Good News Agency – Year XI, n° 183



Weekly – Year XI, number 183 – 25th February 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



Ghana ratifies Global Treaty banning cluster bombs

London, 7 February – The Republic of Ghana ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions on 3 February 2011. It is the 51st country worldwide and the 14th in Africa to ratify the lifesaving treaty.

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, which entered into force as binding international law on 1 August 2010. Its historic First Meeting of States Parties was held from 9-12 November 2010 in Lao PDR – the most heavily cluster-bombed country in the world.

Ghana participated in the Oslo Process to negotiate and adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions and attended the Convention’s First Meeting of States Parties. Ghana has said it has never used, produced or stockpiled cluster munitions. Almost the entire continent of Africa has either signed or ratified the Convention, and the CMC urges all remaining states in the region to get on board and begin to implement the treaty as soon as possible.


Somalia: UN launches new anti-piracy plan calling for greater global naval support

3 February – The United Nations today launched an action plan to combat piracy off the Somali coast, calling for greater support from national navies to fight a “global menace” that threatens not only international trade but the world body’s delivery of vital food aid to millions of hungry people. One of the prime objectives of the new plan is “to promote greater levels of support from, and coordination with, navies” off Somalia, where patrols by the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and UN member states already provide “vital protection” for UN vessels delivering logistical support to the African Union force in Mogadishu, which seeks to help stabilize the war-torn country, and for UN food shipments to the 2.4 million Somalis who urgently need it.

Beyond promoting greater support from navies, the plan’s priorities include boosting anti-piracy coordination and co-operation among countries, regions, organizations and industry, through information-sharing and military and civil efforts; and helping countries to build capacity in piracy-infested regions in order “to deter, interdict and bring to justice” the perpetrators.



Human rights



Invigorating rural economies: IFAD annual meeting draws to a close with a call for greater youth involvement in agriculture and business growth

Rome, 20 February – With a determination to leverage the energy and talents of young rural people in the fight to eradicate rural poverty, the Governing Council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) concluded its 34th session held over two days at the Fund’s headquarters in Rome. Delegates from IFAD’s 167 Member States heard from prominent international figures, youth leaders and high-ranking government officials on topics related to ensuring food security, invigorating smallholder farming and the need to support and encourage rural youth.

In opening the meeting yesterday, the Fund’s President, Kanayo F. Nwanze, told delegates that IFAD is taking steps to create more vibrant rural economies, which in turn will propel the agency’s rural poverty reduction efforts. In his keynote address to the Governing Council, Kofi Annan, Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and a former United Nations Secretary-General, spoke of recent progress on African agricultural development and said the continent “has the potential to feed not just our own citizens but to help create a secure global food system.”

A plenary panel discussion on Saturday, “Feeding future generations: young rural people today – prosperous, productive farmers tomorrow,” moderated by former CNN International presenter Tumi Makgabo,  provided an interactive discussion  on the critical challenges rural youth face and how their energy can be tapped to help create more vibrant rural economies.

Feeding future generations:young rural people today – prosperous, productive farmers tomorrow


Unions advocate for gender equality in education at the UN

18 February - Education International, working together with other Global Unions, is ready to bring and share their expertise at the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).

“Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work” is the main theme of the 2011 session of the UN CSW. The joint trade union delegation is formed by almost 90 delegates from all regions; out of these, 27 participants from 15 education unions will represent Education International. A joint statement “From the Classroom to the Workplace – Positioning Women for Decent Work in the Knowledge Economy” was submitted to the UN in November 2010.

It will be the first time that gender, education and decent work are included as priority themes in the UNCSW working agenda. Global Unions have been building up this momentum over more than 20 years. Joining trade union forces for advocacy, networking and working in solidarity were raised as key aspects for success at the workshop session “Advocacy: Can UN Women close the equality gap?”, organised at EI’s First World Women’s Conference – On the Move for Equality, which took place in January 2011 in Bangkok. Participants discussed the role of the new UN Women agency and developed strategies for making teachers’ voices heard in the international arena.


WSF: Poverty and child labour undermine quality education in Africa

16 February - Education International and its affiliates have participated in workshops on early childhood education and child labour in western Africa at the World Social Forum which has been held in Dakar, Senegal.  A special focus in this year’s forum has been African issues, in particular developments in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the lack of action on development and poverty in Africa.

Making their interventions, EI affiliated teacher unionists from SYNESP (Benin); SYNTER (Burkina Faso); BUPL (Denmark); GEW (Germany); GNAT (Ghana); NAGRAT (Ghana);SNEB (Niger), FESEN (Togo), joined members of EI’s Senegalese affiliates and EI’s Africa Region staff to discuss policies to enhance early childhood education, as recommended by the Education for All (EFA) program and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Participants agreed that unions in western Africa must pursue their efforts to urge governments to take appropriate political measures for quality education.


Indigenous people wins ruling against Chevron

The American oil company Chevron was recently ordered to pay $8.2bn after years of environmental damage in the Amazon in Ecuador. Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) works with local indigenous organisations, which have battled with the oil company to take responsibility.

By Tine Johansen

16 February – “This is a big day for the environment and for the rights of indigenous people in the Amazon,” says Per Ranestad, NPA’s regional director in Latin America.“Not least is this a victory for indigenous people who have suffered during Chevron/Texaco’s long environmental pollution of nature and water sources in the Ecuadorian Amazon,” he continues.

