Good News Agency – Year X, n° 3



Weekly - Year X, number 3 – 27th 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



Immigration: MEPs adopt legislative resolution on crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants

Criminalising the employer, not the migrant.

12 February - Parliament adopted the legislative resolution on the crackdown on employers of illegal immigrants, following the vote on the amendments in Strasbourg on 4 February. At the time, MEPs decided to postpone the final vote at the request of the rapporteur Claudio FAVA (PES, IT) to allow the addition of a declaration providing reassurance that this directive will not prevent further legislation on subcontractors.

Between 4.5 and 8 million illegal immigrants work in the construction, farming, hotel and other sectors in the EU. One of the factors encouraging illegal immigration into the EU is the possibility of finding work. This legislation aims to reduce that pull factor by targeting the employment of third-country nationals who are illegally staying in the EU.

The Commission’s draft legislation is supposed to complement other measures, such as the “return directive” and the “blue card” directive, the overall aim being to combat illegal immigration more firmly while encouraging legal immigration. (...)


March 1st: ICBL celebrates 10 years in force of the Mine Ban Treaty

Author(s): Site Admin

A Mine-Free World: Mission Possible.

5 February - The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force on 1 March 1999, after the 40 required ratifications were deposited to the UN Secretary General. Ten years since its entry into force the Treaty has clearly made a difference in the lives of individuals and communities living in mine-affected areas. Over the past 10 years, the number of countries joining the treaty has continued to grow - from 40 in 1999 to 156 in 2009. (…)

To review and asses the impact the treaty has made on the ground over the past 10 years and to plan for the work ahead, states, civil society and all other stakeholders in the mine ban community will gather in Cartagena, Colombia on 30 November-4 December 2009 for the 2nd Review Conference of the Treaty. (…)


UN-brokered talks lay groundwork for global treaty combating illegal fishing

3 February - Significant progress has been made towards reaching agreement on an international treaty aimed at shutting down illegal sea-fishing operations threatening the livelihoods and food security of those in the developing world as well as some endangered species, the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) announced today. Following five days of FAO-brokered talks at the agency’s Rome headquarters, representatives from more than 80 countries have drafted the outline of a treaty, which proposes closing ports to ships involved in illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. (...) The most common IUU fishing offences include operating without proper authorization, catching protected species, using outlawed equipment or disregarding catch quotas. (...)

The international treaty on so-called “port State measures” will enable countries to share information and deny access to any vessel previously reported as involved in IUU fishing by other treaty signatories or by regional fisheries management organizations. The designated landing ports will also be equipped to undertake inspections of boats in order to monitor for evidence of IUU fishing activities.



Human rights



Nepal: UN and national human rights body agree on guidelines for cooperation

20 February - The United Nations today welcomed an agreement with Nepal’s national human rights body on guidelines for collaboration and cooperation in promoting and protecting the rights of people in the South Asian nation. The pact drawn up by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Nepal (OHCHR-Nepal) and the National Human Rights Council (NHRC) sets out a framework for sharing skills, knowledge and experiences between the two bodies. “Key areas of collaboration will include the promotion of human rights through the dissemination of information and educational materials and the organisation of joint trainings for, amongst others, government, law enforcement officials and civil society,” said Richard Bennett, the OHCHR Representative in Nepal. “Both OHCHR and the NHRC will continue to actively engage with civil society in the pursuit of human rights goals and undertake joint activities with civil society partners, particularly human rights defenders, wherever appropriate,” added Mr. Bennett. (...)


World Conference on Constitutional Justice

On 22-24 January 2009, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of South Africa and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe hosted the World Conference on Constitutional Justice on the topic “Influential Constitutional Justice - its influence on society and on developing a global jurisprudence on human rights” in Cape Town. This event coincided with the 60th anniversary of the Council of Europe and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (...) Participants from 93 Constitutional Courts, Constitutional Councils and Supreme Courts with constitutional, including human rights jurisdiction participated in this Conference. (...)

The World Conference concluded that constitutional justice is a key element in fostering and deepening the basic values enshrined in the Constitutions that form the basis of the work of the Courts and Councils which participated in the World Conference. Their decisions have a decisive impact on society. The participants of the Conference underlined the paramount importance of the respect for human rights in all parts of the World and insisted that governments must implement international human rights instruments. (...)



Economy and development



RI committee seeks to mobilize African Rotarians

by Ryan Hyland

Rotary International News - 20 February - Four African countries will each receive 20 incubators purchased by Rotarians in India as part of a project supported by Reach Out to Africa. Rotarians involved in the initiative worked with local clubs to raise funds for transportation and port charges, which will help the infant incubators arrive in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda by 30 June.

Reach Out to Africa, an RI committee, was formed to promote this kind of collaboration, to increase service projects, and boost Rotary club membership on the continent. (…)

Originated by Past RI President Wilfrid J. Wilkinson’s advisory committee, the ad hoc committee consists of four regional subcommittees that cover eastern, western, southern, and northern Africa, and another subcommittee made up of Rotarians from around the world who have participated in successful projects on the continent. The regional subcommittees identify the needs in their area, while the last subcommittee finds project resources from local and international Rotary clubs and organizations. 

