Good News Agency – Year XI, n° 181



Weekly – Year XI, number 181 – 14th January 2011

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 10,000 media and editorial journalists in 54 countries and to 3,000 NGOs and 1,600 high schools, colleges and universities. It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, an educational charity associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace” and it is a member of the World Association of Non Governmental Organizations.  




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education


International legislation



Ban welcomes US ratification of nuclear arms reduction treaty signed with Russia

22 December 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today’s vote by the United States Senate to support the ratification of the nuclear arms reduction treaty signed earlier this year by the leaders of Russia and the US. “This sends a firm and clear message in support of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation,” a statement issued by Mr. Ban’s spokesperson said of the action taken by the US on the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (known as the New START Treaty). US President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed the treaty in April, pledging to slash their nuclear arsenals by a third.


Chile ratifies treaty banning cluster munitions

London, 20 December 2010 – Chile ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 16 December 2010, becoming the 49th country to do so worldwide, and the seventh in Latin America.

The 2008 Convention comprehensively bans the use, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions, sets strict deadlines for clearance of contaminated land and destruction of stockpiles of the weapon, and includes groundbreaking provisions for assistance to victims and affected communities. A total of 108 countries have signed the treaty, of which 49 have ratified.

The treaty entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010, and its historic First Meeting of States Parties was held from 9-12 November in Lao PDR – the most heavily cluster-bombed country in the world. In June 2010, Chile hosted a meeting in preparation for the Lao conference. In the Americas, 19 countries have signed the Convention and seven Latin American countries have ratified (Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Uruguay). Brazil, the only remaining producer of cluster bombs in the region, and Argentina, a former producer and stockpiler, have yet to sign the Convention.


Pest control products become safer

20 December 2010 - Biocides are substances used in products such as insecticides, disinfectants, repellents, wood preservatives and anti-fouling paint for ships. On 20 December, the environment ministers agreed on new rules to reduce the risks posed by biocidal chemicals. For the first time, the legislation identifies which active substances may not be used in biocidal products. The most hazardous substances will no longer be permitted, in particular those that can cause cancer, mutations or fertility problems.

The rules now also cover articles incorporating pest control chemicals. A wide range of everyday products, for instance sleeping bags or sofas, are treated with biocidal substances. They may no longer be treated with unauthorised chemicals and must be labelled so as to prevent allergic reactions to chemical residues. The rules also apply to all imported articles.

Under the new regulation, an optional procedure for authorising biocidal products at EU level is introduced to reduce the administrative burden on producers.


Security Council steps up fight against sexual violence in conflict

16 December 2010 – The United Nations stepped up its battle against sexual violence in conflicts around the world today with the Security Council calling for perpetrators to be publicly listed and punished with sanctions. “Even as we take this step here, catastrophe is unfolding for communities caught in the chaos of conflicts,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the 15-member body at the meeting where it unanimously adopted the resolution. It had been sponsored by 60 countries, including some where the worst cases of recent abuse have been perpetrated.

The Council resolution – voicing deep concern at the slow progress in combating the scourge and the limited number of perpetrators brought to justice – stresses the need to end impunity and vowed to take “appropriate steps to address widespread or systematic sexual violence in situation of armed conflict” in accordance with procedures of relevant sanctions committees.

Mr. Ban’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict, Margot Wallström, said today’s resolution will help ensure that mass rape is never again met with mass impunity.

“Instead of serving as a cheap, silent and effective tactic of war, sexual violence will be a liability for armed groups. It will expose their superiors to increased international scrutiny, seal off the corridors,” Ms. Wallström said. “The resolution the Council adopted today may not bring justice to every victim throughout the history of war – but it will help to ensure that conflict-related sexual violence no longer goes unreported, unaddressed or unpunished.” (...)



Human rights



EU ratifies UN Convention on disability rights

Brussels, 5 January – Following formal ratification, it is the first time in history the EU has become a party to an international human rights treaty – the United Nation's (UN) Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. The Convention aims to ensure that people with disabilities can enjoy their rights on an equal basis with all other citizens. It is the first comprehensive human rights treaty to be ratified by the EU as a whole. It has also been signed by all 27 EU Member States and ratified by 16 of these. The EU becomes the 97th party to this treaty.

The Convention sets out minimum standards for protecting and safeguarding a full range of civil, political, social, and economic rights for people with disabilities. It reflects the EU's broader commitment to building a barrier-free Europe for the estimated 80 million people with disabilities in the EU by 2020, as set out in the European Commission's disability strategy (IP/10/1505).

The EU signed the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities on its opening day for signature on 30 March 2007 (IP/07/446). It has since been signed by all 27 EU countries and a further 120 states worldwide. Following completion of the ratification procedure, the EU as a whole is now the first international organisation which has become a formal party to the Convention (as are 16 EU Member States too).

The Convention commits parties to making sure that people with disabilities fully can enjoy their rights on an equal basis with all other citizens (MEMO/10/198). For the EU, this means ensuring that all legislation, policies and programmes at EU level comply with the Convention's provisions on disability rights, within the limits of EU responsibilities. Ratifying countries, such as the EU Member States, should take action in the following areas: access to education, employment, transport, infrastructures and buildings open to the public, granting the right to vote, improving political participation and ensuring full legal capacity of all people with disabilities.


UN chief lauds global fight against human trafficking

13 December 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has lauded the global initiatives against the trafficking of human beings, saying the measures are helping liberate those who are exploited and bringing to justice perpetrators of the crime. “This despicable crime is no longer being ignored,” Mr. Ban said in a video message to delegates attending the Luxor International Forum against Human Trafficking in Egypt on Saturday. He noted that 141 States are party to the protocol on human trafficking to the UN Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, and that many countries have adopted strategies and legislation and established anti-trafficking police units.

