Good News Agency – Year II, n° 13
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.
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21-22 July, Genoa: fresh public opinion seeks expression
In Genoa, assembled for the G8 summit, more than 200.000 people attempted to express a public opinion in disagreement with those negative effects that unfortunately alter the globalization process. Infiltrated among the demonstrators, a few thousand people, aggressive by profession, were responsible for degenerating the whole demonstration into an absurd urban guerrilla. What a pity. What should have emphasized a strong public opinion, pregnant with its own ideas, was transformed into a chain reaction of violence with two sorrowful victims: a young life and the force of the reason. At the same time these painful events make evident that, in an interdependent world, the public opinion can be stopped only temporarily. (s.t.)
Genoa, 22 July - Following the final statement issued at the conclusion of the G8 meeting, Volunteers of the World - FOCSIV (a Federation of 52 International Volunteer NGOs) considers an NGO success the fact that two thirds of the statement concerns the strategic approach to the reduction of poverty in the world. "The acknowledgment by the G8 of its own responsibilities for resolving some of the planets major problems is an important step forward, even though not an adequate one", said Sergio Marelli, General Manager of FOCSIV. "What are needed are concrete measures, adequate tools and resources, definite times, and measurable objectives that don't seem to have been clearly identified during the summit."
Problems of the utmost importance such as: safeguarding the environment, safe food for everyone, improving local health services, blockading the arms trade, equal opportunities for poor countries in accessing markets and, above all, the definition of rules and democratic systems of governance at international levels, can no longer wait. The destiny of millions of poor people depends on a greater social justice that must not be postponed.
The establishing of the Health Fund, the debt reduction of 23 heavily indebted countries, the proposal of a Plan for Africa, the adherence to the European initiative "Everything but Arms" are all positive signals which, alone however, risk becoming benevolent gestures with no real impact on the causes of poverty.
"Various passages of the document, as far as we are concerned, are cause for alarm and need to be modified - concluded Sergio Marelli. We reiterate our desire to continue talks with national and international bodies, especially now that the spot light on the G8 summit has been switched off. The commitment to promote innovative solutions based on ample partnership with civil society and on greater cooperation with those developing countries cited in the final statement of the G8 summit, if concretized, will finally constitute a positive step forward in that long sought-after direction and which was so greatly supported over the past months of preparation for the Genoa summit."
Geneva, 6 July - The Codex Alimentarius Commission has agreed on the first global principles for the safety assessment of genetically modified foods, on maximum levels of certain food toxins, and on guidelines for organic livestock production, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a joint statement today.
The Codex Commission agreed in principle that the safety of food derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO) should be tested and approved by governments prior to entering the market. In particular, GMO foods should be tested for their potential to cause allergic reactions.
"This is the first global step toward the safety assessment of genetically modified foods," said WHO Director-General Gro Harlem Brundtland. "International agreement on how to perform risk assessment of genetically modified foods will help all countries, especially developing countries," added Dr Brundtland. (…)
UNDP expands programme against illicit small arms
13 July - UNDP is embarking on a three-year expanded programme to help countries move against illicit weapons, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown told the first-ever UN Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms in New York today.
Besides curbing supply by collecting and destroying such weapons, the initiative aims to cut demand by providing people with jobs and security and thus an alternative to conflict and violence. Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, South Korea and the United Kingdom are UNDP partners in this effort. "Without addressing the root causes of conflict, creating institutions capable of managing change and transition and providing real support and opportunities to the poor, the sad but inescapable fact is that efforts at lasting disarmament will not be successful," Mr. Malloch Brown said in his statement. (…)
Washington, DC, 11 July -- Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH-10) today introduced legislation to create a cabinet level agency dedicated to peacemaking and the study of conditions that are conducive to peace. (…)
Kucinich's legislation to create a Department of Peace focuses on individual, group and national responsibilities of holding peace as an organizing principle. The Department of Peace will focus on nonmilitary peaceful conflict resolutions, prevent violence and promote justice and democratic principles to expand human rights. A Peace Academy, similar to the five military service academies, would be created; its graduates dispatched to troubled areas around the globe to promote nonviolent dispute resolutions. (…)
The International Association of Educators for World Peace, at its most recent conference in Greenwich England - added a fourth Proclamation to its program for a Culture of Peace.
