Good News Agency – Year IV, n° 4



Weekly - Year IV, number 4 – 21 February 2003

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 SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education



International legislation



Afghanistan: warlords face international criminal court

Future war crimes can be prosecuted

New York, February 10 - Afghan warlords who commit future atrocities can now face prosecution by the new International Criminal Court (ICC), Human Rights Watch said today, as Afghanistan deposited its accession to the ICC Treaty at the United Nations. Under ICC provisions, the treaty will take force in Afghanistan on May 1, 2003. After that date, the ICC will have the authority to investigate and prosecute serious war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity committed on Afghan soil.

This is a historic day for Afghanistan," said John Sifton, a researcher with Human Rights Watch. "For over two decades, perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan have enjoyed total impunity. On May 1, that impunity will formally end."  (...)

Human Rights Watch said that future war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan were likely to come under the ICC's jurisdiction, in the near future at least, because of the poor state of Afghanistan's justice system. Under the treaty, the ICC can only prosecute such crimes if Afghanistan is unwilling or unable to meaningfully investigate and prosecute on its own. (...)

Afghanistan's accession to the ICC Treaty brings the total number of states parties to eighty-nine. The states parties met in New York last week and elected the court's eighteen judges, who will be sworn in on March 11. The court's prosecutor will be selected at the end of April.


Countries meet to finalize landmark agreement on International Tobacco Control

Geneva -- A groundbreaking moment in public health history is just around the corner, as the sixth and final round of negotiations for the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) begins next week in Geneva. The convention is part of a global strategy to reduce tobacco-related deaths and disease around the world.

When in force, this global health treaty the first ever under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO) will include international rules on tobacco taxation, smoking prevention and treatment, illicit trade, advertising and promotion, and product regulation.

The tobacco epidemic is killing 4.9 million people every year, which will double in twenty years if we do nothing to stop it. We know that a big part of the solution lies in promoting stop-smoking programmes, raising tobacco taxes, increasing education, banning tobacco advertising and cracking down on smuggling, said WHO Director-General, Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland. (...)

The Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), which meets from 17-28 February, will discuss the newly revised text recently released by INB chair, Brazilian Ambassador Luis Felipe de Seixas Corrêa. Both Dr Brundtland and Ambassador Seixas Corrêa say that the text provides a solid basis for broad acceptance while retaining a major impact on public health. (...)

WHO member states are expected to reach consensus on a final text to be submitted to the World Health Assembly for adoption in May. A key aspect of the negotiations is the issue of a total ban on tobacco advertising. The text states that a complete ban on advertising should be the ultimate goal for signatories to the convention and encourages early elaboration of a supporting protocol on eliminating cross-border advertising and promotion. (...)



Human rights



FIFA and ILO team up on worldwide campaign to fight child labour

Zurich, 13 February - The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have agreed to wave a "Red Card to Child Labour", uniting the world of sport and the world of work in an unprecedented global campaign.

Under the banner of the ILO's existing "Red Card to Child Labour" campaign, the new alliance will seek to unite world football with the ILO and its tripartite partners and others in a common effort to increase global awareness about child labour and address its causes in the production of sporting goods and in other industries and sectors. Proposed participants will also include other international sports organizations, the sporting goods industry, relevant non-governmental organizations, charities, different international and civil society institutions, and other stakeholders.

The decision to move forward with a joint campaign was taken at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on 10 February by FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter and ILO Executive Director Kari Tapiola. (...)


World Bank highlights positive development impact of trade unions

Brussels, 12 February - The positive impact of trade unions in economic development, as well as evidence showing the role of trade unions in combating discrimination and in reducing inequality, are among the central findings of a new World Bank publication, launched today. According to the ICFTU, however, there is still a long way to go in terms of translating these findings into policy at the national level.

