Good News Agency – Year III, n° 20



Weekly - Year III, number 20 – 22 November 2002

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. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti. Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next.  It is distributed free of charge through Internet to the editorial offices of more than 2,400 media  in 46 countries, as well as to 1,000 NGO.

It is a service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information.




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and Safety

Environment and wildlifeCulture and education



International legislation



Biological weapons conference reaches agreement on future work

Three-year work plan agreed as States Parties put aside differences, look to future

Geneva, 15 November - The Fifth Review Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production and Stockpiling of Bacteriological (Biological) and Toxin Weapons and on Their Destruction concluded today with the adoption of a final report setting out a fresh approach to combat the deliberate use of disease as a weapon. Under the agreement, reached late on Thursday evening, States parties to the Biological Weapons Convention are to meet annually in the lead-up to the next Review Conference in 2006.  In preparation for each annual meeting, it was agreed to hold a two-week meeting of experts.

These meetings of States parties will discuss and promote common understanding and effective action on a range of issues pertinent to strengthening the Convention.  Each meeting will focus on specific elements to strengthen the Convention.  On the agenda for next year will be consultations on national measures to implement the prohibitions of the Convention, and on national measures to ensure the security of pathogenic micro-organisms and toxins.  In 2004, the focus of the process will shift to enhancing international capabilities for responding to, investigating and mitigating the effects of cases of alleged use of biological weapons or suspicious outbreaks of disease, and to strengthening national and international efforts against infectious diseases.  The 2005 meetings will address codes of conduct for scientists. (...)

UN Information Service


World Bioethics Committee will discuss genetic data – Canada, 26-28 November

Paris, November 12 - A proposed international declaration on human genetic data will be discussed for the first time at the ninth session of UNESCO's International Bioethics Committee (IBC) in Montreal from November 26 to 28. The meeting will also tackle subjects ranging from religious views of bioethics to pre-implantation genetic diagnosis, predisposition and genetic susceptibility.

The draft declaration has been produced by the IBC's Drafting Group for an international instrument on genetic data, which has already met three times. It will incorporate amendments suggested by the Montreal meeting and come up with a further version to be submitted to the Intergovernmental Committee of Bioethics (IGCB). The draft will be widely debated, notably at a big meeting of government experts next year. The final version should be presented for approval at UNESCO's General Conference next autumn. (...)


United Nations to hold  first workshop on Space Law - The Hague, 18 to 21 November

Vienna,  7  November  - The United Nations is holding  its  first  workshop  on  space  law from 18 to 21 November in The Hague,  The  Netherlands.  The workshop is being organized jointly with the International  Institute  of Air and Space Law (IIASL) of Leiden University and is hosted by the Government of the Netherlands. The  workshop  will  bring  together representatives of national justice departments,  civil  aviation  authorities  and  space agencies, as well as experts  from  international  organizations,  universities  and private law firms.

The main aim of the workshop is to increase understanding and acceptance of  the  United  Nations  treaties  and  principles  on  outer  space.  The participants  will  also  have  the  opportunity to exchange information on domestic space laws and policies, for the benefit of professionals involved in  the  development  and  administration  of  these laws and policies. The workshop  is also organized to promote university level programmes in space law with the intention to increase the expertise available in this field.

Further  information on this workshop, including a registration form, is available on the Internet at:
For additional information about the activities of the United Nations in the field of outer space, please see the Web site of the Office for Outer Space Affairs at

(UN  Information Service)


United States signs International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture

Rome, 6 November - The United States of America has added its signature to an International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources which aims to ensure better use of genetic diversity to meet the challenge of eradicating world hunger, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said on Wednesday. The USA joins the 76 other countries and the European Union, who have signed the Treaty since it was adopted exactly a year ago by the FAO Conference. The United States, along with Japan, was one of two countries who had originally abstained from voting on the Treaty, approved with 116 votes. "I understand that this signing is a kind of reversal from what we said just about a year ago," Tony P. Hall, US Ambassador to FAO, said as he added his signature. "But we have seen the wisdom of the Treaty and are very glad to sign it," he added.

States that have signed the Treaty may now ratify it. Other states may now accede to the Treaty directly, without needing to first sign it.