In short - the proclamation encourages all governments to shift 1% of its defence budget to facilitate the development of a Department of Peace. (The proclamation is supporting the initiative of Congressman Kucinich in the United States (…)
UN report sees green light for generic AIDS drugs
17 July – In a direct challenge to the world's pharmaceutical industry, the authors of a new UN report call on developing countries to strengthen their national laws in order to enable local production of cheaper, lifesaving AIDS drugs. Such an option can be pursued legitimately under compulsory licensing, a principle in international commerce that permits countries to "use patents without permission of the patent holder in return for a reasonable royalty on sale," says the Human Development Report 2001, released Tuesday by the UN Development Programme.
IL Draft convention on underwater cultural heritage
Paris, July 10 – A major step has been taken to ensure the protection and ban the commercial exploitation of underwater heritage, including archaeological sites and shipwrecks which have become vulnerable to unscrupulous treasure hunters in recent years. Experts appointed by the governments of close to 90 countries reached agreement this weekend on a draft convention to this effect.
The fruit of a 4-year process of negotiations, the draft will be submitted for the approval of the General Conference of UNESCO in November. It seeks to protect heritage situated in the territorial waters of states, as well as further away from their shores, on the continental shelf and in countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones, as well as on the deep sea bed. The text stipulates that in situ preservation must always be the first option. Before becoming an international convention, it will have to be approved by two-thirds of UNESCO’s 188 Member States. (…)
Governments, industry and environmental groups debate transparency in new chemicals law
Geneva, 6 July – A second round of negotiations to work out a new international law requiring companies to report to the public on their polluting emissions, under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), is ending today. The new chemicals law will come under the UNECE Aarhus Convention, which is intended to give the public more information and a greater say in environmental issues.
Under the chemicals law, countries will have to establish pollution inventories known as pollutant release and transfer registers (PRTRs). PRTRs have already proved extremely effective in reducing pollution, even though they regulate information about pollution and not pollution itself. But by systematically bringing information on emissions into the public domain, PRTRs create public pressure to reduce pollution.
Technical experts from governments, NGOs and industry have already held three days of informal discussions over issues such as which chemicals should be covered, which types of activities should be required to report and to what extent transfers of pollutants between companies should be covered as well as releases into the environment (2-4 July 2001). (…)
Senegal: humanitarian training for the military
13 July - The first follow-up brigade-level multinational training exercise on peacekeeping and humanitarian aid operations under the US African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) programme began on Monday in Senegal, the US European Command reported. About 65 Senegalese officers are being trained. The three-week training focuses on peacekeeping and humanitarian-aid operations and doctrine, staff officer skills, planning and coordinating administrative, operational and logistical support, as well as military decision-making. ACRI is sponsored by the US Department of State.
UN Secretary-General addresses the African Union
July 13 - "This historic effort will require leadership, courage and willingness to depart from the ways of the past, if it is to do for Africa what the European Union has done for Europe".
Those are the words of Kofi Annan, the secretary-general of the United Nations, himself an African from Ghana. He was speaking about the newly-created African Union (AU) which is to replace the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
Annan's address was delivered at the 37th OAU summit, which ended in Lusaka, Zambia, this week, and has prepared the ground for the transition period into the African Union. The AU was inspired by the European Union and styled on other global continental bodies in Asia and America. (…)
16 July - Around two thousand supporters of Drop the Debt and partner organisations such as CAFOD, Christian Aid, Oxfam, and the World Development Movement are making the journey to Italy to take part in a peaceful protest at the G8 Summit in Genoa this coming weekend. The groups have reiterated their commitment to non-violent protest, and the majority of those planning to go have been undeterred by speculation about violence or travel disruptions.
