Good News Agency – Year V, n° 13



Weekly - Year V, number 13 – 22 October 2004

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 3,700 media in 48 countries, as well as to 2,500 NGOs and service associations.

It is a service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace” and it has been included as an international organization in the web site




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and development

SolidarityPeace and securityHealth

Energy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlifeCulture and education

Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action



International legislation



A food safety revolution to protect the world consumers

At the Second Global Forum in Bangkok efforts to reduce health risks from food gain momentum

Bangkok, Thailand, 14 October – Faced with an increasing global burden of food-borne disease, more than 300 food safety regulators from over 100 countries gathered here for the 2nd Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators from 12 to 14 October. (…)

Profound and at times revolutionary changes to food safety systems are starting to take place as countries learn from each other how best to protect consumers from food-borne illnesses.  That was the message coming from the 2nd FAO/WHO Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators Building effective food safety systems, which ended its 3-day meeting recognizing the need for a more unified approach to food safety management, according to the two UN agencies.

The Forum brought together 394 food regulators from 90 countries to explore ways to reduce the human and economic costs of illnesses caused by unsafe food. (…)

The forum achieved a broad consensus on measures that have proven effective in reducing the incidence of food-borne diseases. They include the integration of data on animal and plant health as well as human disease across the full food production and distribution chain, enabling attribution of disease to food source and thereby targeted intervention. The need to simplify current fragmented legal systems for food control and the adoption of uniform approaches to food safety management through related institutional reforms was also agreed. (…)

Further information on the Forum is available at:

Online news: at FAO:   at WHO



Human rights



Training in humanitarian law for Yemeni teachers

8 October - On 6 October the ICRC and the Yemeni educational authorities concluded a workshop held in Sana'a to train secondary-school teachers to implement Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL), a programme intended to familiarize young people with the basic principles of international humanitarian law.

The Ministry of Education, the Educational Research and Development Centre and the ICRC delegation in Yemen have been working together since October 2003, when a first group of 32 teachers was trained in EHL. The teachers have now introduced the programme in 16 secondary schools in Yemen's main cities and in remote areas like Saada in the north and the Hadramaut valley in the south.  (…)


Liberia: ICRC reunites over 600 children with families

Monrovia (ICRC), 6 October - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has reunited 644 children with their families – some after a separation of several years – since the civil war ended in Liberia in August 2003. (…) Most of the 644 children were repatriated from neighbouring countries: 229 from Guinea, 199 from Sierra Leone, 12 from Côte d'Ivoire, seven from Ghana, and four from Nigeria. The 193 others were traced in Liberia itself.

Last April, the ICRC launched its fourth poster campaign on the subject with the pictures of nearly 500 children separated from their families. The posters have been widely displayed in public places throughout Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire. Roland Hunziker, the ICRC tracing coordinator in Liberia, explained how it works. “If a family member recognizes a child on a photo, we use a regional database to carefully crosscheck the information with that gathered from separated children registered in West Africa".

Once the identities of the children and families have been crosschecked, the ICRC restores contact between them and ensures that any reunification occurs on a strictly voluntary basis. (…)

In 2003, the ICRC reunited 2,640 individuals with their families worldwide, most of them children.


New ILO programme to tackle discrimination, integration of migrant workers in Europe

Geneva, 1 October (ILO News) - The International Labour Office (ILO), with the support of the European Union, today launched a new programme designed to tackle on the job discrimination that in some countries afflicts up to a third of migrant workers. The new project will also seek ways of helping such migrant workers, who number some 27.5 million in Europe, integrate into the societies where they work.

The project "Promoting Equality in Diversity: Integration in Europe" is being implemented in cooperation with ILO tripartite partners and has the financial support of the European Union (EU). The project will focus on challenges posed by discrimination and a lack of integration of immigrants and their descendants.

ILO projections suggest that, if corrective measures are not taken to change declining workforce participation rates in Europe that are currently fueled by negative demographic trends, then the resulting labour shortage could result in a reduction in per capita Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to only 78 per cent of the expected level for 2050.  (…)



Economy and development



Involving the rural poor in development programmes

A CD-Rom features 135 participatory approaches, methods and tools

Rome, 19 October - Hunger eradication and poverty alleviation programmes cannot be effective unless the poor have a voice in the planning and implementation of schemes meant to help them, according to a report by FAO's Sustainable Development Department. Participatory processes and approaches have become increasingly important in FAO programmes and projects. They help to motivate and mobilize people to participate in local development activities. In India, for example, a successful participatory approach has transformed a poverty-stricken area into a fertile land.