The Treaty is a unique comprehensive international agreement, the fruit of almost a quarter of a century of negotiations, which aims to guarantee the future availability of the diversity of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits.

The Treaty also recognises Farmers' Rights and establishes a multilateral system of access and benefit-sharing for 64 crops and plants that are fundamental to food security. (...)

The Treaty on Plant Genetic Resource will enter into force once ratified or acceded to by 40 countries, and the Treaty's Governing Body will then meet.


Internationally recognised core labour standards in Japan

Geneva, 6 and 8 November - Japan has ratified six of the core ILO labour conventions. (...) Japan has ratified both of the core ILO conventions protecting trade union rights. Trade union rights are generally respected, although government workers do not have the right to strike and many public employees face restrictions on their right to collective bargaining.

Japan has ratified one of the core ILO Conventions on discrimination, although the Constitution prohibits discrimination. However, discrimination against women remains a problem, especially as concerns the representation of women in senior positions. There is insufficient legal protection against discrimination at the time of recruitment.

Japan has ratified both the ILO’s two core conventions on child labour. Child labour does not generally occur. Japan has ratified one of the core ILO conventions on forced labour, and forced labour is not a widespread occurrence. There remain problems with legislation regarding forced labour as punishment for illegal strikes in the public sector.



Human rights



“Not A Minute More”: a call to the world to end violence against women

On 25th November, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) is hosting a special event at the United Nations in New York, to commemorate UN-designated International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Women and men who have used effective strategies to end violence in their lives and communities will speak alongside Eve Ensler, author and activist, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director of UNIFEM, and others.

“Not a Minute More” is a call to national governments and the international community to take action to eliminate gender-based violence. The programme will highlight effective strategies and approaches to combat violence against women, and will acknowledge those governments who have been contributors to UNIFEM’s Trust Fund in Support of Actions to Eliminate Violence Against Women.

The event features experiences and successes of UNIFEM Trust Fund grantees – women who have overcome violence - who will tell their stories and share their experiences of working to end violence in their communities. Solutions to eliminate violence will also be presented by governments, who have implemented effective strategies to deal with the issue. (...)


Trafficking in women and girls to be discussed at meeting in Glen Cove, New York, from 18 to 22 november

New York, 14 November - The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women, in collaboration with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, is organizing an Expert Group Meeting on "Trafficking in women and girls" which will take place in Glen Cove, New York, from 18 to 22 November. The expert group meeting will seek to facilitate coordination and links between existing and future strategies and programmes by focusing on the issue of best practices in combating trafficking of women and girls.  (...)

The complex and global nature of trafficking and the seriousness of related issues, such as repatriation of victims, requires a coordinated approach to combating the problem.  In order to achieve a coordinated approach to combating trafficking in women and girls, it is necessary to identify strategies and programmes which have been shown to be most effective.  It is also necessary to establish means by which such “best practices” may be applied in a variety of situations and with the most effective results. (...)


Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos wins 2002 UNESCO Human Rights Education Prize

Paris, November 12 - UNESCO Director-General Koichiro Matsuura has announced the Academia Mexicana de Derechos Humanos (AMDH) as winner of the 2002 UNESCO Human Rights Education Prize. The AMDH, which was recommended by an international jury that met in Paris on 28 and 29 October, is pioneering the spread of human rights education in Mexico. Founded in 1983 by a group of figures from different sectors of civil society, it has been carrying out a range of activities, such as offering human rights classes, producing and distributing educational material and using radio and TV to raise public awareness about human rights.

The Academy has trained many target groups, including community leaders and players from civil society. It has played a key part in setting up a national network of ombudsmen and human rights commissions at federal and state level. It has also helped establish election monitoring and has generally encouraged democratic growth in Mexico. (...)


Radio Television Hong Kong wins 2002 ABU/CASBAA UNICEF Child Rights Award

Tokyo/Hong Kong/Kuala Lumpur/Bangkok. 7 November 2002 - Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) has been named the winner of the 2002 ABU/CASBAA UNICEF Child Rights Award, which will be presented 7 November at the Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union's annual meeting in Tokyo.

RTHK beat out nine other finalists shortlisted in the competition for the annual Child Rights award, which is given in recognition of the best television programme on an issue related to children's rights produced in the Asia-Pacific region.