Reach Out to Africa will focus on projects related to water, health, literacy and education, economic empowerment, children’s welfare, and disabilities. (…)


IFAD provides US$31.9 million loan to China to help reduce poverty in the Dabieshan area

Rome, 19 February - China has an impressive record of strong and sustained economic growth and has experienced an unprecedented decline in poverty in recent years. However, rural poverty persists in disadvantaged areas such as the Dabieshan area. A US$31.9 million grant from IFAD to the People’s Republic of China will help finance a poverty reduction programme in the Dabieshan area of Henan Province. The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters by Zhang Xiaosong, Deputy Director General of the Ministry of Finance of the People’s Republic of China and Lennart Båge, IFAD President. The IFAD-supported Dabieshan Area Poverty Reduction Programme aims to increase incomes among poor farm households through various approaches to agricultural development and market access. The area is known for its high quality green tea. (...) The programme is expected to reach 77,000 households in 720 of the area’s poorest villages.



US$56 million supplementary loan from IFAD to the United Republic of Tanzania for agricultural development

Rome, 19 February - A US$56 million supplementary loan from IFAD to the United Republic of Tanzania, for the Agricultural Sector Development Programme, will further support the government’s efforts to encourage economic growth and reduce poverty by supporting the development of smallholder agriculture. The loan agreement was signed today in Rome by Ambassador Wilfred Joseph Ngirwa, the Permanent Representative of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United Nations Agencies (FAO, IFAD and WFP), and Lennart Båge, IFAD President. The agricultural sector in Tanzania comprises mainly smallholder farmers. It has significant growth potential for traditional export crops, thanks to expanding domestic and regional markets and to the relative abundance of arable and range land. (...)

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.


West Africa: West Africa cocoa livelihoods program

19 February - ACDI/VOCA will take part in a new $40 million program funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and chocolate industry companies to significantly improve the livelihoods of approximately 200,000 cocoa farmers in Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Cameroon and Liberia. The program will be managed by the World Cocoa Foundation and be implemented through a consortium of five organizations including ACDI/VOCA, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)/Sustainable Tree Crops Program, SOCODEVI and TechnoServe.


Lebanon - camp’s community center is inaugurated

Nahr el Bared, 12 February - American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) and partner Un Ponte Per reopened the Beit Atfal Assumoud Association Community Center in the Nahr al Bared refugee camp, nearly destroyed in the 2007 fighting between Fatah al Islam militants and the Lebanese army. Beit Atfal Assumoud is the first community-geared facility to reopen in the camp. Fortunately, the structure was sound enough for the facility to be rehabilitated.

The rehabilitated center will provide preschool programs, dental clinic, library space and vocational training center. (…) In addition to the community center, a public park was also inaugurated. The park gives the children of Nahr el Bared camp a safe place to play. It was built with support from ANERA and the U.S.-based Playgrounds for Palestine as well as private donor Mazan Afifi, after whom the park is named. (...)


Strengthening the international humanitarian response: European Commission adopts €27 million capacity-building programme

Brussels, 12 February - The European Commission has adopted a new funding decision for €27 million to strengthen global humanitarian preparedness and the response capacity of international organisations. Daily experience confirms the view of the Commission’s humanitarian partner organisations that there are still significant gaps to be filled, notably in respect of logistics, pre-positioning and disaster-preparedness in sectors such as health, water/sanitation, shelter, food assistance and protection. (...) This decision keeps the Commission in the frontline of international donors supporting efforts to make the international humanitarian system more responsive and efficient.

The funding will be channelled to key international relief agencies: the World Health Organisation (WHO), the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR), UNICEF and WFP, as well their main partners and stakeholders. As capacity building aims to benefit humanitarian operations globally, this programme has the potential to impact positively on millions of people affected by humanitarian crises every year.


European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner announces assistance of €149 million to Egypt for education, transport and public services and civil society programmes

Brussels, 12 February - The European Commission is now making available a package worth €149 million to Egypt within the 2008 Annual Action Programme under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument. Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy Benita Ferrero-Waldner made the announcement in the presence of the Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Prof. Dr. Hatem El-Gabaly on the occasion of his visit to Brussels. The focus of the programmes financed under this package will be on education, reforms in the transport sector, improvement of the water and waste water services and support for civil society. (...)

The ENP Action Plan, adopted in March 2007, identifies reform priorities within Egypt’s own agenda of reforms. To support implementation of the Action Plan, The European Commission has agreed a €558 million package of financial support for Egypt for 2007 to 2010 under the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument (ENPI).


UN teams up with Olympic Committee in race to end poverty, help urban youth

6 February - The United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT) has signed an agreement with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) aimed at giving hope to disadvantaged and vulnerable youth through sport. The landmark pact brings the two organizations together to create initiatives that encourage young people to participate in sporting activities, advancing progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), an internationally agreed set of targets aimed at eradicating poverty and other social ills by 2015. Both sides have agreed to promote advocacy work and support field-level activities meant to improve the livelihoods of slum dwellers around the world. (...)