Mr. Ban also drew attention to the General Assembly’s launch this year of the Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and to the newly-created UN Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons.


Stepping up the fight against people trafficking

13 December 2010 - Every year several hundred thousand people are believed to be trafficked into the EU or within the Union itself. To come to terms with this serious crime and gross violation of human rights, members of the Civil Liberties' and Women's Rights committees on 29 November backed an agreement with European governments on new tougher rules. The whole European Parliament will now debate and vote on these rules.

The aim is to create a more hostile environment for the human traffickers, stronger protection for the victims and more rigorous prevention. Many of the victims - mainly women and girls - are exploited for prostitution (an estimated 40%), or for menial labour - about a third.

Ahead of the debate Swedish Social Democrat Anna Hedh who acted as rapporteur for the Civil Liberties Committee says the agreement is "much better than what I ever believed we would get".

She added, "we have managed to strengthen the protection for victims with a clear focus on rights, extra protection for children and added a clear gender perspective."

The new Directive will replace current rules dating from 2002. EU countries will have two years to transpose the rules. Denmark and the UK have opt outs, although the latter can still opt-in at a later stage.



Economy and development



Partners In Health, Abbott and the Abbott Fund unite to combat severe childhood malnutrition in Haiti

Innovative partnership to build new production facility for locally sourced nutrition products; Abbott and PIH to combine unique business and non-profit expertise to empower local communities, strengthen long-term economic development

Boston and Abbott Park, Ill., USA, January 7 - Partners In Health (PIH) and Abbott and its philanthropic foundation, the Abbott Fund, today announced a partnership to empower Haitians to create local solutions to the longstanding problem of severe malnutrition in Haiti. Together, PIH and Abbott plan to build a nutritional food production facility that will allow Haitians to produce locally-sourced, high-quality nutritious food products. The initiative also aims to empower local communities by creating local markets, supporting local farms and promoting economic development. The total value of this multi-year initiative is estimated at more than $6.5 million, including contributions from Abbott and the Abbott Fund, and the estimated value of ongoing expert consulting provided by Abbott employees.

“This ambitious partnership between PIH, Abbott and the Abbott Fund will help to address severe malnutrition in Haiti, while also serving as an example of how partnerships can help to provide economic empowerment for local communities,” said Paul Farmer, co-founder of PIH. “PIH and Abbott experts are working shoulder to shoulder with Haitian farmers and community health workers to create local, sustainable solutions to treat malnutrition in children. By sharing the collective expertise and resources of business, non-profit organizations and civil society, we can help the people of Haiti build back better.” (…)


Green America launches Green Deals: “Groupon for Greenies”

Online daily deals available from a variety of green companies around U.S.; this is the start of something big: more than 100,000 signed on to Green Deals in the testing phase

Ashington, D.C., January 5 - Fans of deal-of-the-day sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial now have an environmentally friendly shopping option.

Green America and its partner Q4 Marketing have launched Green Deals (, a website that provides people who care about good deals and going green with daily deals from local and national online green companies. Over 100,000 people are already signed on to Green Deals. All participating companies meet Green America's strict standards for social and environmental responsibility in their policies, practices, and products.

Green Deals also features tips on everyday green living, coupons, and other offers from their Green Approved Businesses. Recent deals have included organic chocolates, green cleaning supplies, and environmentally friendly water bottles.


US$ 29.91 million IFAD loan and grant to increase rural financial sector investments in Kenya

Rome, 22 December 2010 – A new US$ 29.31 million loan and US$ 0.6 million grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to the Republic of Kenya will provide better access to financial services, increase incomes, and improve production and outputs in the rural smallholder farm and off-farm sectors.

The loan and agreement for the Programme for Rural Outreach of Financial Innovations and Technologies (PROFIT) were signed today in Rome by Her Excellency Josephine Wangari Gaita, Ambassador of the Republic of Kenya, and Yukiko Omura, Vice President of IFAD.

The financial sector in Kenya is vibrant and growing rapidly and there has been progress in poverty reduction over the last three decades. However, financial services are not being extended to the rural poor, due to the perceived high risks involved, and this is a major constraint in increasing smallholder incomes in the rural areas.

The PROFIT will implement structural changes required to improve the performance and sustainability of the rural financial sector by investing in new innovations and technologies. It will encourage the development of a range of tailored financial products, most importantly: savings and remittance services, value chain financing, medium-term financing for the agriculture sector and micro venture capital modalities, as well as provide technical support services.

Contact: Jessica Thomas


$ 13.5 million IFAD grant to boost cassava, maize and rice development in Togo

Rome, 22 December 2010 – A US$ 13.5 million grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to the Republic of Togo will help improve food security and increase incomes for small-scale agricultural producers in the rural areas.

The Steering Committee of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme (GAFSP) Trust Fund will transfer US$20 million to IFAD for purposes of co-financing the Support to Agricultural Development Projectect (PADAT).

The IFAD and GAFSP financing agreement for the PADAT was signed today in Rome by Kossi Messan Ewovor, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of the Togolese Republic, and Yukiko Omura, Vice-President of IFAD.

The PADAT will help to raise productivity of small-scale growers of three staple food crops: cassava, maize and rice; and enhance value-added/marketing of their outputs. With the support of the Government and other donors, the project will promote pro-poor rural economic growth. The PADAT coverage is nationwide, starting with the areas where farmers, women as well as men, are particularly vulnerable to poverty. The project is expected to directly benefit some 107,500 small farmers. Approximately 75,000 of these direct beneficiaries will be reached through 3,000 producers’ organizations. The total number of indirect beneficiaries will be 368,000.

