Good News Agency – Year V, n° 7



Weekly - Year V, number 7 – 21 May 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 2,400 media in 48 countries, as well as to 2,500 NGO 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 developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education



International legislation



Landmark toxics treaty becomes international law

Gland, Switzerland, 17 May – WWF today said that the entry into force of the Stockholm Convention on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) will significantly reduce toxic chemical threats to wildlife and people throughout the world.  "While applauding the initiative and commitment of the countries that have joined the treaty, WWF urges more governments to get on board quickly," said Clifton Curtis, Director of WWF’s Global Toxics Programme. "The Stockholm Convention is a shining example of how the international community can come together to address a serious environmental and health threat. Whales, polar bears, birds of prey, and people throughout the world will benefit from this progressive, new global regime."

France became the 50th party to the Stockholm Convention on February 17, 2004, triggering a 90-day countdown for the treaty to become binding international law for countries which have ratified it. In the three years since the treaty has been open for ratification, 59 countries have joined the Convention.  The treaty will ban or severely restrict 12 extremely harmful chemicals, including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and several pesticides, with provisions to add additional chemicals in the future. (…)


UN health agency hails US signature of global anti-tobacco accord

12 May – The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today welcomed the United States Government's signing of a global treaty aimed at curbing tobacco-related deaths and disease, which now claim 5 million lives every year, a number that if left unchecked could double by 2020.

On Monday the US became the 109th country to sign the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control - the first-ever under the auspices of a United Nations agency. WHO said the signing showed Washington's commitment to maintaining standards of public health. The agency added that it was the first step in the process, and hoped that the next one would be the ratification of the treaty.

The treaty will take effect once 40 governments have ratified it; so far 12 have, and the European Parliament has recommended ratification. It requires ratifying nations to implement a comprehensive ban on tobacco advertising, sponsorship and promotion, set new labelling - including larger, more noticeable health warnings on cigarettes - and clean indoor air controls and strengthen legislation to clamp down on tobacco smuggling. It also requires Member States to prohibit tobacco product sales to minors.


Estonia joins the Mine Ban Treaty!

The Baltic nation's long-awaited accession may spur others...

By Sue Wixley

14 May - It may not have grabbed headlines like Estonia's new membership of the EU and NATO, but the country's accession to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty is most significant: Internationally, it sends a signal that Tallinn is committed to tackling humanitarian problems and recognises the value of collective action in doing so. Domestically, the move will boost efforts to clear the unexploded ordnance left behind from World War II and the Soviet era.

In the region, Estonia's accession turns the spotlight on the three countries in the EU that remain outside the treaty: Finland, Latvia and Poland. It is hoped that these and other non-members will join the treaty in the coming months ahead of the 2004 Nairobi Summit on a Mine Free World, a major milestone in the life of the Mine Ban Treaty.

The 2004 Nairobi Summit on a Mine Free World, the treaty's first review conference, takes place from 29 November to 3 December in Kenya's capital.

The Mine Ban Treaty entered into force under international law five years ago. It prohibits any use, production or trade of antipersonnel mines, and requires destruction of stockpiled mines in four years, clearance of mined areas in ten years, and assistance to mine victims.

Estonia completed its accession formalities at the United Nations in New York on 12 May.


United Nations Security Council Unanimously Passes WMD Resolution

On 28 April, the United Nations Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 1540. The resolution, originally drafted by the US, calls upon all 191 member states of the UN to “combat by all means” the spread of weapons of mass destruction. The resolution will require all UN members to “adopt and enforce appropriate effective laws” to prevent “any non-state actor” from being able to “manufacture, acquire, possess, develop, transport or use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons and their means of delivery.” The resolution not only targets terrorist threats but also requires states, including alleged proliferators such as Pakistan, Iran and North Korea, to adopt laws or regulations to enforce the ban on the transfer of prohibited weapons. (…)

The resolution calls for the creation of a Security Council Committee to be established within six months to monitor how countries are implementing the provisions.

However, the resolution is flawed it fails to acknowledge the disarmament obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to identify measures to reduce and eliminate nuclear arsenals. It also reflects the one-sided emphasis on containing horizontal proliferation while ignoring vertical proliferation of nuclear, as well as biological and chemical weapons. Furthermore, the initial negotiations on the resolution were restricted to the Permanent Security Council Members (China, France, Russia, UK and US), perpetuating concerns regarding the longstanding monopoly of power in the Security Council and on nuclear weapons by those five nations.