The winning entry by RTHK, "Child Soldiers", an international standard documentary produced in co-operation with ABC, OPB and Electric Pictures Pty. Ltd., documents the plight of child combatants. According to a report released by the UNICEF last week, up to one quarter of the estimated 300,000 children currently serving in state and non-state armies around the world can be found in the East Asia and Pacific Region.  (...)


NGOs welcome new treaty to prevent torture

November 7 - Amnesty International, the Association for the Prevention of Torture, the International Commission of Jurists and Human Rights Watch, applauded the adoption today of a new treaty designed to prevent torture. Following 10 years of often difficult negotiations, an overwhelming majority of States at the UN General Assembly voted to take practical and concrete steps to eradicate this appalling violation of human rights.

The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture will help prevent acts of torture before they can occur. This represents a new approach for UN human rights protection. It will establish a system of regular visits to places of detention by an international body of experts, complemented by sustained regular visits conducted by national visiting bodies. Visits by independent experts, enabled to make concrete recommendations, have proven to be one of the most effective means to prevent torture.

The vast majority of States from Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America, gave their support to the Optional Protocol. The treaty was adopted by 104 votes in favour and only 8 against. (...)

The Optional Protocol will now be presented for its formal adoption during the plenary session of the UN General Assembly in December and will subsequently be open for signature. The Optional Protocol will enter into force upon the 20th ratification. (...)

From: International Commission of Jurists


Human Rights Watch honors Global Rights Defenders

Turkey, India, Chad activists recognized

New York, November 7 - On Wednesday, November 13, Human Rights Watch will give its highest honor to three leading human rights activists from around the world.

The global human rights defenders to be honored for the year 2002 have defended free expression and civil society in Turkey, created a justice movement in Chad from the ground up, and fought the burgeoning HIV/AIDS crisis in India. Human Rights Watch staff work closely with these brave individuals as part of our defense of human rights in more than 70 countries around the world.

The 2002 Human Rights Watch Annual Dinners in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco will honor:

·                     Souleymane Guengueng, for his work to bring to justice one of Africa's most abusive dictators;

·                     Meena Seshu, for her work to expose and stem India's growing HIV/AIDS crisis;

·                     Sanar Yurdatapan, for his work in Turkey, to defend freedom of expression

Human Rights Watch is a non-profit, international monitoring group with headquarters in New York. We accept no financial support from any government. (...)



Economy and development


makes it to World Music Exp

Launch of $100 million Biocarbon Fund provides new opportunities for rural poor

Tokyo, Japan, November 5 - A new carbon fund launched by the World Bank today will create an unprecedented opportunity for the poorest farmers and rural communities all over the developing world. The US$100 million BioCarbon Fund, a public/private partnership, will provide finance for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers and rural communities will find new value in their agricultural lands and forests as they earn income from sequestering or conserving carbon. Combating rural poverty and stabilizing rural economies are among the biggest challenges facing developing countries.

Every year 20 times more carbon is exchanged between the atmosphere and the Earth’s vegetation and soils than is released from fossil fuels. About a fifth of the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is derived from land-clearing and other land management practices. Activities to retain (e.g. reduced tillage) or increase (e.g. reforestation) the amount of carbon in vegetation or soils referred to as ‘sinks’can make a significant contribution to combating climate change. Many of these activities have additional benefits, such as improving soil fertility, improving crop growth, providing non-timber forest products and maintaining biodiversity. (...)

The biggest winners will be developing countries that until now have been bypassed by direct private sector carbon dollar investment. A recent World Bank study established that only 13 percent of all direct private sector carbon emission reduction dollars go to the developing world.


UNCTAD to transfer trade point programme to World Trade Point Federation

1 November - After the completion of a three-year exit strategy, UNCTAD is handing over its Trade Point Programme, which assists small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with their international trade through the use of information and communication technologies, to the programme´s beneficiaries, represented by the World Trade Point Federation (WTPF). The official agreement of transfer will be signed on 4 November 2002 in Beirut, on the occasion of the Third General Assembly of the WTPF, hosted by the Government of Lebanon.

