Good News Agency – Year X, n° 5



Weekly - Year X, number 5 – 10th April 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



Prague speech gives new hope:  President Obama calls for a world free of nuclear weapons 

8 April - David Krieger, co-founder and President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, has been working on the issue for nearly 27 years. In a new essay, Dr. Krieger has called attention to the April 5 speech in Prague in which the U.S. President laid out his vision for a nuclear weapons-free future. "President Obama's speech in Prague was a world changing moment, a promise of unprecedented historical change on the most profoundly dangerous issue confronting not only America but the world," wrote Dr. Krieger.  "In this speech he recognized the imperative for our common security of eliminating nuclear weapons and of America's unique moral responsibility to lead this effort."  The biggest change, Dr. Krieger pointed out, was the presence of true U.S. leadership focused on the goal of  a nuclear weapons-free world.

Last month, Dr. Krieger led a delegation to Washington, DC to present a petition to the White House. Called "U.S. Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World," the special appeal was signed by 70,000 people and supported by 100 organizations. Remarkably, the last line of the petition, which was circulated largely in 2008 before Obama's election, has been fulfilled in large part by President Obama's Prague speech. This is what the petition said: "We call upon President Obama to make a world free of nuclear weapons an urgent priority and to assure US leadership to realize this goal." (…)

Although Dr. Krieger sees the speech as a remarkable beginning, and believes that progress is more likely now than it has been in many years, he recognizes that there is still a long way to go. "[President Obama] has taken us a third of the way to the goal by articulating this vision.  Now a more detailed plan must be formulated and the plan must be implemented,"  wrote Dr. Krieger.

The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation wants to help bring such a plan, based on this new U.S. policy, to fruition. The Foundation wants to use its extensive educational resources  (  and ) to create strong grassroots support for the goal we share with President Obama.


Launch of the EU Profiler: the first European wide Voting Advice Application for the EP Elections – Brussels 23 April 2009

From 23 April all European voters will have the opportunity to analyse which party is closest to their political preferences. The European University Institute (EUI) in collaboration with two technological partners, the Dutch company “Kieskompas” and the Swiss “NCCR/Politools” are very pleased to invite you to the official launch of the EU PROFILER: a revolutionary, Europe wide voting advice application.

Designed by an international team of social scientists, the EU Profiler, which combines high quality information on party positions and state-of-the-art technology, will present 300 European parties in various analyses and visualizations that allow voters to see which party is closest to their preferences. It is made available in almost all national languages of the EU and parts of the application will be customised to each country’s national campaign context. In the ever more opaque European political landscape in which party lines are blurred, the EU Profiler will for the first time provide voters with a comprehensive and clear guide. (…) The presentation will take place on 23 April at the Scotland House, Rond-Point Schuman 6, at 10.30h.


New Mexico abolishes the death penalty

The Governor of New Mexico signed into law a bill, abolishing the death penalty in his state, on Wednesday evening. Governor Bill Richardson’s signature made New Mexico the 15th abolitionist state in the USA. In a statement, Governor Richardson explained that he had come to the conclusion that the death penalty’s irrevocable nature rendered it an untenable punishment in an imperfect justice system. (...) New Mexico’s abolitionist bill, replacing the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, was passed by the state Senate on 13 March 2009 by a vote of 24-18. The lower House of Representatives had earlier passed the legislation by 40 votes to 28.


Nigeria: promoting international humanitarian law at the National Defence College

Abuja, 31 March (ICRC) - In keeping with a tradition that dates back 16 years, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the National Defence College discussed peace-keeping operations and international humanitarian law at the annual National Defence College Red Cross Day on 26 March. This year’s event was attended by 99 senior army, navy and air force officers from Nigeria and other African countries and by six participants from government ministries.

Raoul Bittel, an ICRC adviser, noted that peace-keeping operations are becoming more challenging. In addition to their traditional duties, peace-keepers are increasingly being assigned other complex tasks, such as reforming a State’s security sector, training troops and police officers, and furthering the rule of law. (...) The ICRC works closely with the Nigerian armed forces to promote the incorporation of international humanitarian law into military training and operational procedures.



Human rights



ILO to mark its 90th anniversary

Geneva, 7 April (ILO News) - The International Labour Organization (ILO) is to mark its 90th anniversary with a series of events and activities held around the world by governments, workers’ and employers’ organizations representing its 182 member states. Beginning the week of 21 April, over a hundred events throughout the world are being tied to this commemorative occasion under the theme “90 years working for social justice”, including radio and TV programmes, workshops, exhibitions, job fairs, and high-level tripartite discussions. Some countries will also launch new Decent Work Country Programmes, others will commemorate the development and marking present day ratifications of international labour standards.

Partners in every region will hold ceremonies, bringing together tripartite constituents - governments, workers and employers - as well as NGOs, the general public, parliamentarians and academics. These events will also provide national and regional platforms for highlighting the role of the ILO in addressing key contemporary issues. (...) The pursuit of social justice has been the defining principle of the ILO since its founding in 1919. (...)


Call for international Christian solidarity to overcome caste-based discrimination

2 April - Church leaders and human rights advocates seek to further internationalize the struggle to overcome caste-based discrimination, a 3,500-year old scourge that affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. The UN anti-racism review conference to take place in Geneva in late April will be the first test of this strategy. Caste-based discrimination severely affects some 260 million people worldwide, an estimated 200 million of them in India alone. (...) Caste-based discrimination is so deeply entrenched that churches and human rights groups in India and other caste-affected countries admit they can hardly solve the problem on their own. “We need your solidarity,” they appealed to participants at a four-day global ecumenical conference on justice for Dalits held in Bangkok, Thailand, 21-24 March. Organized by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and hosted by the Christian Conference of Asia, the conference drew 95 leaders and representatives of churches and human rights and development organizations worldwide. (...)


US to run for Human Rights Council seat, reversing Bush policy

by Alan Averyt

1 April - The State Department announced yesterday that the United States would run for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in elections scheduled for May 15, 2009. The decision marks a sharp break from the Bush administration’s relationship with the council, which was established in 2006 to replace the much-criticized Human Rights Commission. Under the Bush administration, the US was one of only four UN member states to vote against the council’s creation, joining Israel, the Marshall Islands and Palau. The Bush administration never ran for election to the council. Last year, it ended US participation as an observer.

In the State Department release, US Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice, explained that the US was seeking to join the council “because we believe that working from within, we can make the Council a more effective forum to promote and protect human rights.”