The Sunflower, May 2004 –



Human rights



Half of Burundians displaced in 2002 have returned home, UN says

14 May  – The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Burundi has dropped by half, as people have returned home in the past two years, mainly to the southern provinces, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today.

Some 140,000 IDPs remain out of the 281,000 who fled their homes in 2002, OCHA said after conducting a new survey in March and April of those in the IDP camps with help from the Burundian Ministry for the Rehabilitation and Reintegration of Displaced and Repatriated Persons, as well as the National Commission for the Rehabilitation of Disaster-affected People.

The rate of return of the IDPs had speeded up near the end of 2003 and some 58 per cent of the 28,679 displaced families surveyed expressed their willingness to return home in the near future, OCHA said. (…) Some 44 per cent of the people still living in IDP camps were in the provinces of Gitega, Kayanza, Kirundo, Muyinga, Muramvya, Ngozi and Karuzi, OCHA said. People displaced temporarily because of fighting and IDPs living with host families were not surveyed, it added.


UN refugee agency extends Western Sahara family visit initiative

14 May – The United Nations refugee agency today began a month-long series of flights between refugee camps in Algeria and the city of Smarra in Western Sahara, expanding its two-month-old family visit programme. Smarra is the third Western Saharan city to be included in the confidence-building initiative, which started 5 March and began with flights between the Algerian city of Tindouf and Laayoune, the capital of the Territory, and later expanding to Dakhla.

More than 420 people - both refugees and residents of the Western Sahara Territory - have participated in the weekly flights so far, many of them seeing family members for the first time in decades, a spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said. (…)

UNHCR's confidence-building initiative, which has been in the making for more than half a decade, first got underway in January when it established phone lines linking people in the refugee camps with their relatives in Western Sahara. (…)



Economy and development



African mayors meet in Lagos

Lagos, 12 May - The first New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Cities Forum organized by UN-HABITAT opened in Lagos, Nigeria on Tuesday with a clarion call on African cities representated by some 300 delegates to promote sustainable economic growth and regional integration.

The Sustainable NEPAD Cities Programme is a joint initiative of UN HABITAT and the African Union through the NEPAD Secretariat. The programme seeks to engender in Africa a system whereby cities showcase the core values of the NEPAD initiative by being functional, economically efficient, equitable, environmentally sound, safe and secure. The Lagos Consultative Forum is the first meeting of representatives of the cities at which they will exchange ideas and strategize on how to attain the goals spelt out under the initiative. Lagos is Africa’s most populous city with an estimated 15 million inhabitants.  (…)


Afghanistan and its neighbours shape outline for regional cooperation

Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 11 May – "Our politics is the politics of poverty reduction and economic cooperation. We must focus on ways to make the entire region competitive because the advantages are immense," Afghanistan Finance Minister, Ashraf Ghani told delegates at the opening session of a three-day regional conference of high-level government and business leaders from Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan

Their meeting in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan will begin to map out new opportunities for trade and investment with Afghanistan. Representatives from the region's eight participating countries are exploring mutual avenues for economic cooperation, trade and transit. Supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and hosted by the Government of Kyrgyzstan, the conference for "Afghanistan's Regional Economic Cooperation: Central Asia, Iran and Pakistan" is aimed at helping Afghanistan's re-entry into the regional economy.

The 150 participants are learning about the "new" Afghanistan, and considering actions to regularize trade and transit, harmonize customs procedures and critically identify trade and investment opportunities. (…)


WBCSD, WRI launch new edition of Corporate GHG Reporting Standard

San Diego, California, May 5  -- The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and World Resources Institute (WRI) today released a new edition of the international standard used worldwide by businesses to report and set targets for their greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).  The Greenhouse Gas Protocol: A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard, Revised Edition ( was unveiled during the May 5-7 conference on GHG Registries, Climate Policy and the Bottom Line held in San Diego.

This standard, first launched in 2001, has become the most widely used global standard for corporate accounting of greenhouse gas emissions. It was developed by over 500 experts from businesses, NGOs, and governments. It has been adopted by over 150 companies, including industry associations representing pulp and paper, aluminum, and cement, and enjoys the support of NGOs and governments alike. Numerous climate initiatives, including reduction programs, trading schemes, environmental standards, and registries have based their measurement and reporting guidelines on the GHG Protocol. (…)

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development ( is a coalition of 175 international companies united by a shared commitment to sustainable development. The council also benefits from a Regional Network of 48 business councils and partner organizations, representing more than 1,000 business leaders worldwide.