Approved projects for Togo:


The United Nations recognizes the role of culture for development

On 20 December 2010, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution on culture and development, which emphasizes the important contribution of culture for sustainable development and for the achievement of national and international development objectives, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

This represents a major breakthrough at the international level in so far as there is no explicit mention of culture in the MDGs. This new resolution will encourage stakeholders to more fully integrate the cultural dimension into development processes thereby ensuring their sustainability.

This resolution comes in the wake of the United Nations MDG Summit, which took place in September 2010. The outcome document adopted by the Summit explicitly recognizes the links between culture and development by insisting on the importance of culture as a factor of development and encourages international cooperation in the cultural field for the achievement of development goals. As a side event of the Summit, UNESCO organized, in collaboration with the African Union and the European Commission, a High Level Round Table for the purpose of raising awareness of the international community on this issue. Among the participants in the round table were the Heads of State of Senegal and Bosnia and Herzegovina.






Deloitte's new documentary film series showcases the power of skills-based volunteerism to help nonprofits achieve long-term social impact

Four short films help tell the story about how companies can have greater impact with a unique approach to community involvement

New York, January 6 - Deloitte has released a powerful documentary film series, “Making A Difference…Differently,” that dramatically illustrates the impact that can be realized when people and companies contribute business skills to help nonprofit organizations achieve their goals. This documentary series is available for viewing at

Told through the personal lens of professionals who have worked pro bono on issues such as urban poverty, college access for low-income students, disaster response and the paralympics movement, Deloitte's film series exemplifies how resource-constrained nonprofits can achieve much more when given the resources to address the operational and capacity challenges they invariably face. Each of the four short films, “Fellowship, Skills, Ready and Empower,” offers a compelling story of volunteers affecting social change through the contribution of business skills and acumen, to help a nonprofit organization deal with tough business issues.


2011 - European Year of Volunteering

6 January – The European Year of Volunteering aims to encourage more people to get involved by: making it easier to volunteer;   rewarding volunteers, for example by formally recognising the skills they acquire in the course of their work; improving the quality of volunteering by providing training and matching volunteers to suitable vacancies; raising awareness of the value of volunteering.

Throughout the year, a group of volunteers will be touring the EU to show people the kind of work they are doing. During their 10 days in each country they will also meet policy-makers to discuss what’s important to them. A team of 27 volunteer journalists will take turns in covering each leg of the tour and produce a series of audiovisual and written reports that will be broadcast and published in the media and online. Four high-profile conferences will take place throughout the year to assess key issues related to volunteering.

Work at national level will be coordinated by the EYV Alliance, a cluster of 33 European volunteering networks founded in 2007. Potential volunteers can use the Alliance’s site to find information on volunteering opportunities, make a commitment to volunteer for a specific amount of time and even view how many voluntary hours have been pledged since 1 January.

The EU has been working to promote volunteering for many years and in 1996 set up the European Voluntary Service to encourage young people to volunteer abroad in local communities.

The European Year coincides with and complements UN-led activities to mark the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers.


Somalia: aid reaches more than half a million people

Geneva, 5 January – Ongoing fighting exacerbated by drought is forcing millions of Somalis to continue to depend on humanitarian assistance. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Somali Red Crescent Society have just finished providing food and urgently needed household items for over 540,000 displaced people (IDPs) and vulnerable residents in major cities and along the road heading south-west from Mogadishu to Afgoye.

“Twenty years of war have left Somalia in a dire state that is steadily getting worse,” said Pascal Mauchle, the ICRC's head of delegation for Somalia. “Tens of thousands of people have fled Mogadishu over recent months. Food production has fallen, prices have skyrocketed and many people cannot afford to buy food and other essentials, even when they are available on the market. The economic situation is still deteriorating and people struggle for their daily survival, not only in conflict-affected areas but also in major cities in the northern part of the country.”

Over the past few weeks, the ICRC and the Somali Red Crescent have distributed two-month rations of rice, beans and oil to some 240,000 displaced people and needy residents, and blankets, kitchen sets and plastic roofing to over 300,000 people. Priority has been given to disabled people, orphans and households headed by women. The aid reached many different cities in Lower Shabelle, Gedo, Bakool and Bay in the south, in Hiraan and Mudug in the central part of the country, and in Puntland in the north.


USA - Multi-family owner, the Bascom Group, creates a national movement to raise funds and awareness for UNICEF

With over 90 apartment communities across the country participating, the Bascom Group raises $19,000 for the US Fund for UNICEF

Irvine, Calif., USA, January 7 - In honor of the 60th Trick or Treat for UNICEF anniversary, the Bascom Group partnered with the US Fund for UNICEF in hopes of raising awareness and donations. Leveraging each of their 95 communities across the nation, they created UNICEF portholes at each location. Individually, these properties became learning centers, donation sites, and eventually a hub for community gatherings. Together they managed to raise $19,000 while generating a wave of holiday cheer.

Spreading across over 150 countries, UNICEF is a global humanitarian relief organization providing children with health care, clean water, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more. Every year the organization holds a “Trick or Treat for UNICEF” campaign, allowing children to participate by asking for donations instead of sweets.

In addition to promoting the “Trick or Treat” campaign, the Bascom Group properties also spearheaded resident events of which 100% of proceeds were donated. On-site teams created haunted houses out of model units; bake sales, sporting contests, and raffles were also held, which generated buzz and excitement. Educational kiosks were set up in each leasing office, creating awareness and providing education. Undoubtedly, this project caught on and it developed into a national movement of self and community awareness. (…)


ADRA continues aid to Serbian earthquake survivors

Silver Spring, Md., USA, 23 December 2010 - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is continuing its response following an earthquake that shook the city of Kraljevo, Serbia. The violent quake significantly damaged hundreds of buildings and houses, displacing thousands of families and injuring more than 500 people.