The release noted that the decision was “in keeping with the Obama Administration’s ‘new era of engagement’ with other nations” and that both Rice and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that the United States would work in partnership with other countries to improve the effectiveness of the council and the UN human rights system. The decision was praised by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, while the response from Congress was mixed. (…)

Members of the council serve three-year terms, with elections held every year for one-third of the council’s 47 seats. The US will run on an uncontested slate of candidates for the May 15 elections, ensuring a victory. Seats are apportioned based on the UN’s regional group system. The US is a member of the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) and will run on a slate with Belgium and Norway for three open seats reserved for this region. New Zealand had announced its candidacy for one of the three WEOG seats, but withdrew yesterday after the State Department announced its decision to run.

Alan Averyt is UNA-USA’s advocacy coordinator, based in Washington, DC.


Thailand - On the road for human rights

April - The Human Rights caravan - a large, double decker bus - is travelling from Bangkok to three provinces, stopping along the way. Forums on a variety of human rights topics are planned for each stop along with ‘human rights clinics’ where people can express their individual concerns about the full realization of their human rights. The basis for the discussions is the book, “Dignity and Justice for All of Us: Our Voices are Heard in Thailand”, published in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the UDHR.

A forum was held at the Central Women’s Correctional Institution, Lad Yao Prison Complex. One hundred female prisoners attended and asked questions about the promotion and protection of their rights. There was a session also at a Youth Detention Centre, Department of Juvenile Observation and Protection. (...)

The Human Rights Caravan has been jointly organised by the United Nations Country Team in Thailand and the National Human Rights Commission of Thailand in collaboration with the Ministries of Education, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Social Development and Human Security.


Creative solution: a unified contract to protect domestic migrant workers in Lebanon

March - In Lebanon, a unified contract is now in place to protect the human rights of women migrant domestic workers. It was developed by a Lebanese Steering Committee in cooperation with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Labour Organization (ILO). (...) The unified contract, signed by the Lebanese Ministry of Labour last month, is now effective. Contracts for migrant workers need to comply with the protection standards prescribed by the unified contract before work permits are issued by the Ministry. (...) The experience with the unified contract, where a government and international organizations successfully cooperated to improve human rights protection for domestic migrant workers in Lebanon, may well serve as a model for other countries in the region seeking to improve legal protection for migrant workers.


OHCHR analytical study on climate change and human rights is now available

March - Measures to address climate change should be informed and strengthened by international human rights standards and principles, an analytical study by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concludes. The OHCHR study, considered by the Human Rights Council during its current session from 2 to 27 March, will be made available to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen, in December. “Climate change is one of the most serious challenges mankind has ever faced and has serious implications for the realization of human rights,” says High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay in her contribution to the Climate Thinkers Blog, an online discussion forum hosted by the Copenhagen Conference. (...) The study concludes that “human rights standards and principles should inform and strengthen policymaking in the area of climate change, promoting policy coherence and sustainable outcomes,” and that the realization of human rights remains a central objective of national and international action to address climate change.


OHCHR Fellowship: Indigenous Rights  

Inside Justice™ - Renee Dopplick 

31 March - The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is accepting applications for the Indigenous Fellowship Programme, which runs four months in Summer 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland. Fellows also have the opportunity to receive training sessions with other UN agencies, including ILO, WIPO, UNESCO and UNITAR. Fellows will receive airfare from the country of residence to Geneva, accommodation in Geneva, health insurance, and a monthly grant to cover other living expenses in Geneva. At the end of the Programme, each Fellow should have a general knowledge on the United Nations system, international human rights instruments and mechanisms, in particular those relevant to indigenous peoples and be capable of giving training sessions within their communities/organizations on the knowledge acquired.

The deadline to apply is 30 April 2009. To apply, complete the Application Form.



Economy and development



IFAD provides US$14.98 million loan to El Salvador to help creation of rural businesses

Rome, 8 April  – A US$14.98 million loan will fund a project in the central regions of the Republic of El Salvador to transform subsistence agricultural and off-farm activities into profitable, rural businesses and micro-enterprises. The project will support land management in selected micro-watersheds and involve organized groups in rehabilitating environmentally deteriorated areas. Participants will then have access to financial services and receive specialized technical and business assistance to help them access local and external markets.

The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters by José Roberto Andino Salazar, Ambassador of the Republic of El Salvador, and Kanayo Nwanze, IFAD President.

The project has been established in priority zones facing extreme poverty and soil erosion and in communities of marginalized populations with indigenous traditions. The project, which will directly benefit about 33,000 people, focuses on inclusive development and the modernization of agricultural production. The target group are inhabitants of poor communities, landless farmers and agricultural labourers, rural women and youth, and owners of small businesses and micro-entrepreneurs.  Read more:   Rural poverty in El Salvador       IFAD operations in El Salvador  


Save the Children strongly supports Obama’s initiative to combat world hunger

Doubling funding for agriculture could potentially save millions of malnourished children.

Westport, Conn., USA, 3 April - Save the Children today praised President Barack Obama’s announcement after the G-20 summit in London this week that the United States plans to double investments in food security for Africa, Latin America and other poor regions of the world. President Obama announced his intent to work with Congress to provide $448 million in immediate assistance to vulnerable populations, and to double support for agricultural development to over $1 billion. (...)

Obama’s announcement comes five weeks after Save the Children joined members of Congress and other humanitarian organizations in calling 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 of some 40 organizations, including Save the Children, Bread for the World, CARE, Catholic Relief Services, Friends of the World Food Program, Mercy Corps and World Vision - has announced “The Roadmap To End Global Hunger,” a strategic plan to address global hunger in the short, intermediate and long term. (…)


Sudan: Building Responsibility for the Delivery of Government Services Program

3 April - ACDI/VOCA has won a $4.1 million subaward for the USAID-funded Building Responsibility for the Delivery of Government Services (BRIDGE) Program. Winrock International is the prime on the $6 million project. ACDI/VOCA will lead the food security and economic growth activities in the new program.

Southern Sudan is in the process of rebuilding after a protracted civil war. Under an agreement with the Republic of Sudan, Southern Sudan is largely autonomous now and has the chance to vote for full independence in 2011.


Sudan: distribution of seed and tools for 9,000 farmers in South Darfur

Khartoum, 1 April (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) distributed vegetable seed and farming tools to 9,000 farmers in the Yara and Gardud areas of South Darfur state in March. The distribution targeted the most vulnerable farmers and agro-pastoralists who cannot afford to buy seed and tools for the vegetable-growing season. The 1.2 metric tonnes of watermelon, tomato, okra, spinach, carrot, cucumber and onion seed that were given out, in addition to hoes and rakes, should enable those receiving the aid to resume their farming activities. Eventually, they will not only be able to sustain their livelihood, but also to create income-generating activities and benefit from a more nourishing daily diet. (...) Last year, the ICRC gave seed and tools to 43,000 families in Darfur (...). The ICRC is carrying out an even bigger operation in 2009 that includes other areas in South Darfur such as Gereida and Bulbul. (...) The ICRC is a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization. Its sole aim is to protect and assist people adversely affected by armed conflict.