The report, Unions and Collective Bargaining, reaffirms the Bank's support for the core labour standards "as important elements of a well-functioning labour market". Based on a survey of more than a thousand studies on the economic effects of unions and collective bargaining, the newly released book concludes that high unionisation rates often lead to lower inequality of earnings, decreased wage discrimination against women and minority workers, and improved economic performance. It finds that the positive impacts of unionisation tend to be greater in countries with highly coordinated collective bargaining than in countries where the labour movement is more fragmented. (...)


High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNESCO reinforce cooperation

Paris, 5 February The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura signed a memorandum of understanding reinforcing cooperation between the two organizations in Paris today. According to the memorandum, this initiative is inspired by the reform process of the United Nations system launched by the UN Secretary-General, which emphasizes the centrality of human rights in all activities of the system. The text stresses that the principle of non-discrimination is the cornerstone for the recognition and protection of the dignity of all members of the human family and recognizes that extreme poverty is a flagrant violation of human rights and a denial of human dignity.

Mr Vieira de Mello and Mr Matsuura agreed to hold regular consultations on subjects of common interest such as the rationalization, strengthening and streamlining of the human rights machinery and reporting mechanisms with a view to improving their efficiency and effectiveness, and the elaboration of strategies related, inter alia, to the right to education and to human rights education; cultural rights and cultural diversity, freedom of expression, access to information and academic freedom, rights of women and gender equality, human rights and bioethics. (...)



Economy and development



FAO and Libya sign agreements for agriculture projects

Projects will bolster food security in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Sudan and Niger

Rome, 20 February - Agreements to finance agricultural projects in Sahelian and Saharan countries were signed today between Libya and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).  The agreements totalled more than $21 million.

The first agreement, part of the FAO Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), will advance agricultural production and enhance food security, alleviating hunger and poverty in five African states. Libya will fund the $9.3 million project. The SPFS programme, currently operational in 74 countries, aims to ensure access to adequate food and help poor farm communities increase food production and productivity. The funds will be divided among five member countries of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (CEN-SAD) which works for the development and stability of its 16 member countries. (...)

The second agreement, Development of a Seed and Propagation Material System, is designed to develop and modernize the agriculture sector in Libya. (...)


Republic of Korea and UNDP help poor countries attend anti-corruption forum

14 February - The Republic of Korea and UNDP are joining forces to enable 49 of the poorest countries participate in an anti-corruption forum in Seoul, the capital, on 29 - 31 May.

The Global Forum III on Fighting Corruption and Safeguarding Integrity seeks to help stem the loss of billions of dollars through corruption, a drain that developing countries can least afford.

First held in 1999, the Global Forum brings together high-level government officials and experts to identify global anti-corruption priorities and improve national and international cooperation in fighting corruption and enhancing government transparency.

The Republic of Korea is allocating US$300,000 to cover the expenses of two delegates from each country in the group of least developed countries designated by the UN, and UNDP is using its global network to arrange their participation. (...)

"Corruption deepens poverty, derails development, fuels domestic and international conflicts, and destroys confidence in democracy and the legitimacy of governments," said UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown, citing the importance of an active role by developing countries in the events.

Officials from about 150 countries are expected to attend Global Forum III to share experiences, refine their understanding about effective practices, and search for new and better ways to defeat corruption. (...)


UNDP and UK boost efforts to stem poverty in Zanzibar

12 February - UNDP, in partnership with the UK Department for International Development (DFID), is helping strengthen efforts to reduce poverty and promote development in Zanzibar, the east African island that is part of the United Republic of Tanzania.

More than half of Zanzibar's people live in poverty, and economic strains add to their hardship. The economy has been hit by falling prices for cloves, its mainstay, and fewer tourists are visiting the island's beautiful beaches due to global jitters over terrorism.

The three-year, US$9.6 million programme supports the Zanzibar's poverty reduction plan in four key areas: monitoring, development management and public finance, support to civil society, and governance. (...) The initiative "is crucial to Zanzibar achieving the Millennium Development Goals,'' UNDP Resident Representative John Hendra emphasized. The first goal includes the target of halving the proportion of people living on less than US$ 1 a day between 1990 and 2015. The Government has also set its own goal eliminating abject poverty in Zanzibar by 2020. (...)