More than 130 volunteers attended this year's CARE Capitol HIll Day in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C., May 12 - Activism took on a new dimension on May 5 and 6 when more than 130 CARE volunteers took to the halls of Congress to meet with senators and congressional representatives to enlist their aid in the global fight against poverty. Supporters came from as far away as Seattle, WA and as nearby as Alexandria, VA, right across the Potomac River, to fan out in the various office buildings on Capitol Hill for CARE’s first national Capitol Hill Day. (…)

The two-day program began with workshops, where CARE staff offered tips on effective advocacy and an in-depth review of CARE’s policy agenda — covering everything from better access to basic education and women's health care to addressing the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Andrew Natsios, administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Frank Sesno, former CNN Washington bureau chief, gave an energetic overview of the current policy environment in Washington.

The next day, participants met with 113 legislators and staff to urge greater support poverty-related issues (…)


Rotary creates "Miracle Field" for disabled children near Chicago

Chicago, 1 May  - The Bloomingdale-Roselle Rotary Club and the Chicago White Sox announced the opening of the Roselle Miracle Field on Saturday, May 1. It is the first public Miracle Field in the Chicago area, where children with disabilities can play America's favorite pastime with able-bodied children. White Sox former players Moose Skowron and Minnie Minoso attended the opening day celebration. The $350,000 Miracle League Field was built with the help of a $150,000 grant from Chicago White Sox Charities, with the remainder raised for the Bloomingdale-Roselle Rotary Club's Centennial Project. The Roselle Park District is providing the use of the land.

The Miracle League was formed in 1998 by the Rockdale, Georgia Youth Baseball Association. Today, nearly 100 fields have been constructed in cities across the U.S. Miracle Fields are made from a weather-resistant rubberized surface, designed specifically for wheelchair bound and/or physically disabled children and adults.

A soccer/football facility for Somkhele, South Africa

This weekends' announcement by FIFA to bring the 2010 World Cup to South Africa did more than bring joy to a country that recently celebrated 10 years on independence, but in a small corner of Kwa Zulu Natal there was an extra reason to celebrate. For the past six months Architecture for Humanity has been preparing for the launch of their 2004 Summer Design Competition - to design a soccer facility in Somkhele, South Africa.

In many parts of Africa sporting activities, in particular soccer/football, are being incorporated into a variety of programs geared towards helping youth to address a broad range of issues affecting their lives. The "team" approach is especially important if countries are to successfully meet and overcome their current challenges, from poverty to HIV/AIDS, and from malnutrition to educational access.

This summer we are challenging the creative world to design a football facility in Somkhele, Kwa-Zulu Natal, South Africa. This facility, run by medical professionals from the Africa Center for Health and Population Studies, will serve as a gathering place for youth between the ages of 9 and 14 including home to the first-ever girls football league in the area. The pitch will also act as a tool to disseminate information on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment and eventually a service point for a mobile health care clinic



Peace and security



Canada contributes $ 3.3 million for mine action in Bosnia and Herzegovina

May 12 - The Canadian Ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ms. Shelley Whiting today announced a $3.3 million (US) multi-year contribution by the Government of Canada for mine action in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The contribution will be made through the United Nations Development Program's Integrated Mine Action Programme (IMAP). Ambassador Whiting made the announcement together with Minister Safet Halilovic, Minister of Civil Affairs and Mr. Jens Toyberg-Frandzen, UNDP Resident Representative. (…)

IMAP was officially launched by UNDP and the Ministry of Civil Affairs on February 26, 2004. The 5-year Programme creates a clear link between mine clearance priorities and Bosnia's long-term economic development and integrates it with the UNDP's institutional capacity building efforts in the area of mine action. IMAP will be a fundamental support factor for the BiH Government in meeting objectives of the National Demining Strategy and for the BiH citizens through the reduction of the mine threat in the country. (…)