Water Projects help Kenyans look beyond crisis

As WFP scales up general food distributions in Kenya, it is also using food to help poor farmers become less vulnerable to hunger in future. Veronica Kakuma built a water-conserving ‘bund’ and now has a sorghum crop she didn’t have before.

Nairobi, 31 March - The acre of cool, green sorghum looks surreal next to the dry earth and thorn trees. In the middle of Turkana, one of the hottest and driest parts of Kenya, this crop has taken a lot of effort to cultivate. It only came about because Veronica Kakuma took part in a WFP ‘Food for Assets’ project. She and the other participants received enough food to feed themselves and their families as payment to work on a project that would help them grow food. Veronica built a ‘bund’ - a water conservation project designed to trap water between the flat, dyke walls built out of earth. Last year, after the rains came, and water collected in the bund, it gradually filtered down into the dry soil. Veronica was then able to plant seeds in moist earth. She is now looking forward to the sorghum harvest when she and her family will begin to eat more food. “Before this project we had problems to get enough food,” she said. “But now we are able to get crops that don’t only give us food, but also money because I can sell the surplus.” She explains that she can now afford to send her seven children to school, and is teaching them how to build a bund for the new crop. (...)


Residents in flood-prone northeastern India better equipped for possible disasters

Silver Spring, Md., USA, 31 March - More than 50,000 flood survivors of recent flooding in India’s northeastern Bihar state are now better prepared to withstand future disasters in a region that is routinely devastated by annual monsoonal floods. This rehabilitation project, called RECOVER, was recently completed by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). (...) Through the one-year project, villagers received assistance from ADRA in the areas of disaster preparedness, government representation, health, water and sanitation, and economic development, helping them rebuild after the destruction. Advocacy awareness campaigns were also provided for project beneficiaries, helping them understand the government assistance they are entitled to, such as housing reconstruction and livestock support. (...) In addition, ADRA constructed Community Multipurpose Disaster Shelters in the communities, empowering survivors through a cash-for-work program, and ensuring that the shelters were sufficiently elevated to provide protection from reoccurring floodwaters, and easily accessible by the most vulnerable. (…)


Helping migrants to invest in countries of origin - New collaboration between FAO and IOM

Rome, 27 March - Helping migrants to invest in agricultural development in their home countries is at the heart of a new agreement between FAO and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). FAO Deputy Director-General Jim Butler and IOM Deputy Director-General Ndioro Ndiaye today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate on agricultural projects which stem directly from migrant communities in Europe and other nations of the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

FAO and the IOM have agreed to work together to support projects proposed by migrants for development in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. The idea is to seek partnerships with local and central governments in both developed and developing countries, and to mobilize human, financial and in-kind resources from governments, migrants’ associations, NGOs and the private sector. The agreement, signed at FAO headquarters, reflects growing international recognition of the key roles played by migrants in their countries of origin through their contributions of financial support and expertise. (...)


China and FAO sign historic $30 million finance deal

Trust fund established for programmes and technical cooperation in agriculture - focus on Africa.

Rome, 25 March - The People’s Republic of China has agreed to make available to FAO a $30 million trust fund to support developing countries in improving their agricultural productivity to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The agreement signed yesterday in Beijing also marks China’s entry into FAO’s donor community.

Under the agreement, China will provide experts to developing countries for technical assistance and training as well as agricultural inputs and small equipment. The FAO-China trust fund will have a strong focus on Africa, but will not exclude other regions. The Fund will last for three years with China releasing $10 million a year. (…) 






European Commission allocates €2 million for the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund of the International Red Cross/Crescent Federation

Brussels, 6 April - The European Commission has signed a €2 million humanitarian contribution agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the Federation’s Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). Funds from the DREF are mainly allocated to “small-scale” disasters - those of limited magnitude that do not give rise to a formal international appeal. Louis Michel, Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid said: “The number of small-scale disasters is increasing, mainly because of climate change. Small disasters do not mean small suffering. People should not be discriminated because the disaster which hit them was not big enough and did not catch media attention”. He continued: “The Commission already has very flexible mechanisms for channelling relief funds rapidly to people in urgent need. This support for the Red Cross/Crescent Federation is an important addition to the toolbox, allowing us better to achieve the goal of helping the most vulnerable people in crisis zones.” (...) Each time a National Red Cross or Red Crescent Society needs immediate financial support to respond to a disaster, it can request funds from the DREF. (...)

For further information:


WFP dispatches food to Sri Lankan safe zone

“This is the largest shipment we have sent and it comes at a crucial time for these people.” - Adnan Khan, WFP Representative and Country Director in Sri Lanka.

Colombo, 3 April - WFP has dispatched 1,000 metric tons of critically needed humanitarian food assistance to Puthumathalan, the designated ‘safe zone’ along the coast of Mullaitivu in northeastern Sri Lanka, where an estimated more than 100,000 people have been displaced by fighting. The WFP food assistance was sent aboard a ship chartered by the Government of Sri Lanka sailing under the flag of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and was due to be unloaded by the weekend. (...) In addition to mixed food commodities, including rice, wheat flour, lentils, sugar, vegetable oil and Corn Soya Blend, WFP also shipped some 30 tons of complementary food items (vegetables and condiments) as well as non-food items on behalf of other UN agencies and partners. Khan said the WFP food would be sufficient to feed approximately 100,000 people for 20 days.


Iditarod carries End Polio Now message

Millions of viewers had an opportunity to see the End Polio Now logo during the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the frozen landscape of Alaska, USA.

by Arnold R. Grahl

Rotary International News, 2 April - Millions of viewers had an opportunity to see the End Polio Now logo during the annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race across the frozen landscape of Alaska, USA. The Iditarod, which ran 7-24 March, commemorates a race against time to deliver diphtheria serum to Nome during an outbreak of the disease in 1925. Through an agreement between the Iditarod Trail Committee and District 5010, which covers parts of Canada, Russia, and the United States, this year’s race built awareness of a similar race to the finish: Rotary’s efforts to eradicate polio.All mushers wore bibs with the End Polio Now logo emblazoned across the bottom. In addition, District 5010 secured a $27,500 PR grant to sponsor four-time Iditarod champion Martin Buser, a Multiple Paul Harris Fellow and an honorary member of the Rotary Club of Wasilla Sunrise, who worked with Rotary to produce two public service announcements appearing on television and online.

