Good News Agency – Year VI, n° 15
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 2,800 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 in the web site http://www3.unesco.org/iycp/uk/uk_sum_monde.htm
The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe adopts its reform
Geneva, 2 December - On 2 December 2005, the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) adopted formally a bold reform that innovates its governance structure, redefines priorities and improves cost-effectiveness and transparency. The UNECE reform process was initiated along the line drawn by Secretary-General Kofi Annan namely that “if the United Nations is to be a useful instrument for its Member States and for the world’s people … it must be fully adapted to the needs and circumstances of the twenty-first century.” The reform has been pursued by UNECE member countries in the spirit of the broader UN-wide reform effort that is now under way. (…) After six months of intense consultations and negotiations under the leadership of Ambassador Roux and Michele Coduri (Switzerland), Chairman of the Group of Experts, Member States agreed on a renewed mission statement, governance structure and set of priorities for the UNECE as well as a change in the structure of its secretariat aimed at more efficiency and accountability. (…) A new programme is being launched to address the specific development problems of countries with economies in transition and emerging market economies. This programme will focus on such issues as promoting effective public investment and regulatory policies; strengthening the competitiveness of the economy through innovative development; the development of public-private partnerships, financial services and the promotion of the rule of law and effective public policies. (…)
Sweden first State to ratify Convention Against Doping in Sport
25 November - Sweden has become the first country to ratify the International Convention Against Doping in Sport. This Convention, adopted unanimously by UNESCO’s General Conference last October, is the only legally binding universal instrument aimed at eradicating doping in sport. UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura welcomed Sweden’s rapid response to the new Convention, which will come into force one month after 30 countries have ratified it. Mr Matsuura called on other States to follow suit. (…)
The Convention provides governments with a legal framework to harmonize international efforts in the fight against a scourge that flouts the ethical and social values of sport and threatens the health of athletes. However, the new instrument goes beyond testing and sanctions. It calls upon States Parties to “undertake, within their means, to support, devise or implement education and training programs on anti-doping” in order to raise public awareness of the negative effects of doping on health and on the ethical values of sport, as well as provide information on the rights and responsibilities of athletes and on testing procedures. Signatories will also promote “active participation by athletes and athlete support personnel in all facets of anti-doping”. (…)
More than 20,000 people reached by successful advocacy campaign on a gender-sensitive electoral law in the Democratic Republic of Congo
Campaign urges equal access of women and men to electoral mandates and electoral offices
Kinshasa, 25 November — A two-week advocacy campaign to promote equal access of women and men to electoral mandates and electoral offices concluded last week in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The campaign was organized two months before an upcoming parliamentary debate on a draft electoral law that will guide the holding of elections and a national referendum on the Constitution. It targeted government officials, leaders of political parties, private and public institutions and civil society networks to call for an electoral law and constitution that would be gender-sensitive and that would provide equal opportunities for men and women to claim their civic rights and participate in their country's development.
Activities during the campaign focused on raising awareness and stimulating debate on the need for an electoral law and constitution that take into account the rights of both men and women. The campaign employed a mix of media, through which more than 20,000 people were reached, using 20 radio and television channels, 25 newspapers, and a petition entitled "2,500 reasons to vote for a proportional electoral system with closed and alternate electoral lists."
The campaign was organized by different women's networks and organizations, all working together under a "Coalition for Gender Equality" and supported by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), MONUC, the Independent Electoral Commission, and the Ministry of Women and Family Affairs.
2 December - A conference was held in Addis Ababa last week to discuss how women combatants can help promote humanitarian and human rights norms. At the invitation of the organization Geneva Call and the Program for the Study of International Organizations at Geneva's Graduate Institute of International Studies, 40 women currently or recently involved in armed opposition groups from a dozen sub-Saharan African countries exchanged views on their experiences.
The first such conference was held in August 2004 in Geneva, bringing together women involved in armed opposition groups from 18 war-torn countries around the globe. This regional follow-up was then organized as a means of further engaging with armed opposition groups on issues central to respect for humanitarian rules and human rights.
Two members of the ICRC took part as facilitators in last week's conference. For some years now the ICRC has been endeavouring to gain a better insight into the many ways in which women experience war as either victims or participants. The organization attaches great importance to discussing this issue as a means of promoting compliance with humanitarian law. (…)
Tsunami anniversary marks a year of emergencies for children
New York, December – Issuing a one-year update on its recovery efforts in countries affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami, UNICEF says 2005 has been an unprecedented year of emergencies for children, with an extraordinary series of natural disasters, food crises, and conflicts tearing at the fabric of life for tens of millions of people. From the dozen countries struck by the tsunami to the conflict zone of Darfur; from nutrition emergencies in Niger and Malawi to crop failures in Ethiopia and Eritrea; and from the devastating Atlantic hurricane season to the epic Pakistan earthquake, UNICEF says it had not responded to such an array of humanitarian emergencies in a single year in recent memory. In Building Back Better, a one-year update on its continuing effort to help rebuild children’s lives in the tsunami zone, UNICEF says that while millions of people have been kept healthy and children are largely back in school, the real process of rebuilding is just beginning. (…) Despite progress, however, UNICEF says a long road remained ahead for the victims of the tsunami. UNICEF says it will continue its work in the tsunami zone and all the other humanitarian emergency locales as long as it has funding.