Drop the Debt condemns any form of violence. (…) The debt burden in the poorest countries has been a central issue at the G8 annual summits since 70,000 peaceful campaigners filled the streets of Birmingham in May 1998. People on the streets at previous summits have forced the G8 to respond on debt cancellation, but the G8 have not reduced the debts of the poorest countries nearly far enough. Amidst the security concerns and speculation, the G8 must take on the criticisms of peaceful campaigners: 19,000 children still die each day because of the debt crisis - the G8 cannot turn a blind eye. (…)
USD 14 million IFAD loan to support programme in Republic of Uruguay
Rome, 4 July - A USD 24.50 million programme in the Eastern Republic of Uruguay, the "National Smallholder Support Programme – Phase II" will receive a USD 14 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). A loan agreement was signed today at the Fund’s Headquarters by Ambassador Julio Cèsar Lupinacci and Mr. Lennart Båge, President of the Fund. (…)
The first IFAD financed project in Uruguay – PRONAPPA concentrated on creating an efficient technical assistance service and establishing a financial system for credit and guarantees. The National Smallholder Support Programme – Phase II (Pronappa II) has been created for a follow-on phase I to strengthen local producer organizations, promote the participation of financial intermediaries in the credit programme, and initiate a gradual process of transfer and privatization of services. (…) The main objective of the Programme is to contribute to alleviating rural poverty by raising the income levels and living standards of the rural poor. (…)
Cote d’Ivoire: co-operation resumes with EU
19 July - The government of Abidjan is gradually regaining the confidence of the European Union (EU). In 1998 Brussels had drastically reduced funding due to local misgovernment, to then reduce further after the 25 December coup the following year. The resumption of European financial aid came following a political opening by Ivorian authorities. The gradual resumption of co-operation was also greatly enhanced by the October 2000 elections, which established the return of civil power, as well as the correctness of the 25 March administrative elections, which took place without incidents and the free participation of all parties. According to official EU sources, “in light of the progress made toward a political and social stability, the European financial assistance will be completely reactivated in January of next year, when the Fifteen will restart taking care of the Ivory Coast”. In the past months, the government of Abidjan resumed relations and co-operation with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, that had also isolated the African nation at the end of 1998. (BO)
Mozambique continues rebuilding after floods
20 July - Mozambique continues apace with rebuilding after devastating floods, spending more than $190 million so far this year on efforts that also reduce poverty through promotion of economic growth. A major UNDP-supported conference in Maputo last week highlighted the government rehabilitation programme for the country's central region.
President Joaquim Chissano opened the 2001 Post-Flood Reconstruction Conference for Central Mozambique by thanking donors for their "prompt and generous" response to Mozambique's appeal for help during the 2000 floods. He called upon development partners to understand the difficulties facing the country, and asked them to renew their generosity and support for the reconstruction and development of the central region. (…)
Resources needed to implement the 2001 reconstruction programme are estimated at $132 million. It is expected that $36.4 million will be spent on the social sectors, $51.8 million on rehabilitating basic infrastructure, $23.2 million on productive sectors and $20.3 million will be directed to reduce vulnerability to disasters in the central region in the country.
19 July - A $3.4 million grant - the single largest UNDP environmental contribution to Lebanon - will finance a new initiative to help the country reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve energy and cut the power bill for the public sector, businesses and households alike. (…)
The five-year project - funded within the framework of the Global Environmental Facility - will be launched in the coming few months. Its $4.9 million total cost will be covered jointly through the new UNDP grant and the Lebanese government, which has put up $1 million for its implementation. An additional $ 500,000 will be secured by UNDP from other sources. (…)
The project will also help reform the Ministry's administration by establishing a Lebanese Centre for Energy Conservation and Planning. (…)
19 July - Although the military clashes that rocked south-eastern Guinea early this year have subsided, tension remains high in this area bordering on Liberia and Sierra Leone. Last week the ICRC delivered medical supplies, including medicines, worth 161,000 Swiss francs to five hospitals and surgical facilities in Kissidougou, Lola, Yomou and Sanoyha.
In April the ICRC held two seminars on war surgery in Conakry and Nzérékoré, enabling 70 civilian and military surgeons to improve their skills in caring for people wounded in armed conflicts. The following month two ICRC specialists – a surgeon and a nurse anaesthetist – provided further practical training at the Kissidougou hospital, the Sanoyha medical and surgical clinic and the Camp Samory Touré military hospital in Conakry.
Kampala / Nairobi / Geneva, 5 July - UNICEF took a major step toward reuniting 159 Congolese children with their families in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday when it repatriated a first group of the children in an airlift from Uganda to Bunia, DRC. (…)
The 159 children have been under the interim care and protection of UNICEF-Uganda since February of this year, when the government of Uganda handed them over. Before being transferred to UNICEF-Uganda, the children had been undergoing political and military training since August 2000 in Kyankwanzi. (…)
Staten Island, New York, USA, 22 July - Former President Bill Clinton and New York's junior senator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, joined other celebrities at a picnic fundraiser on July 22 honoring a group of Sierra Leone amputee victims brought to New York by local Rotary clubs.(…)
Since arriving in the U.S. on September 22, the seven children and two adults have received prosthetic limbs and medical, spiritual and emotional care as they recover from appalling acts of terror unimaginable to most Americans.