ACDI/VOCA promotes introduction of microleasing in Tajikistan with IFC

2-3 February - ACDI/VOCA’s USAID-funded Central Asia Microfinance Alliance II program (CAMFA II), the International Finance Corporation (IFC), and the Association of Microfinance Organizations of Tajikistan (AMFOT) conducted a two-day training on “Basics and Specifics of Microleasing Operations” for local microfinance organizations in Dushanbe, Tajikistan. The purpose was to train microcredit specialists on practical skills in preparing and conducting microleasing operations while accounting for relevant legal and tax issues.

Microleasing is a financial services tool that makes it easier for small enterprises or private entrepreneurs who cannot afford to purchase inexpensive equipment, agricultural technology and other fixed assets at full cost to rent them. Microleasing allows these small enterprises and entrepreneurs to build up their initial capital or expand their business at a lower cost. (…)


Grassroots humanitarian project Amman Imman partners with schools to bring water to 25,000 people in West Africa

Niger- Poised to build its second borehole well in Niger’s Azawak Valley—a vast region in the middle of the country that is quickly drying up —Amman Imman’s executive director, Ariane Kirtley, and a team of volunteers will travel to Niger to conduct a feasibility study and find an optimal spot to start drilling. (…) After more than a year and a half spent fundraising, the team is ready to help another 25,000 people living in this destitute region by bringing them the life-saving water they need. This water will come from 600 to 3,000 feet below the Earth’s surface through a structure called a borehole well.  Called “The Montessori Well of Love,” the infrastructure will be erected in honor of the many Montessori schools around the world that have raised funds for the well. (…)

With global climate change shortening the rainy season —from five months less than a decade ago to less than two months today —Amman Imman is the only hope for the Tuareg and Fulani ethnic groups living in the Azawak Valley and one of the few humanitarian organizations that has ventured to this abandoned and long-forgotten place, and the only one currently bringing water to the region.

Amman Imman plans to build many more boreholes in the next few years—the soul source of hope for the 500,000 people living in the Azawak Valley, according to Newsweek reporter Scott Johnson who visited Amman Imman’s first borehole last summer. (…)






Liberia: Red Cross ensures clean water for residents affected by caterpillar invasion

by Lincoln Reeves, Liberian Red Cross Society

20 February - In mid-January, six years after the official end of war in Liberia, the local and international media announced a new wave of attacks in Bong County in central Liberia. Thousands of people, including many farmers, have been left with ravaged crops, contaminated water sources, and the threat of food insecurity and waterborne diseases. (...) The invaders are a type of caterpillar known as Achae catocaloides that are sometimes called ‘army worms’ on account of the organized and sustained nature of their attack. (…) The Liberian Red Cross Society worked to repair wells and hand pumps, and it constructed a new shallow well for affected people. The Red Cross volunteers also distributed jerry cans and chlorine for water purification to over 500 families. (…) The Liberian government and other agencies have been spraying affected areas to drive the caterpillars into the forest. The Liberian Red Cross Society is currently monitoring the situation. (...)


Save the Children announces grant from PepsiCo Foundation to address malnutrition in developing nations

Westport, Conn.,USA, 19 February - Save the Children today announced it will receive a three-year, $5 million grant from the PepsiCo Foundation to help ensure the survival and well-being of children living in rural India and Bangladesh, which together are home to 40 percent of the world’s malnourished children. With support from the PepsiCo Foundation, Save the Children will work towards decreasing newborn and child mortality and child malnutrition in these countries. Save the Children proposes to work with community health educators to provide thousands of families, who are among these countries’ poorest, with important information about health, nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene. The combined global resources of PepsiCo Foundation and Save the Children will help make a profound difference in the lives of 650,000 children under the age of five, along with mothers and pregnant and lactating women in these two countries. (…)


EU announces additional €41 million for UNRWA in response to Gaza crisis

17 February (UNRWA) - The European Commission has today announced an additional contribution of €41 million to support the work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Mr. Christian Berger, the European Commission Representative for the West Bank and Gaza Strip and UNRWA, made the announcement today at an extraordinary meeting of the Advisory Commission in Amman, Jordan, which brings together UNRWA stakeholders several times a year to provide advice and guidance to the UNRWA Commissioner General. Most of the funds come from a special €1 billion Food Facility which was which was created last year by the President of the European Commission, Mr. José Manuel Barroso, to help developing countries to deal with crises in the face of rising worldwide food prices.

“We have already mobilised €18 million in additional funds as a response to the dire humanitarian situation caused by the recent conflict in the Gaza Strip and we will mobilise a further €22 million in the near future” said Mr. Berger. “We are also today contributing an extra €1 million to help with UNRWA’s ongoing reform plans”. (...)


Occupied Golan: ICRC transports 8,000 tonnes of apples to help local communities

Geneva, 17 February (ICRC) - The gates at Kuneitra opened today and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) began transporting up to 8,000 tonnes of apples between the occupied Golan and the Syrian checkpoint. (...) The ICRC is acting in its capacity as a neutral intermediary at the request of the farmers of the occupied Golan and with the approval of the Syrian and Israeli authorities. (...) The operation has been coordinated with all the parties concerned, including the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF). (...) The sale of the fruit is the main source of income for the Syrian farmers of the occupied Golan, as apple production is the backbone of the local economy.