IFAD to support poverty reduction programme in Republic of Ghana

Rome, 7 February  - A loan agreement was signed today at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) headquarters by H.E. Dr. Koffi Dsane-Selby, and by Mr. Lennart Båge, President of IFAD. The loan, in an amount of USD 12.3 million, will help fund the Northern Region Poverty Reduction Programme, with a total cost of USD 59.6 million.

The beneficiaries of the Programme are the poor and vulnerable rural communities of the Northern Region of Ghana, who constitute 70% of the rural population. The target group mainly includes subsistence-farming households, as well as women headed families, the elderly and disabled. Poverty is associated with a high dependence on agriculture, an erratic climate and low productivity of the resource base. The constraints they have are due to limited availability of labour rather than land. High levels of malnutrition, disease, disability, early mortality and illiteracy are the outcomes of these limitations.

The Northern Region Poverty Reduction Programme is a partnership between the Government of Ghana and its development partners to address rural poverty by targeting the poorer communities and most vulnerable groups and empowering them to participate in development activities; these interventions will be supported through a flexible community development fund. (...)

With this project, IFAD will have financed 11 projects in the Republic of Ghana, for a total loan amount of USD 124.5 million.


UNFPA and Rotary renew cooperation on population and development issues

United Nations, New York, 5 February - UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, and Rotary International have renewed a Memorandum of Cooperation to work together on population and development issues around the world. UNFPA and Rotary will continue their joint efforts through an agreement formalized last year, to address development needs and confront challenges of global population growth.

By the terms of the Memorandum, UNFPA and some of the 30,000 Rotary clubs around the world will consult to identify local population and development needs and seek ways to collaborate to address them. The Fund will encourage its offices to connect with Rotary clubs and districts at the local level. Rotary will encourage its club and districts to support population and development programmes. (...)

Rotary clubs have already begun dealing with population-related issues through programmes focused on hunger prevention, literacy, education and the environment. Examples of the cooperation between Rotary and UNFPA in the past year included launching HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns in highly affected areas in India and undertaking efforts to increase understanding of reproductive health issues in regions of Mexico. (...)


New project on trade and globalization announced by UNCTAD, India and UK

30 January - UNCTAD, India and the United Kingdom today announced the launch of a new project to assess the impact and opportunities for India of trade and globalization.

The five-year project is being funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), in the amount of some £ 5.4 million (Rs. 41,11,72,300).

Entitled "Strategies and preparedness for trade and globalization in India", the project has two main objectives. First, it will assist Indian trade negotiators, policy makers and other stakeholders in understanding the development dimension of key trade issues, particularly as they related to the current WTO agenda. Secondly, it will strengthen the country´s human and institutional capacities for analysis of globalization-related issues and facilitate a policy environment that will support and sustain a more equitable process of globalization. In the process, the project should help India derive the greatest possible benefits from the multilateral trading system and influence international trade rule-making. The project will work in partnership with the private sector and civil society. It will focus on institutions and sectors with the greatest potential to affect the poor in their roles as producers, workers, consumers and citizens. (...)






Rotary International Holds First Peace and Development Conference in Nairobi

Funds More than 1,000 Eye Surgeries to Mark Event

Nairobi, Kenya, 18 February - More than 1,000 business leaders, members of Rotary clubs in Africa, Europe, India and the U.S., will gather at Nairobi's Kenyatta International Conference Centre 21-23 February to discuss ways of promoting peace and development in communities across Africa.  Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki was invited to deliver the opening address; Vice President Honorable Kijana Wamalwa will be representing President Kibaki at the Rotary conference. Rotary International (RI) President Bhichai Rattakul, head of the world's oldest service organization, will deliver the keynote speech. (...) 