The ruling against Chevron is the largest relating to oil drilling. According to NPA’s partner in Ecuador ”Frente de la Defensa de la Amazonia” the spill caused by Chevron is 30 times that after the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska. The spill in the Amazon has been going on for nearly 30 years, from 1964 to 1992. “The consequences of irresponsible oil drilling are damaged water and soil for the indians and farmers in the Ecuadorian Amazon,” says Ranestad. Unusually many people have died from cancer and other diseases as a result of the spills. Both women and men are suffering with infertility. Among the evidence against Chevron are rare diseases and injuries in children. Notwithstanding, Chevron disputes the evidence and the judiciary process.  

Chevron has already appealed the ruling. The documentary Crude, which is based on 600 hours of recording, documents how comprehensive and overwhelming the contamination is. (…);action=Article.publicShow;ID=16825


On the protection of children and women, Geneva Call raises awareness and promotes dialogue in the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon

10 February – During a visit to Lebanon in early February, a Geneva Call delegation presented its programme on the protection of children and women. Its objective was to raise awareness and reinforce the capacity of civil society and relevant non-State actors to better respond to humanitarian needs and to improve the protection of Palestinian refugees living in the camps in southern Lebanon.

Geneva Call initiated a dialogue in Lebanon on these initiatives, and meetings were held in Beirut and in the refugee camps of Ain al-Hilwah, Mar Elias and Miye Miye with high-level representatives from Hamas, Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Islamic Jihad, the Coalition of Islamic Forces in Ain al-Hilwah refugee camp, and the Palestinian security forces of the Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. There were productive exchanges of views in which all those present acknowledged the need for Geneva Call's work and expressed their willingness to pursue further dialogue on these areas ofhumanitarian concern. Geneva Call looks forward to further productive exchange in due course.



Economy and development



Spain creates Food Security Cofinancing Facility Trust Fund

IFAD and Spain strengthen partnership to eradicate rural poverty

Rome, 19 February - Spain has established a new €300 million fund targeting rural poverty and food security, the country’s Foreign Affairs Minister announced today on the occasion of the International Fund for Agricultural Development’s (IFAD) Governing Council.

Minister Trinidad Jiménez García-Herrera said the Spanish Food Security Cofinancing Facility Trust Fund will consist of a €285.5 million loan from the Government of Spain combined with a grant of €14.5 million to be committed during the years 2011 and 2012. The loan maturity will be 45 years, including a grace period of five years, with funding to be aligned with the policies and practices of IFAD.

Spain’s contribution will ensure immediate and reliable resources that will enhance IFAD’s ability to reduce rural poverty and create income opportunities for smallholder farmers,” said Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD. The Trust Fund will provide additional resources especially for those countries in which there is demand in excess of available IFAD funding and where there is an urgent need for investment in the areas of agriculture and food security.

The financial arrangement between IFAD and Spain will be part of a more comprehensive strategic partnership framework and complements the six-year Partnership Agreement signed in November


Afghan almonds offer farmers high-value market opportunity

Agroforestry initiative provides 33,000-plus saplings, training to farmers

February 18 – The quality and taste of Afghan almonds attract a premium price on the world market, especially in India and Pakistan. Expanding the high-value crop’s production offers an important niche market entry for rural Afghan farmers to increase their incomes in an economically sustainable way. Working to seize this market opportunity, the Incentives Driving Economic Alternatives for the North, East and West project (IDEA-NEW) project contracted an Afghanistan commercial nursery to plant 100 hectares of new almond orchards in the northern region to benefit 200 farmers.

IDEA-NEW provided more than 33,000 saplings of four popular almond varieties: Satar Baye, Qambari, Qahar Baye and Zareer Baye. Providing the orchard with four varieties helps ensure good pollination of the trees and better production.  IDEA-NEW agriculture staff regularly monitored the saplings’ growth throughout the activity’s cycle to observe progress. Toward the activity’s completion, however, some villages experienced security concerns and monitoring became difficult. Still, staff managed to monitor 76 of the orchards planted on 65.6 ha of the 100 ha planted. Of the 20,792 saplings planted in these 76 orchards, 92 percent of them survived— welcome news for the participant farmers.

ACDI/VOCA implements the USAID-funded IDEA-NEW with partners DAI and Mercy Corps.


IFAD provides US$28 million to help boost dairy production and improve herders’ living conditions in Syria

Rome, 18 February – A new US$73.13 million IFAD-supported project will help reduce poverty mainly in marginal dry areas of the Syrian Arab Republic. The Integrated Livestock Development Project will benefit around 311,000 poor rural households: small sheep, cattle and buffalo holders; small milk producers, collectors and processors living in poverty-stricken seasonal settlements in the Badia and in settled villages across all provinces; as well as poor rural women and youth. IFAD will provide a loan of US$27.33 million and a grant of US$659,000 to finance the project under an agreement signed today by Kanayo Nwanze, President of IFAD, and Dr. Adel Safar, Minister of Agriculture and Agrarian Reform of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Currently, the high potential of the livestock sector is threatened by external factors such as international market fluctuations, harsher climatic conditions and water availability, low animal productivity, high cost of feed and the underdevelopment of value-added products. “The project promises to achieve important gains in animal productivity, volume of production, quality of collection and processing and market outreach,” said Abdelhamid Abdouli, IFAD’s Country Programme Manager for Syria.  The participatory approach to be followed by the project will assist the target group in forming community-based associations, such as farmers’ marketing associations, herders’ associations and village “Sanduq” committees, to provide rural microfinance services, etc. These associations will play a vital role in implementing project activities.


