Good News Agency – Year X, n° 4



Weekly - Year X, number 4 – 20th March 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



UN and African Union agree to battle crime, drugs together

12 March - The United Nations anti-crime agency and the African Union (AU) today launched a joint initiative to support an African plan to fight burgeoning traffic in illicit drugs and related criminal activity on the continent over the next five years. Support for the AU Plan of Action on Drug Control and Crime Prevention (2007-12) was announced at the current session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND), as a segment devoted to high officials ended in Vienna, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). As the high-level segmented concluded, heads of State and ministries mapped out cooperative strategies to confront the world drug problem. The UN-AU project aims to strengthen the ability of the AU Commission and regional organizations, particularly the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in the areas of policy-making, norm-setting and capacity-building at all levels, UNODC said. (...) In the global Action Plan approved today at the CND, Governments proposed measures to reduce the illicit supply of drugs as well as remedies for abuse and dependence and ways to control precursors and amphetamine-type stimulants. They also agreed on the need for international cooperation to eradicate the illicit cultivation of drug-related crops and the importance of alternative development opportunities in areas that grow such crops. (...)


Singapore Treaty takes effect March 2009

by Lea Lewin

Australia has become the 10th State to ratify the Singapore Treaty on the Law of Trade Marks (the Singapore Treaty), allowing the Treaty to come into force on 16 March 2009. The treaty establishes common standards for procedural aspects of trade mark registration and licensing between the contracting States.

According to the Federal Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator The Hon. Kim Carr, signing on “offers a positive example for Australia’s trading partners, thereby increasing the capacity of regionally based trade”.

The Treaty is also intended to encourage national trade mark offices to take advantage of modern communication technologies. Most significantly, for the first time in any international instrument dealing with trade mark law, non-traditional marks are explicitely recognised. (...)


The Amsterdam Declaration on Transparency and Reporting

11 March - The Board Members of the Global Reporting Initiative have earlier this week adopted the Amsterdam Declaration on Transparency and Reporting. The Declaration argues for the adoption of the ‘global reporting framework that enhances transparency and is informed by the legitimate interest of all key sectors of society.’ In this way, the increased transparency would contribute to better corporate performance in relation to environmental, social and governance standards. It remains to be seen how serious will this Declaration be taken by corporations in practice. (...)


Better accident compensation for ship passengers under third maritime package Transport

5 March - Compensation for passengers in the event of shipping accidents and an EU blacklist of substandard ships are among highlights of the third maritime package, a long-awaited raft of legislation that will be submitted to Parliament for final approval in Strasbourg.

The seven pieces of legislation in the package - also known as “Erika III” after the 1999 Erika oil spill - will improve both the safety of ships and the action taken in the event of an accident. The package covers not just compensation for passengers but also ship inspections, port state control, shipping accident investigations and the choice of the authority that decides where a ship in distress should go. All the legislation is expected to be approved by Parliament following a deal reached with Council in conciliation negotiations. (...) Under the previous two maritime safety packages (known as Erika I and Erika II), the EU adopted important maritime safety and security legislation which, among other things, provided for ship inspections in port, banned the use of single-hull vessels to transport oil and set up the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA).



Human rights



Asia Association for Global Studies (AAGS) 2009 Conference  "Globalization and Human Rights in the Developing World”

Sat. March 21 to Sun. March 22, 2009, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada

Globalization is one of the most distinguishing features of our age. (…) This conference will gather together scholars and others interested in the impact of globalization on human rights. On December 10, 1948, the United Nations issued the now famous Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the first global expression of the rights which all human beings are entitled. Containing 30 articles, the UDHR declared that all people, regardless of nationality or background, have the right to freedom, equality, and overall wellbeing. Six decades have now passed since the Declaration was first made. To what extent has globalization hindered or made possible the realization of the objectives stated in 1948? This is the main question this conference will discuss in detail, focusing on and comparing the experiences of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

The Asia Association for Global Studies (AAGS) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization that promotes the research and teaching of global studies in Asia.


First Iraqi family departs Jordan for resettlement in Germany

Amman, Jordan, 16 March (UNHCR) - Germany’s plans to resettle 2,500 Iraqi refugees got under way earlier this month when a young couple flew out of Jordan with their sickly son, who will receive urgent medical treatment in their new homeland.

The German decision to take in refugees currently resident in Jordan and Syria is part of a decision by the European Union to accept 10,000 of the most vulnerable refugees for resettlement. A total 500 refugees in Jordan will go to Germany and 2,000 from Syria - the first flight from Damascus is expected later this week. (...) Germany, a long-time financial contributor to UNHCR, has resettled tens of thousands of refugees from South America, Asia and Europe in recent decades. The government’s decision to establish a programme for Iraqis from the region has been welcomed as a sign of burden-sharing.


Indonesia: teacher union joins the ILO to combat child labour

11 March - In a bid to decrease school drop-out rates, the International Labour Organisation and the Indonesian teachers’ union, the Persatuan Guru Republik Indonesia (PGRI), are organising a joint programme aimed at combating child labour. Launched earlier this month, the programme is called the “Mobilization and Capacity-Building of the Teachers’ Trade Union and Wider Trade Unions in Combating Child Labour in Indonesia”. Under the programme, teachers will receive training which will help them gain a better understanding of child workers and persuade parents to send their children to school. The three-year program will be implemented in the provinces of East Java, Central Java and West Java, where the incidence of child labour is relatively high. The Japanese trade union confederation RENGO has donated US$130,000 to the programme. (...) EI and its member organisations are committed to fight child labour, through advocating education as a crucial and effective tool in tackling this issue. (...)