ICBL Exhibition at the Nairobi Summit

Call for photo, video and audio submissions

By Jackie Hansen

14 May -The ICBL [International Campaign to Ban Landmines] is creating a multimedia exhibition to open at the Nairobi Summit, being held 29 November - 3 December 2004 at the United Nations in Nairobi, Kenya. This exhibition will provide a rare glimpse into the life of the civil society movement to ban landmines through the voices and images of campaigners. It will show how individuals have successfully created change and how they will continue to work for social change until landmines no longer pose a threat to communities. (…)

Exhibition of 30 photographs, accompanied by text quotations, a textual history of the movement to ban landmines and a slideshow with video and audio interviews and photographs documenting campaign activities. (…)


Syria: ICRC launches "Children and War" campaign

30 April - The ICRC launched its "Children and War" campaign in Syria on Wednesday.- The opening event, held at al-Assad Library Auditorium, was attended by Assma al-Assad, wife of Syria’s president, as well as various ministers, ambassadors, academics and representatives of international organizations, the media and Syrian child-aid organizations. It was organized to raise public awareness of the plight of children affected by armed conflict and of the campaign activities planned for the coming year. There was a stark contrast between the video clips viewed by audience of the suffering endured by children in war and the normal pleasures of children dancing and singing on the auditorium stage.

In current conflicts, widespread lack of respect for and ignorance of international humanitarian law means that children caught up in war are exposed to the risk of death and severe injury but also to other terrible ordeals such as separation from their loved ones, a pitiless struggle for survival in a hostile environment, imprisonment, economic exploitation, recruitment by warring parties, and sexual abuse. (…) The year-long "Children and War" campaign is being carried out in close cooperation with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent. In addition to publicizing the particular problems faced by children affected by armed conflict, its purpose is to spread knowledge of the basic rules of humanitarian law.


Is peace possible? August 5-15, International Summer University, Tamera, Portugal

First large preparatory meeting for the Experiment "Monte Cerro"

The future workshop Tamera invites you to an international Summer University and the first large preparatory meeting for the Experiment "Monte Cerro" . In this experiment 200 participants will live and work together for three years in order to develop general conditions for a long-term peace among humans and between humans and nature. The Summer University will inform about the experiment and give a first impression of the expected living together.

To the Summer University, potential participants for the experiment as well as all interested and committed persons in the different research areas are invited. The following working groups will take place: technology, ecology, place of the children, youth school, political network. In addition there will be a peace village group with participants from Israel and Palestine.
The 10 day Summer University will be a lively network meeting to the questions of a future worth living: There will be common morning attunements, lectures, possibilities for practical cooperation, music, study, art and community. For further information: Future Workshop Tamera, Monte do Cerro, P-7630 Colos, Portugal






Asian and North African Countries Close to Ending Polio, Announce Accelerated Plans to 'Mop-up' New Cases - West and Central African Countries Announce Emergency Strategies to Get Back on Track Following Outbreak

Geneva/New York, 17 May - Asian and North African countries could be polio-free within months, while west and central African countries must change track to stop the virus, according to data presented in Geneva today by Health Ministers from the world's six remaining polio-endemic countries. The ministers announced a two-pronged strategy to further accelerate
eradication activities in both areas.

With latest figures showing the Asian and north African regions at record low levels of polio (together reporting only 21 cases in 2004, compared to 94 this time last year), ministers of health of Afghanistan, Egypt, India, and Pakistan announced an accelerated strategy to “mop-up” each new virus. Under this ambitious initiative, each new poliovirus found will trigger two massive, tailored immunization campaigns in response, targeting between one and five million children, before the virus has the opportunity to spread. (…) The new strategy for the African region includes the reintroduction of a mass, synchronized immunization campaign across 21 countries by early 2005 at the latest.  This strategy will be supplemented, where appropriate, with mop-up campaigns around any importations. (…)

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.  The poliovirus is now endemic in only six countries, down from over 125 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988.  The six countries with indigenous wild poliovirus are: Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt. (…)

For further information on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative:, Rotary International’s PolioPlus site atwww.rotary,, or the polio site on


Health Professionals Issue a Wake Up Call on AIDS

Geneva, Switzerland, 16 May −  An urgent plea to all national governments and health professionals to stop procrastinating on the HIV/AIDS pandemic has been issued by the world's nursing, pharmacy and medical leaders. Representatives of the three health professions, attending the historic first conference of the World Health Professions Alliance in Geneva today, unanimously passed a resolution urging governments to recognise the scale of the tragedy facing the world and to immediately commit the necessary funds to fight the pandemic.