Immediately preceding the conference, Rotary volunteer doctors will perform more than 1,000 cataract surgeries on patients in the northern Kenyan town of Dol Dol, as well as at Kikuyu and Lions hospitals near Nairobi. (...)

The conference will address a slew of topics including the role of Rotarians in assisting those impacted by HIV/AIDS; combating tuberculosis; promoting education and literacy as keys to fighting poverty and hunger; providing micro-enterprises and vocational training; achieving Rotary's goal of polio eradication in Africa and promoting the Rotary Centers on International Studies in peace and conflict resolution.


Burundi-DRC-Tanzania: EC gives Euros 24 million for Burundian and Congolese refugees

Nairobi, Kenya, 14 February - Tanzania is scheduled to receive Euros 24 million (US $26 million) from the European Community this year to help meet the humanitarian needs of Burundian and Congolese refugees in the country, according to the EC Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO). In a statement issued on Thursday in Brussels, ECHO reported that it would channel the funds through partner organisations working in the field. (...)

According to ECHO, Tanzania continues to host more than half a million refugees - the largest refugee caseload in Africa - despite being one of the world's poorest countries. Most of these refugees are from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. ECHO's Global Plan for 2003 is expected to benefit approximately 520,000 refugees in 14 camps in western Tanzania under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. The funds will be spent on food aid, logistics, water and sanitation, as well as nutrition, health, shelter and protection. (...)


World Relief responds to crisis in Burkina Faso

Baltimore, February 12 - All recent attempts at peace in Cote d'Ivoire have failed. The UN has pulled non-essential staff of the country, and more French troops have been deployed to protect French nationals in Ivory Coast. As a result of this civil unrest, a massive influx of people seeking refuge is heading into Burkina Faso. World Relief is mobilizing a network of churches and Christian organizations in response to the growing humanitarian need. (...)

 World Relief provides training on HIV/AIDS prevention and care to churches, schools and other organizations in Burkina Faso. The grassroots organizations are now rallying to meet families fleeing Cote d'Ivoire. World Relief is providing support so that these organizations can distribute refugee kits with blankets, cooking utensils, grain, sleeping mats and jerry cans for the families.

For nearly 60 years, World Relief has worked with local churches to create sustainable solutions that help the desperately poor. Operating in more than 20 countries and 26 cities in the U.S., World Relief's programs include disaster relief, refugee assistance, AIDS ministries, urban ministries, community health, agricultural development, and community banking. (...)



Peace and security



National Council of Churches - Taking Action to Avert War:

In London, U.S. Church Leaders Meet Blair in Third of Five NCC-Led Peace Delegations

February 18 - U.S. Christian leaders spent 50 minutes with British Prime Minister Tony Blair today to convey a message of widespread opposition to war with Iraq and to explore alternatives.  The visit was the third of five urgent meetings with European leaders by delegations organized by the National Council of Churches USA.

Following the private meeting with Mr. Blair, an NCC delegation member, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church USA, said the delegates explored with the Prime Minister a number of alternative approaches including working through the United Nations to empower the people of Iraq, strengthening the process of weapons inspections, dealing deeply with the Palestine question, building global policy which addresses the gap between rich and poor, and building inter faith relations. Jim Wallis, Executive Director and Editor of Sojourners, who led the delegation on the NCC's behalf, said, "American church leaders agree that the threat of Saddam Hussein is very real and that Iraq must be disarmed, but we also believe that the unintended and unpredictable consequences of war could be catastrophic. American and British leaders have reminded the world of how terrible Saddam is, but the churches must remind the world about the realities of war."


46 Religious Leaders ask urgent meeting with Bush on Iraq

46 U.S. Religious Leaders, uneasy about the proposed war on Iraq, "with utmost urgency" ask President Bush for face-to-face meeting

January 30, New York City - Citing the "utmost urgency" of their request, 46 U.S. religious leaders who have been working "to slow the rush to war" with Iraq today petitioned President Bush for a face-to-face meeting. War is not only a military matter, write the leaders - from 11 denominations and four organizations, including 20 United Methodist bishops. "It is a moral and ethical matter of the highest order, one that we have made a priority for many months as the possibility of war has loomed on our national horizon."