A special place for children in EU  

19 February - The European Parliament adopted a report by Glenys Kinnock (PES; UK), welcoming the Commission’s Communication on “A Special Place for Children in EU External Action” and the accompanying Council Conclusions as “important steps forward towards an EU strategy on the Rights of the Child”, but underlines that “much remains to be done to put the political commitments into practice”. The report notes that despite the recent positive developments at EU level, the EU institutions and staff resources devoted to children’s rights remain inadequate. MEPs stress that “none of the plans will be realised unless adequate funding is available”. More funding needed MEPs believe that the participation of children must be institutionalised and better funded in partner countries and at EU level. They insist that the general budget support of the EU should include funds for capacity- building for relevant ministries (such as Ministries of Welfare, Health, Education and Justice) to ensure that they have the appropriate policies and tools to budget and implement services for children. Welcoming the Commission’s plan to address education in its humanitarian aid operations, the report calls for sufficient funding and staffing at EU level to implement the new policy commitment. (...)



Economy and development



$50 million US contribution will boost women’s rights, says UN

12 March - United States President Barack Obama’s release of $50 million to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will help curb poverty and improve the health of women and children in over 150 nations, the agency said today, lauding an action it said will help it continue its “life-saving” work. Mr. Obama signed legislation yesterday to restore US funding for UNFPA which has been suspended since 2002. “This is a great day for women, girls and their families around the world,” said Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, the agency’s Executive Director. “We warmly applaud this action by President Obama, which underlines his support to the protection of the lives and human dignity of women and girls in the poorest countries.”

The US contribution will allow UNFPA to “maintain its life-saving work, particularly improving maternal and reproductive health in the world’s poorest communities, especially during this financial crisis,” she said. (...)


Uganda: seed and agricultural implements for 100,000 people

Kampala, 11 March (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is launching a new project to help vulnerable people acquire seed and agricultural tools in selected areas of Acholiland. Approximately 100,000 displaced persons returning to their homes in northern Uganda will receive enough seed to plant almost a hectare per family. This will be enough for them to grow half the food a family needs. (...) In western Amuru, almost 3,800 families will receive vouchers enabling them to buy quality seed and implements from local traders. Merchants will be required to sell certified seed, to ensure that the beneficiaries obtain a quality product.

In eastern Kitgum and eastern Pader, there are only small-scale seed vendors. In these districts, the ICRC will support more than 6,600 families by organizing seed exchange on local markets. The ICRC is working with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the ministry of agriculture to ensure appropriate organization and seed quality. The seed fairs will take place from 11 to 30 March. At the beginning of March 2009, the ICRC also distributed seed and tools directly to 7,700 families in Orom sub-county, Kitgum district, where quality seed is not available in sufficient quantities. (...)


Post-hurricane harvest boosts food security in Haiti  

Rome, 10 March - Even before last year’s food price spikes and hurricanes, Haiti was one of the world’s poorest countries (...). Matthew Wyatt, IFAD Assistant President, is in Haiti this week (10-14 March) where he is meeting Prime Minister Michele Pierre-Louis, UN partners and donors. Wyatt will also launch IFAD’s latest intervention in Haiti, a project to develop small-scale irrigation. At a time when boosting local agricultural production is a government priority, the US$27 million project seeks to tap into one of the key factors for improved agricultural production in Haiti - irrigation. The rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation schemes, and related support to increased production, will benefit 18,000 families in remote areas of two of Haiti’s poorest departments. The project will focus on supporting better water management at the community and government levels. IFAD will be adding US$5.66 million to the project in 2009 to increase its reach and results. (...)


Chilean President awarded Ceres Medal   

FAO Director-General awards top honor in fight against hunger.

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Santiago, Chile/Rome, 9 March - The President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, has received the Ceres Medal from FAO in honor of her country’s progress in promoting agriculture in the fight against hunger. During a ceremony at the La Moneda Presidential Palace, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf handed the award to President Bachelet, noting that Chile is one of the countries which are on track to meeting the 1996 World Food Summit commitment to halve the number of people who suffer from hunger, in keeping with the first Millennium Development Goal. (...)

Inspired by the Roman goddess of agriculture, the Ceres Medal is the top award given by FAO to distinguished women who have made outstanding contributions to agricultural development and food security. Previous recipients include Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Queen Sofia of Spain, the former President of Panama, Mireya Moscoso, and the anthropologist and former First Lady of Brazil, Ruth Cardoso. (...)


ACDI/VOCA cosponsors Capitol Hill Forum on the global food crisis

4 March - The Capitol Hill Forum 2009, “Advancing Agricultural Development and Addressing the Global Food Crisis - Present and Future,” was held March 3 in the Rayburn House Office Building. The forum, packed with Capitol Hill staff, administration officials, NGO and university representatives and others, was sponsored by the Association for International Agriculture and Rural Development (AIARD) and 21 cosponsors, including ACDI/VOCA.

The forum was the latest in a swirl of recent Washington activities examining agriculture’s importance in international development. Last week, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released its report on the topic, the Roadmap to End Hunger was launched by almost 40 NGOs, and USAID held a major conference on chronic poverty that evinced a strong agricultural subtext.

(...) The program featured an overview of food security challenges, followed by a facilitated discussion by a panel of experts. (...)


Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awards grants to address homelessness and improve lives of foster care youth

Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awards $875,000 to address homelessness in Los Angeles and fund research to improve lives of foster care youth.