Through this intervention, ADRA has helped more than 2,000 people through the distribution of emergency winter aid kits. These lifesaving kits contain pillows, blankets and quilts for the victims who were forced to evacuate their damaged homes. This assistance is particularly vital as the temperature is expected to go below freezing and many of the victims have lost all their belongings and are now living in tents. The emergency packs were prepared by volunteers in the capital of Belgrade and transported to the affected region of Kraljevo where they were disseminated to the most vulnerable population. (…)


Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awards $750,000 in emergency relief for Pakistan floods

Los Angeles, 8 December 2010 - The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has awarded grants of $750,000 to support the work of four humanitarian organizations conducting relief operations to assist people in Pakistan affected by this summer's severe flooding, placing it among the largest U.S. foundation donors for the disaster.

“While flood waters have receded significantly, the scale of damage left behind is daunting both in terms of geographic size and long-term economic impact,” said Steven M. Hilton, CEO and President of the Foundation. “At least 12 million people in Pakistan continue to require a wide range of humanitarian assistance, from water and sanitation to food security, livelihood support and medical care. In addition, the incidence of malaria has increased, necessitating expansion of prevention and treatment services.”

Grants of $400,000 to Oxfam America will go toward a combination of WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) and agriculture activities. “Oxfam is recognized for the speed and efficiency with which it supplies water and provides sanitation facilities on a large scale in the face of the most difficult disasters,” notes Hilton. “It also has extensive experience providing support for agriculture and livelihoods recovery.”

A $100,000 grant to BRAC USA was also awarded to provide emergency WASH activities including construction of new wells and latrines. International Medical Corps received $100,000 to provide emergency medical treatment and distribution of medicines and hygiene supplies. Another $150,000 went to Merlin USA to support malaria prevention and treatment. (…)



Peace and security



West African caravan promotes peace from the ground up

By Ryan Hyland

Rotary International News – 6 January - A caravan led by former Rotary Peace Fellow Richelieu Allison journeyed through four countries in West Africa in November to promote peace-building at the grassroots level.

The peace caravan consisted of two buses with about 40 Rotarians and representatives of the West African Youth Network, a group that mobilizes and trains young people to restore peace and human rights in the region. The caravan traveled to border towns in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea, and Côte d'Ivoire to help resolve deep-seated disputes and increase the involvement of local residents in the peace-building process. (...)

The caravan, which included workshops and peace vigils, began in Freetown, Sierra Leone. The Rotary Club of Freetown provided technical and logistical assistance. The initiative was also sponsored by a Dutch charity, Interchurch Organization for Development Cooperation, and supported by Rotary clubs in Sierra Leone and Liberia.

“Rotary is fully committed to promoting peace,” says Freetown club president Sheila John. “The peace caravan brings together youth leaders, government representatives, and traditional leaders from postconflict and fragile states in West Africa.” One of the caravan's first stops was Monrovia, capital of Liberia. The group was greeted by dignitaries including Joseph Boakai, vice president of Liberia and past president of the Rotary Club of Monrovia; Francis Kaikai, head of civil affairs for the United Nations Mission in Liberia; and John Ballout, a member of the Liberian senate.

After graduating in 2006 from the inaugural class of the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Thailand, Allison was determined to put what he learned into practice. He returned to work with the West African Youth Network in Sierra Leone, which he cofounded in 2001. Allison also organized the construction of “peace huts” along the Mano River Union Bridge, which connects Sierra Leone and Liberia. 

RI President Ray Klinginsmith notes that 516 Rotary Peace Centers alumni, including 54 Africans, already are making a difference through grassroots efforts and key decision-making positions in governments and organizations around the world. (...)


Sudan: Supporting the safe resettlement of returnees

23 December 2010 – MAG is working to protect returnees coming back to southern Sudan ahead of January’s referendum. MAG Community Liaison Manager Marysia Zapasnik reports from the grounds of the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission.

The scene was one of excitement, nervousness, anticipation and sheer exhaustion. The last eight days spent on an excruciatingly hot and packed boat from Khartoum to Bor in Jonglei state had clearly taken its toll on the 670 recent arrivals. All were returning to settle back in southern Sudan and take part in next month’s referendum to determine whether the south stays part of a united Sudan or becomes independent.

Dressed in their best clothes, carrying bags of luggage and resting in whatever shade they could find, the 74 girls, 56 boys, 402 women and 138 men crowded into the dusty compound grounds of the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission waiting to be officially registered by the local authorities.Mothers breastfed their infants, older children looked after their younger siblings and men stood in tight-nit groups, deep in discussion. Before the registration began, a MAG Community Liaison team greeted the new returnees and invited them to sit under a large tree in preparation for a special Mine Risk Education (MRE) session.

The Community Liaison team showed the returnees large banners with pictures of the various landmines most commonly found in southern Sudan, and explained to the people how best to protect themselves from the mines, which areas to avoid and which warning signs, both local and international, to recognise. Large banners with pictures of commonly found unexploded ordnance (UXO) were then shown. Again the message was clear: stay away and do not touch.


Republic of Korea donation to the ITF

24 December 2010 – International Trust for Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF) received contribution from the Republic of Korea in total amount of 110.000,00 USD. Funds are earmarked for projects in Bosnia and Herzegovina (30.000,00 USD), Azerbaijan (20.000,00 USD), Gaza Strip (30.000,00 USD) and Central Asia (30.000,00 USD).