The 46 leaders of tens of millions of Protestant and Orthodox Christians across the United States note that they are in communication with their clergy, lay leaders and church members across the nation and with their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere around the globe on this issue.

Active in the search for peaceful solutions to the Iraq crisis since August, religious leaders "have become all the more alarmed as U.S. military activity keeps escalating," said Dr. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the National Council of Churches, which facilitated circulation of the letter for signatures. "We want to meet with the President before he decides to go to war with Iraq."

National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A.;


Local relief agency moves office in Iraq

Portland, Oregon, USA, February  - With increasing security concerns in Iraq, Northwest Medical Teams staff in the northern region of the country are moving their offices, including records, equipment and supplies, to an undisclosed rural location. The Portland-based relief organization is also briefing volunteer medical professionals in preparation for deployment to the region and beginning emergency preparedness processes. (...)

Northwest Medical Teams supports a staff of 24 international workers who administer a childrens health care program in northern Iraq. The staff provides medical care in partnership with local doctors and teaches medical and dental procedures to other medical providers.

Northwest Medical Teams is one of only five U.S. agencies recently to receive a grant from the U.S. Department of State to support a child health project in northern Iraq, and one of a handful of groups currently working in the country. It was also one of the first to receive a license from the Office of Foreign Assets Control to provide direct aid in Iraq. (...)


March 1 - Sharing the Spirit of Peace Summit, Sydney, Australia

A group of service organisations, concerned citizens, businesses, youth and politicians is gathering to organise a Peace Summit in Sydney entitled: Share the Spirit of Peace. Peace is essentially the establishing of right human relations, the recognition of the indissoluble unity of the human family – one world- one humanity, with its resultant co-operation and interaction between the world’s nations on behalf of the whole.

Australia has an opportunity to voice a united appeal, with the four major political parties invited to share the platform and speak for peace. This demonstration of unity will echo across the planet at this critical moment in time. U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich will also speak. The Utopian Singers (young people ages 12-26) will sing and accompany a World Peace Flag Ceremony with the flags of all nations. At the closing of the event, the flags and participants will parade outside to Victoria Park, where a Peace Pole will be dedicated.

The "Share the Spirit of Peace" Peace Summit was inspired by the "We the People Summit for Peace" held in Vermont in September 2002. The note sounded initially in Vermont and carried to Sydney for this Summit, will in turn be built on by other Peace Summits throughout the world.

The next is planned for New York City in September 2003.







FAO, WHO launch $40 million trust fund to help poor countries participate in Codex Alimentarius

Codex sets international food trade and safety standards

14 February, Rome, Geneva -- A $40 million Trust Fund to help the worlds least developed countries participate in Codex Alimentarius was launched in Geneva today by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Codex Alimentarius sets food standards that protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade.

The FAO/WHO Project and Fund for Enhanced Participation in Codex is expected to run for 12 years and has already received its first contribution from Switzerland.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) was established in 1962 by FAO and WHO and has 168 member countries today. (...) The new Trust Fund will help some 120 developing countries and countries in transition increase their participation in the vital work of the Commission. The fund will also help regulators and food experts from all areas of the world to participate in setting international standards and enhance their capacity to develop effective food safety and quality standards, both within the framework of the Codex Alimentarius and national food safety systems in their own countries. (...)


WFP and UNAIDS join forces against HIV/AIDS

Rome, 6 February - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) formally joined forces to cope with the growing links between HIV/AIDS, regional food shortages and chronic hunger. An agreement signed today at WFP's Executive Board meeting increases their co-operation to save millions of lives - especially in Africa, South-East Asia and the Caribbean. (...)

Under the agreement, WFP and UNAIDS will direct their joint efforts to emergency situations with a special focus on pregnant women and orphans, among the most vulnerable to the impact of HIV/AIDS. At the same time, they will strive to make food security an integral part of the battle waged by governments and partners against HIV/AIDS.

