donana, to reduce water and chemical use on the farms and to restore degraded areas. (…)


D.R. of Congo - Mountain gorilla population increases despite war

Eastern DRC, 27 January - The number of mountain gorillas in Virunga National Park has increased despite the war being waged in and around the area, according to the first count in 16 months. The count showed that the number of gorillas in groups habituated to humans - considered most at risk in the conflict - had increased to 81, compared to a count of 72 in 2007.

Park rangers were kicked out of the Mikeno sector of Virunga National Park, where six groups of habituated mountain gorillas live, in September 2007 by forces loyal to the ex-rebel leader Laurent Nkunda. Fifteen months passed without any rangers being able to monitor the mountain gorillas but in December 2008 Virunga National Park director, Emmanuel de Merode successfully negotiated with the CNDP rebel group to allow park rangers access the Mikeno sector and resume monitoring of the area. (…)


Surf’s up for going carbon neutral

Australians embrace climate neutrality on National Day.

Nairobi, 23 January - Traditionally celebrated by having a family barbeque or going to the beach, this year’s Australia Day - marked nationwide on 26 January - is all about going carbon neutral for some of the country’s best-known cities, companies and community initiatives.

From the country’s best-recognized cities to one of its most successful public campaigns, these Australian brands have embraced the vision of low-carbon economies and societies by joining the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net), an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote global action and involvement in climate neutrality at all levels. The cities of Sydney and Brisbane are among the new Australian CN Net members announced today, alongside the Greenfest music festival, the Clean Up the World initiative and the carbon management company BalanceCarbon.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director, said: “Combating climate change is the challenge of this generation. But it is also perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for transforming economies, triggering innovation, sparking human creativity and generating jobs now and in the future.”



Religion and spirituality



Twenty-four hours of prayer for peace in Holy Land

On January 31 in more than 400 cities around the world, prayer services and Masses will be held for an international day of intercession for peace.

Jerusalem, 30 January (AsiaNews) - Twenty-four hours of prayer for peace in the Holy Land. On January 31, in more than 400 cities around the world, Eucharistic celebrations, adoration, and prayer services are scheduled for the "international day of intercession for peace."

The initiative involves individuals, groups, religious orders, and associations in Europe, the United States, South America, Africa, and Australia. Hour by hour, the celebrations will pass from the faithful in one city to another, in places like Rome, New York, and Krakow. Small towns will also be involved, like dioceses in Peru and Mozambique. (…)


Living Faiths Together – Tool kit on inter-religious dialogue in youth work

15 January - Christmas 2008 turned out to be a special birthday: Living Faiths Together saw the light of the world. The brand new publication is a tool kit on inter-religious dialogue in youth work. EYCE and its inter-religious partners combined their expertise in the pioneer field of inter-religious youth work and wrote this special hand book in a unique, consensus-based process. Living Faiths Together is now available for download.

Living Faiths Together is being published thanks to the support of the European Youth Forum (YFJ) and is the work of the members of the European Youth Forum’s Faith-Based Expert Group. EYCE’s partners in this group are the European Union of Jewish Students (EUJS), the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organisations (FEMYSO), the International Young Catholic Students – International Movement of Catholic Students European Coordination (JECI-MIEC), Pax Christi International, World Student Christian Federation - Europe (WSCF-E). Further contributions to the Tool Kit came from the European Peer Training Organisation (EPTO) and the International Federation of Catholic Parochial Youth Movements (FIMCAP). Download the Tool Kit, spread it and make use of it: Download “Living Faiths Together” (PDF) (…)



Culture and education



New European tool for transparency of qualifications creates worldwide interest

30 January - Over 150 education specialists and policy-makers from 58 countries across the world are coming together in Brussels on 29-30 January to discuss the external dimension of the new European Qualifications Framework (EQF). The EQF is a reference tool that aims to make it easier for people to move between different education and training systems or countries and have their qualifications recognised. EU countries are currently putting in place this voluntary scheme with regard to their own systems. At the same time, many countries in the EU’s vicinity and across the world are working on similar schemes and are showing a keen interest in sharing experiences with Europe, or in ways of linking up to the EQF.(…)