Republic of Korea has altogether contributed 380.000,00 USD for Mine Action activities.


UN and partners unveil programme to combat West Africa’s growing drug trade

16 December 2010 – With drug traffickers in West Africa increasingly adjusting their tactics to avoid counter-narcotics efforts, the United Nations and partner organizations today launched a comprehensive, integrated programme to combat drug trafficking and organized crime in the region.

The programme – the UN Office on Drugs and Crime Regional Programme for West Africa 2010-2014 – covers 16 countries and will respond to the needs of West African countries on the principle of shared responsibility, addressing the transcontinental nature of the challenge, in particular, the transatlantic route. It will focus on peace building, security sector reform, and national and regional institution- and capacity-building; as well as strengthening action in the areas of organized crime, trafficking and terrorism, justice and integrity, drug prevention and health, and awareness raising and research.

The launch of the West Africa programme took place at a high-level meeting at UN Headquarters in New York, co-chaired by UNODC, the UN Office for West Africa and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and in cooperation with the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations, the UN Department of Political Affairs and the International Criminal Police Organization, better known as INTERPOL.

The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for West Africa, Said Djinnit, described the programme as a “strong and effective alliance” of countries and organizations against organized crime in a region that “has been under severe attack by drug trafficking networks.”


Gaza: MAG proud of achievements in reducing risks posed by UXO

After nearly two years working in Gaza to minimise the risks posed to civilians by unexploded ordnance (UXO), MAG’s team of experts have ended their operations.

Since January 2009, MAG has assessed 2,132 residential and agricultural sites for the presence of lethal UXO, responded to more than 250 requests for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) support, and safely identified 360 items of UXO and 2,100 small arms ammunition.

During this time MAG also pioneered a technique for the safe disposal of white phosphorous projectiles, destroying all the 95 artillery shells that it located.

MAG began work in Gaza as a response to the emergency generated by Operation Cast Lead, which saw the scale and type of UXO contamination in Gaza significantly expand as a result of the 23-day bombardment by land, air and sea.

MAG has also worked to raise awareness of the scale and type of contamination, and actively sought to change risk-taking behaviours amongst vulnerable groups, such as those communities located in or near the buffer zone along the border, and contractors working on the UNDP Rubble Removal Programme.


Preventive diplomacy, investigative mandates a focus of latest publication of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs

The importance of preventive diplomacy for reducing conflict around the globe and the UN’s growing responsibilities in managing investigative mandates, panels and fact-finding inquiries are among the topics explored in the latest issue of Politically Speaking, the bulletin of the UN Department of Political Affairs.  The bi-annual publication profiles the work of UN political missions and envoys in the field, among other responsibilities of the Department of Political Affairs.  Additional topics featured in the Fall/Winter 2010-11 edition include:

· West Africa and the work of the United Nations Office on West Africa (UNOWA) in responding to political crises and regional problems;

· Iraq in Transition: an interview with Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq;

· Somalia: an update on UN political efforts to help stabilize Somalia;

· Kyrgyzstan’s  crises and the response role of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA);

· Burundi: challenges ahead for the country and the UN presence in Burundi following this year’s transitional elections;

· Nepal: the state of the peace process as the UN mission (UNMIN) prepares to conclude its mandate early next year;

· Solomon Islands: the UN’s contribution to preventing conflict in the recent elections.

Current and previous issues of Politically Speaking are available at the website of the Department of Political Affairs: 






Mothers in remote Philippines areas gain access to family planning services

7 January – Nearly half of pregnancies in the Philippines are unintended, according to the World Health Organization. As a result, Filipina women have larger families than they desire, and often can afford, and pregnancies in closer succession, which increases health risks to both mother and child.

Fortunately, 87 Muslim women in the remote islands of Tawi-Tawi now have greater access to culturally appropriate family planning methods as well as quality health facilities and services. What made the difference? The USAID-funded Sustainable Health Improvement through Empowerment and Local Government (SHIELD) project, which works to increase women’s access to family planning counseling and services.

To help ensure that the family planning initiative met the women’s needs and was culturally appropriate, SHIELD-trained community health action teams first met with the women themselves. The staff organized information sessions in the Tawi-Tawi villages so the women could learn and ask questions about a full range of family planning methods and staff could learn more about their needs and concerns. Tawi-Tawi is located in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Following the information sessions, the teams connected interested women to rural midwives for more information and counseling.

Of the 87 mothers served in early December, 36 chose the birth control method of bilateral tubal ligation (commonly known as getting one's “tubes tied”) and 51 women chose other family planning methods.


Côte d’Ivoire: ICRC and Ivorian Red Cross treat 80 and help thousands in Duékoué

Geneva/Abidjan, 7 January - The ICRC and the Red Cross Society of Côte d'Ivoire have treated almost 80 people injured during recent clashes in Duékoué, in the west of the country, where they are continuing to help 12,000 displaced persons.

Despite difficult security conditions, volunteers from the Ivorian Red Cross have been attending to casualties day and night since violence broke out in the town. “We've been working continuously since Monday. At the same time, I'm also trying to find part of my own family,” said Ivorian Red Cross volunteer and first-aid coordinator Christine Dehe Mahan.

The ICRC has provided medical supplies for the treatment of casualties at the hospital and other medical facilities in the town. Meanwhile, Red Cross first-aiders have delivered to the morgue the bodies of 14 people killed during the clashes

The number of people fleeing the violence has swamped the Catholic mission in Duékoué. “We estimate that some 12,000 people are spending the night at the mission, but the number changes with the situation,” explained ICRC delegate Edmond Corthésy. An assessment of the situation is under way in two other areas of Duékoué, where displaced persons have just arrived.