WFP takes responsibility for the management of HIV/AIDS-related food programmes, while UNAIDS will offer technical assistance, promoting access to care including home-based care, impact evaluation, the reduction of vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and the identification of appropriate local partners.  (...)


India launches largest ever campaign to tackle polio epidemic

165 million children to be vaccinated in a country faced with 85 percent of new polio cases in the world

Geneva/New York, 5 February - To combat the largest polio epidemic in recent history, on 9 February India will launch the largest ever mass immunization campaign against polio, targeting 165 million children.

Over 1.3 million vaccination teams of volunteers and health workers, equipped with nearly 200 million doses of vaccine, will go house-to-house and work at booths in communities to reach every child under the age of five years. To succeed, the teams will have to cover a country the size of Western Europe in six days.

The campaign, the second of 2003, is to combat a growing polio epidemic that swept the northern part of the country last year. In 2002, the target year to stop poliovirus transmission globally, India was one of only two countries (with Nigeria) to see a significant rise in new cases. New cases totalling 1,561 were confirmed, representing 85 percent of new polio cases worldwide. The northern state of Uttar Pradesh, with a population of 173 million, accounted for 66 percent of cases in the world. (...)



Energy and safety



Renewable energy focus of meetings with multinational corporations and government leaders

Mexico City, 7 February Business leaders from DuPont to Volkswagen were among the dozen multinational companies talking renewable energy in Mexico today.

At a meeting organized by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) of North America in Mexico City, government officials met with private sector representatives to identify obstacles and potential solutions to the development of renewable energy.

Supported by the Center for Private-Sector Studies on Sustainable Development (Cespedes) and the National Commission for Energy Savings (Conae), the CEC sought to strengthen regional cooperation on this important issue. (...) American and Canadian companies thus shared their experiences with the purchase of renewable electricity, and discussed opportunities for collaboration with some of Mexicos largest energy consumers. (...)

Mexico, which is currently considering a restructuring of its electricity sector, has long been identified as a country with abundant renewable energy resources. Its geographic situation and climate conditions make the country an ideal location for many sources of renewable energy, including wind, solar, geothermic and biomass power.

These clean energy sources could complement fossil fuels, which currently account for about 75 per cent of electricity production in Mexico. For instance, wind potential in Mexico is estimated to have an electrical capacity of approximately 10,000 megawatts (MW)roughly one third of the maximum national power grid load. (...)


The International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the UNECE Trans-European North-South Motorway (TEM) Project agree to cooperate more closely

Geneva, 7 February - A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the International Road Transport Union (IRU) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), laying down the basis for closer cooperation between the two organizations in the framework of the UNECE Trans-European North-South Motorway (TEM) Project, was signed today in Geneva by Mr. Martin Marmy, Secretary General of the IRU and Ms. Brigita Schmögnerová, Executive Secretary of the UNECE.

This MoU is inspired by the common objective of the two organizations to support European road transport integration and development as well as the need to coordinate their efforts for the promotion of road and motorway infrastructure efficiency, safety and quality throughout the TEM Network.

Among the important actions foreseen in the MoU, is the cooperation of the two sides in the elaboration of the TEM Master Plan aimed at establishing specific guidelines and a consistent investment strategy for the TEM member countries for the development of their priority national, regional and international road transport infrastructures. (...)



Environment and wildlife



New UNECE treaty to make the environment part of strategic decision-making

Geneva, 7 February  - Under a major new international environmental treaty, countries will assess the environmental consequences of their official draft plans, programmes, policies and legislation. Negotiators from Europe, North America and Central Asia have worked for two years to finalize the Protocol on Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).

The Protocol provides for extensive public participation in government decision-making in numerous development sectors, from land-use planning to transport and from agriculture to industry, covering everything from oil refineries to ski-lifts. (...) SEA allows the identification and prevention of possible environmental impact right from the start in decision-making developing a more sustainable transport policy rather than just minimizing the environmental impact (...)