Located in the rainfed Shivalik hill region in Haryana State, Sukhomajri village was once incapable of feeding its people, most of whom preferred to migrate to the cities in search of a livelihood. Today, it is a model watershed development village and produces three crops every year.  (…)

FAO actively promotes capacity-building programmes to strengthen awareness and skills of local government staff and representatives of local communities. These programmes enhance their decision-making ability for participatory planning and implementation of rural development and poverty reduction projects.

A CD-Rom containing 135 participatory approaches, methods and tools, relevant to a wide range of topics about the livelihoods of the rural poor, has recently been produced by FAO. The CD-Rom, which targets extension and training providers, also contains a selection of 215 documents pertaining to participation in development. Policy-makers, training providers and partner organizations can obtain a CD-Rom by e-mailing to


IFAD to provide assistance to indigenous communities in Peru 

Rome, 11 October – More than 15,000 poor Quechua and Aymara households living in the Southern Highlands of Peru will be supported through an innovative USD 21.7 million development programme aimed to improve the quality of their products and have better access to markets. The programme will also help indigenous communities of the Sierra region to manage natural resources and use their traditional knowledge.

Of the total programme cost, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide USD 15.9 million. The Government of Peru will contribute USD 1.2 million and the beneficiaries themselves will provide about 13 per cent of the total cost of the programme.

The loan agreement was signed today by the President of IFAD, Lennart Båge, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Peru, Manuel Rodriguez, at IFAD headquarters in Rome.

One of the programme’s most innovative features is the direct transfer of funds to small farmers and microentrepreneurs. The participants can use this money to improve the quality of their products and boost their businesses. (…) Resources will be available specifically for women farmers, so they can decide what technical services they need most. (…)


Ronaldo and Zidane make a global pitch for the Millennium Development Goals

Geneva, 15 October - World-famous soccer players, Ronaldo and Zinédine Zidane, are set to appear in a 30 second TV spot promoting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on behalf of their role as UNDP's Goodwill Ambassadors. The spot will air worldwide on 17 October to mark the 2004 International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, an annual occasion aimed at renewing and realizing collective commitments to achieve the MDGs by 2015.

Entitled "Let's score these goals," the TV spot features the star athletes on the pitch while texts highlighting the MDGs appear on the screen and fly symbolically towards the goal post. The eight goals were adopted by world leaders at the UN Millennium Summit in 2000 and they set clear targets for reducing poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental degradation, and discrimination against women-all by 2015.

The TV spot was produced on a pro bono basis by the Geneva-based production company, FreeProductions and directed by Swiss photographer, Thierry Bourdeille. Over 50 international, cable television networks have agreed to provide free airtime to broadcast the spot. These include, amongst others: MTV, BBC TV, SKY News/Sports, ITN, CNN International, Discovery Channel, ESPN Star Sports, TF1, France2, France3, Canal Plus Belgium and France, TV5, and Eurosport.


Beijing+10 and ADF meetings close, "Big Table" opens

Addis Ababa, 15 October - A meeting of the annual "Big Table" opened Saturday morning in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The event brings together selected African finance and planning ministers, development partners from OECD countries and representatives from key development institutions and African private sector bodies. Since its establishment by the Economic Commission for Africa in 2000, the Big Table has convened three meetings and a special session in October 2003.

The theme of this Big Table is Stimulating Private Investment in Africa. The 34 participants will review constraints to domestic and foreign investment in Africa, and talk about approaches and mechanisms that could help scale up private investment in the continent.

Earlier Big Table meetings considered growth and poverty reduction, the critical importance of African leadership and commitment, debt sustainability, and the Africa-donor partnerships and securing financing for development.


IFAD project in Guinea gives rural poor families a chance to increase incomes and agricultural productivity

Rome, 8 October – More than 120,000 rural poor people living in the North Lower region of Guinea will benefit from a USD 17.7 million project, designed to increase their incomes and give them a voice in community-led decisions.  The eight-year project will be financed by a USD 14.2 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to the Republic of Guinea. The government of Guinea will provide USD 2.1 million to the project, and project participants will contribute USD 1.4 million. (…)

The majority of Guinea’s population live in rural areas. Limited natural resources and poor quality soil make the North Lower region of the country particularly impoverished. The new project will introduce sustainable management of natural resources and anti-erosion measures in the region. Project participants will identify agricultural technologies that best suit their needs and the region’s fragile environment. They will also learn about the use of better quality seeds, particularly for rice and peanut farming. (…)


Global campaigns for secure tenure and urban governance launched in Morocco

Casablanca, 8 October – UN-HABITAT’s Global Campaign for Secure Tenure and the Global Campaign on Urban Governance were launched in Morocco this week to mark World Habitat Day.