Since its formal establishment in November 2000, the WTPF has gradually built its position as a global trade facilitator for SMEs operating through a network of more than 100 one-stop shops (Trade Points) in 80 countries worldwide. A new web portal ( integrating all online services of the WTPF will be officially launched at the meeting in Beirut. (...)

The WTPF´s objectives are to open international markets to new participants and to make them more competitive by giving them access to the most advanced e-commerce technologies and information networks. (...)


Belize band makes it to World Music Expo

5 November - Andy Palacio and the Garifuna All Star Band returned this week to Belize after attending the World Music Expo (WOMEX) in Germany. The trip was made possible, among others, by HIVOS (Humanistic Institute for Development Cooperation).

Over 500 artists from more than 100 countries submitted proposals to perform at this years World Music Expo but only 36 were selected by the WOMEX Jury. Andy Palacio and the Garifuna All Star Band are now the first band from the Central American region ever to be selected for a showcase at the largest world music trade fair, arguably the most important international presentation of Belizean music to date.

Featuring the legendary Paranda Maestro, Paul Nabor, the band performed a memorable show, which included songs from their upcoming album as well as Paranda classics marking a new departure for Garifuna and Belizean music on stage. (...)


Campaign of "video" events through 2002 to maximize Hunger Project investment

29 October - The sites hosts for the 25th anniversary events across the US have aligned on creating a campaign of local investment gatherings during November and December, utilizing a 1-hour edit of the event video. These local events are designed to maximize Hunger Project investment to bring in the budget for 2002 - a very challenging financial year - and create the momentum for the expansion of investment in 2003 that will allow for an expansion in programs.






Poor farmers in Afghanistan receive seeds and fertilizer

Rome/Kabul, 18 November - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is currently distributing around 3,700 tonnes of wheat seeds and around 7,000 tonnes of fertilizers to half a million people in almost all provinces of Afghanistan. The seeds were distributed to farming families that were severely stricken by conflict and more than three years of drought, FAO said in a statement issued today. The distribution was carried out by 26 local and international non-governmental organizations.

All seeds were purchased from local suppliers participating in the FAO Seed Multiplication Programme. FAO contracted several thousand farmers last year for multiplication of high quality wheat seeds suitable for irrigation and rain-fed agriculture. 

For more information:


World volunteers, recipient nations gather in Seoul for biennial forum

7 November - An international conference will open in Seoul next week, bringing together more than 1,200 people devoted to volunteerism. The 17th World Volunteer Conference is co-organized by the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE), an organization based in Washington, D.C., and the Korea Volunteer Organization Committee. The conference will be held at the Lotte Hotel in central Seoul from Monday to Friday next week.

The Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs is sponsoring the biennial event (...)

More than 14 percent of Korea's population of 47 million works as volunteers in the country, experts say. Tens of thousands of volunteers, for instance, assisted in relief work following this past summer's devastating typhoons and floods.  (...)


WFP welcomes India into donor family with first-ever donation of 1 million tons of wheat

New Delhi, 5 November - In a unique humanitarian partnership that will benefit hundreds of thousands of Afghan children and transform India into a donor nation, the United Nations World Food Programme and the Government of India announced today the start of operations for an unprecedented donation of 1 million metric tons of Indian wheat for Afghanistan.

Officials of the Government of India, making the largest single pledge in WFP's history, said the first tranche of the donation -- 40,000 metric tons - will be converted into 9,526 metric tons of high-energy biscuits destined for the WFP school feeding programme in Afghanistan. (...)

In addition to the one million tons of wheat, the Government of India is contributing 15,000 metric tons of rice to WFP that will be used to offset the incidental costs of producing and distributing the biscuits. (...)

WFP faces a shortfall in its emergency operation in Afghanistan, a country facing a long road to rehabilitation after decades of war, drought and ill-fated policies of social engineering.

In India, WFP currently has an assistance programme that includes nutritional support for 2.7 million young children, expectant women and nursing mothers, and extra food rations for 815,000 people in low-income tribal areas to bolster their food security. (...)