Los Angeles, 4 March - The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation today announced its board’s approval of $875,000 in grants to organizations focused on two of the foundation’s key initiatives in Los Angeles: homelessness and foster youth. The Weingart Center Association and United Way of Greater Los Angeles will each receive $300,000 to expand services for the homeless and those in danger of becoming homeless during the current economic crisis. The University of Pennsylvania will receive $275,000 toward a study of the condition of young adults who have aged out of foster care in Los Angeles County. “The Hilton Foundation recognizes that many individuals and families in Los Angeles are in danger of falling through the cracks at this difficult period in our country,” said Steven M. Hilton, president and chief executive officer of the Hilton Foundation. “One of our goals is to provide help before situations become emergencies, and we know that the Weingart Center and United Way of Greater Los Angeles are especially equipped to achieve this.” (…)


World fisheries must prepare for climate change

FAO releases new “State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture” report.

Rome, 2 March - The fishing industry and national fisheries authorities must do more to understand and prepare for the impacts that climate change will have on world fisheries, says a new FAO report published today.

According to the latest edition of the UN agency’s The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA), existing responsible fishing practices need to be more widely implemented and current management plans should be expanded to include strategies for coping with climate change.

“Best practices that are already on the books but not always implemented offer clear, established tools towards making fisheries more resilient to climate change,” said Kevern Cochrane, one of SOFIA’s authors. “So the message to fishers and fisheries authorities is clear: get in line with current best practices, like those contained in FAO’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, and you’ve already taken important strides towards mitigating the effects of climate change.” (...)


US$14.4 million loan from IFAD to boost rural development in the Northern Highlands in Peru

Rome, 23 February - A US$14.4 million loan from IFAD will help finance the Project for Strengthening Assets, Markets and Rural Development Policies in the Northern Highlands, where some of Peru’s poorest people live. The loan agreement was signed today in Rome by Carlos Roca Cáceres, Ambassador of the Republic of Peru to Italy, and Lennart Båge, IFAD President.

Nearly nine out of ten poor rural people in Peru live in the arid Andean highlands. By identifying and strengthening the assets of farmers and communities the project will reduce poverty among the rural population in Sierra Norte, where production of basic food crops is at a subsistence level. The project will increase and add value to the human, social, natural, physical and financial assets of poor rural people, small-scale producers and entrepreneurs, particularly women and young people. About 20,000 families in Peru will benefit from the project. (...) The total cost of the project is estimated at US$21.9 million over a period of five years. (...)

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.


WFP launches first food voucher operation in Africa

Ougadougou, Burkina Faso, 13 February - WFP today launched its first food voucher operation in Africa, deploying a new tool to address hunger in an urban environment where food is available, but beyond the reach of many because of the impact of high food prices. The new voucher programme is targeting 120,000 people who are suffering from the impact of high food prices in urban areas of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso, where the prices of basic staples such as millet and sorghum are more than 25 per cent higher than they were last year. (...) Under the new programme, family members will be given a voucher worth 1,500 francs CFA (US$3) which they can use in shops that have signed a contract with WFP. In exchange for the voucher, people will receive maize, cooking oil, sugar, salt and soap. Each family will receive up to six vouchers per month for six months. The retailer is able to redeem food vouchers through an arrangement WFP has made with MICROFI, a local micro finance company. Next month WFP and its partners will also distribute food vouchers in Burkina Faso’s second city of Bobo-Dioulasso for 60,000 people.






Americans unite in 450 theatres, support women in fight against global poverty

Madeleine Albright, Christy Turlington Burns, Sheila Johnson, Dr. Helene Gayle join other humanitarians during one-night event to honor International Women’s Day

New York, 10 March - Linked by a satellite feed and a desire to end global poverty, people across America flocked to their local cinemas Thursday and connected with a movement to empower the world’s poorest women and girls. The evening featured a one-time showing of the acclaimed documentary “A Powerful Noise,” followed by a town hall discussion simulcast live from New York City into 450 participating theatres. A POWERFUL NOISE Live was presented by philanthropist Sheila C. Johnson with the international poverty-fighting organization CARE and National CineMedia’s (NCM) Fathom, in partnership with ONE and the U.N Commission on the Status of Women. The event was among the largest ever staged in America to honor International Women’s Day. Its goal: expose how women and girls can turn the tide against global poverty. (…)


From Burundi to Zimbabwe: European Commission allocates nearly a quarter of a billion euro in humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in 12 African countries 

Brussels, 5 March - The European Commission will provide a total of €247 million in humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in twelve African countries. The following allocations are to be made: Sudan - €110 million; Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - €45 million; Chad - €30 million; Burundi and refugees in Tanzania - €20 million; the Sahel region (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger) - €13 million; Uganda - €12 million; Zimbabwe - €5.5 million and Kenya - €3 million. An additional €8.5 million are for ECHO Flight, a special humanitarian air service. All funds are channelled through the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) under the direct responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel. Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, said: “This humanitarian financing shows that Europe cares. Our help is crucial to saving lives and reducing suffering in the humanitarian hotspots on the African continent. “ (…)


More people helped the poor

2 March - The result of DanChurchAid’s Parish Collection 2009 was 16 million Danish kroner (2.715 million USD/2.147 million EUR), which is one million more than last years result. 20.000 people took to the streets with great enthusiasm, collection box in hand, 4.000 of which were young people and children. “Financial crisis or not, todays collection shows that if the financial crisis has any influence at all it might be, that it gives the Danes a feeling of solidarity with the people who are suffering the most,” says the General Secretary of DanChurchAid Henrik Stubkjær. The money from this year’s Parish Collection will be used in the fight against hunger, which more than one billion people in the world’s poorest countries suffer from.


Sea route opened for WFP relief food deliveries to Sri Lanka

Colombo, 27 February - A sea route to deliver United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) relief food to thousands of people in Sri Lanka was recently opened - a major boost to efforts underway to reach hungry people displaced by the recent escalation of hostilities in the region. 