Each victim is emotionally scarred by the brutality, but all of them have pledged to help stop the violence. The group has recounted the horrific details of the Sierra Leone war and atrocities to Congress, the United Nations and the New York City Council.
In bringing the brutal tactics of the war to light, these victims have become high-profile targets of the rebel army and are unable to return to loved ones in their homeland. However, thanks to Rotary and the local community, the group has found health and hope in their new home.
Rotary is an organization of business and professional leaders united worldwide who provide humanitarian service and help to build goodwill and peace in the world. There are approximately 1.2 million Rotarians who are members of more than 30,000 Rotary clubs in 163 countries.
Sierra Leone: skills training for amputees, IDPs
13 July - A total of 400 amputees and people with severe lacerations are receiving training in skills ranging from shoemaking to basic management under a programme run by a non-governmental organisation, Cause Canada, OCHA noted in its 'Humanitarian Situation Report' for 17 June - 10 July. Meanwhile, an Italian NGO, Emergency, which specialises in urgent surgery and treating war-wounded, is transforming a former clinic at Goderich, just outside Freetown, into an orthopaedic surgical centre, where it will also train health personnel in specialisations such as anaesthesia and intensive care treatment, OCHA reported.
Kinshasa/New York/Geneva, 5 July - Conflict-affected countries in central Africa have joined forces to immunize every child under five against polio, in an unprecedented alliance against the crippling disease. But today health, humanitarian and political leaders warned that for all children to be protected, there must be respect for peace during this massive immunization campaign.
Today, President Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of the Congo was joined in Kinshasa by senior representatives of Congo, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO), Dr Ebrahim Samba, WHO's Regional Director for Africa and UNICEF Regional Director for West and Central Africa Rima Salah at a special ceremony launching "synchronized" polio National Immunization Days (NIDs) in the region. The immunization activities involve close coordination between Angola, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Gabon where health workers aim to immunize 16 million children in just five days. (…)
Tens of thousands of health workers and volunteers will be travelling door-to-door, boat-to-boat, market-to-market and camp-to-camp, vaccinating every child under five. Over 86 000 health workers will be delivering vaccine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone. (…)
First international presentation at the Genoa G8 of the Access to Essential Medicine Campaign
17 July - Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is using the G8 meeting in Genoa as the first international presentation of the Access to Essential Medicines Campaign travelling exhibition, called Fly Trap. The Fly Trap allows the visitors to make a fictional route through diseases for which treatment is either too expensive or does not exist.
The MSF Campaign aims to ensure that doctors will not have to tell their patients they are dying of market and political failure because there are few affordable medicines in developing countries and little research for infectious diseases.
In the run up to the start of the G8 summit in Genoa, MSF is calling on the G8 leaders to develop a long-term sustainable solution to the crisis of the lack of access to medicines. In the hope that they will make addressing the needs of millions of people affected by major infectious diseases in the developing world a priority. (…)
Vienna 3 July - The ban on opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan for the 2000-2001 growing season has drastically reduced global production of opium. Afghanistan had accounted for 70 per cent of the world’s opium production in 2000. The second highest producer of opium is Myanmar, with 23 per cent of global production in 2000, while other Asian countries accounted for 5 percent and Colombia and Mexico together accounted for 2 per cent of the global production during the same year.
This is one of the highlights of the new report, Global Illicit Drug Trends 2001, presented today by the Vienna-based United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (ODCCP).
This annual report has been published since 1999 following the twentieth special session of the UN General Assembly in 1998 at which the member states agreed to make significant progress towards the control of supply and demand for illicit drugs by the year 2008. The Assembly concluded that this objective could only be achieved by a balanced approach, giving demand as much attention as supply, and on the basis of regular assessments of the drug problem. (…)
WHO and top publishers announce breakthrough on developing countries' access to leading biomedical journals
London, 9 July – The World Health Organization and the world's six biggest medical journal publishers today announce a new initiative which will enable close to 100 developing countries to gain access to vital scientific information that they otherwise could not afford.