CERN and UNHCR webcast to focus on Einstein the refugee, as well as on E=mc2
Geneva, November 30 (UNHCR) – There is a famous photograph of Albert Einstein writing an equation on a blackboard. But a rather less well-known fact about the world's most famous scientist and Nobel prize-winner was that he saw a different sort of writing on the wall in the early 1930s, which caused him to leave Germany and become a refugee in the United States.
On 1 December, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) is organizing a special webcast on Einstein and his Theory of Relativity as part of the World Year of Physics, involving partners from all over the world, including museums, schools, scientific laboratories, UNHCR and the general public. The webcast, which is scheduled to last for a mammoth 12 hours – which may be a world record for a webcast – will contain a 40-minute slot devoted to Einstein as a refugee. This session, entitled "Refugees have a lot to give. Einstein was a refugee," will include a video address by UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres focusing on the positive contributions refugees can make to societies which give them a new home.(...) Testimonials from former DAFI beneficiaries will include a physics professor from Ghana and a Liberian refugee who gained a physics degree with the help of a DAFI scholarship. There will also be a short Question and Answer session, in which the general public can participate. UNHCR staff will also be manning a stand at the Globe of Science and Innovation, providing information to the many students and other visitors present during the 12-hour marathon event.
UNICEF and Al-Azhar University present new manual designed to underscore importance of children in Islam
The Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar and UNICEF Deputy Executive Director say the new global context demands resource devoted to the central value of children in Islam
Cairo, 29 November – UNICEF and Al-Azhar University released today a new manual designed to underscore how the care, protection and development of children is central to Islam. The manual, Children in Islam, Their Care, Protection and Development, includes research papers and extracts of Koranic verses, Hadiths and Sunnas that provide useful guidance on children’s rights to such things as health, education and protection. UNICEF and Al-Azhar University said they hope the manual will be used widely to advance the well-being of children in Islamic countries and communities. (…)
Despite some noteworthy progress, a disproportionate number of the more than 600 million children across the Islamic world face enormous challenges, from poverty and disease to lack of education and protection. Meeting the needs and guaranteeing the rights of these children – who account for more than a quarter of the world’s 2.3 billion children – are key to the success of overall efforts to combat poverty, accelerate human development and build a more peaceful future.(…) The new manual reflects the broader vision for children that has emerged since Child Care in Islam was published over two decades ago. The Convention on the Rights of the Child has now been ratified by every Islamic country except Somalia and the world has come to recognize the broad spectrum of social, economic, cultural and civil rights to which all children are entitled. (…) http://www.unicef.org/media/media_30158.html
On 28 November, 22 traditional leaders from the Gulu district of northern Uganda's conflict-ridden Acholi region took part in a one-day seminar organized by the ICRC on its humanitarian activities and on basic principles of international humanitarian law.
In keeping with its usual practice at such seminars all over the world, the ICRC endeavoured to draw connections between universal humanitarian principles and familiar precepts of local culture, customs and traditions – in this case, those of the Acholi. The event concluded with a lively discussion of the ICRC’s mandate in armed conflict, the principles of neutrality and independence, and the inhibiting effect violence can have on humanitarian relief work.
Twenty-four groups receive grants to end violence against women
United Nations Trust Fund Grants Awarded to Initiatives in 30 Countries
United Nations, New York 22 November - The United Nations Trust Fund to Eliminate Violence against Women will grant US$1.8 million to 24 groups in developing countries who are working to end gender-based violence in their communities. The announcement was made on the occasion of International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women which falls on November 25th each year. The Trust Fund is a unique multi-lateral mechanism established by the UN General Assembly in 1996 and administered by UNIFEM. Grants are awarded by a committee comprised of representatives of UN agencies and international NGOs. Grants this year went to initiatives that focused on ensuring that national policies and laws to end violence against women were being implemented.(…) Since its establishment, the Trust Fund has granted more than US$10 million to 198 initiatives in 100 countries. Demand continues to outstrip supply. In 2005, UNIFEM received 1,059 proposals amounting to tens of millions of dollars in requests, but only had US$1.8 million to give out. The latter does represent an 80 per cent increase from the previous year, however, with contributions coming from a diverse group of governments, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector, and individuals. Among the governments giving for the first time is the United States. It joins a government roster that includes Finland, Japan, Trinidad and Tobago, Iceland, and Denmark, which supported the Trust Fund in 2004.(…)
New US$14.2 million and US$2.4 million loans to help Sri Lanka recover from the tsunami
Rome, 1 December - Poor rural
families and fishers whose homes and livelihoods were destroyed by the tsunami
will benefit from two new development programmes in Sri Lanka.