After vaccination campaign, hopes of a substantial reduction in meningitis A epidemics in Niger

6 January – “It is encouraging, because this is a new vaccine which gives protection for 10 years, and if the coverage rate is really so high, this could prevent the outbreak of meningitis A epidemics, the most common form of this disease in Africa,” confirmed Seco Gerard, field coordinator for Médecins Sans Frontières in Dosso.

It is almost midday. The air is dry and rasping. By the side of the road, sheltering under some branches, five women patiently await the arrival of the last people to vaccinate. We are in Tourobon, a village in the Dosso district, and it is the last day of the vaccination campaign against meningitis and meningococcus A. The two vaccinators, the preparer and the pointer (the person who records the number, age and gender of those vaccinated) explain that they have only vaccinated 39 people since this morning. “It's the end! We are sure to have vaccinated all the children and women aged 30 and over in the village and its surroundings."

Initial results from Phase One of vaccination campaign in the Niger districts of Dosso and Boboye, in which MSF took part, are satisfactory: more than 90% of the 627,000 people aged between 1 and 29 were immunised between 7 and 17 December. In the Dosso and Boboye districts, MSF was supported by the Ministry for Public Health and its 300 vaccination teams.

Phase Two of this major vaccination campaign – also carried out in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso – will continue until the end of 2011 and will end up covering the entire territory of Niger.


Save the Children intensifies public awareness efforts in Haiti to dispel myths, fears about cholera

Westport, Conn. , USA, 22 December 2010 - A lack of accurate public information about cholera is further complicating efforts to combat the epidemic in Haiti, where the disease has already claimed more than 2,500 lives, according to Save the Children.

In response, the humanitarian organization has launched a wide-reaching public awareness initiative to increase understanding about the cause and spread of the disease.

“It will be extremely challenging to beat back this cholera epidemic without giving people a better understanding of where the real risks lie and the best ways to avoid them. As it is, fear and misperceptions are driving a lot of counterproductive actions,” said Charles MacCormack, president and CEO of Save the Children.

Across Haiti, protests – at times violent ones – have greeted efforts to establish cholera treatment units. In the absence of information indicating otherwise, many people believe these small, localized treatment centers will increase the spread of cholera in their community. In reality, the closer an infected person is to a treatment center, the better the chances of survival.

Save the Children is working to educate communities about the benefits of cholera treatment units, as well as the strict measures taken at them to prevent further contamination as limiting the spread of the disease is a chief priority for all treatment units.


Haiti - Three physical therapists from Santa Maria (USA) practice volunteer for PFP

Norfolk, Va., USA, 21 December 2010 – Three physical therapists from the Santa Maria Valley Physical Therapy Group in Santa Maria, Calif., will put their skills to work this January at an amputee clinic in Haiti. John Hollinshead, Todd Martin and Tom Meenzhuber are volunteering in Haiti on behalf of Physicians for Peace (PFP), an international nonprofit that sends physical therapists to work with amputees and disabled patients at the Haitian Amputee Clinic at Albert Schweitzer Hospital in Deschapelles.

The mission coincides with the first anniversary of the 7.0 earthquake that devastated Haiti on January 12, 2010. Meenzhuber, who volunteered for PFP in Haiti last spring, will serve as the team leader for the two-week mission next month. He says he’s ready to “get back to work” at the clinic.

At the clinic in Deschapelles, Hollinshead, Martin and Meenzhuber will work with a team of healthcare professionals, including orthotists and prosthetists, to provide care to patients. While many of the patients lost a limb in the earthquake, others have been waiting for a prosthesis for years.


Immunization campaigns move ahead in Congo Republic

By Dan Nixon 

Rotary International News, 17 December 2010 -  Rotarians in the Republic of the Congo are stepping up their efforts to help stop the recent outbreak of wild poliovirus in their country.  The national PolioPlus committee has produced more than US$100,000 worth of posters, pamphlets, banners, T-shirts, and other materials to help mobilize public support for eradicating the disease.

At least 179 people have died in the outbreak, with 476 cases of acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) reported as of 7 December. Most of the cases involve young people between ages 15 and 29 and have occurred in the city of Pointe-Noire. To date, 12 of the AFP cases have been confirmed as polio.

Georges Moyen, the nation’s health minister, says the Rotarians’ support was well targeted and timely. “All you have offered, Pointe-Noire has lacked,” he says. “The weakness is a lack of social mobilization.” Rotary International and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative -- the World Health Organization, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- are responding strategically to the outbreak. Rotary has provided a total of $500,000 in emergency grants to WHO and UNICEF for immediate polio immunization efforts throughout the country.

The outbreak is due to imported poliovirus that is related to the virus circulating in Angola. The Congo Republic recorded its last case of indigenous polio in 2000, and urgent action is required by government and partner agencies to again make the country polio-free.(...)


For maternal health, go door to door

By Damakant Jayshi

Kathmandu, Nepal, December 16, 2010 (IPS) - For the last 17 years, Keshari Maharjan has been going door to door in the outskirts of the Nepali capital to tell people about the services available at health centres in their communities, as well as about how to prevent certain diseases.

It hasn’t always been easy for Maharjan and other community health volunteers like her. Indeed, she says, “It was very difficult those days when people suspected (us) of various ill intentions.”

Yet they must have been doing something right all these years. According to Maharjan herself, she has noticed that there has been improved awareness about sanitation, diseases, and health centre services in the last several years. That’s not all, though. Manik Ratna Shakya, head of the Satungal Health Post, says, “Along with the government’s and several donors’ incentives and initiatives, their (the volunteers) contribution – a selfless one at that – is the biggest in meeting the target of reducing maternity and child mortality rates.”