Buser, who came in 18th in this year’s race, displayed the End Polio Now logo prominently on his team’s apparel and equipment, and symbolically carried three empty polio vaccine vials on his sled. He will continue to serve as a spokesman for polio eradication throughout the year at other events and appearances. (...)

Past District Governor Alana Bergh, the District 5010 Rotary Foundation Committee chair, says the main idea behind the collaboration with the Iditarod Trail Committee was to “raise awareness that polio is still out there, and that you still have to immunize your children. (…)

Chas St. George, a spokesman for the Iditarod and a member of the Rotary Club of Wasilla, says more than 500 media representatives from around the world converge on Alaska to cover the two-week event.


IFRC and Lions Clubs agreement: joint action to better prepare communities for disaster

Marie-Françoise Borel, International Federation, Geneva

30 March - Leaders of two of the world’s largest community-based organizations signed an agreement on 27 March in Geneva to join forces on a common goal: strengthen the essential role volunteers play in preparing for disasters and in responding to emergencies at community level. At a brief ceremony to mark the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the International Association of Lions Clubs (LCI) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), LCI President Albert F. Brandel, called the accord a “significant partnership”. The global network of 44,000 Lions Clubs present in 205 countries, has long provided relief to victims of natural disasters. (...) The International Federation considers its tens of millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers as key to reducing the impact of disasters and empowering communities to be prepared for crisis, because they are there before, during and after disaster strikes. (...)



Peace and security



International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action – 4 April

Events in 21 countries raised awareness about challenges faced by survivors of accidents with landmines and explosive remnants of war.

Twenty-one countries hosted special events to mark the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on or around April 4, resulting in press coverage in 34 countries and drawing attention to the plight of survivors and the gradual reduction in new casualties since the anti-personnel mine-ban treaty entered into force in 1999. United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon said in a message for the Day that although nearly 6,000 people had fallen victim to landmines and explosive remnants of war in 2007, “these numbers are dramatically lower than they were only a few years ago.” He added that “each year, mine action programmes around the world are clearing landmines from more than 100 square kilometres of land and teaching more than 7 million people how to avoid danger in infested areas. These efforts have helped reduce casualty rates. Still, the only acceptable casualty rate is zero.” (...) This Day was an opportunity to revitalize international support for mine action, said UN Mine Action Service Officer-in-Charge John Flanagan. (...) Most of the events around the world were hosted jointly by governments of mine-affected countries and the United Nations agencies that support their mine action efforts and ranged from official events with statements by top governmental and United Nations officials, to mine risk education theatre performaces, concerts, fund-raisers and photographic exhibitions. (...)


Secretary-General welcomes Russian, US nuclear commitments

3 April - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the commitments made by the leaders of Russia and the United States to accomplish nuclear disarmament and intensify nuclear non-proliferation efforts. Under the 1 April Joint Statement by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and US President Barack Obama, the two countries will take concrete steps to fulfil their obligations under the UN-backed Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which forms the foundation of the world’s nuclear non-proliferation regime. (...) Along with their commitment to this goal, the Secretary-General said other “significant undertakings” include the presidents’ pledge to realize reductions in their strategic offensive arsenals by replacing the current Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with a new, legally binding pact. (...) Yesterday, the head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said he believes the commitments by the two leaders will help move the world beyond the Cold War mentality. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said that the Joint Statement could also generate momentum towards the universal adherence to comprehensive safeguards agreements.


Sudan’s 2010 elections crucial benchmark in peace process

3 April - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today welcomed the announcement that national elections will be held in Sudan in February 2010, noting the polls will be an important step in consolidating the hard-won peace achieved by the country following its long-running north-south civil war. “The holding of nationwide elections is an important benchmark in the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA),” Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said in a statement, referring to the 2005 accord signed by the Government of National Unity and the Government of Southern Sudan. (...) In addition to the holding of elections, the CPA also contains elements relating to border demarcation the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants the formation of joint integrated units involving the two sides and a national census. (...)


Lebanon: Conventional weapons destruction and landmine clearance

3 April - MAG has received a $1.5 million grant from the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U. S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, for conventional weapons destruction in eight southern Lebanon communities. As a result of the 2006 conflict between Hezbollah and Israel, southern Lebanon was littered with cluster sub-munitions and other conventional weapons, including landmines. Even now, new weapons strike locations continue to be discovered and communities continue to be threatened, reducing residents’ ability to return to sustainable livelihoods. MAG’s work is critical to restoring access to land for agricultural development and infrastructure rehabilitation and development. Coordinating closely with the Lebanon Mine Action Center, MAG will deploy teams to eight communities and expects to clear an estimated 680,000 square metres of priority land. It is anticipated that approximately 45,000 people will indirectly benefit from these Battle Area Clearance efforts.


Republic of  Congo: 4,000 anti-personnel landmines destroyed

3 April - MAG oversaw the destruction of 4,000 anti-personnel mines in the Republic of Congo on Friday - the eve of the International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. Part of the efforts to help the country destroy its anti-personnel mine stockpile and reach the objectives laid out in the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, this important controlled demolition took place in Mongo-Tandou, 50km east of the Atlantic port city of Pointe Noire. In front of the Minister for National Defence, General Y von Ndolou, and 100 national and international representatives, guests and members of the press, MAG and a local Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team destroyed 1,500 PMN, 2,500 PPM-2 and 509 POM-Z mines. In the coming days the bodies of a further 509 POM-Z mines will be melted at the Pointe Noire Foundry. All the mines, in good working order, came from the Pointe Noire regional stockpile. Additionally, 48 TM-57 anti-tank mines and the 509 POM-Z charges were used as priming charges.


New donation of Federal Republic of Germany for mine clearance operations in Albania in 2009

On 1 April - H.E. Mr. Hans Joachim Goetz, German Ambassador to Slovenia and Mr. Goran Gacnik, ITF Director, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on which basis the Federal Republic of Germany entrusted yet another donation to the ITF. This donation in the amount of EUR 339.958,55 will be used for continuation of Mine Clearance Programme in Albania. Germany, thus, supports the successful start up of 2009 activities, which should strategically result in Albania free of landmines and UXO by the end of 2009. Germany has been donating through ITF to Albania since 2003 and this is already 7th donation. In total Germany donated already 1.975.378 EUR for ITF managed projects in Albania.