The US$33.5 million Post-Tsunami Coastal Rehabilitation and Resource Management Programme will be financed partly by an initial US$14.2 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). IFAD will help mobilize an extra US$14.2 million from other sources or from its own 2006 lending programme. An additional US$1.5 million grant is expected from the Italian government. The government of Sri Lanka will contribute US$3.4 million, while the project participants will contribute an additional US$212,000 in kind.
A second US$4.7 million initiative, the Post-Tsunami Livelihoods and Support and Partnership Programme, will be financed partly by a US$2.35 million loan from IFAD. IFAD is committed to help mobilize the remaining US$2.35 million from other sources, or from its own 2006 lending programme. Today, the two loan agreements totalling US$16.55 million were signed by the IFAD President, Lennart Båge, and the Sri Lankan Ambassador to Italy, Rodney Perera, at IFAD headquarters in Rome.(…) At least 140,000 households will benefit from the two IFAD supported programmes in Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Ampara, Batticaloa and Trincomalle, the seven tsunami- affected districts. (…) The three-year Post-Tsunami Livelihoods and Support and Partnership Programme will focus on rapid rehabilitation and development of rural infrastructure and housing in the seven districts. It will directly benefit about 22,000 people by building or repairing 2,000 houses and helping rehabilitate or develop social infrastructure, including community centres and local clinics, drinking water supply schemes, drainage facilities, feeder roads, and access roads for settlement areas.
Gaza, 30 November - EU Commissioner for development and humanitarian aid, Louis Michel, has today signed in Gaza a financing agreement worth EUR 14 million for the UNRWA’s coordinated food security programme. (…) On signing the agreement, Commissioner Michel pointed out that for more than 30 years the European Union had been supporting the activities of UNRWA, which works in difficult conditions to meet the most urgent humanitarian needs. “In signing this agreement I want to reaffirm the European Commission’s solidarity with the civilian victims of the fighting,” he said.
EU solidarity with the Palestinian refugees takes tangible shape in a substantial financial contribution to the activities of the UN agency, to which the European Commission is the chief donor. In 2005 alone, the Commission mobilised humanitarian aid totalling nearly EUR 37 million to help meet the needs of the four million Palestinian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza, and in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. This aid has helped finance emergency humanitarian aid, temporary jobs, psychological support for children, housing aid for victims of demolitions and rehabilitation of shelters in refugee camps. 20% of this EUR 37 million for humanitarian aid operations in the Middle East will go on UNRWA operations in Gaza and the West Bank, besides helping Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Syria. More information at :
Bangkok, 30 November - (United Nations Information Services) - Countries in the Asia-Pacific region finalized a draft Intergovernmental Agreement on the Trans-Asian Railway Network today at UNESCAP headquarters in Bangkok. The Agreement was finalized at the conclusion of an Intergovernmental Meeting organized by UNESCAP from 28-30 November 2005. The Agreement is the outcome of three days of constructive discussions among transport officials from across the region who agreed that it could play a catalytic role in the construction and upgrading of railway lines in Asia. The Trans-Asian Railway Network constitutes a major step towards the identification of an integrated, international, intermodal network in the region. A similar agreement for the Asian Highway Network came into force in July 2005.(…) In close collaboration with concerned countries, UNESCAP’s Transport and Tourism Division has already started operationalizing the TAR network. Four demonstration runs of container block-trains have been successfully implemented along key segments of the TAR Northern Corridor between November 2003 and July 2004. Through these demonstration runs, the railways concerned have gained greater awareness of international trade patterns arising from globalization, and exercised new skills effectively to respond to the industry requirements for efficient transport and logistics services.
International commodity policy challenges: cotton
New York, 22 November - Cotton is a challenging sector. Producers of cotton include the richest and the poorest countries in the world. In many African countries, particularly Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali, cotton production contributes 5% to 8% of gross domestic product (GDP) and 40% of export earnings. Cotton producers in developing countries face a number of problems, including: low and fluctuating prices for their products, difficulties in getting their products onto the international market, low productivity and poor competitiveness, poor access to technology and finance, weak research and extension services (technical support to farmers)
Meanwhile, in 2004, in developed countries, government support to the cotton sector totalled US$4.7 billion, or approximately one sixth of the farm value of production. These imbalances were addressed in a recent panel discussion organized by the Permanent Mission of Benin to the United Nations in New York and UNCTAD. (…) The panel also discussed other problems affecting commodity-dependent countries in general: dependence on a few low-value export products; inadequate participation in international value chains; market access and market entry difficulties arising from protectionist policies, subsidies, non-tariff barriers, uncompetitive market structures and stringent market requirements.