The conference, bringing together for the first time members from the International Council of Nurses, the International Pharmaceutical Federation and the World Medical Association, were moved to adopt the resolution after hearing a compelling and inspiring plea for support from Stephen Lewis, United Nations Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

The World Health Professions Alliance brings together medicine, nursing and pharmacy through their representative international organisations, International Council of Nurses (ICN), International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) and the World Medical Association (WMA) and represents more than 20 million health professionals worldwide.  


AIDS, children, empowering women central themes as UN marks Families Day

14 May  – The impact of HIV/AIDS which has already orphaned 14 million children worldwide, the worst forms of child labour that affect 180 million youngsters, and the "critical" need to empower women are central themes of the International Day of Families being celebrated throughout the United Nations system tomorrow. This year's celebration carries special significance as 2004 marks the 10th anniversary of the International Year of the Family.

Progress has been made in instituting national programmes of action and integrating family perspectives in national legislation and policy, Secretary-General Kofi Annan says in a message noting that the well-being of families has become a central focus of all concerned with national development and poverty eradication. (…)

The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) highlights the particular urgency for families affected by HIV/AIDS, whose toll of orphaned children is expected to exceed 25 million by 2010, and the vital role of women.  (…) The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) warns that children growing up without parental care are at grater risk of violence, exploitation, trafficking and discrimination.  "Family is a child's first line of protection," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy says. (…) She notes that some 246 million children work, with about 180 million engaged in the worst forms of child labour, and that ensuring that all children, especially girls and children without parental support, can attend school is one of UNICEF's key missions.


Religious groups crucial in worldwide vaccination campaigns – UNICEF

14 May – Partnering with religious groups is crucial to the successful implementation of vaccination programmes worldwide, according to a new guide launched by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) highlighting the increasing importance of community organizations in global public health initiatives. (…) Over 50 public health and religious community insiders attended the conference, "Building Trust: Religious Groups, the Media and Immunization," jointly organized by UNICEF, the World Conference on Religion for Peace (WRCP) and the Communication for Social Change Consortium - the first in a series geared at integrating religious communities in immunization efforts.

The conference featured in-depth discussions about the challenges and successes of working with religious communities in Nigeria, Iran, the Philippines and India. The guide includes extensive case studies of lessons learned and success stories from Sierra Leone, Angola and India.

After just two years of activity in Sierra Leone, a UNICEF-led social mobilization team, in collaboration with Christian and Muslim organizations, raised the immunization coverage of children under one year of age to 75 per cent, up from 6 per cent. In Angola, UNICEF partnered with churches in a campaign to end polio, which was essential during the period of civil war as social mobilizers were needed who were respected from both sides of the conflict. In India, meanwhile, Muslim leaders are working with UNICEF to counter resistance to polio vaccination in their communities, through informal discussion as well as public talks. (…)


UN funding nutrition training in Ethiopia

11 May 2004 – With more than half of Ethiopians suffering from chronic malnutrition, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has funded programmes to train trainers at three Ethiopian medical schools, adding nutrition to the expertise of more than 100 medical professionals so far this year, the agency said today.

A group of UN experts, including two UNICEF consultants, along with government employees and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) developed an Ethiopian protocol for the treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) during a crisis in 2002 and 2003. The UNICEF training programme gives participants practical experience in dealing with such cases, using therapeutic feeding units (TFUs), the agency said.

Since January, 41 nurses, 12 physicians and 54 medical interns had been trained in using the national protocol at universities in Addis Ababa, Gondar and Jimma, UNICEF said, while 201 professionals from health clinics, health care NGOs and medical schools have received training in managing therapeutic feeding centres. The SAM protocol has been extremely effective in reducing the fatality rate of children treated for severe malnutrition to less than 5 per cent, UNICEF said.


Botswana launches emergency polio campaign

Botswana's 200,000 young children to be immunized, following 'importation' of polio from Nigeria

Washington, 10 May - The Minister of Health of Botswana today kicked off a massive emergency immunization campaign in the southern African nation of Botswana, following the re-introduction of the poliovirus into the country from Nigeria in February.  Prior to this, polio had not been seen in Botswana since 1991.  This campaign is deemed critical to protect the country's children from further spread of the poliovirus. "The massive effort being launched in Botswana today is testimony to Africa's commitment to getting polio eradication back on track and ending this terrible disease," said Jonathan Majiyagbe, President of Rotary International.  "Just eight years ago, polio paralyzed more than 75,000 children across the continent.  Last year, fewer than 500 cases were reported in Africa." Rotary International is one of the four spearheading partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, and the first with a vision of a polio-free world.