The launch on Monday 4 October drew more than 700 delegates representing the government, civil society, local authorities, the private sector, UN-HABITAT and UNDP, and was held in the district of Ben M’Sik in Casablanca, home of the country’s largest slum..

The World Habitat Day launch provided an opportunity to announce the implementation of the “Cities without Slums” programme which will enable Morocco, the first country in the Arab region to launch the two campaigns, to be a slum-free nation by 2010. Representatives of different stakeholders, including a woman, living in a slum of Ben M’Sik, signed the “Casablanca Declaration” that translates the commitment of all parties to the principles of the two campaigns.






Thai Princess agrees to appointment as WFP Special Ambassador for school feeding

Rome, 11 October  – The United Nations World Food Programme today announced that Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand’s Royal Family will become WFP’s Special Ambassador for School Feeding.

Her Royal Highness, a recognised authority on nutrition and education, will promote the benefits of school feeding and good nutrition in WFP’s Food for Education programmes. Presented today by WFP Executive Director James T. Morris during the agency’s Executive Board meeting in Rome, Her Royal Highness, the daughter of King Bhumipol Adulyadej, spoke about her new role and the critical importance of education combined with good nutrition. (…)

In Asia, 5.3 million children are enrolled in WFP school feeding programmes in 12 countries -- Laos, Cambodia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Bangladesh, China, Myanmar, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Timor-Leste, India, Indonesia and Nepal. In some countries, the meals provided in school are combined with de-worming activities to help children achieve better health as well as literacy. (…)


Poland emerges as international aid donor

Warsaw, 8 October - Poland, for the past decade a recipient of international economic assistance as it prepared for entry into the European Union, is now emerging as a donor country itself. The government has pledged to devote 0.1 percent of Poland's gross domestic product to development assistance by 2006, with most of it going to help poor African and Asian countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals.

From US$27 million last year, Poland will raise development assistance to $230 million by 2006, equal to 0.1 percent of the gross domestic product. Due to obligations stemming from membership in the EU and OECD, countries in Central and Eastern European states are also beginning international aid programmes of their own.

According to the government's development cooperation policy, the main goal is to contribute to sustainable development and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa and Asia. Poland will also provide technical assistance to countries in Eastern Europe under economic transformation. (…) A new public opinion poll shows that 63 percent of the Poles are in favour of contributing aid to developing nations. (…)


ADRA Liberia rehabilitates war-ravaged schools

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, 10 October – Five schools destroyed or damaged by war in Nimba County, Liberia will undergo reconstruction and rehabilitation provided by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). The six-month project, funded by Japan Platform through ADRA Japan, supports a government effort by the Ministry of Education to get children affected by war back to school. (…)

The school rehabilitation project will also provide schools with furniture, supplies, sports equipment, training, and health education. Hand-pump water wells and latrines at the schools will either be rehabilitated or constructed. More than 1,500 students and 150 teachers living in the Tappita District of Nimba County are expected to benefit from this project. (…)

Over the last six months ADRA has conducted similar activities in Tappita and Zoe-Geh Districts including the construction of shelters for more 500 families. Funding for these activities was provided by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) through ADRA Denmark.


WFP surpasses target, feeding more than 1.3 million people in Darfur

Khartoum, 6 October – The United Nations World Food Programme fed more than 1.3 million people in the Darfur region of western Sudan in September, exceeding its own target of 1.2 million and recording its largest food distribution since the humanitarian crisis began.

Using a combination of trucks, aircraft and trains, WFP moved a total of 21,535 metric tons of food aid to 1,336,992 people in crisis-affected areas of North, South and West Darfur.

WFP’s ability to reach this huge number of people was enhanced by the presence of large stocks of food aid in the regional centres of Nyala, El-Fasher and El-Geneina. Much of it was due to be delivered in August, but was held over until September because roads were blocked at the height of the rainy season, and land routes were closed due to widespread insecurity.

The end of the rainy season in September coupled with an increase in WFP’s truck fleet opened up the possibility of moving a much greater volume of food aid by road. In the camps for internally displaced people, a stronger capacity among WFP’s non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners improved the delivery of food into the hands of those in need. (…)



Peace and security



Palestine Rehabilitation Forum concludes, announces initiatives for development

Beirut, 14 October (United Nations Information Services) - The “Arab International Forum on Rehabilitation and Development in the Occupied Palestinian Territory: Towards an Independent State” launched several initiatives today, aimed at enhancing assistance to the economic and social development of the Palestinian territories.