Rwandan refugee qualifies as a doctor thanks to DAFI programme

Newcastle, South Africa, 30 January (UNHCR) - Egide Ndayishimiye, a Rwandan refugee who found safety in South Africa, has now added the title doctor before his name thanks to the DAFI scholarship programme funded by Germany and managed by UNHCR. (…)

Through the Albert Einstein German Academic Refugee Initiative (DAFI), UNHCR provides scholarships to qualified refugees for studies at universities and colleges in more than 35 countries of asylum and, recently, countries of return. (…)

The DAFI programme was set up by Germany in 1992 and is a vital part of UNHCR’s strategy to promote self-reliance and durable solutions for refugees. (…) The results have been highly positive: 95 percent of DAFI graduates are in jobs, with more than 70 percent in sectors relevant to the development of their countries. In recognition of the impact these graduates can have, the German government increased its funding for the programme last year from US$2 million to almost $5 million. That allowed UNHCR to increase the number of scholarship holders to 1,700 refugee students. (…) The DAFI Scholarship Programme


UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development

29 January - The UNESCO World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development - Moving into the Second Half of the UN Decade will be held in Bonn, Germany, from 31 March to 2 April 2009. Organizers of the conference are UNESCO and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO. Five years into the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, for which UNESCO is the lead agency, the conference aims to highlight the relevance of ESD to all of education; promote international exchange on ESD, especially between countries of the North and the South; carry out a stock-taking of the implementation of the UN Decade, and develop strategies for the way ahead.


Havana Pedagogia Congress January 26 to 30

26 January - Exchanging idea and experiences and strengthening regional co-operation are the twin themes of an education congress being held in Cuba. The eleventh edition of Pedagogia 2009, which is organised by the Cuban Ministry of Education and supported by UNESCO’s Regional Bureau of Education for Latin America and the Caribbean, aims to firm up the goals of the Regional Education Project for Latin America and the Caribbean (PRELAC).


Gazan children return to school

Save the Children assisting Gazan school children following cessation of violence.

Jerusalem, 26 January - Thousands of Gazan children returned to school this past Saturday when schools reopened their doors for the first time since the escalation of violence on Dec. 27, 2008. The global humanitarian organization Save the Children is assisting them by providing school supplies, setting up child-friendly spaces and arranging psychosocial support as they begin to rebuild their lives. (…) Save the Children, along with UNICEF, is co-leading the effort to determine the needs of school children and the education system, and to develop a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to ensure Gaza’s children return to school and normalcy. The initiative involves UN agencies, international and national non-governmental organizations, donors and other parties working in education. (...) To respond to these needs, Save the Children plans to work with local community partners to provide psychosocial support to children, parents and teachers. One approach will include adding a psychosocial aspect to the school curriculum to help children overcome their fears and ease back into school life. The agency also is preparing to set up child-friendly areas in schools, which give children a safe place to play and help them deal with the stress of their experience. (…)


SIGNIS World Congress 2009

World Catholic Association for Communication

Brussels, 20 January (SIGNIS) - Registrations for the SIGNIS World Congress 2009 open today, January 20, on the new Congress website: Organized by SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communication, the Congress will take place in Chiang Mai, Thailand, from October 17 to 21, 2009 on the theme “Media for a Culture of Peace – Children’s Rights, Tomorrow’s Promise” aiming to highlight how the media can contribute to the building of a culture of peace through the creative empowerment of tomorrow’s generation.

The Congress programme is built around three strands: Current Global Issues on Human Rights and Children’s Rights, Emerging Perspectives on Media and Social Transformation and The Challenges of Growing Up in a Digital Age. (...)


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Next issue: 27th February 2009.

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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.

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph.D. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti, Maria Grazia Da Damos, Elisa Peduto, Azzurra Cianchetta. Editorial Secretary: Maria Grazia Da Damos.

Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to 4,000 editorial offices of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations with an e-mail address in 49 countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway,  Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA. It is also distributed free of charge to 2,800 NGOs and 500 high schools, colleges and universities.

It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered educational charity chartered in Italy in 1979 and associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace”. The Association operates for the development of consciousness and promotes a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective based on unity in diversity and on sharing. It is based in Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy.


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