From 10 to 14 May, approximately 2,600 vaccinators, district and national health supervisors and volunteers in Botswana will be involved in immunizing almost 200,000 children under the age of five years against polio.  A second immunization campaign will take place from 14 to 18 June. 
For further information on the Global Polio Eradication Initiative:  Rotary International's PolioPlus site at , , or the polio site on



Energy and safety



The gene revolution: great potential for the poor, but no panacea

Only a few countries are benefiting so far - food crops of the poor need more attention

Rome, 17 May  - Biotechnology holds great promise for agriculture in developing countries, but so far only farmers in a few developing countries are reaping these benefits, FAO said in its annual report 'The State of Food and Agriculture 2003-04', released today. Basic food crops of the poor such as cassava, potato, rice and wheat receive little attention by scientists, FAO said.

"Neither the private nor the public sector has invested significantly in new genetic technologies for the so-called 'orphan crops' such as cowpea, millet, sorghum and tef that are critical for the food supply and livelihoods of the world's poorest people," said FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf. "Other barriers that prevent the poor from accessing and fully benefiting from modern biotechnology include inadequate regulatory procedures, complex intellectual property issues, poorly functioning markets and seed delivery systems, and weak domestic plant breeding capacity," he added.

Biotechnology, one of the tools of the gene revolution, is much more than genetically modified organisms (GMOs), sometimes also called transgenic organisms.  While the potential benefits and risks of GMOs need to be carefully assessed case by case, the controversy surrounding transgenics should not distract from the potential offered by other applications of biotechnology such as genomics, marker-assisted breeding and animal vaccines, FAO said. (…)



Environment and wildlife



Finding solutions to wildfires

Gland, Switzerland, 14 May - Fire experts from around the world will gather in Sigriswil from 16–18 May to discuss one of the biggest threats to forests today. The first such meeting, it is organized by the Global Fire Partnership, founded by WWF, The Nature Conservancy and IUCN–The World Conservation Union. The meeting brings together experts from Australia, Canada, Germany, Indonesia, Russia, Spain, South Africa, Switzerland, and the US.

Wildfires have become a major issue in recent years. Each year, major areas are burnt — with terrible consequences for both people and nature. According to the European Forest Fires Information System, last year's summer heat wave in Europe saw over 25,000 fires in Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Austria, Finland, Denmark, and Ireland. The total area of forest burnt was 647,069 hectares — four times the size of Greater London. More than half this area, 390,146 hectares, was in Portugal, making last year the worst forest fire season the country had faced in the last 23 years. (…)

The expert meeting in Sigriswil will discuss recent research, which the Global Fire Partnership hope could help pinpoint potential fire hotspots, and identify major issues in dealing with large destructive fires,and their implications for nature conservation worldwide. (…)


UN agency helps launch campaign to clean up world's seas

14 May – With 80 per cent of ocean pollution coming from land-based activities and half the coasts - home to 1 billion people - already threatened by development activity, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) today took part in the launch of a new campaign to clean up the seas by ensuring that people have access to toilets and safe drinking water. (…)

The new campaign, launched in Cairns, Australia, along with the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), is called "Wastewater Emission Targets - Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for All, or WET-WASH. "WET-WASH is significant because of the linkages between WETs and the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for water and sanitation that are vital for poverty alleviation and sustainable development efforts," WSSCC Chairman Jan Pronk said. The MDGs are a set of time-bound a measurable goals that world leaders agreed to in 2000 that deal with halving extreme poverty and hunger, educational parity, eradicating diseases and illness and other global problems.

Globally, sewage is that largest source of marine contamination by volume; although industrial pollution and more diffuse sources, such as from agricultural practices and sedimentation due to deforestation and mining operations also pose a significant threat to the health and productivity of coastal resources. According to UNEP, the global economic burden due to ill-health, disease and death related to the pollution of coastal waters is estimated at $16 billion a year. (…)


Egypt cleans polluted waters naturally, helps local communities

10 May - Egypt is using indigenous plant life to treat dirty drainage water entering Lake Manzala, one of several large, heavily polluted lakes in the Nile delta, which then flows into the Mediterranean. Livelihoods in communities there will benefit from fish farming and improved farm irrigation as a result of the water treatment. The innovative initiative began operating in March.