The ICRC has been carrying out humanitarian activities in the occupied Golan since 1967 and has maintained a permanent presence there since 1988. In its role as a trusted neutral intermediary, the ICRC provides a range of services addressing the consequences of restrictions placed on the movement of the population as well as legal and administrative difficulties resulting from the occupation. (…)


Building bridges to save lives

by Donna Polydoros

Rotary International News - 16 February - The Nithi River used to claim as many as 50 lives each year near the Kenyan villages of Kajuki and Mutino. But a Matching Grant project carried out by the Rotary clubs of Meru, Kenya, and Middleton, Greater Manchester, England, helped fund a bridge that allows villagers to cross the river safely, transforming the economies of the villages in the process.

Before the bridge was constructed, Mutino villagers had to make a 30 mile roundtrip journey to cross the river at a safe point, making it difficult to reach Kajuki for supplies and medical services. Often in emergencies, villagers would try to ford the river, and many died as a result.

“Life was never the same again for these people,” says Meru club president Julius Gatobu Mwithimbu, reflecting on the results of the project. “People started traveling from far away just to come and feel the joy of walking over this river that had previously claimed the lives of their loved ones.” (…)


Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC helps 60,000 farmers

Kinshasa/Geneva, 3 February (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched an initial distribution of seed and tools in North Kivu, working with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The aid will allow 60,000 people to start farming again, improving their food situation. In parallel, the ICRC and the World Food Programme will be providing these families with food to tide them over until harvest.

“Access to land and markets is the decisive factor that allows people to fend for themselves,” explained Manuel Duce Marques, an ICRC nutritionist. (...) In view of the situation, it is very important that the parties to the conflict fulfil their obligation to respect and protect the civilian population and objects indispensable to its survival, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas and crops.


Caritas helping storm-battered Pacific islanders

9 February - Caritas has been among the first agencies to deliver aid to people in the Solomon Islands after massive flooding killed at least ten people and washed away homes and bridges. The government has declared a state of emergency after torrential rains on the main island of Guadalcanal and neighbouring Savo Island affected 1,800 families. (…) Caritas is targeting vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and women to ensure they have access to food and clean water. But damaged infrastructure makes delivering aid difficult. (…) The islands’ crops have also been damaged by the flooding, putting food supplies at risk. Rains and flooding have battered the South Pacific Since last December. Fiji Islands, Papua New Guinea, Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands, have all been affected and tens of thousands of people have abandoned their homes. (...)


Nation’s oldest and largest African-American sorority partners with CARE to empower women worldwide

200,000 plus members urged to join the movement.

9 February - Inspired by its century of service and mission to empower communities worldwide, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority is partnering with CARE to advance the movement to end global poverty. The nation’s largest and oldest sorority has made A POWERFUL NOISE Live its official event for International Women’s Day.

A POWERFUL NOISE Live, a one-night event simulcast in 450 movie theatres nationwide on Thursday, March 5th, will give audiences a deeper understanding of the difference they can make in the world by empowering women. Executive produced by entrepreneur and philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson, the documentary “A Powerful Noise” tells the story of the unbending efforts of three women in Bosnia, Mali and Vietnam to create change in their communities. Immediately after the film, a panel discussion with humanitarian experts and celebrities will be broadcast live via satellite from New York City to participating theatres. (...)

For more information, including a complete list of participating theatres, how to purchase tickets and updates on panelists, please visit


Democratic Republic of the Congo: ICRC helps 60,000 farmers

Kinshasa/Geneva, 3 February (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched an initial distribution of seed and tools in North Kivu, working with the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The aid will allow 60,000 people to start farming again, improving their food situation. In parallel, the ICRC and the World Food Programme will be providing these families with food to tide them over until harvest.

“Access to land and markets is the decisive factor that allows people to fend for themselves,” explained Manuel Duce Marques, an ICRC nutritionist. (...) In view of the situation, it is very important that the parties to the conflict fulfil their obligation to respect and protect the civilian population and objects indispensable to its survival, such as foodstuffs, agricultural areas and crops.



Peace and security



Announcement of new Somalia cabinet welcomed by UN envoy

20 February - A senior United Nations official has welcomed the announcement of the new Somali cabinet, and the fact that the new Government will return to Mogadishu this weekend to begin the vital work of restoring peace, stability and development to the strife-torn nation. The Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, said the cabinet announced by Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke is “a healthy combination of experience and youth.” He welcomed the fact that the Prime Minister chose a Government of National Unity as outlined in the 2008 UN-facilitated Djibouti Agreement by the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia (ARS), in which they agreed to end their conflict. There have been several encouraging developments over the past month for Somalia, which has not had a functioning central government since 1991. These include the election of the country’’s new President, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, in what the UN has hailed as “a fair and open manner” and the creation of an enlarged Parliament.


UN-supported training aims to boost DR Congo military justice system+

19 February - Close to 600 armed forces officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are slated to undergo a United Nations-backed military justice refresher course beginning this weekend in Kinshasa, capital of the war-ravaged African nation. During the one-week workshop for Congolese military staff, participants will review the country’s legal texts and international humanitarian law, as well as subjects such as sexual abuse, military court management and the code of conduct for judiciary officials. The workshops, aimed at promoting greater communication to all involved in the military legal structure, will be held throughout the DRC until June. (...)