The initiatives, which were announced in a press conference at the UN House in Beirut, included: the launching of a project to replant 1 million trees in the Palestinian territories by the “Association for Agricultural Relief in Palestine” and “Al-Arabiah for Nature Protection”, in cooperation with ESCWA; the establishment of a network of regional NGOs to strengthen civil society in Palestine; the creation of a start up fund aimed at boosting small business for women; and an ESCWA initiative to train Palestinian and Arab journalists.

The press conference followed a closing ceremony that concluded the Forum. In her closing remarks to the participants, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) Mervat Tallawy said the Forum had achieved its aim – to provide a coordinated Palestinian vision for development – despite criticisms that planning for development at a time of war and occupation was futile.  (…)


High hopes for Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World

13 October - The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) will urge world leaders to build on their successes in tackling the antipersonnel landmine plague when the historic Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World opens next month.

The Nairobi Summit is the first review conference of the convention which prohibits all use, production, trade and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines and the biggest milestone since its birth in Ottawa on 3 December 1997. The conference runs from 29 November to 3 December at the United Nations Gigiri convention centre in Kenya’s capital and on the world’s most mine-affected continent.

“The Summit will be a success if it produces a bold, practical action plan, plus financial pledges and political commitments to make this happen,” said ICBL coordinator Liz Bernstein. “With our goal of a mine-free world now within reach, states needs to show some staying power!” she added.

Some 200 campaigners, landmine survivors, deminers and others in ICBL will participate in the Summit alongside several hundred representatives from governments and international organisations. In addition to the Mine Ban Treaty’s 143 member states that will be represented there, a number of non-members are expected to send observers. (,,,)


Training seminar in Morocco on international cooperation against terrorism and organized crime

Vienna, 4 October - Fifty high-level Moroccan authorities, predominantly judges and prosecutors are attending a training seminar in Tangier on international cooperation in criminal matters, from 4 to 6 October 2004. The training seminar is being sponsored by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Ministry of Justice of Morocco, and aims at sharing with participants the knowledge and legal expertise necessary to enhance cooperation with other States, by effectively applying the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the universal instruments against terrorism.

The Training Seminar, which follows Morocco’s ratification of 10 out of 12 counter-terrorism instruments and the United Nations Convention on Transnational Organized Crime, includes presentations by both UNODC and Moroccan experts, as well as discussion of case studies related to the daily practice of extradition and mutual legal assistance, in order to strengthen international cooperation in criminal matters.

The Seminar also provides an opportunity for the UNODC experts to present the main features of the new United Nations Convention against Corruption, which Morocco has recently signed.


Building the Capacity and the Vision for Peace in the 21st Century:

Working to go beyond War and Violence - November 1 – 4 London, UK

Policies and Methods for Conflict Transformation, Peacebuilding, War to Peace Transition, and Post-War Recovery for Governments, Citizens, NGOs and Community Organisations

Building the Capacity and the Vision for Peace is an intensive four-days training programme designed for UK-based diplomats, local and national policy and decision-makers, international and national NGOs and those working with conflict transformation, peacebuilding and post-war recovery in communities and countries affected by war and violence. The programme has been created at the request of ministry for peace – UK by TRANSCEND to bring together practitioners, policy makers, community workers, NGO and government staff from across the UK (…)

The four-day programme will introduce participants to the UN-adopted TRANSCEND method for Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means.  Drawing upon extensive experiences in peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and post-war recovery and reconciliation from Latin, America, Africa, Asia, and Europe, Building the Capacity and Vision for Peace will address contemporary war and peace issues confronting Britain and the world following the September 11th attacks, the continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan (Dharfur), Somalia, Colombia, Israel-Palestine, Chechnya and elsewhere, and develop concrete and practical policy proposals for governments, organizations and citizens working for peace and the constructive transformation of national and international conflicts.

ministry for peace is an organisation working for the creation of a Ministry for Peace within government and an independent Commission for Peace, whose joint purpose will be to implement, in all areas of UK government and society, the programme of action outlined in the 1999 UN Declaration on a Culture of Peace.  This aims to encourage values, attitudes and behaviours that address the root causes of violence, with a view to solving problems through dialogue and negotiation among individuals, groups and nations.






UNFPA welcomes new European contribution to secure reproductive health supplies

United Nations, New York, 14 October - The European Union will give $75 million this year to UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, to provide reproductive health supplies needed by developing countries. UNFPA immediately welcomed the decision, announced today at a special meeting of the General Assembly, marking the tenth anniversary of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD).