It offers a solution to one of Egypt's most pressing environmental problems —- water scarcity — by helping it clean and reuse water for productive purposes. This could point the way to cleaning up other coastal lakes, contributing to a cleaner Mediterranean.

Pollutants entering the lake come from industries, households and farms. Much of the polluted water comes from eastern Cairo, where it is carried 170 kilometres by the Bahr El Baqar drain to the lake. Everyday 25,000 cubic metres of water will undergo the unique, low-cost treatment in which pumps channel water from the drain into huge ponds, where sediments settle. The water then flows into a series of specially designed wetlands where plants filter it gradually, removing at least three-quarters of the pollutants.

The Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs executed the project with support from UNDP, and the Global Environment Facility provided the funds. (…)



Religion and spirituality



2004 Parliament of the World’ Religions – Barcelona, Spain, July 7-13

Thousands at fourth “Parliament of the World’s Religions” to pledge concrete community action to confront religious violence, other community crises

Chicago – May 13 The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions today announced the 2004 Parliament of the World’s Religions (, the world’s largest interreligious gathering that will convene in Europe for the first time. The event—last held in Cape Town, South Africa in 1999—will be held in Barcelona, Spain July-7-13 and is expected to draw thousands of people of faith and spirit from around the world to find inspiration and forge new pathways to peace in the new age of international terrorism.

As part of its theme, “Pathways to Peace: The Wisdom of Listening, the Power of Commitment,” experts will train 2,000 of the Parliament attendees in how to perform these acts in their own diverse communities. Additionally, the Parliament will offer more than 400 programs, performances and lectures with leading thinkers such as His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama, scientist Jane Goodall, Nobel Peace Prize Winners Shirin Ebadi and Mairead Corrigan McGuire, theologian Hans Küng, Ela Gandhi (social activist and granddaughter of M. Gandhi), bishop Samuel Ruiz, Raimon Panikkar and many more.

The Parliament is organized by the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in partnership with the Universal Forum of Cultures – Barcelona 2004, a 141-day event that includes 40 congresses and “dialogues” on conditions of peace, cultural diversity and sustainable development. The Parliament is also organized in association with the UNESCO Centre of Catalonia, a non-governmental organization dedicated to international peace and cooperation through the promotion of dialogue and collaboration.

The Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions is a Chicago-based, interreligious organization that cultivates harmony between the world’s religious and spiritual communities and fosters their engagement with the world and other guiding institutions to achieve a vision of a peaceful, just and sustainable world.



Culture and education



Indigenous education boosts women’s health and education prospects – UN

12 May – A supportive policy environment as well as political commitment is needed to ensure quality indigenous education both as a right in itself and as a means to improve the economic and health prospects of women, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues has been told. Several recent studies show that one extra year beyond primary school boosts economic possibilities for women by 10 per cent, leads to greater literacy and lower fertility, reduces child mortality and fosters democratic citizenship, Linda King, Interim Chief of the Section on Education for Peace and Human Rights in the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), told the Forum.

Some 1,500 people from 500 groups are meeting over the next two weeks in the Forum’s third session at UN Headquarters in New York to focus attention on indigenous women and girls, whose well-being is critical to the survival and prosperity of their peoples' unique culture in this age of globalization. (…) Other needs include culture-based curricula appropriate to the community, curricula promoting positive aspects of indigenous cultures, and the use of indigenous languages. In addition, teachers should be familiar with indigenous cultures and languages, and use responsive and experiential teaching methods. (…)

The Forum advises and makes recommendations to the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) on social development, economic, cultural, human rights, environmental, education and health issues.


Five different UN video tapes now available!

From: American Model United Nations International

29 April - American Model United Nations (AMUN), in conjunction with the Ambassador's Club at the United Nations, is pleased to present the United Nations Video Series. The full series now includes five different video tapes, each covering two or more topics. These include tapes about how the inner workings of the United Nations, as well as a number of issue oriented tapes covering a wide variety of topics on the UN's agenda. Each video tape features UN Ambassadors and senior Secretariat members discussing a specific issue before the UN. (…)

Series I includes four segments which provide an in-depth view of diplomacy and the workings of the UN General Assembly. Each tape in Series II through V include two segments, featuring Ambassadors and high ranking UN Secretariat members discussing some of the most important issues facing the United Nations. These videos are appropriate for both university/college and high school level students, and have segments which can appeal to everyone, from experts to students who know very little about the work of the United Nations. They are available for order on-line at and are distributed exclusively through AMUN. All proceeds go to further work in educating students about the  United Nations.