Yesterday, 40 metric tons of WFP food - enough to feed some 80,000 people for a day - was delivered by sea to the government-designated safe zone in the Vanni. Another ship is planned tomorrow. ”Now the challenge is to sustain this activity and ship sufficient quantities of food to meet the needs of tens of thousands caught in the conflict,” said Adnan Khan, WFP Representative and Country Director in Sri Lanka, adding that WFP’s goal is to deliver up to 300 metric tons of food commodities per week by boat. (...) As most displaced persons are now concentrated in a new safe zone along the eastern coastline of Mullaitivu district, the sea route is an important alternative route to reach those in need. (...)


Broad-based coalition of top humanitarian aid agencies unveils roadmap to end global hunger

Washington, D.C., 24 February - Just prior to President Barack Obama’s first address to a joint session of Congress, Save the Children today stood with members of Congress and other humanitarian organizations on Capitol Hill to call for a comprehensive U.S. plan to alleviate global hunger and to support bipartisan legislation that addresses the underlying causes and solutions of hunger around the world. The broad-based coalition - which numbers more than 30 organizations, among them Bread for the World, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Friends of the World Food Program, Mercy Corps and World Vision - has announced “The Roadmap End Global Hunger,” a strategic plan to address global hunger in the short, intermediate and long term. (…)

Coalition members and supporters of new U.S. policy to address hunger said that the challenges to alleviating hunger are significant but not insurmountable. What is required is a comprehensive approach that addresses emergencies such as famine as well as provides safety nets for poor families so that they are not pushed into starvation when a crisis looms. (…)


Australia - Pro bono representation for community organisations

The firm provides pro bono representation ranging from acting for disadvantaged individuals before courts and tribunals to providing corporate and commercial advice to community organisations. Currently, we act for the Karma Currency Foundation, a technology based charity set up to provide a new fundraising revenue stream to other registered charities. At the Karma Currency Foundation website, people and corporations are able to purchase Charity Gift Vouchers which they can then gift to their family and friends, customers and colleagues. The recipient of the voucher is then directed back to the website to give the funds to the charity of their choice.

Nicholas Weston advised on this novel ‘business’ model, drafted the Foundation Trust Deed and various licences, agreements and policies with issues across the firm’s commercial, technology and intellectual property core competencies. The firm has also supplied Nick Weston to serve on the Board of Directors where he continues to assist with set-up, operational and governance issues. Presently, the Cancer Council, Lifeline, Care Australia, Ms Society, Royal Childrens Hospital, Vision Australia, Inspire Foundation, Seeing Eye Dogs and a large number of other charities are involved as beneficiaries of the gift vouchers and the number continues to grow. Visit the foundation’s website at



Peace and security



World Water Day 2009: Focus on  Shared Water - Shared Opportunities”

“Sustainable Management of cross-boundary Water crucial for security and peace, ” says Green Cross International

Geneva, 18 March  -- The spotlight this year on transboundary water management to celebrate the World Water Day (22 March) sums up the need for countries to speed up the mechanisms to manage shared water resources. For Green Cross International, which was launched in the same year as when the first World Water Day was celebrated in 1993, an immediate priority is for countries to ratify the United Nations Watercourses Convention.  (...)

Over the last 60 years there have been more than 200 international water agreements, showing the potential of water as a natural resource to bring people together rather than being a source of discord. However, there have been 37 cases of reported violence between states over water and tensions over sharing of water are growing as demand rises while supply decreases. Fuelling the crises are increasing water pollution and huge losses through inefficient distribution. (...)

At the Istanbul World Water Forum, Green Cross International and WWF  plan to recognise and “reward” States that have already ratified the Convention, urging those remaining to do so. (...) In 2006, Green Cross International's global work on water attracted  the prestigious UN award of “Champion of the Earth” for its founding President Mikhail Gorbachev. 


United States bans cluster munitions export

Author(s): Site Admin

12 March - President Obama signed a law on 11 March 2009 that permanently bans nearly all cluster bomb exports from the United States. This moves the United States one step closer to the position of the 95 states that have already signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions, renouncing the use, production and trade of this weapon forever. The legislation states that cluster munitions can only be exported if they leave behind less than one percent of their submunitions as duds, and if the receiving country agrees that “cluster munitions will not be used where civilans are known to be present.”

The United States should now take the next step and review their position on the Convention on Cluster Munitions, in the view of joining it at the earliest opportunity. Given the complementary nature of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Mine Ban Treaty in terms of humanitarian aims and practical implementation, joining both treaties would be a strong signal from the Obama administration to the international community.

The United States Campaign to Ban Landmines (USCBL) has launched an action alert to urge all senators to co-sponsor the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S.416.), which would stop the military from using virtually all cluster bombs in its vast arsenal by applying the same one percent standard to U.S. use. Growing Senate support for S.416 will show President Obama that the U.S. public stands with the rest of the world in supporting a ban on cluster bombs! American citizens can get additional information on how to write to their senator on the USCBL website.


Identification of voters in Côte d’Ivoire rises to 5.4 million, UN says

12 March - Calling it “significant progress” toward the much-delayed elections in Côte d’Ivoire, the United Nations mission there today announced that the number of voters identified so far in the West African nation has surpassed 5.4 million. The Mission “urges all parties involved in the identification and registration process to redouble their efforts to maintain the momentum,” Hamadoun Touré, spokesperson for the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), told reporters in Abidjan. (...) The number of open registration sites has passed the 10,000 mark, but there remained nearly 870 centres that had not yet opened, representing 8 per cent of the centres initially planned, he said. For its part, he said, UNOCI would continue its logistical assistance for the identification and registration, with support for the last localities not yet covered by technical identification teams. (...)