Ifold Onlus and the "Regional Agency for Labour Policies" of the Region of Sardinia started a new project to enhance women entrepreneurship: A network for gender economies in the Province of Cagliari. Financed with funds from the Programme-Goal 2003 of the national act 125/91 "Positive Actions for Gender Equality", the project is aimed at promoting a cultural change in the society through the creation and testing of a new culture of network in business services for women entrepreneurs, involving in the first place the associations of employers, which until now have been supplying different services for women entrepreneurs but without a specific gender perspective. The main purpose of the project "Donne di credito" (Creditable women) is to build up a "provincial network of gender economies" in order to experiment and disseminate a new service's system to help and advise women entrepreneurs with special regard to the financing issues.
Colombo, Sri Lanka, 5 December - A primary school destroyed in the Tsunami will reopen as a completely rebuilt model school at a ceremony next week. The Randombe Junior School, located in Ambalangoda, in the Galle District, will be officially dedicated on 8 December at 9:45 a.m. The dedication is the first of planned 25 schools being rebuilt by the Rotary clubs of Sri Lanka. The Tsunami completely destroyed 92 schools and damaged a further 90 others leaving a total of 85,000 students and 3,400 teachers without schools after the disaster. (…)
Randombe Junior School, a primary and secondary school with 18 teachers and 264 students, will open for classes when the school year starts in January. The schools are being built to meet government standards, and have been upgraded to provide all modern facilities including well-equipped libraries, state-of-the-art computer centres, gymnasiums and science laboratories.
Rotary Sri Lanka was one of the first organizations that offered to participate in a massive school rebuilding effort set forth by the Sri Lanka Ministry of Education. Twenty-five schools across the country were assigned to Rotary for rebuilding. Funding for the estimated US$12 million project has been provided by Rotary clubs around the world and The Rotary Foundation, with a major contribution from StandardChartered Bank. The pledges received up to date exceed US$10 million. The project is also supported by Microsoft who have provided the software for the Computer Centres and who will also handle the curriculum for the next three years. (…)
A second model school, Al-Aqsa Vidyalaya is expected to be completed in early December. This primary and secondary grade school located in Pottuvil in Eastern Sri Lanka serves 504 students. Work on several other schools is also progressing on schedule and many are expected to be completed in time for the new school year.
Founded in 1905 in Chicago, Rotary is a volunteer service organization with a worldwide membership of 1.2 million businesspeople and professionals who belong to 33,000 clubs in nearly 170 countries.
Vatican City, 2 December - With temperatures dropping and snow falling, Caritas is moving quickly to provide tents, plastic sheeting, blankets, and other essential items, including kitchen utensils and hygiene kits, to survivors of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Pakistan nearly two months ago.
The powerful quake claimed tens of thousands of lives in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and Pakistani-administered Kashmir, and left scores displaced and injured. It is estimated that more than 3.5 million people have been affected. The exact death toll has not been determined. However, Tariq Raza, emergency coordinator for Caritas Pakistan’s field office in Mansehra, believes that all of the affected communities have now been identified.
Caritas Mansehra’s assessment work began in Balakot, a town in the NWFP that had been flattened by the quake. Balakot was also the last point accessible by road. With numerous NGOs already working there, Caritas Mansehra focused on getting relief to more remote communities.
Caritas Mansehra reports that many of the displaced have come down from their mountaintop villages – often walking for hours – in search of shelter and food. Tent cities have sprung up in towns like Balakot and Mansehra. However, other survivors have been reluctant to leave behind their damaged houses or livestock, the source of their livelihood.
It is reported that 150,000-200,000 people are still living in difficult-to-reach areas. (…)
Save the Children receives $60 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to save newborn lives globally
Westport, CT, USA, December 1 – Save the Children today announced it has received a $60 million, six-year grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help prevent newborn illness and death in 18 countries in Asia and Africa and to build on the achievements of the Saving Newborn Lives global initiative launched five years ago. (…) Through this new grant, Save the Children will focus on ways to identify and promote the large-scale adoption of proven, low-cost tools and approaches that address the three main killers of 1-week-old babies – infections, lack of oxygen supply to a baby during delivery and at birth, and low birth weight. (…)
The Saving Newborn Lives initiative, started with a $50.5 million Gates Foundation grant in 2000, has already reached more than 20 million mothers and babies with essential health services. The initiative helps ensure access to services such as skilled midwife care; prompt treatment of newborn infections; tetanus vaccines for pregnant women; and education about the importance of proper hygiene, warmth, and breastfeeding for infants. (…)
Diners urged to share their desserts with the hungry
London, 29 November - WFP has joined forces with a leading advertising agency to build public empathy in Europe for the more than 850 million people who still go hungry, despite a clear abundance of food worldwide and a growing epidemic of obesity. Working with the London office of Leagas Delaney, WFP has helped to produce three unique commercials that bring home the reality of hunger. The first commercial to appear on television, “Donate a dessert”, will encourage viewers to think about hunger when they eat out. In a moving collage of voices, African adults and children ask for a sophisticated dessert they might find at an expensive restaurant. The viewer is asked to donate the cost of a dessert to WFP, which could feed someone in the developing world for a month for the same price. Click here to view the commercial. The second concept is based on real stories of how people in Africa cope with hunger and a lack of food. The film shows a woman collecting stones which she then boils in a pan in front of her children until they fall asleep. Before it was brought to life on film by Leagas Delaney, this real story was gathered by a WFP worker in southern Sudan who was told it is a traditional way of getting children to sleep during the hunger season. In the third advert, a businessman dressed in a pinstripe suit is shown struggling to cope with the daily challenges that African women face across their continent on a daily basis. The “businessman” is seen pounding food in a village with a crying baby strapped to his back and then shown dragging a sack of food aid back to his home. The film ends by posing the question, “852 million people live like this. Could you?”