The arrangement agreed to by the six publishers would allow almost 1000 of the world's leading medical and scientific journals to become available through the Internet to medical schools and research institutions in developing countries for free or at deeply-reduced rates. (…) Scheduled to start in January 2002, the initiative is expected to last for at least 3 years while being monitored for progress. It will benefit bona fide academic and research institutions, which depend on timely access to biomedical journals. (…)
The initiative is an important step in the establishment of the Health InterNetwork, a project introduced by United Nations' Secretary-General Kofi Annan at the UN Millennium Summit last year. Led by WHO, the Health InterNetwork aims to strengthen public health services by providing public health workers, researchers and policy makers access to high-quality, relevant and timely health information through an Internet portal. It further aims to improve communication and networking. As key components, the project will provide training as well as information and communication technology applications for public health. (…)
Obstetric fistula: United Nations and International Obstetricians meet to combat hidden disease
16 July – The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (FIGO) are meeting in London this week to discuss obstetric fistula, a neglected disease with severe physical and social consequences that afflicts young women in developing countries. The meeting will be held in central London on 18 and 19 July and brings together experts in obstetric fistula from Africa, the United Kingdom and beyond. (…)
Obstetric fistulas were common throughout Europe and North America until the mid-20th century; they are now unheard of in developed countries. Obstetric fistulas are found most often among very poor women and affect adolescents disproportionately. Young girls are often not fully developed at the time of their first pregnancy. Early marriage, malnutrition and poor access to emergency obstetric care all lead to obstetric fistulas. (…)
Fistula can be surgically repaired, but successful surgery requires a trained surgeon and attentive post-operative care. The operation costs about USD $150, beyond the means of the women affected. There are currently two centres in Africa specializing in fistula repair, one in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the other in Northern Nigeria.
The London meeting seeks to raise funds for training and equipment in hospitals in Ethiopia and Nigeria. It also aims to increase awareness of the effects of fistula and to increase the availability of treatment for women suffering from this severe disability. (…)
World Bank grants more than $100 million in HIV/AIDS loans to Nigeria, Burkina Faso
10 July – The World Bank will loan Nigeria and Burkina Faso more than $100 million to fight HIV/AIDS under the bank's $500 million HIV/AIDS Program for the Africa Region. The no-interest loans, which will be funnelled through the World Bank's International Development Association, will go toward scaling up HIV/AIDS prevention strategies already established by the countries' governments.
11 July - Dynamic new technologies, from the digital revolution to biotechnology, can power a quantum leap in overcoming poverty, but smart public policies, and not market forces alone, are needed to fulfil this potential. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Director of the UNDP Human Development Report Office and the report's lead author, conveyed this key message from the Human Development Report 2001 yesterday in an address at the London School of Economics. The event was one of dozens worldwide marking the debut of the report, with the main international launch held yesterday in Mexico City. "The market alone will not take the benefits of technological progress for poor people and poor countries," said Ms. Fukuda-Parr, "on the contrary, it is likely to ignore them if only because they do not constitute a market."
Greater public investment in research and development is one key to reorienting policies, she said, noting that of $70 billion a year in global health research, only $300 million is spent on HIV/AIDS and $100 million on malaria, two of the most devastating diseases. Countries need to adopt national policies to spur technological innovation, noted Ms. Fukuda-Parr. (…)
USA: Report shows positive results from energy conservation/efficiency efforts
18 July - Undercutting an argument made by the Bush administration, a study by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences has found that federal research and development efforts to improve energy conservation and efficiency have produced big environmental and economic gains. The academy released a report yesterday detailing how a $13 billion federal investment since 1978 has returned $40 billion. About three-quarters of the economic benefits came from three programs that led to more efficient refrigerator and freezer compressors, fluorescent light ballasts, and heat-resistant window glass; the programs together cost only $11 million. (…)
Washington, US, July 19 - EPA (the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) has issued three new rule about so called PIPs (plant incorporated protectants). PIPs are materials that enable a plant to protect itself from pests, such as insects, viruses and fungi, because the plant produces its own pesticide. “There has been an open and transparent process of scientific consultation and public”, said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. Under the rules, genetically engineered PIPs will have to meet federal safety standards as rigorous as those used for traditional pesticide registrations.