Sudan: top envoy welcomes withdrawal of groups from disputed area

12 March - The top United Nations envoy to Sudan today welcomed the withdrawal of the last remaining forces of two groups from the disputed town of Abyei, which lies in an oil-rich area close to the boundary between the vast African nations’ north and south. Ashraf Qazi, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said that with this move, the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have left the local Joint Integrated Units - combining forces of both parties - as the only military force in the town. (...) Mr. Qazi today voiced hope that progress made on the withdrawal from Abyei will open he door to other advances in implementing this road map, including the funding of the Abyei Area Administration. “This shows how much the parties can do when they work together as partners,” he said. “This kind of cooperation can serve as a model as we tackle the remaining challenges ahead.” The envoy lauded the parties for their efforts to keep the arbitration process on track, noting that this shows the potential for progress in putting all elements of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) into place. (...)


Japan gives an almost $8 million boost to UN mine clearing efforts in Africa

10 March - The effort to rid the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Chad of unexploded bombs that kill and maim people years after they are laid received a multi-million dollar boost today from the Japanese Government, announced the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to benefit from the donation of 762 million Japanese yen (just over $7.7 million at today’s exchange rate) that will go towards improving the living conditions of people facing the daily danger of mines and explosive remnants of war. “This is an enormous boost to the United Nations mine action efforts,” said Max Kerley, Director of UNMAS. In Chad - one of the ten countries most affected by remnants or war - the funds will help the country move closer to its goal of clearing all mined areas within 10 years of ratification of the Anti-Personnel Mine-Ban Treaty. The donation will also help two projects in the DRC that aim to decrease the mine threats in farmland, water sources, grazing areas, dwellings, schools and other locations. (...)


CPI starts year of the buffalo with pig-breeding project for landmine accident survivors in Vietnam’s Gio Linh

Posted by: Tran Hong Chi

Gio Linh, Central Vietnam, 9 March - In the new lunar Year of the Buffalo, Clear Path in Vietnam began its activities supporting landmine and bomb accident with a pig-raising project in the coastal commune of Gio Hai in Quang Tri Province’s Gio Linh District. Gio Linh District is among the spots in central Vietnam most heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance (UXO). Fourteen of its 20 communes have confirmed or suspected contamination levels and it’s the site of regular accidents. In humanitarian mine action “speak,” Gio Linh is considered 98 percent contaminated.

Twenty of Gio Hai commune’s 44 poorest households affected by bomb accidents were selected for the pig-breeding project by a Clear Path outreach worker through home assessment visits and interviews probing their capacity to succeed in the program. CPI works closely with the local People’s Committee. (…)


10 years in force of the Mine Ban Treaty: ICBL campaigners celebrate in 65 Countries!

4 March - In February and March, campaigners from 65 countries and areas around the world are taking action to commemorate 10 years of the Mine Ban Treaty’s entry into force and to push for its further universalization and implementation. At the same time striving to bring the new Convention on Cluster Munitions into force. Under the slogan “A Mine-Free World: Mission Possible”, campaigners from Afghanistan to Zambia are organizing roundtables, press briefings, street actions, photo exhibitions and art installations, film screenings, marches, rallies, workshops, petitions, TV and radio shows, and other events to draw the world’s attention to the scourge of landmines and call for a mine-free world. (...)


Crossing Cartagena!

UNA-USA will successfully conclude its Adopt-A-Minefield® Campaign at the end of 2009!

As planned and in alignment with 10th anniversary and second review conference of the Mine Ban Treaty, UNA-USA will successfully cross the finish line and conclude its Adopt-A-Minefield (AAM) Campaign on December 31, 2009. UNA-USA is very proud of AAM’s work over the past ten years. To date, we have raised over $25 million for mine action, cleared over 1,000 minefields, and assisted thousands of survivors. There are lots of reasons to celebrate! Globally, now there are only 6,000 new casualties each year - as opposed to the 25,000 annual rate recorded in the late 1990’s. There are 156 signatories to the Mine Ban Treaty (MBT) - that’s 80% of the world’s nations! Only two countries used landmines last year - rather than the previously widespread use in over 80 countries. The second MBT review conference will be held in Cartagena, Colombia, in early December. By signing the MBT, the original state signatories pledged that landmines laid within their own country would be removed within 10 years. The conference in Cartagena will mark this ten year clearance point. (...)


MAG signs two new contracts with the German Government

Since the end of 2007, MAG’s efforts to clear the Remnants of Conflict in Lebanon have been supported by the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This year, German Government support for MAG’s work has been extended to encompass operations in Iraq. Altogether the German Government is providing funding of €550,325 for MAG’s demining operations in 2009. MAG has prioritised two minefields for clearance operations In Iraq in 2009 with the German grant. (…) MAG’s current activities in Lebanon are focused on clearing the huge amount of unexploded munitions found in towns and villages in the south of the country. Clearance efforts are presently centred on areas between houses, in villages such as Arab Salem, Aadchit, and Yohmor, as well as in agricultural areas throughout South Lebanon. (...)

The German Government currently funds two Battle Area Clearance (BAC) teams in the south of the country. Ongoing support from the German Government enables MAG to continue to address the threat of cluster munition contamination in Lebanon.