New project won: Ghana and Kenya—financial sector knowledge-sharing activity

February 9 – ACDI/VOCA will provide expert training in value chain approaches to financial services at two regional knowledge-sharing events in Ghana and Kenya for USAID economic growth officers through a $44,000 subcontract from Chemonics International.

USAID officers will attend seminars that review financial sector fundamentals such as examining enabling environments and financial infrastructure needs through a value chain finance framework. Topics will include information systems, microfinance and nonbank instruments.

ACDI/VOCA experts will collaborate with colleagues at Chemonics to design and facilitate participatory exercises to guide attendees through the process of mapping financial needs in value chains, assessing available finance supply and diagnosing constraints.

USAID attendees will increase their understanding of strategies and mechanisms to finance food security-related productivity investments. They also will emerge from the seminars with a preliminary road map for designing new programs based on specific Mission priorities.

ACDI/VOCA is a leader in implementing programs that use a value chain approach to maximize program impact and ensure sustainability of efforts.






Red Cross helps hundreds of thousands of people affected by Sri Lanka floods

By Mahieash Johnney – IFRC, Communications & Information Manager in Sri Lanka

17 February – In the most recent wave of flooding 18 people were killed, 22 were injured and three remain missing. An estimated 30,000 homes have been partially or totally damaged and the massive cost of rebuilding infrastructure such as roads, bridges and culverts is still being calculated.

Since the floods first began four months ago, the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS), supported by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), has managed to assist over 800,000 people. Stranded families have been evacuated by boat, cooked food and dry rations have been distributed, wells have been cleaned and thousands of flood evacuees have been provided with medical care and first aid services. “It has been a mammoth task to bring back a sense of normality to people in the devastated areas” says Tissa Abeywickrama, Sri Lanka Red Cross director general. “It was only thanks to the commitment and dedication of our volunteers on the ground that we were able to reach such a high number of people during this disastrous time”.

On its part, the IFRC launched a 4.62 million CHF Appeal (4.8 million USD, 3.5 million Euros) to provide emergency assistance to over 75,000 people (15,000 families). This also includes cash grants to help restore livelihoods and rebuild damaged homes over the next 12 months. However, so far only 20 per cent of the Appeal target has been met.


Mercedes-Benz Brazil contributes to Rotarian relief efforts in Chile

By Arnold R. Grahl

Rotary International News, 15 February – The initiative of a Rotaractor and the determination of a past Rotary International director helped secure a donation of US$568,000 from Mercedes-Benz Brazil to support Rotarian disaster recovery efforts in Chile.

Ana Carolina Silvestre da Costa, a Rotaractor and former Rotary Youth Exchange student, has been working in the internal communications department for Mercedes-Benz Brazil for three years. Because of her community service work through Rotaract, Costa was put in charge of overseeing the company's charitable giving. When Costa's superiors asked her for ideas as to where the company could make a donation for earthquake relief, she reached out to Roberto Barroso Filho, a past district governor, who encouraged her to suggest the Brazilian Association of The Rotary Foundation. (...)

The Mercedes-Benz donation more than doubled the amount available to Rotary clubs through the Foundation's Rotary Chile Recovery Fund, set up after a powerful earthquake in February 2010 devastated parts of Chile. The quake and a subsequent tsunami destroyed homes, hospitals, and schools, displacing families, limiting health care, and blocking children's access to the schools that remained open. Part of the Mercedes-Benz donation has been used to purchase three ambulances to help transfer patients in the communities of Constitución, Talco, and Talcahuano to regional hospitals, and three minivans to shuttle children to school. The remainder is available to Rotary clubs and districts through Matching Grants for recovery projects in Chile. (...)


HELP USA & Newark Mayor Cory Booker break ground

Public-private partnership will provide 56 units of rental housing for veterans and low income families

Newark, N.J., USA, February 18 - In response to President Obama's recent call to end homelessness in the United States, HELP USA broke ground today with Newark Mayor Cory Booker and The Make It Right Foundation on its second Newark project located at 634-648 Clinton Avenue. The project provides 56 units of rental housing for veterans and low income families. Funding for the project was provided through Low Income Housing Tax Credits awarded by the New Jersey Housing and Mortgage Finance Agency, and Neighborhood Stabilization Program 2 funding awarded by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

At Clinton Avenue significant emphasis will be given to incorporating green and sustainable features within the overall building design and construction; the project is currently designed to meet LEED Gold environmental standards, the development team is considering additional 'green' elements that will allow the development to attain LEED Platinum certification.

The Clinton Hill facility will include computer rooms, a fitness center, meeting rooms, and community service space. The latter will provide space for programs that will serve veterans, other tenants, and members of the local community. These programs will be operated by HELP USA and by Newark-based service providers.


Democratic Republic of the Congo: aid for 90,000 isolated people in Haut Uélé and Bas Uélé

Kinshasa / Geneva, 14 February – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has begun transporting over 800 tonnes of seed and various implements to Haut Uélé and Bas Uélé, in northern Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is one of the most isolated areas in the country. Brought in with support from the National Red Cross Society, the seed and tools will be distributed in the districts of Ango, Banda, Doruma and Nyangara, benefiting some 90,000 people, both local residents and others who have fled there.