Leagas Delaney and the film production company, Partizan, donated their services free of charge to produce the adverts that were all shot on location in Kenya. (…)The “donate a dessert” advert has already been picked up by international cable and satellite channels and is due to start running in December. All of the commercials are available in 30 second and one minute formats and will be translated into a number of different languages for international audiences.
UNICEF and UAE Partners Shaping Model Humanitarian Agreements for Pakistani Children
Amman, 28 November 2005 --- An innovative approach to emergency response following the October 8th earthquake in Pakistan has engaged important partners in the UAE in a strategy that combines financial contributions with hands-on action to help meet the needs of children in devastated areas, UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Rima Salah said today, following a mission to the Middle East and South Asia. UNICEF agreements with the UAE Red Crescent Society and Dubai Aid City have produced a combination of cash donations, technical support, medical teams and regular planeloads with basic relief items. (…) Vitamin A supplementation constitutes another pressing UNICEF priority with focus on Pakistani children suffering from sickness and malnutrition. Vitamin A boosts children’s immune systems. With winter gradually setting in, ongoing emergency efforts to immunize and boost the health of children remain urgent and can save lives. Also important is the mobilisation of multi-country cooperation over the next few weeks to deliver supplies needed to get children into learning environments as quickly as possible.
by Moussadiq Ali & Rebecca Lyman - Communications
World Vision has signed an agreement with the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to distribute urgently needed food supplies to an estimated 46,610 people in five high altitude villages in the Seron valley of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). Food is now a priority in quake affected zones, says the UN, which is granting more than 50 per cent of the total cargo it transports to food, with about 40 per cent granted to shelter and other items. The 4,412 metric tons of food, including wheat flour, vegetable oil, lentils, and salt will be distributed in Jabbar Panjul, Jaburi, Sachan, Manda Gucha and Jacha; where the bitter Himalayan winter has already set in. Distributions will start on Wednesday 30 November and will continue until April 2006. (…)
The Kenya Volunteer Development Service diversifies its activities
The Kenya Volunteer Development Service (KVDS) is a non governmental organisation based in Western Kenya. The organisation assists people, rural communities and various Self Help Groups - irrespectively of their political and religious background - in achieving sustainable development and controlling environmental degradation. The KVDS has been officially registered in 1993 to the NGO Board of Kenya (Reg.-No.: OP/218/051/9355/134). Activities include, among others: Providing or protecting water resources; Livelihood projects; Fish farming; Horticulture & fruit trees; Poultry & dairy farming.
Environment protective development - The KVDS is aware of environmental problems due to deforestation like water shortage, erosion and endangering of many species (e.g. bats, birds and insects). Because wood is still needed for many purposes in all day life like cooking and constructing, it is necessary to enlighten the people of the consequences of cutting down trees. That is why the KVDS teaches the importance of planting trees.
Reforestation & Tree Nursery - Indigenous as well as exotic trees are planted continuously to provide rural communities with firewood, timber for building and trees of medical value. Also, indigenous trees improve the environmental conditions for many birds and insect species and help to keep Kenya's original landscape. Planting trees also reduces desertification and soil erosion. The KVDS maintains its own tree nursery at the Resource Center in Shikunga village.
Agroforestry - Different tree species are planted together with food crops to reduce evaporation and to provide additional nutrient supply through nitrogen fixation (e.g. Sespania sp.)
Authors: Simona Beltrami and Nancy Ingram
Zagreb, Croatia, 2 December – “In the first year since the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World, encouraging progress has been made in terms of destroying stockpiled mines, clearing mined land, and assisting victims,” said Steve Goose, Head of Delegation of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “We have also seen positive movement towards the Mine Ban Treaty by States yet to join.”