WFP extends food assistance in Georgia

Rome, 5 November - The United Nations World Food Programme announced that it has approved a US$ 23 million operation to feed over 200,000 people in Georgia on a three-year period. WFP's work in Georgia is focused on three areas: feeding the most vulnerable people who have limited access to government support, feeding some 4,000 Chechen refugees and rehabilitating agricultural and social infrastructure through food-for-work projects in the poorest regions in this largely agrarian country.

WFP began providing food assistance to Georgia in 1993. Continued assistance is desperately needed, stresses Joseph-Alain Charriere, country director for WFP's operations in Georgia. The new operation will begin in April 2003.

The former Soviet republic, with a current population of 5.5 million people, continues to grapple with economic constraints and civil strife. Hyperinflation in the mid-1990s eroded the population's income and savings. The elderly, who depend on inadequate State pensions, have been hit especially hard. The country is barely able to meet half of its cereal needs due to a damaged agricultural infrastructure coupled with periodic natural disasters, including a series of drought in 2000 and 2001. (...)


Mercy Corps Worldwide Conference underway in Oregon, USA

1 November - More than 70 senior staff representing 34 countries gathered this week in Sunriver, Oregon, USA for Mercy Corps' Worldwide Leadership Conference. Country leaders from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Guatemala, Indonesia, Lebanon, North Korea, Serbia, Uzbekistan and many other critical hot spots are strategizing, sharing successes and challenges, and strengthening programs. The Portland-based international aid agency is hosting this bi-annual event for the first time in Oregon. Staff from the agency's other headquarters offices in Edinburgh, Hong Kong, Seattle and Washington, DC are attending. Mercy Corps' Japanese partner, Peace Winds Japan, is also participating. (...)

Mercy Corps exists to alleviate suffering, poverty and oppression by helping people build secure, productive and just communities. Since 1979, Mercy Corps has provided more than $640 million in aid to 75 nations. The agency currently reaches more than 5 million people in over 30 countries. More than 91 percent of the Mercy Corps' resources are allocated to programs that help those in need.


Rotary takes root in Asia celebrating 80 years of change and growth

Across the globe, the activities of Rotary clubs differ as each responds to the needs of its respective community and seeks solutions to the social issues affecting that part of the world.

Eighty years after Rotary came to Asia, it has taken roots and blossomed all over the continent. The sheer membership statistics speak volume. At present, there are 7,000 clubs, with 285,000 members in 17 countries and regions, accounting for 25 percent of Rotary's 1.2 million membership worldwide. For the past 80 years, Asian Rotarians have not only made tremendous financial contributions to the organization's worldwide humanitarian efforts, they have also changed the face of their own communities through their volunteer work and by addressing issues such as hunger, homelessness, illiteracy, high unemployment and the environment.

While celebrating their past achievements, Rotarians in Asia look to the future.

By far the world's most populous region, Asia presents Rotary with great prospects for further growth. as well as with new challenges for service projects. How can Rotary help Asian children who have been struck by the economic crisis that has swept through the region? How can Rotary's humanitarian and educational initiatives better meet community needs and a burgeoning youth population in the new millennium? How can Rotary work closely with government and non-governmental organizations to rally support for the final phase of polio eradication? These are the major issues that will confront Rotary as the organization enters the new millennium.



Peace and security



UNESCO organizes conference on preventing water wars: November 20-22

Paris, November 15 - UNESCO's International Hydrological Programme and Green Cross International, an environmental non-governmental organization, are holding an international conference on the prevention of water wars within and between countries from November 20 to 22. The conference, entitled "From Conflict to Cooperation in International Water Resources Management" will be held at the International Institute for  Infrastructural, Hydraulic and Environmental Engineering in Delft (TheNetherlands).

More than 200 experts from around the world are expected to participate in the conference sessions, which will begin by presenting case studies to  illustrate general themes before opening the floor to debate. These open sessions will enable experts from diverse regions to exchange perspectives on extremely sensitive issues, such as major dam construction projects in India and tensions over shared water resources in the Middle East. Experts from Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Syria, as well as the Palestinian Territories, will give papers on their work.