AEP to expand West Texas wind project
New York, U.S., July 20 - AEP (American Electric Power) said they will expand the Trent Mesa wind power project near Abilene, Texas, by 20,000 kilowatts. The planned expansion adds 13 wind turbines to the 87 turbines currently being installed at Trent Mesa, brings AEP's total investment in the project to approximately $160 million, and when completed, the plant will provide 150,000 kW.
Amb. Frans van Haren new President and CEO of the Earth Council Institute
Maurice F. Strong, founder of the Earth Council, announced on July 12 the appointment of Ambassador Frans van Haren as the new President and Chief Executive Officer of the Earth Council Institute. Amb. van Haren, who is currently serving as Ambassador of the Netherlands in Brazil, has been granted a four-year leave-of-absence by his government to lead the Earth Council at a time when the issue of sustainable development and poverty alleviation is gaining new momentum in the run-up to the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002. Mr. Strong will remain actively involved as Chairman of the Earth Council Foundation, the legal umbrella of the Council.
The Earth Council was established in 1992 to follow up and to promote the implementation of the agreements reached at the Earth Summit, especially its Agenda 21 partnership, by supporting initiatives at the community and grass roots level. In the conviction that change will not be brought about by governments alone, the Earth Council set out to mobilize and inform civil society on the key issues involved. This has resulted in the build-up of a large constituency around the world and the elaboration of exciting programs such as the National Councils for Sustainable Development (NCSDs), now operational in about 80 countries.
9 July, Caracas, Venezuela - At a three day session in the Venezuelan capital, a steering group of Latin American television professionals agreed a continent-wide blueprint for publicising environmentally sound science and business practices.
Co-financed by the European Commission and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) - a partnership of the United Nations Environment Programme, the World Bank and the UN Development Programme - the Euro 3.6 million (US$3million) project will harness the power of broadcasting on television and the internet.
“The aim is to spread the word throughout the 90 per cent of homes in Latin America and the Caribbean with a television set, that investing in nature can be good for the balance sheet” said Robert Lamb, director of the Television Trust for the Environment (TVE). (…)
Friendship Ambassadors Foundation finalizes peace-through-the-arts program for Balkan youth
Students from throughout the Balkans prepare for a third session of the UNESCO-approved Balkan Youth Reconciliation Seminar Series (BYRSS) in Timisoara, Romania, August 5 - 12, 2001. The program uses artistic, cultural exchange as a means of cross-border reconciliation.
At the close of this session, BYRSS participants will present a site-specific al fresco performance entitled Roadworks, which will be directed by members of the Vanaver Caravan and Bond Street Theatre Coalition. Roadworks is taken from the idea of people gathering to repair the roads, in this case the 'cultural roads' that can unite us all. Portions will be broadcast worldwide via the internet. (…)
Tanzania: Gender Studies Conference /Festival 2001
10th - 13th September 2001, TGNP Gender Resource Centre, Dar Es Salaam
This event, which now takes place once every two years, is an open space for bringing together members of organizations, institutions and all development actors at various levels. It provides a major opportunity for gender and development activists to convene, share, take stock of achievements and constraints and foster joint action plans to further the civil society development agenda.
CARE and Cross-Cultural Solutions announce the launch of CARE Corps in Peru
20 July - CARE Corps is a cultural exchange program for people interested in traveling overseas and working as CARE volunteers. CARE Corps volunteers work alongside Peruvian families and CARE staff on projects that promote sustainable solutions to poverty. Located in the Andes Mountains, the program offers hands-on work opportunities, cultural exchange activities and educational sessions about global issues.
Three-week sessions will begin in fall 2001. Volunteers pay an all-inclusive program fee which covers accommodation, meals, domestic transportation, and all program activities.
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Elected Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations at the end of 1993, Jacques Diouf – Senegalese, Ph.D. in Social Sciences of the Rural Sector from Sorbonne, Paris – appreciates the role of Good News Agency in the creation of a more aware public opinion and agreed to give an interview to its Publisher and Editor, Sergio Tripi.
Sergio Tripi: Food security and the development of the agricultural sector in the world's poorest countries were a major spotlight of discussion at the third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries that was held in Brussels from 14 to 20 May 2001. In the last few years the policy of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to support the 49 LDC has been corrected substantially, putting a major emphasis on social development rather than on a strict control on those countries’ balance of payment. Are there joint programmes and/or lines of convergence between those two institutions and the FAO strategic objectives?