Over 600 delegates, representing governments, civil society and international organizations from more than 115 countries, converged in the Croatian capital of Zagreb for the 6th annual global meeting of States Parties to the Mine Ban Treaty. This was the first opportunity for the world’s mine action community to assess whether any real progress has been made on the 70-point, five-year Action Plan agreed to during the Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World, the first Review Conference of the Mine Ban Treaty in November 2004.
Key announcements at the meeting included: Guatemala completing mine clearance; Algeria and Guinea-Bissau completing stockpile destruction; Nigeria destroying mines previously retained for training; and Australia pledging $75 million Australian dollars for mine action over five years.
At the opening of the meeting, the ICBL, represented by over 180 delegates from 63 countries, clearly stated its expectations for outcomes. (…)
December - As the UN Mission in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) comes to a close at the end of this year, it may serve as a model for successful peacekeeping, as well as a prototype for the UN’s new emphasis on peacebuilding.
Six years ago UN peacekeepers moved into Sierra Leone to oversee a feeble peace process which included monitoring a shaky ceasefire and supporting a transition to democratic governance. Since then, the UN helped the war-ravaged country to make impressive gains towards peace, demonstrating how the world body can respond to the needs and demands of countries in conflict in a rapidly changing global environment. Over the course of its mandate, the UN disarmed tens of thousands of ex-fighters, assisted in holding national elections, helped to rebuild the country’s police force, and contributed towards rehabilitating the infrastructure and bringing government services to local communities. The UN also helped the Government stop illicit trading in diamonds and regulate the industry. During the war, rebels had used money from “blood” or “conflict” diamonds to buy weapons which had fuelled the conflict. (…)
While UNAMSIL has done much, Sierra Leone still faces many challenges (…) To help meet these challenges, the newly ceated UN Integrated Office for Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) will take over from UNAMSIL beginning January 2006 . Its mandate would be to cement UNAMSIL’s gains. The new office will help the Government strengthen human rights, realize the Millennium Development Goals, improve transparency and hold free and fair elections in 2007. It will also work together with other UN missions in the sub-region and provide security for the Special Court.
Mumbai/Madurai, December 2 (IPS) - On December 2, outside Mumbai's humming Churchgate Station at rush hour, a group of young people from university and schools -- all members of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) -- stage a streetplay to raise awareness. Stretched above their heads and that of hundreds of commuters streaming out of one of India's busiest railheads are banners: Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise. "If you are not aware, HIV/AIDS kills, whatever your religion," says Lt. Shyamalee of the NCC, a countrywide youth network of 1.3 million that regularly mobilises its members to sensitise citizens on social issues. On Wednesday, NCC cadets organised a huge rally that was joined by Army officers, sailors of the Indian Navy, and hundreds of ordinary people at Chowpatty, Mumbai's most popular beach.
December 1, World AIDS Day, is celebrated globally as a grim reminder of the fact that the most feared disease was getting out of control despite efforts to check it. Health professionals and activists are trying to put a brake on the illness, particularly in urban areas where HIV prevalence remains worryingly high. (…)
1 December - Commonwealth Secretary-General Don McKinnon has called for sustained political leadership to eradicate polio, a preventable disease which causes paralysis, physical deformity and often death. He said that the fight against polio is part of the fight against poverty, as one of the Millennium Development Goals is to combat HIV/AIDS and other diseases.
Mr McKinnon was addressing a High-Level Consultative Meeting on 'Polio Eradication and the Commonwealth' held at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London, on 30 November 2005. (…)
All but six countries in the world, including three Commonwealth countries, have eliminated polio, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). (…)
The Global Polio Eradication programme launched in 1988 has involved US$4 billion in a partnership consisting of donor countries, the World Bank, UN Foundation, Rotary International, UNICEF, WHO and the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to provide free vaccines. To date, some 2 billion children have been immunised in 200 countries. (…)
UNAIDS, WHO and UNFPA endorse European Union statement on the need to scale up HIV prevention
Geneva/New York, 30 November 2005 - The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) endorse today’s announcement by the European Union (EU) to intensify HIV prevention efforts. The EU’s statement reaffirms the Member States’ commitment to tackling HIV and AIDS, particularly in developing countries. UNAIDS, WHO and UNFPA support the EU’s statement, which calls for a rapid increase in the scale and scope of HIV prevention efforts in order to get ahead of the epidemic. The AIDS epidemic can only be reversed if HIV prevention efforts are scaled up as part of a comprehensive response that simultaneously expands access to treatment and care. Universal access to HIV prevention, care and treatment should be the world’s immediate goal. (…)
High-Tech industry called to fight AIDS
New York, 30 November - Faith-based investors announced today their efforts as shareholders to work with seven high-technology companies heavily exposed to HIV/AIDS and Tuberculosis through their operations, supply chains, and customer base in South and Southeast Asia.