Gaza: Providing psychological support

by Samar Al-Gamal in Cairo, Egypt

11 March - Special programmes have been established to counsel and comfort victims and relief workers alike. The Egyptian Red Crescent Society (ERC) has organized a psychological support workshop for around a hundred volunteers mobilized in El-Arish and Rafah on the border with the Gaza Strip. “It is these volunteers who receive injured Palestinians and ensure the delivery of relief supplies, including food and other relief items, to Gaza,” explains Dr Naglaa Rashwan, regional coordinator for psychosocial support at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “We first evaluate their psychological needs and then review together the principles of psychological support and how to help the injured and those accompanying them.” Stress management sessions are also planned at the branch in El-Arish, where the ERC intends to recruit new volunteers. In order for them to become fully integrated in the teams, it is up to the ‘veterans’ to teach them how to provide psychosocial support in the field, very often in combination with first aid. (…)


MSF aids population in northern ‘triangle of violence’ in Central African Republic

6 March - Since the end of February, regions in northern Central African Republic (CAR) have witnessed renewed fighting between a rebel group and the national army, and between other armed groups present in the area. (...) Thousands of people have been forced to move temporarily as a result of the outbreak of violence. So far 15 people have been injured. MSF teams have treated seven people suffering from gunshot wounds at hospitals in Batangafo and Kabo. The majority of victims are civilians. A third MSF surgical team - comprising an anaesthetist and a surgeon - has joined two teams already working in the hospitals. MSF also supports seven healthcare posts in the region, but it has had to scale down its work as a result of the violence. (…) MSF has 345 staff working in the Kabo and Batangafo region, including 305 who are recruited locally. MSF manages medical programmes in two other regions of the country: in the northwest at Paoua, Boguila and Markounda, and in the northeast around Gordil and Birao. MSF has worked in the CAR since 1997.


Counting every child (because every child counts)

6 March - In the teeming streets of Uttar Pradesh (UP), ensuring each of the estimated 38 million children in India’s most populous state is immunized remains one of the global polio eradication initiative’s greatest challenges. Here, more than 400,000 children are born every month and until recently, up to half those names were not making it onto the official government registry. Week by week, mobile polio immunization teams, which literally walk from house to house throughout UP to ensure blanket immunization coverage, continue to find unregistered, unimmunized newborns. (...) Seeking a solution, the National Polio Surveillance Project (NPSP) - a joint project of the Government of India and the World Health Organization - established the Tracking Every Newborn initiative, where individual immunization teams recorded the details of each newborn infant on their house-to-house visits, moments before giving them their first dose of oral polio vaccine. In a 12-month pilot project undertaken across one block in each of eight districts of western Uttar Pradesh, the names of all newborns were added - at the block level - to the immunization registers held by the local Auxiliary Nurse Midwives (ANMs). After six months, the number of registered infants had nearly doubled. (...) This improvement made it possible to determine more accurate immunization coverage. (…)


Pre-empting parasitic diseases in Paraguay, ADRA project brings relief

Silver Spring, Md., 23 February - In Paraguay, where the national government is pushing to drastically reduce the cases of parasitic infections, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is working to provide nearly 1 million doses of Mebendazole, a commonly used deworming drug. The medication, which helps block the development of whipworms, pinworms, tapeworms, roundworms, and hookworms, is being distributed to children aged six to 14 in nine departments, including Central, Alto Paraná, Itapúa, Canindeyú, Concepción, Ñeembucú, Presidente Hayes, Boquerón, Alto Paraguay, and San Pedro. The initiative is critical, particularly given the fact that more than two billion people around the world are suffering from parasitic diseases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These illnesses can lead to serious health concerns. (...)

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity.


Cereal experts embark on improving the health and survival of children and women in francophone West Africa

Dakar, Senegal, 9-10 February - The Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) technical committee has met in Dakar to discuss ways to combat vitamin and mineral deficiencies in the region. UEMOA, which consists of eight West Africa Francophone countries, joined forces with Helen Keller International (HKI), the West African Health Organization and other partners to promote the mandatory vitamin and mineral fortification of cereal flour. Deficiencies in essential minerals and vitamins including vitamin A, iron, folic acid and zinc are the major causes of premature death, poor health and reduced work capacity globally. (...) Fortification of food vehicles is the most sustainable and cost effective strategy to ensure that vulnerable populations receive an adequate supply of vitamin and minerals. Following the adoption of UEMOA regional standards on vitamin A fortification of vegetable oil in November 2007, the UEMOA Commission organized this second technical expert consultation of all eight countries to adopt regional standards on vitamin and mineral fortification. (…)


Bangladesh: Hospital serves over 20,000 people in 2008!

Foundation news: We are proud to announce that The Grameen Green Children Eye Hospital has served over 20,000 people since it’s opening in May 2008.

It has performed over 1,000 cataracts surgeries, enabling the blind to regain their sight and transform their lives. We’d like to praise the hard working staff in Bangladesh and congratulate them on the progress so far. In 2009 the hospital will continue to grow and increase the number of surgeries to an eventual target of 10,000 per year.



Energy and safety



UNESCO presents 3rd World Water Development Report at Istanbul Forum

“Water must be given higher priority on the development agenda…”

Paris, 16 March (UNRIC) – The third edition of the United Nations World Water Development Report, entitled “Water in a Changing World”, was presented to the Fifth World Water Forum which opened in Istanbul today and will continue until 22 March.

“Chronic underinvestment and poor governance in many parts of the world has left hundreds of millions of people deprived of their right to safe water and basic sanitation, vulnerable to disease and extreme hunger, and exposed to the risks of water-related disasters, environmental degradation and conflict,” said UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, who presented the report on behalf of the 26 United Nations bodies that participated in its preparation. “After decades of inaction, the problems we face are enormous. If left unattended, they may become insurmountable.”

Mr Matsuura added: “Water must be given higher priority on the development agenda. Developing countries themselves need to increase investment in water, and systematically integrate water in poverty reduction strategies. The international community must also dramatically scale up its support. […] I urge leaders in all sectors to use this report as a guide and impetus for bold and sustained action to meet the world’s water needs.”

The World Water Development Report is published every three years. It provides a comprehensive assessment of the world’s fresh water resources (see UNESCO Press Release No. 2009-21*). The new edition focuses notably on the role of water in development and economic growth.