To help kick-start agricultural production, Red Cross staff will give each family 20 kg of groundnut seed and a further 20 kg of seed for fast-growing rice. Five hundred other families of fishermen will receive the gear they need to resume their livelihood.

To carry out such a large-scale operation in these circumstances, it has been necessary to get the help of the local population to repair roads and two airstrips. The operation will continue until March, with dozens of flights a day into the area and hard work by a large number of National Red Cross Society volunteers.


CPI helps raise funds for school for the deaf in Kabul

Posted by: Karen Matthee

February 14 – CPI organized a fundraiser event to support a needy School for the Deaf in Kabul. On Friday, February 11, art work produced by students and staff of the School for the Deaf went on sale to raise money that will keep the school operational during a funding gap.

The school is a public, free, Ministry of Education-certified, co-educational facility located in the Khair Khana neighborhood of Kabul. In service since 1994, the school had been operated by the Family Welfare Focus (FWF, an Afghan NGO), along with clinical support and vocational training for deaf children in grades 1-12. They have recently found themselves facing a short-term funding gap which has left them struggling to cover their operational budget for January through March. (Beginning April 1st, they have donor support in place again).

Closing the school for three months would certainly have jeopardized the progress of the more than 300 students currently enrolled and create obvious financial difficulties for the school's highly dedicated teachers (most of whom are women). While the FWF School for the Deaf is not a CPI implementing partner organization for victim assistance programming, CPI's goal was to help them help themselves through organizing this first-ever fundraiser. The four-hour event generated more than $2,000 in sales of artwork towards the school's operating costs.

Subsequently, the staff of the Kabul offices of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) have organized a follow-up art sale fundraiser in this same style but at Kabul's Serena Hotel on February 18. This follow-up event was organized by JICA staff as a direct result of CPI's original efforts at bringing attention to the FWF School for the Deaf.


Cambodian & Thai Red Cross help thousands during cross-border military clashes

Stephen Ryan, Asia Pacific zone office

14 February – Recent hostilities in the border region between Cambodia and Thailand resulted in the internal evacuation of thousands of people from their homes, raising an urgent need for food, shelter and other forms of assistance. At the peak of the hostilities, an estimated 3,866 families were displaced in Thailand and approximately 3,000 families in Cambodia. The National Red Cross Societies of both countries have played a leading role in providing humanitarian assistance to these families, primarily in Preah Vihear province in Cambodia and Si Sa Ket, Ubon Ratchatani and Surin provinces in Thailand.

Thanks to their strong grassroots networks and links with local communities, both National Societies have been able to react rapidly to the needs on the ground and have been working in close cooperation with their respective local and national authorities to ensure the best use of resources, Shelter as well as relief items (food and non-food) have been provided to those in need on both sides of the border. In Cambodia and Thailand, the National Societies’ headquarters sent teams to the affected regions early on to assess the needs of their local branches and evaluate how best to support them.


Rotary India to arrange 5,000 heart surgeries for poor kids

Rotary India Humanity Foundation, an arm of Rotary International, will pump in Rs.75 crore over the next three years for 5,000 surgeries on under-privileged children suffering heart diseases in the country.Disclosing this at the launch of the Foundation’s programme “Saving Little Hearts”, Rotary International president Kalyan Banerjee said the number of surgeries may also reach 7,500 within the three-year period.“We are committed to doing at least 5,000 heart surgeries over the next three years, and most probably we will take this number up to 7,500,” he said.

The programme has been formulated and designed to ease the suffering and give normal life to children suffering from congenital heart diseases.“Among the children in need for urgent medical treatment, 60,000 to 90,000 need immediate surgery to stay alive. Unfortunately, most of these cases are among those children who are below the poverty line and cannot avail of these expensive surgeries.” he said.“With each of these surgeries costing between Rs. 1,00,000 to Rs. 2,50,000 and the parents generally earning about Rs. 3,000 monthly, the surgeries remain beyond their reach,” he added.

The next three years will witness a fund output of Rs. 215 crores, including the money allotted for the programme “Saving Little Hearts”. “Besides the heart surgeries, we are also concentrating on other areas in healthcare, education, environment, empowerment, disaster management and polio eradication,” said Rotary International director Shekhar Mehta.


Italian Red Cross responds to influx of Tunisian migrants

By Joe Lowry and Giovanni Zambello

14 February – Italian Red Cross is responding to the influx of migrants from Tunisia who continue to arrive by boat on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Some 5,000 undocumented migrants have been intercepted by Italian coastguards and brought to the tiny island, where the Italian Red Cross is providing healthcare and basic necessities such as clothing, food and first aid kits.

The migrants are predominantly young men, over 30 of whom are reported to have drowned on route. Over 1,000 have been transferred to the mainland, in Calabria and Sicily. In Porto Empedocle, Sicily, local Red Cross branches have deployed volunteers and vehicles, and have setting up a camp for an initial 500 people in nearby Rosolini. Along with accommodation, migrants will also be provided with food, clothing and other basic necessities.