Shareholder HIV/AIDS activists connected to the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) successfully worked with companies such as Ford Motor Company and Coca-Cola to expand the HIV-TB-Malaria response of companies in the automotive and beverage sector. Now they are bringing their message to Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Motorola & Texas Instruments. (…)
The ICCR HIV/AIDS Caucus represents a broad cross section of institutional investors. Roman Catholic religious orders, Protestant denominations, faith-based pension funds, and major health care providers are joining mutual funds, professional money managers, and organized labor in the effort. ICCR members boast a combined $110 billion in assets under investment. Many of the organizations have staff on the ground in developing countries fighting the HIV/AIDS Pandemic.
WHO welcomes key United Kingdom support for global patient safety
London/Geneva, 28 November - The World Health Organization (WHO) welcomes the announcement by the United Kingdom government that it will donate a total of £25 million (US$ 43 million) to support global efforts to improve patient safety. This donation recognizes the need to take effective, visible and concerted action to reduce the growing number of adverse events in health care and their impact on patients’ lives. The World Alliance for Patient Safety was launched in October 2004 to raise awareness and political commitment to improve the safety of patient care and to facilitate the development of patient safety policy and practice in all WHO Member States. The UK contribution will be used to build on existing efforts and work by the Alliance in six major areas and to develop new work programmes (…)
WTO to provide assistance in strategic re-positioning for Indonesia and Bali with the support of the government of Andorra
Madrid, 22 November – As part of the World Tourism Organization’s Tsunami and Crisis Relief Action Plan WTO, a Seminar on Positioning, Re-Positioning and Image Recovery, will be taking place in Bali on 10 and 11 December 2005. The Seminar is jointly organized by the World Tourism Organization, through its Education, Training and Knowledge Management Department and the WTO.Themis Foundation, and the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Indonesia, with the generous financial contribution of the donor country, Andorra. Aimed at providing effective proposals and recommendations on the re-positioning and image recovery of tourism in Bali, taking into account the experience, knowledge and views of key decision-makers, the two-day seminar will be an inter-active exercise involving all players from the public sector at central and local level, industry leaders representing the hospitality, tour operator, travel agency, transport, entertainment sectors, destination management organizations and educators. (…) The seminar will focus on the concept of positioning, its application to the current situation of tourism in Indonesia and Bali, as well as Bali’s present positioning in the various international markets and will place major emphasis on issues crucial to the re-positioning of Indonesia and Bali.
Counterpart teams up with the private sector to fight a deadly disease in the Caribbean.
Kingston, Jamaica, November 17 – Counterpart International is partnering with the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Coca-Cola Company and the Jamaica-based ASHE Caribbean Performing Arts Ensemble to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS prevention and behaviour change among young people in Jamaica. The six month “Teens HIV/AIDS Prevention Project” was launched in Kingston to promote comprehensive life skills education through youth-led training, and a referral system for youth-friendly services. ASHE, working alongside Counterpart International’s HIV/AIDS specialist Dr. Youssouf Sawadogo, will coach and promote the creation of HIV Awareness Clubs for youth peer education, training, support and skills building.
Lisa-Ann Joseph, Caribbean Public Affairs and Communications Manager at the Coca-Cola Company, said that the project will aim to help Jamaican teenagers cope with life’s challenges. (…) Noting that AIDS is the leading cause of death in women aged 20-29 and second leading cause of death in children aged 1-4 in Jamaica, Joseph said research has shown that HIV/AIDS transmission knowledge is low among adolescents in Jamaica. The pilot aims to address this. (…)
Corporate renewable energy group hits 360 megawatt mark, launches similar effort in Europe
Montreal, Canada, December 1 - Some of the largest companies in the world today announced that they have increased their purchases of renewable energy. The World Resources Institute (WRI) and members of its Green Power Market Development Group announced 185 new megawatts (MW) of renewable energy purchases and projects, bringing the total number of MW under contract to 360 – the average size of a coal-fired power plant. At 360 MW, these companies are more than a third of the way to their goal of building markets for 1000 MW of new, cost-competitive green power in the United States. At a press conference today as part of the United Nations’ climate change meetings, WRI also announced the launch of a similar corporate renewable energy purchasing partnership in Europe.