Hans van den Broek of the Netherlands, Special Envoy of the European Union Presidency, told the meeting that the Union’s 25 member States and the European Commission would collectively “fill the entire reproductive health commodities gap of $75 million in 2004 through a special contribution to UNFPA’s Reproductive Health Commodity Fund”. UNFPA has estimated it will need that amount to meet the 2005 supply requirements of 49 developing countries that depend on external assistance for contraceptives and condoms for HIV prevention. (…)


Campaign to end fistula now active in 30 countries

New web site launched:

United Nations, New York, 12 October 2004 — A new web site for the global Campaign to End Fistula, a tragic childbirth injury that affects at least 2 million women in developing countries, was launched today. Features include a three-minute web film, an interactive map highlighting Campaign progress, a photo gallery and testimonies of fistula patients and the doctors who care for them.

Fistula is preventable, and also treatable, through surgery that costs under $300. The Campaign was launched by UNFPA in 2003 in response to emerging evidence of the devastating impact obstetric fistula has on women’s lives. It involves a wide range of partners and currently supports 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab States. The long-term goal is to make fistula as rare in developing areas as it is in industrialized countries today. (…)

The Campaign works in three areas to: prevent fistula from occurring; treat women who are affected; and help women reintegrate into their communities once they are healed. In Niger, 600 community health agents received basic training on fistula prevention. In Bangladesh, the National Fistula Centre now performs surgery three days a week and has treated 140 women this year. In Chad, hundreds of women were taught new skills and received small grants following surgery, through an income-generation project.  (…)


Madagascar measles campaign more than a standout success

97.7% (against expected 95%) of children immunized!

Antananarivo, October 11 - In the presence of the President of the Republic and the National Measles Coordinating Committee, the Minister of Health announced today that 7,314,520 children – 97.7% of the some 7.7 million targeted -- had been vaccinated against measles. (…)

Before this campaign, some six out of ten children in Madagascar were un-immunized and therefore unprotected from some of the big vaccine preventable diseases such as measles, tetanus, diphtheria and pertusis. This is one of the main reasons why Madagascar decided to launch this campaign this year – both to reduce illness and death from this disease as well as to meet international commitments to eventually eradicate the disease.

The launching of the measles campaign in Madagascar is part of a longer term strategy to strengthen routine immunization. This strategy, known as Reach Every District, has already been initiated, with the technical and financial assistance of UNICEF and WHO, in several districts and will be expanded in the coming years

The national measles campaign, which began on September 13, was made possible with the generous support of international partners such as UNICEF, WHO, the UN Foundation, CDC, the American Red Cross, CIDA, JICA, USAID, Rotary and numerous private and national companies, not to mention thousands of community workers, volunteers, scouts, army personnel and religious groups.


55 Rotary members from Seattle, Portland, Atlanta and Honolulu will travel to Ethiopia to immunize children against polio orphans

Part of Global Effort to Eradicate Polio Worldwide by 2005

Seattle, WA, USA, 15 October  - As polio still threatens children in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia, Rotary remains steadfast in its 20-year commitment to eliminate this crippling disease worldwide. In support of this global endeavor, 55 Rotary club members from Seattle, WA — Portland, OR — Atlanta, GA and Honolulu, HI will depart for Ethiopia on Friday, 15 October and will return on Sunday, 24 October. While in Ethiopia, the Rotary members will join a vast array of other volunteers and health workers to systematically go house-to-house and village-to-village, to administer the drops of the oral polio vaccine children. (…) In addition to protecting children from polio, members of the group — all contributing their personal resources to cover trip expenses — will visit a well project launched by Seattle area Rotary clubs to provide safe and clean drinking water. (…)

Once a major reservoir of the poliovirus, no new cases of polio have been reported in Ethiopia for three years — a marked improvement from the year 2000 when 144 children were infected by this crippling disease. (…) Much of this progress is due in part to Rotary's commitment. Rotary has contributed US$5.7 million to polio eradication efforts in Ethiopia, more than US$205.8 million to eradicate polio throughout the African continent and more than US$500 million worldwide; as well as countless volunteer hours during national immunization campaigns.

Today, half of the world's population now lives in certified polio-free areas. The Americas were declared free from polio in 1994, as well as the Western Pacific region in 2000, and Europe in 2002.

Once eradicated, polio will be the second disease after smallpox ever to be eliminated worldwide.


World Health Organization supports global effort to relieve chronic pain

Geneva, 11 October -- The World Health Organization (WHO) today co-sponsors the first Global Day Against Pain, which seeks to draw global attention to the urgent need for better pain relief for sufferers from diseases such as cancer and AIDS. The campaign, organised by the International Association on the Study of Pain (IASP) and the European Federation of the IASP Chapters (EFIC), asks for recognition that pain relief is integral to the right to the highest attainable level of physical and mental health..