The project, funded by the Netherlands and dubbed “Support for the Reinforcement of the Capacities of the Military Justice System in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” is supported by the Rule of Law Unit of the UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC, and the UN Development Programme (UNDP). (…)


Joint UN, African Union mediator hails pact between Government, Darfur rebels

18 February - The Joint African Union-United Nations Chief Mediator tasked with resolving the conflict in Darfur has congratulated the Sudanese Government and a key rebel group for making strides in the process to bring peace to the war-ravaged Darfur region. Yesterday, representatives of the Sudanese Government and the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), meeting for the first time in two years, signed the “Agreement of Good Will and Confidence Building for the Settlement of the Problem in Darfur” in Doha, Qatar. (...) The Joint Chief mediator called on Qatar and regional partners to contribute humanitarian relief in the short-term as well as to the reconstruction of the region once a peace pact has been reached. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the Government-JEM agreement, calling it a “constructive step in the ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful conclusion to this long-running conflict.”


Rwanda: Soldiers learn the skills to help sustain peace

“This project is all about enabling the Rwandans to help themselves.”

17 February - A six-man team from the Rwandan Army is making a truly significant contribution to security in its own country and the wider Great Lakes Region. Since December the soldiers have been learning how to destroy excess stockpiles of small arms and light weapons. The weapons - many of which were confiscated during the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide in 1994 - are often of a high quality and their destruction means that they are never able to inflict harm again. On Friday the 5,000th weapon was cut up, with a target of 10,000 to be destroyed by the end of March. (…) The team is supported by MAG, which has deployed a technical manager to advise on the best methods of destruction. MAG hopes that within months sufficient capacity will have been built for the weapons destruction programme to run on its own. MAG will also train an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team which will safely destroy over 160 tonnes of assorted surplus munitions, including artillery projectiles, mortars, rockets and small arms ammunition. (…)

MAG’s operations in Rwanda are currently funded by the Conflict Prevention Pool (CPP). The CPP is run jointly by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence and Department for International Development (DFID).






Measles vaccination in eastern Chad is a human and logistical challenge

Since February 7, MSF teams have been vaccinating tens of thousands of children against measles in the district of Abéché, Chad. This emergency operation - to fight against an epidemic that has been ongoing for several week - is mobilizing significant human and logistical resources.

18 February - (...) Since February 7, more than 40,000 children have been vaccinated against measles in the city and the neighbouring countryside. In mid-January, faced with the many cases of measles reported in the district of Abéché, Chadian authorities called on MSF to vaccinate all children between the ages of 6 months and 15 years of age against this contagious disease. It took less than ten days for the emergency team sent to the site to set up this mass vaccination campaign: leasing of vehicles, establishment of a cold chain to keep the vaccinations at the right temperature, training of personnel provided by the Ministry of Health. (…)

As of February 14, the vaccination teams will start going outside the perimeter of Abéché. They will penetrate deeper into the interior of the country, into the zones which are too remote to consider returning from to the city every day. (...) Other MSF teams are now undertaking, under the same difficult conditions, another vaccination campaign along the Sudan border, in the neighbouring district of Adré.


South Darfur: MSF team returns to provide health care to the people affected by heavy fighting in Muhajariya

18 February - After four weeks of forced absence an MSF team has been able to return to Muhajariya in South Darfur where an estimated 35,000 people were affected by heavy fighting. (...) During the first days of fighting the MSF base was completely destroyed by fire. However the MSF clinic was untouched and has remained functional. (...) MSF has begun re-establishing full medical services. By the second day, the number of outpatients had already doubled. MSF plans to bring in more staff and to restore our clinics in the nearby areas of Labado and Um Shegeira.

MSF’s country director in Sudan, Reshma Adatia, currently in Muhajariya: “On arrival, the newly installed Government of Sudan authorities in town welcomed the restart of our medical activities. We aim to soon have our services back to the same level as before we were forced to evacuate.” (...)

In 2008 MSF provided more than 54,000 consultations in our inpatient and outpatient services, almost 6,500 women were treated in the maternity, and 300 babies have been delivered. The MSF nutrition programme treated over 1,000 children. (...)


Launching the first EU health prize for journalists, part of the Europe for Patients campaign

17 February - Today, the European Commission launches the first EU health prize for journalists in print and on-line articles. This prestigious prize is an important component of the recently launched Europe for Patients campaign. The prize serves as both recognition and promotion of high quality health journalism across Europe. It serves to stimulate and contribute to the debate on EU health issues, specifically those initiatives related to the Europe for patients’ campaign. (...)

Articles published in print or on-line publications between 2 July 2008, when the first Europe for Patients initiative was adopted, and the closing date of 15 June 2009 will be considered. (...) To submit an article and find out more about EU health prize for journalists please refer to the Europe for patients’ website:


Japan provides US$2.9 million in Sierra Leone

Freetown, 11 February - The Government of Japan provided US$ 2.9 million for “the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases” in support of effective strategies to reduce child and maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. The project is directed towards children under the age of five years, pregnant women and young mothers in all the thirteen districts in Sierra Leone. The objective of this funding is to contribute to the Government’s effort to improve maternal and child health through the delivery of an Essential Package of Services. Along with delivering essential supplies the project will also include a strong behavioural change communication component especially in infant and young child feeding, child care and hygiene promotion to address some of the major causes of mortality among children and women in Sierra Leone. (...) The Government, with support from UNICEF, proposes to align strategies and activities to ensure that essential packages reach vulnerable women and children. (...)