Energy savings: EU Member States support rules to reduce the energy use of industrial motors

Brussels, 11 March - EU Member States showed their support for new rules to reduce the electricity consumption of industrial motors - which will save the equivalent of Sweden’s electricity consumption each year - during today’s Ecodesign Regulatory Committee meeting. The Regulation is expected to create 40,000 new jobs and make electricity savings of €9 billion by 2020. “The measure is a concrete contribution to reach the EU’s energy efficiency and climate protection targets and will result very quickly in significant energy savings and benefits for the society and industry, as foreseen in the European Economic Recovery Plan,” said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. (...) The legislation will lead to annual use-phase electricity consumption savings (EU-27) of about 135 TWh by 2020, corresponding to an annual reduction of 63 Mt of CO2 emissions. (...)


Solar cookers: saving lives in Chad and Darfur

16 February - In one Darfur refugee camp in Chad, thousands of women have learned a whole new way to cook. Instead of relying on the usual wood-fueled fires, families are eating meals cooked by sunlight. Solar cooking could be saving their lives. [...] In the Iridimi camp, as with many other camps, the occupants are mostly women and children, as a large number of Darfur men have been killed. The women are tasked with caring for their own families and for orphans, and that means feeding everyone in their care with supplies distributed by aid organizations. Each month, the World Food Program gives each family a month’s worth of food and firewood. The food typically lasts the month. The firewood doesn’t.



Environment and wildlife



World Water Forum: the world’s largest water event     

The 5th World Water Forum will be held in Istanbul, Turkey, from 16 to 22 March 2009.

The World Water Forum is the main water-related event in the world, aimed at putting water firmly on the international agenda. A stepping stone towards global collaboration on water problems, the Forum offers the water community and policy-and-decision-makers from all over the world the unique opportunity to come together to create links, debate and attempts to find solutions to achieve water security. It is organised every three year by the World Water Council, in collaboration with the host country.


Forests and the global economy: 10 million new jobs

Sustainable forest management could become a means of creating millions of new green jobs.

Rome, 10 March - Ten million new “green jobs” can be created by investing in sustainable forest management, according to FAO. (...) A number of countries, for example the United States and the Republic of Korea, have included forestry in their economic stimulus plans. Similarly afforestation is an important component of India’s rural employment guarantee programme. According to FAO, the global potential is at least 10 million new jobs through national investments. At the same time, improved forest management and new tree planting could significantly reduce the downward trend in forest cover reported by many countries. This would help to reduce carbon emissions from land-use change and could potentially have a larger positive impact on climate change than any other initiative currently being planned or considered by world leaders. (...)

How sustainable forest management can help build a green future and meet society’s changing demand for forest-derived goods and services will be the main thrust of World Forest Week, to be held in conjunction with FAO’s Committee on Forestry, 16 to 20 March in Rome. (...)



Religion and spirituality



1st international conference on Religion, Conflict, and Peace

Walking the talk through fear of the unknown to understanding and harmony.

Oakland University Rochester, Michigan13-15 March - (...) The spiritual experience is both uniquely individual and universal, tapping into our deepest, most inner self, while connecting us to the oneness with all. How each of us chooses our own sometimes quite different path on this common journey can highlight an appreciation for the rich diversity of human sacred practice, while at the same time setting the stage for the potential hazards of elitism, competition, polarity, and even animosity that paradoxically negate the core message of unity, and hamper us on that journey. (...) Understanding how these elements and conditions arise, and how they compromise, contradict, and even threaten original spiritual intent, as well as relationships between and within religious communities, are essential to learning and putting into practice methods for appreciating diversity and achieving harmony and peace in today’s rapidly shrinking and increasingly inter-dependant world community.

The RCP Conference seeks to create an engaged, inclusive dialogue to consciously explore together both broader historical dynamics, implications, and possible remedies, and the current specific example of Islam and Muslims in American society.


Faith and values organizations form coalition to advance United Nations Decade for Inter-religious Cooperation for Peace

11 March - Some forty-five religious, interfaith, and value-based organizations from five continents agreed to form a coalition to advance a “United Nations Decade for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue, Understanding, and Cooperation for Peace.” Coalition members expressed the hope that the UN Sixty-Fourth General Assembly, which will begin its deliberations in September 2009, will approve a resolution establishing such a decade from 2011-2020. The meeting took place at Maryknoll, New York, on 2-4 March. Participants included Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, Shinto, Sikh, Zoroastrian as well as indigenous traditions. (...) The coalition elected a steering committee - composed of organizations representing religious communities, interfaith and value-based civil society organizations - to strategically promote the decade idea among member states of the UN. Stein Villumstad, deputy secretary general of Religions for Peace, the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious organization, will chair the coalition steering committee. (...)


Living Letters team to visit Israel and Palestine

Peace-building initiatives and housing and education issues will be highlighted when a team of ecumenical representatives from around the world visits churches, ecumenical organizations and civil society movements in Israel and Palestine from 7 to 14 March.

5 March - Organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) as part of the Living Letters initiative, the visit reflects the WCC’s focus on the troubled region, where it sees the ongoing presence and witness of churches as crucial in the struggle for a just peace. Although they are a minority in Israel and Palestine, Christians are active and visible in public life. The delegation will learn about the role of the churches in the area, including the work of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). The EAPPI aims to work alongside Palestinians and Israelis in their nonviolent actions for peace and to carry out concerted advocacy efforts to end the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories. (...)

Living Letters are small ecumenical teams visiting a country to listen, learn, share approaches and help to confront challenges in order to overcome violence, promote and pray for peace. (...)