Sierra Leone: partners support the country’s plans for peace, recovery and development

Paris, November 14 – Sierra Leone has established a unique track record for a post-conflict country. Less than a year after the war ended, the country has achieved a growth rate of six percent while inflation has fallen to zero percent. These accomplishments have been achieved after ten years of devastating civil conflict, the resettlement in the past year of 300,000 displaced people and refugees and the disarmament and demobilization more than 70,000 combatants. On the basis of this impressive performance, development partners sent a favorable message to the country today. At this first post-war consultative group meeting, the government with its partners agreed to a results framework for 2003-2004, and the donors pledged their financial and technical support to achieve these results.  (...)


Rwanda military facility becomes technology training centre

14 November -  A former military school and barracks in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, have found new life as a training centre where students learn everything from more efficient candle-making and civil engineering to computer technology and food science.

Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who is currently on official mission in Rwanda, visited the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST) yesterday. KIST has nearly 1,600 full-time students and about 1,160 part-time students - 27 per cent of them women.

The Government of Rwanda launched the institute in 1997 with support from UNDP. It was created after the genocide three years earlier, when many of the country's technical experts were killed or never accounted for. In fact today, some 94 per cent of the population still lives in rural areas and most make their living in agriculture, using rudimentary traditional technology.  (...)






West Africa launches final assault on polio

60 million African children to be vaccinated; Aventis Pasteur donates 30 million doses of oral polio vaccine

New York/Geneva, 12 November - With West African countries in the midst of vaccinating millions of children against polio, the world's largest vaccine manufacturer, Aventis Pasteur, has donated 30 million doses of oral polio vaccine to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.

This week, 16 West African countries have united to vaccinate all children under five within their borders. Immunization campaigns over the past two years have driven the number of polio-endemic countries in Africa to an all-time low. In 1999, 20 African countries were polio-endemic, but to date this year, only three are considered endemic. This success is due to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a broad partnership forged to deliver polio vaccine to every child under five.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF. Aventis Pasteur - the longest standing corporate partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative - has donated 120 million vaccine doses since 1997 and targeted its donations to African countries affected by conflict, including Sierra Leone and the Sudan, which now appear to be polio-free. (...)


Over 450 teams from around the world submit designs for a mobile health clinic to combat HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa

New York, NY - November 11 - It is estimated that three-quarters of the world’s AIDS population lives in Sub-Saharan Africa; most have no access to lifesaving drugs, testing facilities or even basic preventative care. One of the major factors inhibiting medical professionals in Africa from treating this disease is the inability to access vast areas of the continent with adequately equipped facilities. In response, on May 1, 2002 Architecture for Humanity announced the Mobile HIV/AIDS Health Clinic for Africa initiative challenging architects and designers around the world to respond to the HIV/AIDS pandemic which is devastating the continent. Designers were given six months to develop schemes for a fully equipped, mobile medical unit and HIV/AIDS treatment center specifically for use in Africa. (...)

During the submission period, 463 teams representing 47 nations across the globe answered the call submitting highly innovative and cost-efficient schemes. (...) In total, over 1050 architects, medical professionals, industrial designers and students in the field of design and medicine took part in this truly global response. (...) Finalists will be announced in New York on World AIDS Day, December 1.


Mohammed Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, appointed UNAIDS Ambassador

Geneva, 7 November - Mohammed Yunus, the pioneering banker who put micro-credit on the map, has been appointed Ambassador for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) to help fight the AIDS epidemic, especially among the poor. (...)

Professor Yunus, an economist from Bangladesh, is founder of the Grameen Bank, a "village bank" set up in 1983 to provide micro-credit loans of very small amounts to the rural poor.

"Access to micro-credit reduces the impact of HIV at the family level and provides for succession planning. Providing micro-credit to families affected by HIV/AIDS must be made an essential part of the care strategy," Professor Yunus said. "The Grameen experience has without doubt proved that communities, when given the opportunity, can come up with unique and socially relevant solutions. Communities are central to HIV prevention and care, and communities can provide solutions for HIV prevention and care."

As founder of the Grameen Movement, Professor Yunus is considered a revolutionary. His ideas couple capitalism with social responsibility and have changed the face of rural economic and social development forever. The Grameen Bank operates 1,092 branches in 36,000 rural Bangladesh villages, providing credit to over two million of the country's poorest people. (...)