For sure, it’s not an achievement to scoff at, since it means that this impoverished Himalayan country is likely to meet the fifth Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on improving maternal health. In fact, just this September, Nepal was selected by the MDG Awards Committee, in collaboration with the United Nations Office for Partnership, to be among 49 Least Developed Countries that posted significant achievements in relation to the MDGs. Nepal was cited for its outstanding national leadership, commitment, and progress towards improved maternity health.

Among Nepal’s MDG targets is to reduce its maternal mortality ratio (MMR) to 213 per 100,000 live births by 2015.



Energy and safety



2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference - Washington, D.C., March 17-19

The Nonprofit Technology Network's signature conference will take place from March 17-19, 2011 in Washington, D.C. Nonprofit professionals from throughout the world gather to learn how to utilize the new technologies available today to maximize their effectiveness.

The 2011 NTC offers many fun and informative opportunities to connect with peers, exhibitors, and experts who share your commitment – and your challenges. From our member reception and progressive party to one-on-one chats and hands-on trainings, your weekend in the Capital will be chock-full of opportunities to share, bond, and build relationships. You can start right away, on our social networking site, MyNTC.

There's no shortage of educational experiences at the 2011 NTC. Learn alongside passionate nonprofit pros who, like you, want to use technology effectively to advance their missions and bring about change. Breakout sessions, training courses, and consultations offer the valuable learning opportunities you need to keep moving forward.

If you're looking to reach the nonprofit sector, there's no better place to show off your latest and greatest products and services. Exhibit and provide hands-on demos at our popular "Science Fair" – or sponsor the entire conference; we have opportunities available for any size organization. Your message will reach an audience of committed, tech-savvy professionals committed to improving their effectiveness and making the world a better place.  (Source: WANGO, December 23, 2010.)


Institutional solar cooking gains momentum in India.

30 December 2010 - A news release from the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy in India, reporting on important activities in 2010, states: Solar concentrating systems, comprising automatically tracked of parabolic dishes, have been found to be useful for generating steam to cook food for hundreds and thousands of people in community kitchens especially at religious places such as Shirdi, Mount Abu, Tirupati etc. The world’s largest system is functioning at Shirdi for cooking food for 20,000 people/day. These systems have found good applications for air conditioning and laundry also and a few demonstration plants have recently been installed. A total of around 80 concentrating systems of different capacities covering 25,000 sq.m. of dish area are functioning in the country, largely for cooking purpose. During 2010, 15 such systems were sanctioned covering a dish area of around 3000 sq.m. See Scheffler Community Kitchen


U.S. Department of Energy announces $50M to support innovative solar technologies

December 2010 - U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu recently announced a Notice of Intent (NOI) to fund up to $50 million to test and demonstrate innovative technologies. The funding will support testing at the Nevada National Security Site, which will be used as a proving ground for cutting-edge solar technologies.

Projects at the site will be deployed at a large enough scale to provide data for utility-scale installations, which are typically grid-connected projects of more than 20 megawatts. Technologies to be tested include concentrating solar thermal and concentrating photovoltaics.

The demonstration program is designed to link DOE's advanced technology development programs and full-scale commercial efforts to advance utility-scale solar. It complements the Department of the Interior's 24 Solar Energy Study Areas on public lands in the southwest United States. DOE expects to announce the Funding Opportunity Announcement early next year. Full information about the NOI is available on the FedConnect Web site.


Solar Program adds online multimedia resource

December 2010 - The U.S. Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technologies Program recently added an online gallery of multimedia resources. The gallery is a centralized location where site users can find current solar photos, video, B-roll, graphics, charts, and animations that highlight and illustrate a range of solar technologies.

These multimedia resources are critical communication tools to educate stakeholders on the benefits of renewable energy and build awareness about solar advancements. The site will provide the media, educators, policymakers, and the general public with easy access to multimedia assets to help tell the story of solar to a wider audience. The new solar multimedia gallery can be accessed at



Environment and wildlife



Wild Indian rhinos find new ground in Himalayan foothills

New Delhi, India, 6 January - Ongoing efforts to increase the population of the vulnerable Indian Rhinoceros received a crucial lift just before New Year’s with the successful translocation of two female rhinos to a national park in India’s northeastern state of Assam.

The year-long process of procuring tranquilizers, radio-collars and other equipment needed to move the two rhinos – one adult and one juvenile – paid off in late December after a specially trained team released the pair in Manas National Park located on the Himalayan foothills.

The rhinos, which are currently listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), were moved to Manas from the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in specially designed crates. The nearby Pobitora sanctuary has accumulated the world’s highest density of rhinos, with over 80 in less than 18 sq. km of habitat.


Indonesia and Honduras tilapia swim into seafood guide upgrade

Gland, Switzerland, 23 December 2010 - Tilapia produced in Indonesia and Honduras is to join the new WWF seafood guide category of “moving towards certification”.

Typical tilapia is currently rated as unsustainable in WWF seafood guides due to issues with harmful environmental effects including chemical use, waste spilling into waterways, risks of disease and escapes and weak regulation of aquaculture in many producing areas.

“The moving towards certification classification was set up to give consumers the ability to identify and support fisheries and fish farms that have signed up to achieve the highest standards of sustainable production,” said Dr Mark Powell, WWF International Global Seafood Leader.

Tilapia is the world’s second most important farmed fish, and Indonesia and Honduras are important suppliers to the demanding US and European markets. Tilapia producers in these two countries have achieved or soon will achieve compliance with the tilapia standards that will be used by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

“The benefits we expect from certification are international recognition of all the efforts we have made in developing a socially and environmentally sound aquaculture model,” said Anne-Laurence Huillery, Sustainability Manager for Regal Springs, the leading tilapia producer in Indonesia and Honduras.