Jacques Diouf: FAO has worked in partnership with the World Bank since 1964. This long-standing relationship has been highly productive, with FAO helping its member countries to prepare investment projects for Bank financing and thereby unlock additional resources for development. About one third of all agricultural and rural development projects financed by the Bank each year are prepared under this joint programme to which the Bank contributes 75% of the costs.
FAO and the World Bank also work very closely together on a whole range of technical and strategic issues. One current example is FAO’s work on a Global Farming Systems Study, commissioned by the Bank as a contribution to its revision of its agricultural and rural development strategy. This study, which is looking at the challenges expected to face small farmers throughout the world over the coming 30 years, has drawn on expertise throughout the Organization.
The decision by the World Bank to launch its new agricultural and rural development strategy during the ‘World Food Summit: five years later’ meeting in Rome in November this year is indicative of the strength of the relationship between the World Bank and FAO.
The World Bank has also agreed in principle to respond positively to government requests for financing the expansion of activities launched under FAO's Special Programme for Food Security in Low Income Food Deficit Countries. The first country to benefit from these new arrangements is Madagascar, and several others will follow this year.
Working so closely with the Bank means that we tend to look at development issues from a similar perspective. It is true that both the Bank and the IMF have recently seen poverty alleviation as principally a matter of investing in health and education, and this has been reflected in the guidance which they have been giving to countries engaged in the preparation of poverty reduction strategies. But we are finding that they are receptive to our arguments that getting rid of hunger is a crucial first step in the eradication of poverty. We also sense that there is a growing recognition on their part of the essential role that agricultural development has to play in improving livelihoods of poor families, given that about 70% of the poor live in rural areas.
A further signal of the depth of our cooperation with the Bretton Woods Institutions is FAO's recent admission as an observer in the prestigious Development Committee, where many of the decisions on IMF and World Bank strategies are taken.
The Stockholm Convention concluded its work with the signing on 23 May of a Treaty that bans the Persistent Organic Pollutants. In perspective, how is this treaty going to affect agriculture in the world?
The POPS treaty adresses persistent organic chemicals which are carried over long distances. They accumulate in particular in the arctic regions of the world. At present the following compounds are included: DDT, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Endrin, Chlordane, Heptachlor, Hexachlorobenzene, Mirex, Toxaphene, Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs), Dioxins, and Furans, but other substances may be added in future. The first nine chemicals are pesticides, PCBs are used in electric transformers, and dioxins and furans, are unintended pollutants resulting from inappropriate industrial processes and uncontrolled burning of waste.
The present list of pesticides is of little relevance to agriculture. DDT is practically only used for the control of malaria vectors although there may be some illegal spill-over for agricultural use. The other compounds are of very limited agricultural use: Aldrin and Dieldrin production was stopped years ago (although for some compounds some residual use remains in termite control) but production of these pesticides has nearly completely stopped and alternatives are available.
Organic farming is being increasingly considered by the public opinion as an appropriate response to the over-use of the ‘green revolution’ methods. Which of these two approaches is going to play a major role in the fight against hunger ?
The Green Revolution brought important progress in food production in many developing countries but it must be recognized that Green revolution technologies mostly depend upon external inputs. Often they are too costly or not available for poor farmers if access to credit is difficult.
Organic agriculture favours local food systems and is based upon cheap and locally available resources. Organic agriculture techniques replace external agriculture inputs by environmental goods and services and farmer's management skills and knowledge. Organic agriculture raises farmers' independence from factors over which they have little control (availability of mineral fertilisers, synthetic pesticides and improved seeds/breeds, access to credit) and increases the productivity of traditional systems. In resource-poor areas, organic agriculture is an important alternative in the search for an environmentally sound and equitable solution to the problem of food insecurity.
It should however be observed that if nitrogen fertlilizer application were to originate exclusively from cattle manure, 50% of the current agricultural land would have to be converted to fodder and nitrogen fixing crops and the number of cattle would have to increase by 300% in order to satisfy the demand.