UNFPA launches two-year campaign to fight obstetric fistula in Sub-Saharan Africa

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1 November - The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) today announced the launch of a two-year campaign to fight obstetric fistula in 12 countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Obstetric fistula is the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities and affects about 50,000-100,000 African women each year. The launch of the campaign marked the conclusion of a meeting with over 60 reproductive health care experts on the incidence of obstetric fistula which took place in Addis Ababa this week. The UNFPA-sponsored campaign will focus on both the prevention and treatment of obstetric fistulas. (...)

An obstetric fistula is an injury to the pelvic organs that most often occurs when a very young, poor girl experiences a long and obstructed labour, sometimes up to five days. (...)



Energy and safety



Leading Edge Conference Series: Sustainability in the water sector

25-26 November 2002, Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista, Venice, Italy

Why not mix business with pleasure in the beautiful, historic city of Venice? Join your colleagues from around the world addressing the concept of sustainable water management and help to turn the principle into practice. For further information on the Programme, Registration and Accommodation, please visit us on the web at:

There is increasing recognition among policy makers, utility managers, technicians and researchers that water resource challenges need to be solved innovatively and holistically. In this conference, IWA (International Water Association) will play a role in assisting the water sector in achieving sustainability by: showcasing leading sustainability efforts within the water sector;     promoting development of sustainable water practices;  supporting the development of pragmatic programmes for implementation; and providing opportunities for cross-cultural and cross-discipline partnerships. (...)


New energy security threats appraised by OPEC, EU, Russia and USA

UNECE Committee on Sustainable Energy Roundtable Takes a New Look at the Security of Energy Supplies in Light of Recent Events - Palais des Nations, Geneva, 10:30 a.m., 20 November

In response to the new energy security concerns, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Committee on Sustainable Energy will host a Round Table on the Security of Energy Supply during its annual session on Wednesday 20 November beginning at 10:30 a.m. in Salle XII of the Palais des Nations. The aim of the Round Table is to review different approaches to security of energy supply in a market-based framework as well as in situations where government intervention or even international coordination may be needed. Panellists and delegates will be invited to share their views on the economic, environmental, financial and other trade-offs related to security of energy supply. (...)



Environment and wildlife



Governments propose innovative solutions to fighting desertification

Rome, 15 November - Ending a week of discussions on ways to improve the implementation of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), governments proposed innovative methods to fight desertification during the first session of the Committee for the Review for the Implementation of the Convention (CRIC 1).  The many successful projects presented by governments from 11 November have shown that degraded land can be rehabilitated and poverty tackled at the same time through the application of new methodologies that combine modern technology with traditional knowledge and innovate approaches.  (...)

The Convention came into force in December 1996 and has 185 country Parties.  It is the only international legal instrument to deal with the problem of desertification and recurring droughts.  More than 135 million are at risk of forced migration as a consequence of land degradation and desertification and more than 110 countries are affected by desertification. 

For further information: Cheemin Kwon at 


Greening Africa's desert margins

Global Environment Facility funds new UNEP Poverty-Busting Project promising new hope to people and wildlife

Nairobi, Kenya, 11 November - A pioneering new project to heal dying and degraded lands fringing Africa's mighty deserts was launched today by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The project, marking a new phase of the five year-old Desert Margins Programme, has numerous aims including conserving the rich and unique plant life that has evolved to survive in these dry and arid lands. Experts believe the genetic diversity remaining in these desert margins could be a veritable treasure trove harbouring potentially promising drugs and products for 21st century agriculture and industry.

Under the scheme, key dryland areas and sites have been pin-pointed in each of the nine countries involved. (...) It is planned to unravel the key causes of land degradation and damage in each of these land areas before drawing up action plans for arresting and reversing the decline. The action plans will be blue prints for land recovery and wildlife conservation projects in similar kinds of desert margin areas elsewhere in Africa.  (...)


UNESCO adds 18 new sites to World Network of Biosphere Reserves

Paris, November 8 - Eighteen new sites in 12 countries have been added to UNESCO's World Network of Biosphere Reserves while five existing biosphere reserves have been extended. One extension creates the first transboundary biosphere reserve in Africa.