Besides considering the typical environmental effects of plans and programmes, the Protocol places a special emphasis on the consideration of human health, going beyond existing legislation in the region. This reflects the involvement of the World Health Organization in the negotiations as well as the political commitments made at the 1999 London Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health.

The Protocol is expected to be formally adopted and signed at the forthcoming Ministerial Environment for Europe Conference in Kiev, Ukraine, on 21-23 May 2003. Although negotiated under UNECE, the Protocol will be open to all members of the United Nations, which means it will have a worldwide effect when it comes into force.


Action on chemicals pollution and support for Africa agreed at end of Global Environment Ministers Meeting

UNEP's 22nd Governing Council Starts Making Johannesburg Plan of Implementation Operational

Nairobi, Kenya, 7 February - A global crackdown on mercury pollution, an agreement to help rescue the environment of the Occupied Palestinian Territories and assistance for small island states to reduce their vulnerability to climate change, were among the key agreements made at the end of an international environment ministers meeting.

Over a thousand delegates and more than 130 nations attended the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) at its headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.  (...) 

Countries agreed that 'there is sufficient evidence of significant global adverse impacts from mercury and its compounds to warrant further international action to reduce the risks to human health and the environment'. Under the action plan agreed today, UNEP has been asked to assist all countries, particularly developing ones and countries with economies in transition such as former states of the Soviet Union, in a wide ranging initiative to cut emissions of mercury from sources such as coal-fired power stations and incinerators. (...)


Court Settlement brings stronger clean air protection for Pittsburgh

EPA agrees to require additional anti-pollution steps

Washington, DC, February 6 - A settlement agreement announced today calls for stronger steps to prevent future violations of federal health standards for ozone (smog) pollution in metropolitan Pittsburgh. The settlement came in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice on behalf of the Group Against Smog and Pollution (GASP) and the Sierra Club. The groups filed the suit last year, contending that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had improperly re-labeled the Pittsburgh area as meeting clean air requirements without mandating additional steps to prevent future violations of standards. (...)

This settlement will help to protect Pittsburgh residents from air pollution for years to come, said Earthjustice attorney David Baron. Its a health insurance policy for everyone who breathes the air. The settlement calls for stronger limits on pollution from certain industries, and requirements to reduce ozone-forming fumes from paints, varnishes, and certain consumer products. It further sets out requirements for contingency measures to be triggered if standards are violated in the future. (...)



Religion and spirituality



University of Dayton gives Honorary Degree to Ursula King, theologian urges religions to unite, be part of solution for peace

Dayton, Ohio, USA, 3 February -- As the U.S. teeters on the verge of a war with Iraq, an internationally known Catholic theologian urges people of various faiths to work to unite people and sow seeds of peace.

"Today the yearning for peace is greater than ever, yet we seem to live in a permanent state of war and violence," said Ursula King after receiving an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the University of Dayton on Jan. 30. "Religions are often part of the problem of violence. They must become part of the solution."

A Catholic scholar and feminist, King is professor emerita and senior research fellow at the University of Bristol, England. A prolific writer, she has published nine books, including Christian Mystics: the Lives and Legacies Throughout the Ages, Women and Spirituality and Voices of Protest and Promise. While on campus, she helped launch UD's new Women's Center. (...)

King traced the "seeds of faith" in Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism and urged people to practice what they preach. (...) The theologian called for a new "peace consciousness" and urged people to learn about each other's faiths. "We are not short of seeds," she said. "How can we sow those seeds? Make them grow and flourish?"