The Earth Charter keeps on spreading around the world

The Earth Charter sent to all municipalities in Mexico

The Instituto Nacional de Federalismo y el Desarrollo Municipal (INAFED) is an organization that supports activities of the municipalities in Mexico. Mateo Castillo Ceja, Director of the Earth Charter Secretariat in Mexico, met with them at the beginning of May.  As a result of the meeting, the Earth Charter was sent to all municipalities and INAFED has published, on their website, an article in support of the Earth Charter ( where they state: "The Intituto Nacional para el Federalismo y el Desarrollo Municipal supports this initiative and invites all municipalities from Mexico to support the Earth Charter and commit to the defense of life."

The main principles of the Charter were integrated within a UNEP project

The project Ciudadanía Ambiental Global was launched in Ecatepec, Mexico, on April 22.  After the three-day PNUMA/Earth Charter meeting on Ethics for Sustainable Development (April 23-25) at Ixtapan de la Sal, the Earth Charter's four main principles were included within the ethical framework of the project.  Some of the objectives of the project are to promote organized social participation and to produce a change in the daily conduct of each individual and society as a whole towards the environment.   More on the project and the meeting at 

Earth Charter adaptation for children launched in el Desierto de los Leones, Mexico

Relevant Mexican personalities, many school children and teachers attended the launch of an Earth Charter adaptation for children on April 29th. Media coverage was wide. The event was full of engaging activities and a brochure was given to each of the children that encouraged them to follow the principles in the Charter and take care of the planet.

A new global ethical framework is needed to guide our decisions and actions ensuring the common good. Use the Earth Charter as an instrument to understand and achieve a more sustainable future


Youth Participation: See for Yourself

The Dalai Lama addressed 5,000 young people at the University of California, Irvine

On 16 April, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Youth Programs Director Michael Coffey organized a trip for a group of students to the University of California, Irvine to hear a special message from the Dalai Lama. A member of the Foundation’s Advisory Council, the Dalai Lama addressed approximately 5,000 young people and entertained many questions from the audience. The trip to UC Irvine was a collaborative effort with Santa Barbara City Teen Programs to nurture continued leadership development among local youth.

A senior at Santa Ynez High School, Liz Weinstein says, “The Dalai Lama's message could be summed up in a single word, compassion. After hearing the Dalai Lama speak, I purchased a few of his books and am now trying to bring as much compassion and happiness into my life.”

The Foundation’s Director of Youth Programs, Michael Coffey plans to continue these “See for Yourself” field trips on a monthly basis with the goal of building community and better illustrating the connections between nuclear weapons and other social justice issues. He encourages Foundation members to participate in these trips or to organize similar trips where they live. A list of possible sites is available online:


Institute for Purposeful Living: Soul-Centered Education for a Lifetime

The Soul-Centered Education for a Lifetime Program builds common sense, clear thinking, interpersonal and leadership skills, freedom from barriers, and a clearer sense of life purpose.

This program is the planned outgrowth of the organization's internationally acclaimed, all-volunteer project which, for 14+ years, provided free, hands-on care for terminally ill adults and developmentally disabled children. The resulting discoveries about human relations, effective group work, and spirituality are the cornerstones of this program. This knowledge has inspired the development of more than 20 other volunteer-based service organizations throughout the US. The teachers and facilitators are members of the board of directors of the IfPL.  The next “Come and See” weekend is scheduled for September 4-5.

The Institute is not a religious organization. People of all faiths, backgrounds, and ages (students range from 12 - 81 years old) discover a common ground through their spiritual connection with the goodness or soul within. As a result, students grow personally, professionally, and spiritually.

What more than 70 thousand people have found invaluable to their success is now available to qualified students of the Institute for Purposeful Living . This opportunity comes with a full scholarship to boot (including room and board)! Full-time students participate in a minimum of 45 hours per week of applied service-learning.  Part-time students, living off-campus, may take one or more weekly classes and complete a minimum of 6 hours of applied learning per week per class taken.



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Next issue: 11 June.

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