A brash hedge-fund manager applies his tactics to philanthropy

By Caroline Preston

February 6 - A few years ago, Cheryl L. Dorsey was hosting a lunch for Echoing Green Foundation, the social-entrepreneurship fund she runs, when a man she had never met before approached her. “If Echoing Green is as good as you say it is, I’ll commit $1-million and get involved,” she recalls him saying. Not too long after, the then $2.6-million New York group had the money—and the man on its board.

That kind of move is quintessential William A. Ackman. The 44-year old hedge-fund manager is well known in the financial world for his brash brand of activist investing, by which he has amassed a fortune that Forbes magazine last year estimated at $700-million. (Mr. Ackman declined to confirm whether that is accurate.)He’s not yet a familiar name in philanthropy—but that could change. (...)

Through a foundation they created in 2006, Mr. Ackman and his wife, Karen, plan to eventually give away most of their wealth. Last year, they donated $58-million to the Pershing Square Foundation, whose name reflects Mr. Ackman’s Pershing Square Capital Management, the hedge fund he started in 2004. The contribution, along with $1.3-million they gave to 50 other nonprofits, puts the Ackmans in the No. 17 spot on The Chronicle’s list of the most-generous donors.The foundation is awarding grants at that same fast clip, pledging $84.3-million so far. (…)



Peace and security



Palestinian premier willing to discuss reunification with Hamas

Ramallah, February 21 -  Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad on Monday said he is willing to travel to the Gaza Strip to discuss forming a unity government with the Islamist Hamas movement. Fayyad last week submitted his government's resignation to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who promptly asked him to form a new government.

Speaking to reporters at his office in Ramallah, Fayyad said that his initiative calls for reunifying the West Bank and Gaza through the formation of a national unity government and then seeking reconciliation. His initiative calls for security in the Gaza Strip and West Bank to remain in the hands of Hamas and the PA respectively, but for the two parties to agree on having one central government.


D. R. Congo rebel leader abandons armed group under UN demobilisation scheme

17 February - The United Nations peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have reported that a senior member of one of the most troublesome armed groups in the eastern region of the country has turned himself in under the demobilisation programme run by the mission. Lieutenant-Colonel Samuel Bisengimana, also known as Sam Mutima-Kunda, a village chief and influential figure in the Forces démocratiques de Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR) - formed by Rwandan ethnic Hutus linked to the 1994 genocide - defected this week after year-long negotiations, according to the mission (MONUSCO).

The mission said his defection under the terms of its Disarmament, Demobilization, Reintegration, Rehabilitation and Repatriation (DDRRR) programme dealt a serious blow to the FDLR, which he served as a member of the high command. His defection follows the extraction from the FDLR of three other fighters with the rank of major last month. Last year, 1,881 FDLR rebels, including 64 officers, opted for voluntary surrender and disarmament under the MONUSCO demobilisation programme.


World’s largest security body vows to boost cooperation with UN

15 February – The world’s largest regional security organization, embracing 56 States stretching from the United States across Europe and Central Asia to the borders of China, today pledged increased cooperation with the United Nations, from stabilizing Afghanistan to fighting terrorism to boosting cyber security. “We value highly the close cooperation that we enjoy with the UN in the maintenance of international peace and security,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis, this year’s chairman of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). Mr. Ažubalis noted Lithuania’s own experience in the Baltic region in underscoring the value of regional and sub-regional cooperation. “In that spirit, the Lithuanian chairmanship will intensify its work in supporting UN-led international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan,” he said.

Laying out the chairmanship’s priorities, he listed tangible progress in addressing protracted conflicts; improved implementation of media freedom commitments; strengthening OSCE response to trans-national threats; enhancing its role in the area of energy security; and promoting tolerance education throughout the area.


Somalia: largest haul of mines destroyed

On 10 February MAG’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts working in Puntland, Somalia, destroyed more than deadly 380 Anti-Personnel (AP) mines and Anti-Tank (AT) mine fuses – the largest single destruction of mines MAG has done since starting work in the troubled region in 2008. Senior local Police Commanders handed the mines to MAG’s Technical Field Managers (TFM’s) during a visit to the northern coastal town of Bosaso.

The authorities in Puntland State of Somalia have signed the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action, pledging to ban the use, production, acquisition and transfer of AP mines, destroy their AP mine stocks, and facilitating mine action activities.


North and South Sudan make ‘significant’ progress on steps for separation

9 February - North and South Sudan have made “significant” progress on a wide range of follow-up arrangements between the two States following the southern region’s vote for independence, the top United Nations envoy in the country said today. The two sides are also working towards mutually beneficial arrangements on oil revenue sharing and other economic matters, he said.

The vote was the culminating point of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) ending two decades of civil war between the North and the South that killed some 2 million people and drove an estimated 4.5 million others from their homes, and Mr. Menkerios noted that “against the odds” the Sudanese Government not only contributed to holding the referendum but accepted its outcome.






Project HOPE and U.S. Navy Team to boost medical services to underserved in Ghana

Project HOPE medical volunteers provide lifesaving training to improve care for sick and vulnerable in West Africa

Millwood, Virginia, USA, February 18 – Medical volunteers from Project HOPE, an international health education and humanitarian aid organization, are launching a mission with the U.S. Navy to improve health standards for patients at risk of malnutrition, dehydration and disease in Ghana. Retired Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Coast Guard, Dr. Joyce Johnson, leads the team of four medical volunteers on the two-week land-based trip to the western city of Sekondi -- Project HOPE’s 22nd mission with the U.S. Navy.