UN-assisted scheme to demobilize ex-soldiers in eastern Sudan enters next phase

1 April - The second phase of a disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) programme supported by the United Nations that aims to help nearly 2,300 ex-combatants put down their weapons and reintegrate into civilian life kicked off today in eastern Sudan. Senior governmental officials, UN officials and donors were among those on hand at the launch ceremony in Kassala State of the initiative, carried out under the Support to Human Security Project of the UN Development Programme (UNDP). The DDR process is part of the 2006 Eastern Sudan Peace Agreement (ESPA) that ended a decade-long conflict between the Government of Sudan and the Eastern Front. (...) Some 1,200 ex-combatants were trained on veterinary and basic business management skills, and provided with goats, sheep and commodities to help them start up small businesses.


Egyptian troops arrive in Darfur to boost African Union-UN force

30 March - The hybrid United Nations-African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Darfur, known as UNAMID, received a boost today from the arrival of 100 personnel from the second Egyptian Infantry Battalion. Another 100 troops from the battalion are slated to arrive tomorrow in the strife-torn western flank of Sudan as a meeting of the Tripartite Committee - comprising the Government of Sudan, the AU and the UN - is scheduled to take place for the first time in Darfur. Under-Secretary-General for Field Support Susana Malcorra is expected to attend the meeting in El Fasher, the capital of North Darfur, which will examine ways to facilitate and expedite deployment of the AU-UN peacekeeping operation in the region. The hybrid force was set up by the Security Council to protect civilians in Darfur, where an estimated 300,000 people have been killed and another 2.7 million have been forced from their homes since fighting erupted in 2003, pitting rebels against Government forces and allied Janjaweed militiamen.


EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East receives Skoll Foundation Social Entrepreneurship Award

Three-year Award Granted to Support Expansion of Water and Peace Activities in the Middle East.

Tel Aviv, Amman, Bethlehem, March 29 - EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) today announced it is the recipient of a three-year, $750,000 award from the Skoll Foundation to expand its cross border community based activities and deepen its organizational capacity to advance water and peace issues in the Middle East. (…)

FoEME’s unique innovation is the development of a shared regional vision to respond to the demise of the region’s transboundary natural ecosystems. These include the Dead Sea, the Jordan River, the Mountain and Coastal Aquifers, and the effects of Climate Change on the water resources in our region. FoEME’s model employs a combined “top-down” (advocacy) strategy and a “bottom-up” (grass roots / community) strategy, where through the “Good Water Neighbors” community project, activities are carried out in all sectors of society - youth, adults and municipalities - to get our message across at a grass roots level. 

EcoPeace / Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) ( is a unique organization that brings together Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. (…)

The Skoll Foundation was created in 1999 by eBay’s first president, Jeff Skoll, to promote his vision of a more peaceful and prosperous world. (…) The Skoll Awards for Social Entrepreneurship is the foundation’s flagship program. There are currently 59 organizations represented by 72 remarkable social entrepreneurs in the program, working individually and together across regions, countries and continents to deliver positive, sustainable change.


Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): eastern provinces edge towards peace

On 23 March, the DRC government and the CNDP rebel movement, Congrès national pour la défense du people, signed a peace accord. The agreement transforms the rebel CNDP into a political party and allows former combatants of the rebel movement to be integrated into the national army and a new police force. Despite the underlying threats to stability, humanitarian agencies on the ground believe the agreement edges the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu slowly towards peace. (...)


Japan funds humanitarian de-mining activities in North

Source: Government of Japan

13 March - The Government of Japan has extended further support for the humanitarian de-mining activities in Sri Lanka with a grant assistance of US$ 700,000 (approximately Rs.80 million) to Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) in order to accelerate de-mining activities in the conflict affected areas of Mannar and Vavuniya, so that the resettlement of the IDPs will be further facilitated. Japan has contributed about US$ 18 million (approximately Rs. 2,050 million) for mine clearance activities through INGOs as well as for the establishment of the “De-mining Unit of the Ministry of Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconciliation” (DUTRM) in Sri Lanka since 2003 through its “Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects” (GGP). In the past 12 months, Japan has provided US$ 2.5 million (approximately Rs. 283 million) to FSD, Danish Deming Group (DDG) and Mines Advisory Group (MAG) for the mine clearance in the East and North. Humanitarian mine clearance contributes to the early return, relief, and the resettlement of the internally displaced persons in the conflict affected areas. (…)






World Health Day: Commission highlights solidarity in health

Brussels, 6 April - To mark World Health Day, European Commissioner for Health, Androulla Vassiliou will visit several community health projects in Kenya on 6 and 7 April. These projects promote social and economic development through poverty alleviation and strengthening health and education. Improving health conditions and strengthening access to healthcare are important objectives for the European Union, both for its own citizens and within the EU’s external cooperation. Commissioner Vassiliou taped a video message recalling the close links between health and productivity and the need to foster good health, especially in vulnerable groups, in particular in these times of economic crisis

From Nairobi, Commissioner, Androulla Vassiliou, said: “Solidarity in health is a global issue. We need to work together with our African partners and step up action towards achieving the health related Millenium Development Goals. The work of civil society is crucial in this respect, and I have seen many examples of important projects improving people’s health and quality of life. In Europe as well, we need to address the growing inequalities in health both within and between countries.”

The focus of this year’s World Health Day is the safety of health facilities and the readiness of health workers who treat those affected by emergencies. Commissioner Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid said: “Save lives. Make hospitals safe in emergencies - the slogan of the 2009 World Health Day represents one of the key issues for the European Commission when supporting relief operations throughout the world. Around one quarter of the humanitarian assistance provided by the Commission since 1996, totalling more than €2 billion, was spent on basic health needs in crisis.” (...)


United States leads nations in support for ending polio

by Dan Nixon

Rotary International News, 3 April - For more than 20 years, the United States has been the leading public-sector supporter of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, contributing more than $1.6 billion -- about a quarter of all funding. A major component of the country’s support is the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC), including more than $1.01 million in funding for the agency in 2009. Along with the World Health Organization, Rotary International, and UNICEF, the CDC is one of the spearheading partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, providing support such as

    * More than 350 epidemiologists, virologists, and technical officers to assist WHO and polio-endemic countries 

    * Funds to help UNICEF pay for oral polio vaccine and the operational costs of National Immunization Days (NIDs)

    * Assistance to WHO with surveillance, technical staff, and NID operational costs

    * Use of its Atlanta, Georgia, laboratories as a global reference and training center and strong support for the worldwide network of 145 polio laboratories

The highly developed lab network, established as part of the end-polio initiative, is also being used to track measles, rubella, yellow fever, meningitis, and other deadly infectious diseases. Most recently, polio health workers have been trained to recognize symptoms of avian influenza to support surveillance and potential outbreak response activities to this public health threat. (...)