Polio eradication in Nigeria: state governors’ crucial commitment secured, as Gates visits country to support effort

Gates: “Nigeria can lead the way to a polio-free Africa.”

Abuja, Nigeria, 4 February - (...) Meeting in Abuja on 2 February, the governors of the 36 states of Nigeria convened a special urgent session on health under the leadership of HE President Umaru Yar’Adua. The governors recognized that to urgently fill ongoing vaccination coverage gaps during polio immunization campaigns requires active leadership, engagement and accountability by the political leadership from the states and districts (Local Government Areas - LGAs). To this effect, the governors signed the ‘Abuja Commitments to Polio Eradication in Nigeria’, publicly committing themselves to provide the necessary active leadership which will mobilize the state and LGA civil administrations to reach at least 90% of all children with polio vaccine. (...) Commending the state governors for signing the ‘Abuja Commitments’, Mr Gates emphasized the critical role that leaders at all levels play in reducing the number of missed and under-immunized children, and thanked the Ministry of Health and NPHCDA for the attention they have placed on polio eradication. (…)



Energy and safety



European Council backs large-scale deployment of offshore wind

19 February - The European Council today endorsed the European Commission’s Strategic Energy Review (SER) of November 2008, which contained its commitment to publish a blueprint for a North Sea grid. In today’s conclusions, the Council described work on this offshore grid as a “priority action”. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) considers the development of offshore wind and its integration into the electricity network key to achieving the EU’s 20% renewables targets by 2020. (...)[tt_news]=1458&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1588&cHash=879850c645


EU - Incandescent light bulbs: Environment Committee backs phase-out plan

Brussels, 17 February - Plans to gradually replace incandescent light bulbs with energy-saving or halogen ones by 2012 were backed by the Environment Committee on Tuesday morning, when it rejected a move to block them. The replacement plan was proposed by the European Commission in December 2008, and then approved by Member State experts in the Eco-design Regulatory Committee. (...) The Commission estimates that switching to energy-saving bulbs will save EU citizens close to 40 terawatt-hours (roughly equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of Romania, or 11 million European households, or to the yearly output of ten 500-megawatt power stations) and will cut about 15 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year.

An average household switching from incandescent bulbs to compact fluorescent ones could make net savings (taking into account higher cost of replacement bulbs) of between € 25 and € 50 a year on its electricity bill. These savings would release an extra €5 to 10 billion into the EU economy each year. The replacement bulb regulation is just one of the “Eco-design” measures to be adopted by the Commission in the coming months, targeting many more products such as consumer electronics, white goods or heating appliances. (...)


The Wind Day goes global: new website and photo competition launched

4 February - The European Wind Day is going global in 2009. On 15 June five continents will be united by events, conferences, parties and contests celebrating and promoting this clean, infinite, no-fuel energy source. To initiate the six month run-up to the event, a wind energy themed photo contest and an all-new website are being launched today. (...) This year, EWEA is joining together with the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) to coordinate the Wind Day. “ Wind energy already delivers electricity to millions of people around the world”, said Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive, “but to fully exploit this available technology more people must be made aware of the huge benefits it offers: energy independence, CO2 savings, avoided fuel costs, green jobs and many others”. (...) The new website,, provides information about the campaign and the network of wind energy associations, industry actors and stakeholders that will be organising public events on 15 June. (...)[tt_news]=1442&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1&cHash=a71a162a07



Environment and wildlife



Black Vultures reproducing in Greece

Athens, Greece, 19 February - The Black Vulture, one of the largest birds of prey in the world and nature’s very own cleansing and recycling machine, has started laying eggs in Dadia, northern Greece, where the only population that actively reproduces in the Balkans can be found.

WWF-Greece’s team there has been instrumental in raising the local population from around 25 individuals in 1980 to 90-100 in the last five years. Their efforts, along with those of the local community, have turned the forest of Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli, a national park, into the best managed protected area in Greece. (...) After concerted WWF efforts in co-operation with other NGOs, an area that encompasses the Black Vulture’s nesting and feeding sites was declared protected and eventually became part of the National Park of the Dadia-Lefkimi-Soufli forest in Evros that was founded in 2001. WWF-Greece’s team in Dadia monitors the vultures and the area and has recently begun passing on its know-how to its Balkan neighbours in the hope that a second population will someday set up home and reproduce somewhere else in the Balkan peninsula.


One Year Old and One Hundred Strong - Copenhagen becomes the 100th participant of the UNEP Climate Neutral Network

CN Net Centurions Honoured at the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council.

Nairobi, 19 February - The City of Copenhagen today became the 100th participant of the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net), an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote global action towards low-carbon economies and societies. Launched a year ago with an initial four countries, four cities and five companies, the CN Net today brings together a wide range of participants, including countries big and small, some of the world’s best-known cities, major international companies, UN agencies and leading NGOs. These first 100 participants - the CN Net Centurion - were honoured at the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Programme meeting this week in Nairobi, Kenya.

UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: “The Climate Neutral Network was born in response to the growing need to federate the many bold and inspiring initiatives being taken the world over to address the global climate change challenge and embrace the opportunity to ‘de-carbonize’ our economies and societies.” (...)


Second National Geographic geotourism competitions opens

Online Contest Seeks Top Innovators in Sustainable Tourism

 Washington DC, February 18 - The National Geographic Society and Ashoka’s Changemakers today opened the entry process for the second annual “Geotourism Challenge” to showcase how tourism done well sustains, enhances and preserves local culture and the environment. The competition will identify individuals worldwide who have introduced the most innovative practices in tourism and destination stewardship.

Conducted in partnership with Ashoka’s Changemakers, the global Geotourism Challenge will accept online applications at through May 20, 2009. Applicants must demonstrate an innovation that protects destination quality and furthers geotourism, defined by National Geographic as “tourism that sustains or enhances the geographical character of a place — its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage and the well-being of its residents.” (…) A distinguished panel of judges — including Keith Bellows, editor of National Geographic Traveler magazine, and Erika Harms, United Nations Foundation’s executive director for sustainable development — will review the applications and select the finalists. The online community will then vote for the Geotourism Challenge winners, who will be announced this summer. Each winner will receive a cash prize of $5,000.(…)


East meets West for Earth Hour in over 500 cities

9 February - The global call to action on climate change has been answered from east to west as a record 538 cities and towns in 75 countries sign up to turn their lights off at 8.30pm on 28 March for Earth Hour 2009. East meets west for Earth Hour as icons such as the Merlion in Singapore, Hong Kong’s Symphony of Lights and the Shanghai Hong Kong New World Tower, unite with some of the Western world’s most famous landmarks, including Paris’ Eiffel Tower, Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, Sydney’s Opera House, Table Mountain in Cape Town, CN Tower in Toronto and Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Casino, to go dark. Earth Hour Executive Director Andy Ridley said the global growth in support for Earth Hour has been phenomenal. (...)

As the campaign continues to gather pace, some of the world’s best known brands are leading the call for action from the business community. (…)


WRI, NewPage Launch Partnership to Protect Indonesian Forests

5 February - The World Resources Institute (WRI) and NewPage Corporation today announce a partnership to protect forests in Indonesia. NewPage will substantially fund WRI’s “Project POTICO” (Palm Oil, Timber, Carbon Offsets), an initiative to combat illegal logging and preserve virgin rainforests in Indonesia by diverting new oil palm plantations to degraded lands.

“Deforestation is having a significant impact on people, biodiversity and the climate,” said Jonathan Lash, president of WRI. “Project POTICO will relieve pressure on Indonesia’s virgin tropical rainforests, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from forest clearing, and prevent the loss of biodiversity in forests slated for conversion to oil palm plantations. Well-designed oil palm plantations in degraded areas would create local jobs and protect traditional livelihoods of forest-dependent people.” (...)



Religion and spirituality



Ecumenical Water Network suggests ideas for prayer and action during Lent

As the season of Lent draws near, the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) invites Christians to mark the occasion with reflection and action on water justice.

19 February - During the Seven Weeks for Water initiative, theologians and church activists from Africa, Europe, North and South America will share short biblical meditations for each week along with some campaigning ideas and resources. The first set of materials will be available on the EWN website from 25 February - Ash Wednesday according to Western Christian tradition. EWN also provides an RSS stream for the seven weeks, which allows groups and congregations to give visibility to their participation on their own websites.

“Traditionally Lent is a time for concentrating on what is essential in life and opening our hearts to our neighbours, for example by fasting and giving to the needy,” says Maike Gorsboth, the EWN coordinator. “The Seven Weeks for Water initiative encourages Christian groups and individuals to deepen this experience, reflecting on the concrete issue of water justice.” (...)

The Seven Weeks for Water initiative was first celebrated during Lent 2008. This year, the resources will for the first time be available in four languages - English, Spanish, German and French.  More information on the Seven Weeks for Water


Desmond Tutu wins global oneness award

by David Masters

12 February - Retired Archbishop Desmond Tutu is be given an international award in honour of his “vision, understanding and building of bridges.” The Nobel Peace laureate and former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town will receive the Spiritual Leadership Award from global awakening movement Humanity’s Team. (...) Seventy seven year old Tutu - famous for his opposition to apartheid in 1980’s South Africa - will receive the honour at Humanity Team’s 2009 global Oneness Summit on April 18 in Pretoria, South Africa. The summit’s focus will be on oneness as expressed in the southern African ethic of ‘ubuntu’ - “I am what I am because of who we all are”. According to Farrell, Tutu “embodies many of humanity’s greatest visions of spiritual courage - of ubuntu - and is now an icon of hope far beyond South Africa.”

In support of Humanity’s Team vision of global oneness, Tutu signed a petition asking the UN to declare an annual global Oneness Day. “We must recognize our common humanity - that we are all one, that our destinies are bound up in another’s, that I need you for me to be me and that we complement each other as essential parts of a greater whole,” said Tutu. If people lived according to this vision, “Life would truly be ‘on Earth as it is in heaven,” the former Archbishop concluded.