WHO representatives will join global specialists in chronic pain management and relief at a conference in Geneva convened to highlight the Global Day Against Pain and to press for urgent action from governments across the world. The conference coincides with the release this month of the Council of Europe's newly formulated recommendations on palliative care including management of pain. The recommendations provide detailed guidance for setting up a national policy framework, and are available in 17 European languages. (…)


United Nations Drugs Office confirms steady reduction in opium cultivation in Myanmar

Vienna, 11 October (UN Information Service) -- Opium cultivation in Myanmar shows a 29 per cent decline in comparison to 2003, according to the Myanmar Opium Survey 2004, released today by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). (…)

According to the survey, 260,000 households were involved in opium cultivation in 2004. Most of them reside in remote, mountainous, and isolated areas, and opium is often their primary or sole source of income. Most importantly, the average income of non-opium producing households is 30 per cent higher than opium producing households. “Opium is a last resort for farmers confronting hunger and poverty,” said Mr. Costa. “If we do not provide for the basic human needs of farmers in Myanmar, they will never escape the vicious circle of poverty and opium cultivation. The opium communities will remain vulnerable to human rights abuses, human trafficking and forced relocation,” added Mr. Costa, the Executive Director of UNODC. (…)


One million polio vaccinators, 80 million children, 23 countries:  Africa launches largest-ever immunization campaign

Africans unite across borders in massive effort to combat epidemic and get polio eradication effort back on track

More than one million polio vaccinators in 23 African countries embarked on the continent's single-largest immunization campaign in history, aiming to immunize 80 million children across sub-Saharan Africa against polio over just four days.  This massive effort is a direct response to an ongoing polio epidemic in the region, which risks paralyzing thousands of children for life.
Tens of thousands of traditional and religious leaders, school teachers, parents and Rotary club members joined nurses and a vast array of other volunteers and health workers to systematically go house-to-house and village-to-village, to hand-deliver the vaccine to every child under the age of five years.

Civil unrest in a number of the participating countries complicates access to children, particularly in parts of Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia and the Sudan.  The recent spread of polio in the Darfur region of the Sudan and spread to Khartoum underscores the speed with which the virus can re-infect communities, particularly those which are displaced and isolated by conflict. (…) Start dates for each respective national campaign vary - 19 of the 23 countries' campaigns will be conducted in October.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).      For further information visit:  or



Energy and safety



World Food Day 2004 highlights the importance of biodiversity to global food security
Agricultural diversity holds one of the keys to ending hunger, FAO Director-General says

Rome, 15 October - Biological diversity is one of the keys to ending world hunger, Dr. Jacques Diouf, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said today. (…)

During World Food Day's observance at FAO headquarters, a farmers' event also took place as well as a civil society forum. For the first time on World Food Day, farmers from different parts of the world had a chance to speak about their experience in enhancing biodiversity and increasing food production in a sustainable way.

Elsewhere, various events were organized to celebrate World Food Day's theme. In the United States, sponsored by the U.S. National Committee for World Food Day, hundreds of WFD teleconference sites were set up at colleges and at U.S. Embassies across the world. Some colleges organized a week-long observance. In Sweden, substantive seminars for Parliamentarians and media, and the scientific community were organized. A conference on the importance of biodiversity took place in Stockholm and a scientific seminar on biological diversity was organized today at the University of agriculture, in Uppsala. In India, essay competitions were organized in schools in Delhi. In several European and Middle Eastern capitals, school children competed in drawing contests on biodiversity and food security.


Community e-centres can help bridge digital divide

Bangkok, 13 October (United Nations Information Services) - UNESCAP has already begun a “focused thrust” on community e-centres to share best practices, build capacity and demonstrate pilot projects as a practical step toward to assist members and associate members in realizing the benchmarks established by the World Summit’s Plan of Action. (…)

The First Session of the Subcommittee on Information, Communications and Space Technology of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) is being held from 13-15 October 2004 at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok. (…)

The Subcommittee is mandated to promote capacity-building for creating an enabling environment for the development of information and communication technology (ICT), transfer and application, particularly through regional cooperation and networking of governmental, non-governmental and private sector organizations for the benefit of developing economies.



Environment and wildlife



Earth Charter motion at the IUCN World Conservation Congress - Bangkok, 17-25 November

The 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress will be held from 17-25 November 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Congress will be the key event of the year to address the world’s most pressing challenges of environment and development.