The HOPE medical volunteers are training local staff to improve emergency room care, triage, and medical procedures in local facilities that are sometimes hampered by a lack of staff and equipment to treat the critically ill. Patients from infancy to the elderly seeking treatment for fever, malaria and other treatable illnesses will also receive care.


End Polio Now messages heading your way

February 17 – 'End Polio Now' is the call that accompanies the final steps to the eradication of polio. On 23 February, iconic monuments around the world will be lit up with this phrase.

On a small island of the United Kingdom, Rotarians are doing their part to make the slogan a reality. To promote the campaign, raise the profile of Rotary and assist with fund raising, they started the Rotary Club of Guernsey's End Polio Now Shop to sell End Polio Now branded products. All profits to go to the End Polio Now campaign.

Throughout the week of 23 February, Rotary clubs and districts will also be illuminating iconic landmarks around the world with the End Polio Now message. The landmarks include the Trevi Fountain in Rome, Italy; the parliament building in The Hague, Netherlands; the soccer stadium in Cape Town, South Africa; a gate at the Lantern Festival in Taiwan; Kanazawa Castle in Kanazawa, Japan; the government building in Karachi, Pakistan; the planetarium in Seoul, Korea; the Globe of the Mall of Asia in the Philippines; and the Charminar in Hyderabad, India.

By the time the world is certified polio free, Rotary's contributions to the global polio eradication effort will exceed US$1.2 billion. In addition millions of dollars of 'in-kind' and personal contributions have been made by and through local Rotary Clubs and Districts for polio eradication activities. Of even greater significance has been the huge volunteer army that has been mobilised by Rotary International. Hundreds of thousands of volunteers at the local level are providing support at clinics or mobilising their communities for immunisation or polio eradication activities. More than one million Rotarians worldwide have contributed towards the success of the polio eradication effort to date.


Bloodless male circumcision to boost HIV prevention in Rwanda

16 February - The Rwandan government plans to expand its national voluntary male circumcision programme using a new device, the PrePex system, which officials say saves both time and money. The PrePex system works through a special elastic mechanism that fits closely around an inner ring, trapping the foreskin, which dries up and is removed after a week. A study conducted by the Rwandan Ministries of Defence and Health in 2010 found the device to be safe and effective."You don't need a sterile environment, you don't need anaesthetic, you don't need to use an operating theatre," Agnes Binagwaho, permanent secretary in Rwanda's Ministry of Health, told IRIN/PlusNews. She noted that while the UN World Health Organization (WHO) had not approved any device for adult male circumcision, the PrePex system is approved by the European Union."We are still waiting to see the data showing the efficacy, safety and acceptability of the device," Tim Farley, a scientist with the WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, told IRIN/PlusNews. "If the promise of the device is borne out by the data, we would be very keen to approve it." Rwanda's HIV prevention strategy includes a plan to circumcise an estimated two million adult men within two years; only 15 percent of Rwandan men are circumcised, according to the government.


Tanzania: Artists use music to promote maternal health

10 February - A group of artists from the United States and Tanzania have teamed up with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to raise awareness, through music, on the need to have better maternal health services in the East African nation, where deaths related to childbearing remain a serious challenge. The collaboration, made possible with the help of the global network of artists known as, just concluded a three-day music workshop with the production of a song calling for increased attention to maternal health in the country.

Goal number 5 of the eight globally agreed anti-poverty Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) calls for the reduction of maternal mortality deaths by three quarters, and the attainment of universal access to reproductive health services by the target date of 2015. The song produced at the end of the Arts and Advocacy workshop calls on world leaders to pay greater attention to the rights of women and girls, and urges the people of Tanzania to further empower, engage and encourage women as partners in development.


Haiti: cholera treatment and prevention training

10 February – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has mobilized significant resources, particularly human resources, to address the cholera epidemic that broke out in Haiti in late October of 2010. The organization has put health workers through an accelerated training program that covers treatment protocols, rules of hygiene, and more. Régis Lorguilloux, an MSF nurse and medical training manager, explains.

This was the first time Haitian health workers had ever dealt with cholera, as the country has never experienced it before. MSF provided training to improve treatment.

Since the epidemic began in late October 2010, MSF teams have treated more than 110,000 patients across the country. Nearly 7,500 Haitians and 430 international employees are implementing MSF's programs in field and are responsible for battling cholera.


New HOPE for China’s child cancer victims

On World Cancer Day, U.S. humanitarian group highlights huge strides in care for Chinese kids

Millwood, Virginia, USA, February 4 – On World Cancer Day, Project HOPE, an international humanitarian and health education organization is making huge strides to combat a rising trend of childhood cancer in China.

An estimated 45,000 new cases of pediatric cancer occur each year in China, and Project HOPE has partnered with the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center to establish innovative programs that aim to reverse this alarming trend. More than 14,000 young patients received cancer treatment at SCMC last year. Thanks to a $1 million USD grant from the HOSPIRA Foundation, Project HOPE and SCMC are addressing the growing medical demands to combat the disease, while enhancing SCMC’s capacity in cancer diagnosis, treatment and research to become a leader in pediatric cancer care in Asia.

Project HOPE is creating ambitious programs to enhance the capabilities of the pediatric oncology program at SCMC.