Culture and education



India: Preparatory Regional Conference on Higher Education, February 25-26

The future orientations of higher education in the South, South-West and Central Asia will gather ministers, educationists, NGOs, policy makers and other senior experts from 14 countries in New Delhi, India from 25 to 26 February 2009. The conference is being organized by India’s Ministry of Human Resource Development and the National University of Educational Planning and Administration, in collaboration with UNESCO. It is one of the preparatory meetings leading up to the 2009 World Conference on the New Dynamics of Higher Education, being held in Paris in July 2009. (...)


UNESCO launches series “Contributions toward Teaching” in the Dominican Republic, February 17

17 February - With the aim of assisting teachers to boost achievements and overcome the difficulties detected at the Second Regional Comparative and Explanatory Study (SERCE), the Latin American Laboratory for Assessment of the Quality of Education (LLECE), coordinated by UNESCO Santiago, launched the series “Contributions toward Teaching” in the Dominican Republic on 17 February. These publications are devoted to reading, math, natural sciences and writing, and present theoretical and practical elements that can help teachers deepen and improve their teaching practices in these subjects.


International Mother Language Day, 21 February 2009

13 February - The launch of the third edition of UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger of Disappearing will form part of the celebrations for International Mother Language Day (IMLD) to be held at UNESCO, Paris the day before on February 20. The day, which will close the International Year of Languages 2008, will include a roundtable attended by grassroots practitioners from around the world, the screening of the film The Linguists and a prize ceremony for the winner of the best 2009 IMLD poster. (…)


Joint UN, European initiative seeks to protect children from online dangers

10 February - The United Nations telecom agency and the European Commission have teamed up to protect children, among the most active - and most vulnerable - users of the Internet from online dangers, including cyber-bullying and paedophilia. (...) ITU notes that while child online protection programmes exist in many developed countries, there are very few in the developing world - and very little coordination between them. The agency has set up the Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) and launched the Child Online Protection (COP) initiative, which aims to bring together partners from all around the world to ensure a safe and secure online experience for children everywhere.

As part of the Safer Internet Day events, the EC’s Ins@fe Network will launch a virtual exhibition which will host pavilions where visitors can learn more about initiatives undertaken by the 50 participating countries. ITU will host an online pavilion in support of EC’s efforts to raise awareness among youngsters aged 12 to 17 regarding the risks they may face online.


UN-backed ‘Peace Club’ launched in Darfur secondary schools

9 February - A club for youth to exchange ideas on peace, to be established in all schools of secondary and above levels in Sudan’s strife-torn Darfur region, was launched this weekend, the African Union-United Nations joint peacekeeping operation there (UNAMID) said today. Over 100 new members attended the opening of the first UNAMID Peace Club, sponsored by UNAMID’s Community Outreach Unit, at the Model Secondary School for Girls in El Fasher - the headquarters city for the mission. (...) The Peace Club will bring youth together through activities like debates and poetry competitions, which will focus on an end to war, as well as sporting and cultural activities. (...) The establishment of a Peace Library is also planned for the club, which will make it a resource centre for information related to UNAMID, the UN and peacemaking efforts. (...) The Peace Club will be launched in three more secondary schools within the week, UNAMID said.


UNA-USA Middle School Model UN

The 4th Annual UNA-USA Middle School Model UN Conference, sponsored by the United Nations Association of the United States of America’s Global Classrooms® program will be held on April 3 - 4, 2009. Held at United Nations Headquarters in midtown Manhattan, the conference will feature Opening and Closing Ceremonies in the General Assembly Hall and committee sessions held in the meeting rooms of the UN. Last year, the conference was attended by over 900 students from 12 states and four foreign countries, including Italy, Ghana, and the United Arab Emirates.

As the only international Model UN conference designed specifically for students in grades 5-8, this year’s conference will host over 1,000 delegates and 11 diverse committees. Topics to be discussed include freshwater resources, trafficking of wild animals, access to education, and food security and distribution. The UNA-USA Middle School Model UN conference provides an authentic simulation of the UN in a highly professional setting and the chance for delegates to debate with hundreds of students from across the country and around the globe.


2009 International Essay Contest for young people organized by The Goi Peace Foundation and UNESCO

The United Nations has designated 2001-2010 as the "International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World" and 2005-2014 as the "United Nations Decade of Education for Sustainable Development." Not only should young people benefit from these global initiatives, but they should be empowered to play a leading role in them. The theme of this year's International Essay Contest is "The Role Of Science In Building A Better World." Young people from around the world are invited to submit their innovative ideas on this theme.

"The role of science in building a better world" - Scientific progress has brought many benefits to humanity, while some applications of science have had adverse impacts. What kind of science and technology do you think is needed for realizing a more equitable, prosperous and sustainable world for all? Please express your vision for the future of science, including examples of studies or researches you wish to engage in. (…) Entries must be received by June 30, 2009. (…)


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Next issue: 20 March 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, Arianna Cavallo, Azzurra Cianchetta. Editorial Secretary: Maria Grazia Da Damos.


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