At this meeting the UICN Council will present a motion on the Earth Charter in which they are asking the Congress to endorse the Earth Charter and consider it as an ethical framework for their policies and programs, as well as an instrument for education on sustainable development, among other things. The conclusive statement of the Resolution is the following:

Resolution for 3rd World Conservation Congress, Bangkok 2004 - Earth Charter endorsement (…)

1. ENDORSES the Earth Charter as an inspirational expression of civil society's vision for building a just, sustainable and peaceful world.

2. ADOPTS the Earth Charter as an ethical guide for IUCN policy, and pledges to implement its principles through the IUCN Programme.

3. RECOMMENDS that the Earth Charter be used by the IUCN to help advance education and dialogue on global interdependence, shared values, and ethical principles for sustainable ways of living.

4. ENCOURAGES member organisations and states to consider endorsing the Earth Charter and determining the role the Earth Charter can play as a policy guide within their own spheres of responsibility.



Culture and education



Burundi's children back to school after years of conflict

Bujumbura, 14 October - A “Back to school” campaign was launched today by the Government of Burundi supported by UNICEF in collaboration with other UN agencies. The objective is to boost the primary school enrolment in Burundi where the net school enrolment rate only reaches 56 per cent. The campaign is targeting approximately 440,000 children through the distribution of 350 metric tonns basic school materials.

The distribution of school material is complemented by other activities such as rehabilitation of class rooms and water and sanitation facilities in schools, the introduction/extension of school canteens and support to school gardens in addition to the provision of school benches, pupil and teacher’s manuals, black boards, de-worming tablets and uniforms. Training of teachers and the revision of the curriculum will further improve the quality, make schools child friendly and transform schools to safe heavens against violence, abuse and discrimination. (…)


St. Petersburg hosts international conference on the protection of cultural property in armed conflict

More than sixty state officials have gathered in Russia's second city to attend the third regional conference held to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Hague Convention

14 October - Organised by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, with the participation of UNESCO and under the auspices of the State Hermitage Museum, this is the third regional conference being held to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1954 Convention on the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. While UNESCO has a general mandate to protect cultural property, the ICRC's mandate concerns the protection of cultural property in situations of armed conflict. The commitment of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in this area was expressed in a resolution on cultural property adopted at its 2001 Council of Delegates. (…)


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A report on 57th Annual UNDPI/NGO Conference held at UN headquarters on September 8-10, 2004 prepared by Barbara Valocore* for Good News Agency:


Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action



The recent DPI conference was a look at the Millennium Development Goals; what has been accomplished so far, what more needs to be done, and the problems and successes of actions taken so far. It was very specific and focused on this theme in all workshops and plenary sessions.

    This conference demonstrated the will of humanity toward building a more coherent and focused effort to successfully implement the Millennium Declaration and the 8 Goals which all 191 Member States pledged to meet by 2015.  Repeatedly throughout the three days, comments were made that we need more political will. Speakers asked that NGO’s apply more pressure to governments to live up to their commitments and pledges and over and over again, the spiritual Will was invoked in many ways.

   The role of women, in Africa particularly, was highlighted by Bineta Diop, who discussed the progress made by women’s groups working at the regional/local level. There is a strong gender and peace building program in Senegal (co-incidentally, Senegal is one of the places where the Global Ecovillage Network is very strong.)

    Miklos Marschall of “Transparency International” outlined certain structures that tend to become “rolling disasters” because of lack of proper planning. He discussed the lessons learned and the consequences of corruption and results that can be expected when corruption is not stopped. “Corruption”, he said, “is a crime against humanity”. He discussed the idea of whistle blowing and how important it is in some situations. (

    Wu Qing of China discussed the wide spread use of women’s circles, empowerment workshops, literacy classes and the efforts there of certain groups to encourage women to speak up and be part of the decision making process.  She repeatedly mentioned “Circles of sharing” and “Seeds of sharing”. She said she wanted to make transparency the rule of law and the floor erupted in cheers when she said,” I want China to be ruled by law, not by men!”  She added that because of the large trafficking of women and girls added to the fact of female infanticide in China, 60-80 million men are now faced with the prospect of not being able to find wives.

    Sir Emyr Jones Parry, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, made the point that in the effort to move toward a more responsible international society, the old idea of “live and let live” doesn’t work any longer because we’ve seen what can happen with a hands off approach when genocide and corrupt governments are allowed to go unchecked, such as recently in Sudan.   

   In this plenary session, all speakers emphasized the critical importance of the role of NGO’s and their work in the implementation of the MDG’s, pointing to the truth of the idea of “with human hands and feet…”

   Later, the theme of diversity within unity arose as Alicia Barcena discussed the asymmetry in different countries and how the MDG’s need to be tailored for individual countries’ needs and situations. In a biological model, “development” means diversity.  She stressed the importance of interdependence and the need for global citizenship. She mentioned that the citizenship agenda should be at the heart of public policies, highlighting the important role of humanity as a whole. 