Energy and safety



Somalia: drought prompts ADRA to distribute water to affected communities

February 18, Silver Spring, Md., USA – As drought threatens millions of Somalis and their livestock once more, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is delivering water to vulnerable villages in the northeastern Puntland state, the agency reports.

ADRA’s two-month water trucking intervention will provide safe drinking water to more than 1,290 households, or 7,700 people, in seven villages in Puntland’s Nugaal region, giving priority to infants, children, women and the elderly. This response is intended as a life saving measure to prevent deaths from dehydration, reduce the risk of water-related diseases, and provide for minimal cooking and personal hygiene.

The current drought has turned the humanitarian situation precarious, and the resilience of the local populations remains highly threatened, according to ADRA Somalia. Although the latest drought is affecting most of Somalia, ADRA is targeting Nugaal, a small administrative region and one of the worst affected. This emergency project follows a recent appeal by the president of the self-declared autonomous Puntland state to all humanitarian aid agencies to make efforts to address the drought emergency. In Puntland alone, an estimated 211,000 people are seriously affected and require urgent humanitarian assistance. However, the number of drought victims is expected to increase considerably over the next three months, as the seasonal Gu rains are not expected until late April or early May.


Reducing poverty by growing fuel and food

New FAO study shows integrated food and energy crops work for poor farmers

Rome,17 February - Producing food and energy side-by-side may offer one of the best formulas for boosting countries' food and energy security while simultaneously reducing poverty, according to a new FAO report published today. The study, "Making Integrated Food-Energy Systems (IFES) Work for People and Climate - An Overview", draws on specific examples from Africa, Asia and Latin America as well as from some developed countries to show how constraints to successfully integrating production of food and energy crops can be overcome.

Benefiting the climate - Integrating food and energy production can also be an effective approach to mitigating climate change, especially emissions stemming from land use change. By combining food and energy production, IFES reduce the likelihood that land will be converted from food to energy production, since one needs less land to produce food and energy. Additionally, implementing IFES often leads to increased land and water productivity, therefore reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing food security.

Enhancing IFES practices will contribute to the progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), including MDG 1 to end poverty and hunger and MDG 7 on sustainable natural resource management, FAO said. 


USA - DOE offers $5 million for advanced automotive designers and engineers

DOE (U.S. Department of Energy) announced on February 16 up to $5 million in funding to support Graduate Automotive Technology Education (GATE) Centers of Excellence. GATE Centers of Excellence will focus on educating a future workforce of automotive engineering professionals who will gain experience in developing and commercializing advanced automotive technologies. The funding will help to achieve President Obama's goal of putting 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015, a plan designed to reduce oil consumption by about 750 million barrels by 2030.

The GATE Centers of Excellence will provide graduate level inter-disciplinary education in critical automotive technology areas including: advanced combustion engines, storage systems, hybrid propulsion and control systems, and lightweight materials. The goal of the GATE Centers for Excellence is to overcome technology barriers to the development and production of cost-effective, high-efficiency vehicles for the U.S. market. Award eligibility is restricted to U.S. colleges and universities and university-affiliated research institutions with accredited graduate engineering programs. Applications are due by April 18. See the FedConnect website listing under reference number DE-FOA-0000442. Also see the DOE press release, the GATE Centers website, and the Vehicle Technologies Program website.



Environment and wildlife



Assessing agriculture's potential to mitigate global warming

Norway and Germany support FAO's work to fill data gaps on greenhouse gas emissions, create planning tools

Rome,15 February - The governments of Norway and Germany have committed a combined total of $5 million in support of an FAO programme to improve global information on greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and more accurately assess farming's potential to mitigate global warming. The improved data acquired by FAO's Mitigation of Climate change in Agriculture (MICCA) programme will be made available via an online global knowledge base that will not only profile greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture but will also identify best opportunities for mitigating global warming through improved farming practices. "Data variations in existing assessments, as well as information gaps, pose a real challenge in terms of making the most of the agriculture sector's significant potential to sequester atmospheric carbon," said Marja-Liisa Tapio-Bistrom, coordinator of the FAO MICCA Programme.

Having access to improved data will give governments, development planners, farmers and agribusinesses a tool they can use to access international funding for mitigation projects and design and implement policies, programs and practices intended to reduce agriculture's GHG emissions, increase the amount of carbon sequestered on farms.

"Climate-smart" farming practices can increase productivity and improve resilience to changing weather and climate patterns while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.


Religion and spirituality



3rd Annual International Conference on Religion, Conflict, and Peace:

Walking The Talk To Compassion And Harmony - April 8-10, Dearborn, Michigan USA

An international forum promoting Inter-religious and  Intra-religious dialogue

The spiritual experience is both uniquely individual and universal, tapping into our deepest, most inner self, while connecting us to the oneness with all. How each of us chooses our own sometimes quite different path on this common journey can highlight an appreciation for the rich diversity of human sacred practice, while at the same time setting the stage for the potential hazards of elitism, competition, polarity, and even animosity that paradoxically negate the core message of unity, and hamper us on that journey.