Markets for certified organic food therefore represent 1-2% of total food retails in industrial countries. The demand for certified organic products is however the fasted growing food sector, with a demand increasing of 20% per year. Provided that producers of developing countries are able to certify their organic products and access international lucrative markets, returns from organic agriculture can contribute to food security by increasing incomes.
There is an increasing concern worldwide for the threat of genetically modified organisms. This concern is mainly due to possible dangerous side effects. How much time and what methods of research would be necessary to experiments GMO fully? What is the FAO position on this subject?
It is not possible to make sweeping generalizations about GMOs. FAO supports a science-based evaluation system that would objectively determine the benefits and risks of each individual GMO. This calls for a cautious, case-by-case approach, assessing the environment and food safety of each product or process prior to its release. The evaluation process should also take into consideration experience gained by national regulatory authorities in clearing such products. Careful monitoring of the post-release effects of these products and processes is also essential to ensure their continued safety to human beings, animals and the environment. The recently adopted Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity provides a framework to develop internationally agreed standards for risk assessment. The Codex Alimentarius, which Secretariat is hosted by FAO and WHO, is currently developing standards for risk assessment of genetically modified food.
The other widespread objection to genetically modified food, equally important for the public opinion, is that it leaves too much power into the hands of few multinational corporations and it leaves the farmers in the developing countries dependent from them even for the purchase of seeds, that would not be naturally produced any more by crops resulting from GMO. Is this true and, if so, how could this situation be rectified?
Current investment in biotechnological research tends in fact to be concentrated in the private sector and oriented towards agriculture in higher-income countries. In view of the potential contribution of biotechnologies to increase food supply and overcome food insecurity and vulnerability, FAO considers that efforts should be made to ensure that developing countries, in general, and resource-poor farmers, in particular, have the possibility to benefit from relevant biotechnological research results, while continuing to have access to a diversity of sources of genetic material.
This needs to be addressed through increased public funding and dialogue between the public and private sectors. FAO continues to assist its member countries, particularly developing countries, to develop the capacity to reap the benefits derived from the application of adequate and safe biotechnologies in agriculture, forestry and fisheries. The Organization also assists developing countries to participate more effectively and equitably in international commodities and food trade. FAO provides technical information and assistance, as well as socio-economic and environmental analyses, on major global issues related to new technological developments.
Next November FAO will hold the World Food Summit. At the previous Summit in 1996, the Plan of Action agreed upon contained seven commitments on part of governments, which were expected to lead to significant reductions in chronic hunger. And already in December 1992, the Joint FAO/WHO International Conference on Nutrition declared that “hunger and malnutrition are unacceptable in a world that has both the knowledge and the resources to end this human catastrophe”. Why does the hunger problem continue to be so dramatic in the world?
To answer your question, let us look at the situation in Africa. While Africa is not the most populous continent, it does contain half of the world’s low-income food-deficit countries and 33 of the 48 least developed countries – countries in which the majority of the population survive on less than one dollar a day. Recently, the problems that have beset many African countries most often involve a combination of internal and external problems. These include uncertain climatic conditions, in particular repeated periods of drought and flooding; lack of water control - only 6 percent of the cultivated land in Africa is irrigated or has some kind of water control system, compared to 11.7 percent under irrigation in Latin America and 42.6 percent in South Asia; armed conflicts both within and between countries; high population growth which places land and water resources under pressure and may lead to severe land erosion, salinisation and depletion of the resources themselves; plant pest and human diseases including malaria, tuberculosis and most recently HIV/AIDS; political instability; high levels of debt; declining levels of international aid; and widespread poverty.
Meanwhile, in the nine years between 1990 and 1999, Official Development Assistance (ODA) to developing countries fell by 19 percent. This contradicts the international commitment to increase ODA from its current low level of 0.24 percent to the agreed target of 0.7 percent of GNP. In 1990 the Africa region received 30 percent of ODA. By 1998, this had fallen to 21 percent despite the commitment by world leaders at the World Food Summit to strengthen efforts towards reaching of the target.
This is one of the reasons why FAO has called on world leaders to return to Rome this November for the World Food Summit: five years later. There is a need to reaffirm those commitments made five years ago, when the goal of halving the number of the undernourished in the world by 2015 was endorsed by 186 countries. FAO’s State of food insecurity in the world 2000 clearly showed that the present rate of progress is not sufficient to achieve this goal. More determined action is thus required from governments and the international community.