The World Network of Biosphere Reserves now consists of 425 sites in 95 countries. Its focus is all the more pertinent in the wake of the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD), where countries called for action to reduce extreme poverty and hunger and ensure environmental sustainability. "Biosphere reserves," says Peter Bridgewater, Secretary of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Programme, "represent real, on-ground action with these ideas." A key aspect is that local populations work together with all other concerned parties to achieve these aims.

The new biosphere reserves and extensions were approved by the Bureau of the MAB International Coordinating Council at its meeting on November 6-8 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The new biosphere reserves are very varied, differing in size, population density, ecological features, land use and challenges (...)



Culture and education



India: World Bank approves credit for improving technical and engineering education

Washington, November 14 - A US$250 million credit will help India boost the quality of its emerging young technicians and engineers. The Technical/Engineering Quality Improvement Program, approved by the World Bank today, will help India supply its economy with the level of professional excellence needed to foster greater competitiveness and productivity. (...)

The project is designed to support engineering colleges, technical universities and polytechnics, in achieving their own visions of academic excellence. Institutions will be selected to participate in the project on a competitive basis depending on their capabilities and long-term planning for quality improvement. All selected institutions will be required to network with others and to provide services to the local community. It will also encourage granting of greater freedom to the institutions for their own governance and management of finances. (...)

Effective E-feminism in Southeast Europe

Aga Khan places mountain solutions on global agenda

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic, 1st November – Wars. Earthquakes. Landslides. Narcotics. Ethnic Cleansing. Poverty. Are mountains the source of many of today’s miseries? Or of much of tomorrow’s hope? His Highness the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, this week demonstrated the argument for optimism as heads of state, international leaders and mountain experts gathered together to mark the end of the UN International Year of the Mountains.

Yesterday, in the 3000-year old city of Osh, where caravans pausing along the Silk Road once discharged their wares, the Aga Khan School was inaugurated as a centre of excellence where computers will download the future off the electronic highway. (...) Today, at the Bishkek Global Mountain Summit, the Aga Khan challenged global decisionmakers to tackle issues such as poverty, critical infrastructure, and agricultural and social development needs through regional policies. (...) Tomorrow, in Naryn, a picturesque town not far from the Chinese border, the Aga Khan will review plans for the Kyrgyz campus of the University of Central Asia, the first institution of higher learning in the world created specifically to deal with problems affecting mountain societies and their environments. (...)


University of Texas at Dallas to join Italian research project on grid computing, high-speed networking - First manifestation of collaborative agreement signed earlier this year

Richardson, Texas, USA, October 29 - The University of Texas at Dallas  (UTD) has been selected to join a consortium of university and government researchers in Italy studying grid computing and high-speed networking. The project is the first substantive manifestation of an agreement concluded last February between UTD and Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna, a  university in Pisa, Italy. The agreement provides for joint research on advanced telecommunications networks and an exchange of faculty members and students of the two institutions.

The project is funded by the Italian government and involves researchers from the National Research Council of Italy (CNR) and the Italian National Consortium for Telecommunications (CNIT), as well as UTD. The only non-Italian entity involved in the research, UTD is a subcontractor on the project and will be paid 200,000 Euros (about U.S. $200,000) for its services over the next three years. (...)

The research will be coordinated by the Pisa Center of Excellence for  Photonic Networks and Technologies, a collaboration of Scuola Sant'Anna, CNIT, CNR and Marconi Communications, the global communications and information technology company. As a part of the project, an innovative, very high-speed photonic demonstrator, named Metro-Core, will be built in Pisa.

News contact: Steve McGregor, UTD,

Canada and Singapore provide English language training in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Vietnam and East Timor

Ottawa, Canada, October 28 The Honourable Susan Whelan, Minister for International Cooperation, today announced that Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), will contribute $3.4 million for English language training that will help Southeast Asia countries participate more effectively in the international community.

Canada, in partnership with Singapore, launched the third phase of the Singapore-Canada English Language Training initiative at a signing ceremony in Vietnam last week. (...)

Initial English language training funded by the Government of Singapore and CIDA helped Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam integrate more fully into the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). With this announcement, this work will also be extended to East Timor to help it adapt to the challenges of a newly independent nation. The training will take place at the Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization Regional Language Centre in Singapore. A total of 350 officials from the four countries will receive three-month English language training sessions. (...)




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Next issue: 13 December


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