  Another theme that emerged strongly was the equitable distribution of the world’s resources and wealth and the destructive effects of aid which creates a dependency and fosters corruption. Often, in several contexts, “aid” was seen as highly destructive and demeaning.

    Microcredit:  Mercedes Canalda of the Dominican Republic sounded a very positive note in her description of the success of microcredit in her area. It is a mechanism that can reach small farmers who don’t want gifts, but simply a temporary helping hand. She cites that 8 out of 10 businesses in her region are micro businesses and that macro policies are definitely influenced by micro business. These loans are meant for the poorest of the poor, echoing Muhammad Yunus’ philosophy.  

Some statistics: average loan size $10 - $175, 75% operate out of their homes. 85% are women. There is a 98-99% payback rate among women.        


   On Friday September 10th, the morning of the final day, the opening session was chaired by Salil Shetty, Director of the UN Millennium Campaign. He stressed the idea of political will as a necessary component to the implementation of the MDG’s, that every person has a voice and that it is important for resources to reach people in a transparent fashion. He reminded us that each country (191 to date) who signed on to the MDG’s pledged to give 0.7% of their national income toward these goals. The United States is currently giving only 0.14%.

   Oded Grajew, a former special assistant to President Lula of Brasil, again repeated the fact that although 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center attacks which are constantly discussed, 30,000 children die EVERY DAY of hunger related causes and no one seems to say anything! He also echoed the importance of engaging the political will of governments and suggested that citizens should publicize the facts if their governments  are not meeting their pledges for the MDG’s.  (Editor’s note: Recent years showed a slow trend of increase. Total Official Development Assistance (ODA) from member countries of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) reached US$68.5 billion in 2003.  This 2003 total represented 0.25% of DAC members’ combined gross national product, up from 0.23% in 2002 and 0.22% in 2001.)

    He stressed the importance of supporting and legitimizing the United Nations as the only global organization which is promoting peace and social justice. He questioned whether wealthy countries are doing enough and came to the general conclusion that they are not with a few exceptions, such as Sweden, which is really the only “developed” nation actually publicizing the MDG’s and the progress made. He urged the assembled group to create a greater sense of awareness regarding these issues critical to the health and future of humanity.  The organization he represents is Ethos Institute for Business and Social Responsibility –

    Many speakers mentioned that MDG #8 (Develop a global partnership for development) is the most important goal, highlighting the idea of the reality of global synthesis and importance for humanity to look at itself as a functioning whole which requires a transparent and rule based financial system and truly free and non-discriminatory global trade.  The bottom line is a commitment to good governance.

   The final Plenary session was a report back to the whole conference on the midday workshops. One of the speakers, Kavita Ramdas, who is President of the Global Fund for Women, had the assembly on its feet with her exhortations to the world community to wake up and begin to take care of our brothers and sisters who are undergoing terrific suffering while we sit and talk about what to do. She eloquently portrayed the lives of some of the women she knows and serves as desperate, lacking in any kind of hope or freedom, and debased beyond the ken of most of the people present.


     Midday workshops: All workshops in the 1:15 – 2:45 slot were on the topic of the MDG’s and several of them had the word or concept of spirituality in the title or workshop description. Lifebridge Foundation and Findhorn Foundation along with another foundation in Mexico presented one of the midday workshops on the Zero Hunger Program of Brasil. Spiritual advisor and Special Assessor to the President of Brasil, Frei Betto, presented a report on Brasil’s innovative program at this workshop as a special guest. Later that day, Frei Betto was present at the ECOSOC briefing on this issue and was able first hand to observe his work actualizing at the United Nations.  

    In one workshop entitled, “Spiritual and Ethical Dimensions of the MDG’s”, Noel Brown encouraged the group to, “summon real spiritual authority and not apologize for it” and suggested that a paper be formally submitted to the Secretary General’s office on the ethical dimensions of the MDG’s.  He urged us to build coalitions of the spiritually and morally willing because we are now in a world which has no sanctuary or safe spaces. 

      In conclusion, there was a palpable sense of the oneness of humanity and the stirring and waking of the human being. Again and again, comments along the lines that all successful movements begin at the grassroots, or that “We the Peoples” hold the power, were enunciated with vigor and conviction. There was a strong sense of hope and commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and that WE, together, can accomplish anything for the benefit of our fellow human beings.


*Co-convener of the Spiritual Caucus at the UN,



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Next issue: 12 November.


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