Israel, Jordan - "Good Water Nweighbors" project stimulates active dialogue

FoEME's "Good Water Neighbors" project brought together mayors and municipal representatives from the Tamar Regional Council (Israel) and the South Ghors Governorate (Jordan) twice during the month of December, first in Jordan and then in Israel. The delegations visited local ecotourism initiatives and discussed future cooperation on local sustainable agriculture.

Both sides concluded that they are interested in follow up meetings. Cooperation to promote the opening of a new border crossing - at the Southern Dead Sea area - is high on their agenda.



Religion and spirituality



UN - World Interfaith Harmony Week, first week in February

The first week of February of each year has been designated World Interfaith Harmony Week by the United Nations. First proposed in 2010 by HM King Abdullah II of Jordan, it aims to promote harmony among all people regardless of their faith.

We invite you to join URI members around the world in celebrating the launch of this annual observance. Download our Interfaith Harmony Week tool card for a list of ideas for bringing people together across religious barriers and building interfaith trust and understanding in your community. Post your activities to  the World Interfaith Harmony Week website and send stories and photos to so your actions are added to the collective whole.


China to further promote international exchanges among religious circles

11 January _ China will provide more support for the country's religious communities in their international exchanges and communications, said Wang Zuoan, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs. Wang made the remarks at the 2011 national conference on religious work held in South China' s Hainan Province on Monday.

The administration will actively support religious circles in China to promote the concept of religious harmony during the first World Interfaith Harmony Week, which has been recognized by the United Nations and will be held in the first week of February, Wang said.



Culture and education



100-dollar laptops bring in distant kids

By Ranjit Devraj

Mukteshwar, India, January 8 - Responding to the lack of computer training in Mukteshwar’s schools, Veena Sethi, a retired Delhi University professor, set up two used personal computers in the basement of her home with the aim of bringing the basics of computing to school children.  “There were no libraries, no laboratories and no computer classes. In fact, most of the schools in Mukteshwar [which is in the Nainital district of northern Uttarakhand state] had no electricity,” Sethi told IPS. Worse, the central government did not have a well-defined policy on developing computer-learning skills in schools, leaving it to state governments to work out arrangements with private companies, she said.

In 2005 Sethi began her programme and by 2008 the demand for computer training had grown to a point where Sethi could establish Unified Developmental and Academic Activities Network (UDAAN) to run computer education programmes in schools based on courses designed by the National Council of Education Research and Training.

“The state-run schools [some of which actually had computers allocated to them] showed little interest in the programme citing the usual reasons - no electricity, no teachers or no permission from higher authorities to enter into a partnership,” said Sethi.  UDAAN, however, moved on. A partnership with Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University made it possible for the NGO to introduce the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) programme in selected schools in Mukteshwar in May 2010. OLPC’s stated mission is to provide a means for learning, self-expression, and exploration to some two billion children in developing countries with little or no access to education.

So far, more than one million ‘XO’ laptops - each costing 100 U.S. dollars - have been distributed under the OLPC programme to children in the developing world.


UK and Venezuelan educators awarded UNESCO ICT prize

January 7 - The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, has designated the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (United Kingdom) and Infocentro Foundation (Venezuela) as the laureates of the 2010 UNESCO King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize for the Use of Information and Communication Technologies in Education. The winners of the prize were selected on the recommendation of an international jury. This year's theme was “Digital Literacy: Preparing Adult Learners for Lifelong Learning and Flexible Employment”,

The National Institute for Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) is the leading non-governmental organization promoting the interests of adult learners in England and Wales. The Jury found that NIACE has developed a national network of 6,000 internet access centres to serve adults in both rural and urban settings, in addition to 194 internet projects for adults in sheltered housing. Close to 3,000 so-called “E-Guides” were trained as tutors in national and regional networks.

The Infocentro Foundation was selected for its project “Technological Literacy for Older Adults”. The Foundation is supported by the Venezuela Ministry of Popular Power for Science and Technology, providing free access to information technology infrastructure to enable adults and other users in achieving lifelong learning. Through 680 education infocentres established across the country, the foundation aims to enable adult learners to move from basic computer literacy to more advanced ICT skills. Infocentro Foundation has enabled almost one million individuals, including those with disabilities, to develop technology literacy skills.

The Director-General will present the Prize – a diploma and US$25,000 – to each of the laureates at a ceremony on 12 January, 2011 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.


USAID awards EDC $75 million to improve education in Lebanon

Newton, MA, USA, December 21, 2010 – Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC), has expanded its work to Lebanon, announcing a new education improvement project at kickoff ceremonies in Beirut. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has awarded EDC $75 million for a five-year project to be known as D-RASATI (“my studies” in Arabic) that will include thousands of students and teachers in more than 1,300 public schools throughout Lebanon.

Specifically, EDC aims to improve children’s learning environments by repairing and equipping schools, enhance the skills of Lebanon’s public school teachers through in-service training, engage Lebanese students in extracurricular activities, and stimulate increased involvement by communities and parents in local schools.

D-RASATI will begin with a nationwide assessment of the needs of each public school, which will be incorporated into a comprehensive action plan. The program will also establish a monitoring and evaluation system to ensure high-quality performance.

EDC will lead the effort in partnership with the American University of Beirut, AMIDEAST, the Cooperative Housing Foundation, the International Orthodox Christian Charities, and the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development.



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Next issue:  February 4th, 2011.


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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, Arianna Cavallo, Azzurra Cianchetta. Webmaster: Fabio Gatti. Media and NGOs coverage: Maurizio Palazzoni.  


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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 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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