Culture and education




Bellamy visits Kenya to support back-to-school drive

Nairobi, 14 February - Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of UNICEF, is visiting Kenya to support the new government's initiative to bring Kenyan children back to school. She is scheduled to meet with President Mwai Kibaki and key cabinet Ministers. Kenya's abolition of primary school fees saw an additional 1.5 million children show up at the start of the school term. UNICEF immediately responded to January's announcement with a contribution of $2.5 million dollars to support the free education initiative and encourage girls' attendance in school. UNICEF has also launched a donor appeal to raise an additional $4.5 million to increase support to the Kenyan school system and to help ensure that all children have an opportunity to go to school. -


Official international launch of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012)

14 February - The official international launch of the United Nations Literacy Decade (2003-2012) took place yesterday at United Nations headquarters, New York. The keynote speaker at the main ceremony was the President of Mongolia, Mr Natsagiin Bagabandi, who had sponsored the Resolution in the UN General Assembly that called for the establishment of the Decade. Other speakers included Mme Louise Frechette, Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, and the Director-General of UNESCO, Mr Koichiro Matsuura. UNESCO will serve as the coordinator of the Decade at the international level.  

Warmly welcoming the Literacy Decade as a key feature of the drive towards Education for All, Mr Matsuura said that the highest priority must be reaching the poorest and most marginalized groups whose lack of basic literacy skills is most severe. He explained that the unifying theme of the Decade Literacy as Freedom seeks to promote approaches to literacy acquisition and development which free people from ignorance, incapacity and exclusion, and free them for action, choices and participation. (...)


Angola: Biggest-ever education drive

Johannesburg, Souh Africa, 6 February - On Monday 250,000 Angolan children will return to school in the biggest education campaign in the country's history, backed by the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Angolan government. The size and scope of 'Back to School' "underlines the fact that education is being unswervingly endorsed as the engine to drive Angola's long-term recovery" after three decades of civil war, UNICEF said in a statement.

In partnership with the Ministry of Education and Culture, a UNICEF campaign is this month helping to train 4,000 new teachers, restore 1,300 classrooms, and prepare thousands of education kits to be supplied to children and teachers in the central Angolan provinces of Bie and Malanje - the launch sites of the programme. (...)

In Bie and Malanje - among the worst hit by the civil war - every primary school age child will have the opportunity to go back to the classroom. Funds from the European Union will expand the project to 30 other municipalities across the country, where returning refugees will be a priority. Currently 44 percent of Angola's children are out of school. (...)


“Dialogue Among Civilisations - The Key to a Safe Future” - Warsaw, 23-26 April

A world conference will be held in Warsaw in April 2003 on the role of contemporary dialogue between civilisations in generating international security policies. The conference to be held under the heading: “Dialogue Between Civilisations. The Key to a Safe Future” is being organised by the Polish Asia and Pacific Council Association, the Polish National Committee for UNESCO, the Institute for Political Studies at the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Centre for East Asian and Pacific Studies of Trier University (Germany) in collaboration with a large group of scientific institutions from all the world's great civilisations.

The conference will be held under the national patronage of Polish Prime Minister Leszek Miller and the United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan has been approached by the organisers with the request to act as the conference’s international patron. (...) Some 600 guests and participants representing various cultures and civilisations are expected to attend the conference.

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Global Action Week 2003 (7-13 April 2003)

Girls' education will be the focus of this year's Global Action Week. In an effort to promote the Education for All commitments adopted by the World Education Forum, the Global Campaign for Education will concentrate on the 2005 goal, to enable all girls to access quality primary education and to abolish gender discrimination in education.

Through the Global Action Week, EI and the GCE hope to:

§                     generate greater awareness of the 2005 goal as a key step to achieving EFA

§                     influence and change policy towards girl's education through lobbying and advocacy

§                     launch new research on the topic

§                     encourage action at the regional and national level

According to the most recent EFA Monitoring Report, 31 countries are at risk of not achieving gender parity by 2015. (...) In April 2000 in Dakar, Senegal, 185 governments committed to provide education for all by the year 2015.

The Global Action Week is one of several events organised by the Global Campaign for Education with the intention of mobilising public opinion to exert pressure on governments and intergovernmental agencies to provide free, quality education for all. (...)



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Next issue: 7 March 2003

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