Religious intolerance, marginalization, scapegoating, and related conflict are not new experiences, whether in the US or globally. Many examples are woven throughout our human history that highlight both the unique circumstances of individual religious groups, and the broader commonality shared by all who have been on either side of such supposedly fundamental divides. Although the dynamics and struggles are universal for all religious communities exposed to these ills, a more recent, telling example in American society is the experience of Islam and the Muslim community. In addition, dichotomies and conflicts within spiritual traditions themselves, including extremist interpretations and interpolations of religious tenets and practice, are also historical and present day dilemmas for many religions.

Understanding how these elements and conditions arise, how they compromise, contradict, and even threaten original spiritual intent, and how they wound relationships between and within religious communities, is essential to learning practical methods for appreciating diversity and achieving harmony and peace in today's rapidly shrinking and increasingly inter-dependant world community. The RCP Conference seeks to create an engaged, inclusive dialogue to consciously explore together both broader historical dynamics, implications, and possible remedies, and more recent specific manifestations playing out around us in society today.



Culture and education



International Mother Language Day, 21 February

Mother language instruction “a powerful way to fight discrimination” says UNESCO Director-General 

“We know how important education in the mother language is for learning outcomes,” declared Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of International Mother Language Day, 21 February 2011. “Mother language instruction is a powerful way to fight discrimination and reach out to marginalized populations.”

“Projects on Linguistic Diversity and New Technologies”, UNESCO’s IMLD information meeting, will feature debates on ICTs and bilingual education. Amidou Maïga and Papa Youga Dieng, programme leaders at Department of Education and Training Organisation internationale de la Francophonie will present, respectively, an overview of language teaching in multilingual contexts, notably the use of ICTs in the «School and national Language»  project (which aims to promote bilingual and multilingual education) and the use of ICTs in the Francophone Initiative on Distance Education for Teacher Training (IFADEM).

Celebrated annually since 2000, International Mother Language Day provides an occasion to recognize the vital importance of languages in education and to mobilize efforts in favour of multilingualism and linguistic diversity.


Communication from the Commission: early childhood education and care: providing all our children with the best start for the world of tomorrow

17 February - Europe's future will be based on smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Improving the quality and effectiveness of education systems across the EU is essential to all three growth dimensions. In this context, Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) is the essential foundation for successful lifelong learning, social integration, personal development and later employability.

Complementing the central role of the family, ECEC has a profound and longlasting impact which measures taken at a later stage cannot achieve. Children's earliest experiences form the basis for all subsequent learning. If solid foundations are laid in the early years, later learning is more effective and is more likely to continue life-long, lessening the risk of early school leaving, increasing the equity of educational outcomes and reducing the costs for society in terms of lost talent and of public spending on social, health and even justice systems.

The flagship initiative ‘Youth on the Move’ as part of the EU's overarching Europe 2020 Strategy highlights the role of creativity and innovation for our competitiveness and for the preservation of our standards of living in the longer term. Against this background, it underlines that we must offer all our young people the chance to develop their talents to the fullest possible extent.


Rebuilt center renews hope for Nahr El Bared Youth

On January 21, ANERA staff, students and teachers, friends, non-profit partners gathered in Nahr El Bared camp in northern Lebanon to celebrate the inauguration of the newly rehabilitated Vocational Training Center of the National Association for Vocational Training and Social Services (NAVTSS).

For 23 years, NAVTSS was a place of learning and fun, where impoverished and underprivileged youth of the refugee camp could study and learn like other kids their age elsewhere in Lebanon.

That ended in 2007 when fierce fighting between militants inside the camp and the Lebanese Army left the center and most of the camp in ruins. For the next two years, the center’s students returned to the destroyed skeleton of a building and cleared out some of the rubble, sifting through their personal belongings to find some semblance of normalcy in the chaos. NAVTSS tried to continue its training classes inside the damaged building, but any semblance of a normal education was difficult in the atmosphere of destruction and conflict.

OXFAM, the British-based non-profit, helped kick-start the rebuilding process by making repairs to three of the center's classrooms. ANERA joined the effort by meeting with the NAVTSS directors and together developing a plan to rebuild the entire learning center to its pre-conflict state.

The center’s reconstruction was completed in 2010. NAVTSS now boasts newly equipped classrooms, training courses and activities. Classes include nursing, electrical work, carpentry, car mechanics, refrigeration and heating, nursery teacher training, IT, secretarial skills and carpentry with aluminum.


Young musicians compete to perform at the World Children’s Festival on The National Mall across from the U.S. Capitol on June 17-19

Washington, February 14 – Melody Street, LLC of Hollywood, CA and the International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) DC launched an online music contest today for young musicians and amateur groups in the United States and internationally to win the opportunity to perform on the “World Stage” at the 4th World Children‟s Festival (WCF) to take place on The National Mall across from the U.S. Capitol on June 17-19, 2011.

Held every four years as the “Olympics” of children's creativity and co-creation, the WCF has, since 1999, evolved into the largest international children's celebration and a permanent quadrennial event in our Nation's Capital.

The music contest offers young musicians ages 6 to 16 the chance to showcase their talents on a national and global stage. The contest also offers all children the opportunity to select their favorite musicians and music groups and vote for them so they are among the 25 finalists selected to perform at the WCF. The submission of videos by young musicians and voting by their young fans opened today >



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Next issue: 18 March 2010.

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Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian and in Portuguese 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.  


Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to 10,000 media and editorial journalists of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations in 54 countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Caribbean Islands, 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, Oceania, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA. It is also distributed free of charge 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, 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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