MSF assists as newly displaced dramatically increase population of Colombian village

3 April - Following recent displacement of families around Dubasa River, in the Chocó region of northwest Colombia, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is bringing medical care and water and sanitation support to the population. The displacement started at the beginning of March when tensions increased between paramilitaries and the National Liberation Army (ELN) in the area, forcing families to leave their villages. The displaced population has sought refuge in Catru, a small village of nearly 1,200 people that has seen its population swell to 2,000 with the new arrivals. MSF has been providing medical care and psycho-social support to the displaced population in Catru since early March. (…)


MSF to vaccinate over four million people in West Africa for meningitis

2 April - Meningitis, a disease responsible for thousands of deaths in Africa, is currently spreading in several West African countries. While ensuring a quick access to treatment for the sick people, MSF is undertaking mass vaccination campaigns in Nigeria and Niger and is closely following the situation in other countries in the region. MSF is planning to vaccinate between four and five million people against meningitis. Dozens of MSF teams are mobilized, in cooperation with the Ministries of Health (MoH), to respond to meningitis epidemics. In an emergency, they have to ensure that treatments are accessible at local levels for those who present symptoms, and contain the epidemic by vaccinating the population at risk in the areas where epidemic or alert thresholds have been reached. Vaccination in populated urban centers is the top priority in order to prevent the spread of meningitis. Meningitis epidemics are moving fast, so a fast reaction is required. MSF has sent 80 MSF international workers to Niger, 98 to Nigeria, and has hired hundreds of people locally. (…)


In Kenya and Tanzania, HIV/AIDS education addresses risky behaviors among youth

Silver Spring, Md., USA, 31 March - In East Africa, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is extending its five-year Abstinence and Behavior Change (ABY) program in Kenya and Tanzania for an additional nine months, in order to reach an additional 72,000 youth and young adults with life-saving HIV education and prevention methods. ABY is a $12 million project funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that teaches youth about the dangers associated with high-risk sexual behavior, such as coercive and transactional sex, and raises awareness about monogamy and voluntary refraining from sexual activities. (…) To date, ADRA has reached an estimated 300,000 youth in Tanzania and more than 600,000 in Kenya through ABY, in addition to 628,000 others through mass media. (...)

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.



Energy and safety



Study shows bioenergy benefits for rural poor

Small-scale projects scrutinised from jatropha electrification in Mali to animal waste biogas in Vietnam

Rome, 8 April – Bioenergy, when produced on a small-scale in local communities, can play a significant role in rural development in poor countries, according to a new report jointly published by FAO and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID).  The study, “Small Scale Bioenergy Initiatives: Brief Description and Preliminary Lessons on Livelihood Impacts from Case Studies in Latin America, Asia and Africa,” covers 15 different “start-up” bioenergy projects from 12 countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia involving a diverse array of technologies.

“The furious debate around bioenergy has largely concerned liquid fuels used for transport,” said Oliver Dubois, a bioenergy expert in FAO’s Natural Resources Department. “Yet more than 80 percent of bioenergy usage in the world involves other sources, mainly wood, which are used for basic household cooking and heating in poor areas of the world.”

Concern over the impact these transportation biofuels will have on the environment, water resources and food security has obscured many of the positive benefits for poor rural people. The study shows quite clearly that there are a number of huge possible benefits of using new technologies for biomass-based rural energy, some very basic, others more sophisticated. (…)

Although bioenergy initiatives face implementation challenges, these challenges are similar to those of other production activities in rural areas such as technological constraints and lack of investment capital, the study found.


Mapping the future of Green Power, stimulus funds

by GreenBiz Staff

Oakland, Calif., USA, 3 April - Whether it be the regions that represent prime areas for renewable energy projects or the flow of TARP funds to banks across the country, a variety of groups are increasingly turning to Google maps to help users access and distill information. Just this week, for example, National Audubon Society and the Natural Resources Defense Council launched a map of 13 western states that highlights which areas should and shouldn’t be considered for renewable energy generation development as part of a project called Path to Green Energy.

Six states, the map shows, are considered ideal for wind power, including Wyoming, Montana, Utah, Colorado, North Dakota and South Dakota. Areas that are legally restricted or that should be avoided because of wildlife or fragile resources are highlighted.

Also this week, the Treasury Department unveiled its own Google map that displays nationwide TARP recipients to give Americans the chance to see, literally, where their tax dollars are going, according to Google’s Dan Martin. He also points out how California Congresswoman Doris Matsui is using Google map to illustrate how federal stimulus dollars are flowing into her Sacramento-area district. (...)


Mainstream Renewable Power builds 500 MW wind in South Africa

South Africa, 2 April - Mainstream Renewable Power has signed a joint venture (JV) deal with South African windfarm developer, Genesis Eco-Energy, to build an initial pipeline of over 500 MW of wind energy in South Africa by 2014. The JV company plans to have two wind energy projects with a combined capacity of 70 MW ready for construction early next year. The deal involves a €850 million capital expenditure over a five year period and could see projects developed at the Eastern, Northern and Western Capes. The 30 MW Jeffrey’s Bay windfarm, near Port Elizabeth and a 40 MW project at Colesberg are both at advanced development stages and are expected to be fully operational early in 2011. Mainstream Renewable Power’s Chief Executive, Dr Eddie O’Connor says: “Wind energy is very much an untapped resource in South Africa and this is a huge opportunity for us. The country is facing serious power shortages due to the lack of generating capacity. (...)


US agencies cooperate on offshore renewable energy

Washington, D.C., 31 March - The US Department of the Interior (DoI) and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will work together to facilitate the permitting of renewable energy in offshore waters. Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, says: “Our renewable energy is too important for bureaucratic turf battles to slow down our progress. … This agreement will help sweep aside red tape so that our country can capture the great power of wave, tidal, wind and solar power off our coasts,” Secretary Salazar said. Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), comments: “Timely development of US offshore wind resources is important if we are to achieve the 20% vision by 2030. [The] announcement by Interior Secretary Salazar and FERC Commissioner Wellinghoff is a welcome sign that some of the bureaucratic obstacles to offshore wind will soon be removed. It is also still another indication that the Obama Administration is ready to back up its commitment to renewable energy with concrete actions.”