Interfaith Youth Core: Movement in Action

by Hafsa, Leadership Associate

March 2009 - (...) IFYC’s Leadership Program hosts the Fellows Alliance, a group of 19 undergraduates from colleges across the country. These fellows come from diverse religious and philosophical traditions and are responsible for building religious pluralism on their campuses. (...) One of our 2008-2009 fellows, Moustafa Moustafa, is a junior at the University of Michigan studying Medieval Iberia and Biopsychology. When Moustafa Moustafa, an Egyptian-born Muslim-American arrived on campus at the University of Michigan, he brought with him a faith-inspired dedication to meet health care needs around the world. Among his classmates, he discovered that many were similarly inspired by their faiths, but they weren’t working together. (...) Recognizing the potential within his fellow students and their religious communities to contribute in a positive way to both healthcare and development, he founded an organization to bring them together and amplify their impact. By pooling the resources of its members and their respective religious communities, the Children of Abraham (COA) student organization, has sent several forty foot containers (the size of a semi trailer) filled with surplus medical supplies to communities across Africa. (...)

Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others.



Culture and education



The Director-General launches the International Women’s Day celebration

On 9 March 2009, Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO, opened a round table on “Gender Equality as a Global Priority: Next Steps Forward”, launching a month-long series of events that UNESCO is organizing to celebrate International Women’s Day. (…) Mr Matsuura underscored that UNESCO has been a pioneer in mainstreaming gender considerations across its entire programme. “Our Medium-Term Strategy for 2008-2013 put us at the forefront of UN agencies in elevating gender equality to a top strategic priority”, he said. With regard to the current biennium, during which UNESCO has worked to integrate a gender perspective into all areas of its work, the Director-General referred to the UNESCO Priority Gender Equality Action Plan, which translates UNESCO’s Medium-Term strategic commitment to promote gender equality into a practical, results-based plan to guide UNESCO’s action through to 2013. (…)


International Women’s Day, March 8 - Women in Niger and Afghanistan speak out on education  

6 March - UNESCO celebrations for International Women’s Day focus on gender equality including equal access to quality education. Gender disparity is still deeply entrenched in education. (..) Despite progress, more than half the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia and the Arab States have not achieved gender parity at the primary level. But in two countries, Niger and Afghanistan, where female literacy rates are less than 20 per cent, women have spoken about how two projects are changing their lives for the better. (…) In Paris UNESCO will celebrate International Women’s Day with a programme of events including round-tables, conferences, exhibitions and cultural events that highlight issues relating to the empowerment of women and the promotion of gender equality running from March 9 to 25.


Dolly Parton and Rotary partner to promote reading

By Ryan Hyland

Rotary International News, 9 March - On 6 March, country music legend Dolly Parton and Rotary International announced a collaborative relationship to begin a new chapter in promoting early childhood reading. Under the agreement, Rotary clubs in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are encouraged to support the Dollywood Foundation’s Imagination Library, which provides a book each month to children from birth until age five. Local Rotary club participation could include promoting the program within the community, helping to identify and register the children, and paying for the books and mailings. (...)

Parton’s impoverished childhood and her father’s illiteracy inspired the country singer to create a literacy program in 1996 for preschool children in her native Sevier County, Tennessee. The Imagination Library spread quickly. Today, it serves 47 states, along with parts of Canada and the United Kingdom, and has provided children with more than 15 million books. “I love books. Anytime I have spare time, I’m reading a book,” says Parton. “My father lived long enough to see this program become a success and was so proud people called me ‘the Book Lady.’“

According to the Dollywood Foundation, research shows that preschoolers exposed to reading are more likely to look forward to starting school, do well in class, read at or above grade level, finish high school, and go on to college. (...)

The Imagination Library is especially valuable for children in underprivileged families, who may find books to be an unaffordable luxury in today’s economic slowdown. For an annual cost of $28 per child, the Dollywood Foundation sends children registered for the program one book a month, beginning with The Little Engine That Could . The books are age appropriate and range from life lessons to bedtime stories.

About 115 Rotary clubs already participate, and that number will triple with the addition of all 203 clubs in Georgia, the first to sign on under the new agreement. The clubs will work through the Georgia-based Ferst Foundation for Childhood Literacy, with the goal of extending the Imagination Library to all 159 counties in the state. (...) Wayne Hearn contributed to this article.


Running for clean water on World Water Day

Silver Spring, MD, 26 March - On March 26, at 6:00 p.m, at the American Film Institute (AFI), Nehst Studios will screen its riveting documentary “Running the Sahara.” This acclaimed documentary takes you on an incredible 111 day trek of three runners across the Sahara Desert. The film highlights the willpower, discipline, and endurance of three human beings motivated to get up each day for four months to face the daunting prospect of running another 50 miles despite incredible odds against them. Through this journey the men learned not only of their own strength and determination, but that of the people of Africa they encountered, despite an incredible water crisis. Immediately following the film, a reception and panel discussion with renowned experts will discuss how we can make a difference in bringing clean water to Africa.

We encourage you to join us for an informative and moving evening regarding the Water Crisis in Africa as seen through the challenge of Running the Sahara.


How do I engage religious diversity in the classroom?

Come to “Religious Pluralism in Your School: A Two-Day Workshop for Educators.”

Francis Parker High School, Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Chicago, IL, 18-19 June - This workshop will be co-hosted by the Global Youth Leadership Institute and Interfaith Youth Core. Every day we see religious diversity in the world around us. We hear that religion is a problem to be avoided. How do we engage the reality of diversity in the classroom? How do we encourage dialogue and empathy among students? How do we create a community which supports religious pluralism?

Workshop activities will focus on how to be a leader in your community for religious pluralism, how to assess religious pluralism at your school, how to think critically about new ways to teach your curriculum, how to engage diversity among students, and will include a workshop by Dr. Eboo Patel, Founder and Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core. (...) Register now.

Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC) builds mutual respect and pluralism among young people from different religious traditions by empowering them to work together to serve others. (...)



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Next issue: 10 April 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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