President Gorbachev calls for dramatic boost to solar energy to revitalize economy, fight climate change & energy poverty

30 March - Green Cross International Founder Mikhail Gorbachev has urged world leaders and the private sector to make big investments in solar energy swiftly as a way out of the current economic crisis and as part of an emergency response to climate change. Mr. Gorbachev held a press conference at San Antonio, Texas, where he addresses the 33rd NPRA International Petrochemical Conference. “The oil industry is a key stakeholder. Their commitment is essential to turn the tide against the massive accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,” Mr. Gorbachev pointed out. “This economic crisis must mark the beginning of a new sustainable development path that has been long overdue. Solar power needs big investments to expand and create significant effects. For the 2 billion people currently living without electricity, the sun is the best hope.”

Talking about the enormous potential that tapping solar energy holds, Mr. Gorbachev referred to the “Global Solar Report Card”, the first of its kind, analyzing 16 countries’ investments in solar energy. The full report can be found at (...)


ISOCARP’s 45th International Planning Congress: ‘Low carbon Cities’; a Green Congress!

18th until the 22nd of October the ‘Low Carbon City’ Congress, that attracts more than 300 delegates from around the world, will be held in Porto/Portugal.

Low Carbon Cities’; A Green Congress!, the slogan that emphasis the important topic of ISOCARP’s 45th international planning congress. A topic that is of great relevance in our time of rapid climate change and continuing world population growth. Together with international city and regional planners ISOCARP will seek examples of plans, developments and approaches that are achieving, or promise much reduced greenhouse gas emission.

This international congress is a unique but most of all a Green congress. We therefore seek partnerships with well selected companies that are focusing their time and energy on ways to reduce the atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide. As the organiser of this congress, ISOCARP has taken its first important step of becoming a carbon neutral organisation. (…)

The International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP ) is a non-governmental organisation recognized by the UN, UNHCS and the Council of Europe and has a formal consultative status with UNESCO. Founded in 1965 with a vision of bringing together highly qualified planners in an international network. Their main event is the annual World Congress, which focuses on an international planning theme. This years’ 45th Congress explores the role of planning, and of all those involved in the planning and development process, in the drive to achieve less resource intensive, low carbon cities. The mutual aim will be to produce and deliver

successful plans together, that will last and make solid changes long beyond our Green congress.



Environment and wildlife



6,000 rare dolphins found in South Asia

1 April - A huge population of rare dolphins threatened by climate change and fishing nets has been discovered in South Asia. Researchers with the Wildlife Conservation Society estimate that nearly 6,000 Irrawaddy dolphins, marine mammals that are related to orcas or killer whales, were found living in freshwater regions of Bangladesh’s Sundarbans mangrove forest and adjacent waters of the Bay of Bengal. (...) Each discovery of Irrawaddy dolphins is important because scientists do not know how many remain on the planet. Prior to this study, the largest known populations of Irrawaddy dolphins numbered in the low hundreds or less.

In 2008, they were listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List based on population declines in known dolphin populations. “This discovery gives us great hope that there is a future for Irrawaddy dolphins,” said Brian D. Smith, lead author of a study describing the discovery. “Bangladesh clearly serves as an important sanctuary for Irrawaddy dolphins, and conservation in this region should be a top priority.” (...)


Obama Signs Wilderness Protection Bill

31 March - President Barack Obama signed legislation Monday setting aside more than 2 million acres as protected wilderness. Obama called the new law among the most important in decades “to protect, preserve and pass down our nation’s most treasured landscapes to future generations.” At a White House ceremony, Obama said the law guarantees that Americans “will not take our forests, rivers, oceans, national parts, monuments, and wilderness areas for granted, but rather we will set them aside and guard their sanctity for everyone to share. That’s something all Americans can support.” The law - a collection of nearly 170 separate measures - represents one of the largest expansions of wilderness protection in a quarter-century. It confers the government’s highest level of protection on land in nine states. (...)


€14 million Finland/FAO forestry programme

Data collection and management skills for developing country forestry.

Rome, 27 March - Finland and FAO signed a €14 million partnership agreement to improve forest data collection and analysis as well as management skills in selected developing countries for sustainable forest management. The aim of the four-year programme is to help developing country governments protect their forest resources, build sustainable forest livelihoods and provide governments with the knowledge to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The selection process for the three to six countries that will pilot the “Sustainable Forest Management in a Changing Climate” programme is under way and should be concluded in the coming weeks.

“FAO is very grateful to the Finnish government for having the foresight to realise just how important this work is and for providing the financial, technical and political support to carry it out,” said Jan Heino, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry. “It is vital that we strengthen the information base for sustainable forest management so that developing countries are able to manage their trees and forests based on timely and reliable information,” he said.

The experience and knowledge gained in the countries participating in the programme will then be shared through FAO’s global networks to benefit a wider group of FAO member countries. (...)



Religion and spirituality



Middle East / North Africa Council calls for re-start of peace process in the Holy Land

New York, 3 April - The Religions for Peace Middle East / North Africa Council, a regional affiliate of the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition, today called for a re-starting of the peace process in the Holy Land, including: encouraging the engagement of senior religious leaders in the search for peace, providing humanitarian aid to Gaza, ensuring respect for democratic elections in the region, and preserving Jerusalem as a holy city that should be accessible to all believers.

Twenty members of the Religions for Peace Middle East / North Africa Council - Muslim, Christian, and Jewish - met on 2–3 April 2009 in Istanbul, Turkey. Participants requested that Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace, send letters of appeal on the Council’s behalf to the United Nations; the UN-supported Quartet on the Middle East; the Arab League; the Organization of Islamic States; His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; and US President Barack Hussein Obama. (...)

The Religions for Peace Middle East / North African Council is a coalition of senior religious leaders, representing the region’s major religious communities and committed to work together through dialogue and action for peace with justice in the region.

UNESCO Concert for PEACE : Music for Dialogue and Reconciliation

20 April 2009, Teatro La Fenice (Venice, Italy)

A Benefit Concert organized by UNESCO in collaboration with the Municipality of Venice and the Government of the FYR of Macedonia to re-launch music as a tool for encouraging inter-cultural dialogue to achieve reconciliation.

The UNESCO Concert for Peace will bring together in the legendary Theatre “La Fenice” in Venice UNESCO Artists for Peace and musicians, representing 4 different religions, 12 countries and cultures from Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Belgium, Italy and Syria.

All artists have generously responded to UNESCO-BRESCE’s appeal to perform together to demonstrate, as beautifully worded by the writer Marek Halter, that “music knows no barriers” and “has the potential to rise above destruction to build a bridge for mutual understanding and lasting peace”. Claudia Cardinale, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador will be the master of ceremony.

In sustaining UNESCO’s constitutional mission, “…since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”, UNESCO-BRESCE is promoting this benefit concert to support activities and projects related to inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue and to the process of peace building in the South East European region.

The City of Venice historically known over the centuries as the crossroad of various cultures and religions and in particular, the Theatre La Fenice, enveloped in its mythical/fabled legend, renews UNESCO’s appeal for sustaining and promoting intercultural dialogue and respect. Music has the potential to rise above destruction to build a bridge for mutual understanding and lasting peace.


World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel    4-10 June 2009

WCC member churches, related organizations and ecumenical networks will make a common international witness for peace in Palestine and Israel through a week of action in early June 2009. Churches and related organizations in Palestine and Israel are at the centre of the initiative, including the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme of the WCC. Parish and national groups in Australia, North America, Europe, South Africa and the Middle East join them by taking one or more of the following actions: pray with churches living under occupation, using a special prayer from Jerusalem;  educate about actions that make for peace and about facts on the ground that do not;  advocate with political leaders using ecumenical policies that promote peace with justice.

The action week’s message is that now “It’s Time for Palestine“: It’s time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace; time to end 60 years of conflict; time for freedom from occupation; time for equal rights; and time for the healing of wounded souls. More information



Culture and education



Turn knowledge into action for sustainable development declares Bonn Conference

3 April - A commitment to education that empowers people to change their lifestyles was the message from UNESCO’s three-day World Conference on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) which finished in Bonn on 2 April. The conference, titled Moving into the Second Half of the UN Decade, was organized by UNESCO and the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, in cooperation with the German Commission for UNESCO. Five years into the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, for which UNESCO is the lead agency, the conference aimed to highlight the relevance of ESD to all of education; promote international exchange on ESD, especially between countries of the North and the South; carry out a stock-taking of the implementation of the UN Decade, and develop strategies for the way ahead. (…)


UNESCO Director-General to G-20: “Invest in education

2 April - Koïchiro Matsuura, the Director-General of UNESCO, has written to the leaders of the Group of 20 nations, meeting in London this week, to plead the cause of education. Mr Matsuura said world leaders must tackle systemic and financial problems at the same time as the fundamental issues that determine long-term economic development, such as education. The Director-General stressed that “Expenditure for education is one of the most productive investments that a country can make (…)” The Director-General added, “Investing in science, innovation and new technologies, including green technologies, is also fundamental for stimulating economic growth while contributing to a sustainable environment. UNESCO is already working with many countries, especially in Africa, to develop scientific policies and build human and institutional capacities in order to promote innovation.”


Online competition asks the world to nominate the best educators in Africa

Washington, D.C., 23 March - Ashoka’s Changemakers, in partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, launched a global search today for the most innovative teachers, administrators and education organizations in Africa. Throughout this search they will look to schools, professional networks, and organizations to find promising practices that improve learning at the local, district, and national levels. They are confident that with the help of the global online community, they will find the education innovators that are doing the unexpected in unlikely places and changing lives in the process.

In partnership with the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation’s Quality Education in Developing Countries (QEDC) initiative, Changemakers will host the “Champions of Quality Education in Africa” competition to find extraordinary African educators and organizations who are working to ensure that pupils are learning the essential skills and competencies they need to escape poverty.

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation makes grants to address the most serious social and environmental problems facing society, where risk capital, responsibly invested, may make a difference over time. The Foundation places a high value on sustaining and improving institutions that make positive contributions to society.

Changemakers is an initiative of Ashoka, an organization with over three decades of finding, funding, and expanding the work of social entrepreneurs across the globe. (…)


Click for Peace: Launch of Caritas web toolkit for peacebuilders

23 March - Caritas is launching Peacebuilding: Web Toolkit for Trainers on 24 March to provide an unrivalled resource for designing peace building workshops. The 200 plus page web toolkit has been developed for trainers, facilitators, learning designers and other practitioners engaged in peace building. In addition, all aid workers engaged in contexts of conflict might find useful resources here. The toolkit contains everything a community trainer needs to run effective workshops in their local context. Trainers can build their own workshops online from a wide range of activities and other tools for learning design and facilitation. The free-to-use resources have been written by academics, practitioners and institutions working on peace from around the world. The toolkit goes beyond being a manual, this is a web-based kit with content, activities and resources interlinked so that peace workers can surf through to develop quickly what they need. (...) Peacebuilding: Web Toolkit for Trainers” also allows users to upload new resources, share and rate content, and take part in online discussions. (…)


World Book and Copyright Day - 23 April

By celebrating this Day throughout the world, UNESCO seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright. 

A symbolic date for world literature for on this date and in the same year of 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors such as Maurice Druon, K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo. It was a natural choice for UNESCO’s General Conference to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. (…)


Nominees for the European Inventor of the Year awards announced

19 March - The European Patent Office (EPO) and the European Commission have announced the 12 nominees for this year’s European Inventor of the Year awards.Their inventions are a reflection of many of today’s toughest challenges, and the nominations are dominated by the issues of energy, environment and health.

European Commission Vice-President Günter Verheugen, responsible for Enterprise and Industry, said: “This competition shows that Europe has the potential for truly groundbreaking inventions, which we urgently need today to solve global problems and to help our economy back on a growth path. All nominees are evidence of Europe’s innovative strength and competitiveness.”

EPO President Alison Brimelow said: “In many areas of technology, patents play an essential role in helping innovation to flourish. This role must be strengthened by a consistent policy of quality in the European patent system. This is the only way to guarantee that appropriate and effective patent protection will still be available for important inventions in the future.” (...)


The Little Earth Charter animated shorts

13 March - Get ready for Earth Day! Little Animation is proud to announce the release of its latest animated series for early years education - The Little Earth Charter. What do the words Life, Interconnected, Family, Past, Earth, Peace, Love and Future mean to you? To respect and care for life, human rights, the environment, and a sustainable future on earth: loveable duo Planet Earth and Little Rosie will show you!

The Little Earth Charter was created to help teachers integrate universal environmental values into their classrooms. It is a compelling and entertaining audio-visual educational program produced in consultation with the Earth Charter Initiative and Manitoba’s Ministry of Education Citizenship and Youth. (...) We are also pleased to announce that we will be presenting the project at the 5th World Environmental Education Congress in Montreal in May 2009. A book series based on the Little Earth Charter is in the final stages of development. Great for early years!


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Next issue: 1st May 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.


Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to 4,000 editorial offices of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations with an e-mail address in 49 countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway,  Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA. It is also distributed free of charge to 2,800 NGOs and 600 high schools, colleges and universities.


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


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