The Green Power Market Development Group is a unique commercial and industrial partnership dedicated to building corporate markets for green power. In the United States its members are Alcoa Inc., The Dow Chemical Company, DuPont, FedEx Kinko’s, General Motors, IBM, Interface, Johnson & Johnson, NatureWorks LLC, Pitney Bowes, Staples and Starbucks. (…) In fact, seven of these companies now purchase at least 10 percent of their annual U.S. electricity consumption from renewables. Group members also are among the largest non-utility buyers of renewable energy in the United States. (…)
Solar cooking spreads in developing world
Chad: Teaching solar cooking to refugees
Derk Rijks of the KoZon Foundation, and solar cooking trainer Marie-Rose Neloum, continue to teach solar cooking at the Iridimi camp for refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan. Nearly 250 panel-type solar cookers have been distributed to refugees, 50 of which were assembled at the camp. Supplies for an additional 500 cookers have arrived and production is expected to begin immediately. Demonstrations were also held at Hadjer Hadid for villagers and refugees at the nearby camps at Breidjing and Tréguine. (…) Contact: Derk Rijks firstname.lastname@example.org; or contact KoZon Foundation, email@example.com, Web: www.kozon.org
Eritrea: SCEN awarded out of 300 nominees
An Eritrea solar cooker project organized by the foundation Solar Cooking Eritrea Netherlands (SCEN) recently edged out 300 nominees to win an award for small-scale development projects. The award, presented by Dutch organizations the National Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development (NCDO) and the Wild Geese Foundation, carries a monetary value of nearly $6,000. SCEN won based on project quality, thoroughness of the organization, efficient working methods, financial transparency, and the "for women, by women" aspect of the project. This year SCEN hopes to enable 4,500 families to solar cook with simple panel-type solar cookers based on Solar Cookers International's "CooKit." Thus far, 1,500 women have been trained, of which 700 have purchased CooKits for about $3.50 each. (…) www.solarcookingeritrea.nl
Sri Lanka: Sun Ovens International with Rotary clubs’ support sent 200 solar box cookers
With support from dozens of U.S. and Canadian Rotary clubs, Sun Ovens International has sent 200 of it's high-quality solar box cookers - Global Sun Ovens(r) - to the Help - Sri Lanka Consortium, a grassroots organization working to re-house tsunami victims. The cookers will enable 200 families with newly built homes to fuel an estimated 70% of their cooking with solar energy. Paul Munsen, Sun Ovens International's president, will teach Sri Lankan women how to use the cookers. Additionally, two Sri Lankan orphanages will receive commercial-sized Villager Sun Ovens(r) to cook meals and bake bread to generate income for the orphanages. These large ovens can cook 1,200 meals per day and have a propane backup system. Contact: e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.sunoven.com; for information on Help - Sri Lanka Consortium, visit www.rehablanka-tsunami.org.
Source: “News You Send”, December, Solar Cookers International http://solarcookers.org
Brazil, Unctad sign agreement on Free and Open-Source Software
16 November 2005, Gilberto Gil, Minister of Culture of Brazil, and Supachai Panitchpakdi, Secretary General of UNCTAD, signed a memorandum of understanding today to support the promotion of free and open-source software (FOSS). The event took place at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis. The signing ceremony was followed by an advisory session on FOSS for Portuguese-speaking delegations attending the Summit. The advisory session included one-on-one consultations with international experts on FOSS. The aim of the memorandum of understanding is to improve training and education in the use of FOSS. This software has been found to be very helpful for closing the "digital divide" in computer-based technology between developing and industrialized nations. But reaping the benefits of FOSS requires that developing countries have sufficient expertise to use the software effectively. The agreement between Brazil and UNCTAD is intended to help extend this expertise to Portuguese-speaking nations with the help of FOSS training experts and by sharing relevant training materials and resources.
Montreal, 30 November – The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), in cooperation with federal agencies, scientists, academics and nongovernmental organizations, today published the first trinational conservation plans ever to be formulated for North American wildlife species.
Under the North American Conservation Action Plans (NACAPs), a common conservation approach will be applied to six wildlife species—the leatherback turtle, humpback whale, pink-footed shearwater, burrowing owl, ferruginous hawk and black-tailed prairie dog—across Canada, Mexico and the United States. Each plan suggests actions to reduce threats, share expertise and provide key information to the public and wildlife officers. Highlights of the NACAPs include a proposal to reduce the use of pesticides that affect the burrowing owl's food supply, distribute information to ship masters and their companies on how to avoid striking whales, promote sustainable fishing practices and eliminate at-sea dumping of debris that may affect sea turtles. (…) In June 2003, the three North American governments adopted a long-term strategy for the conservation of critical species and habitats in North America. The action plans form a key element of this strategy, as does a complementary process aimed at establishing a North American Marine Protected Areas Network and grasslands conservation corridor. The work to safeguard the six NACAP species begins in earnest this week with a series of meetings in Mexico with regional conservation partners. State government officials will meet with the CEC to identify areas of collaboration to implement and disseminate the plans.
Maputo, Mozambique, 29 November – Several international organizations have joined forces with WWF to conserve Mozambique's unique marine habitat and wildlife. The partnership, consisting of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), UN Foundation, International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN) and Conservation International (CI), will provide financial support to activities being implemented by WWF in and around the country's Primeiras and Segundas Islands. (…) An education programme targeting fishermen is already underway to further enhance and raise awareness on the need for protecting birds, marine turtles, coral reefs, sharks, whales and dolphins. (…)
The new partnership will complement the efforts of the government of Mozambique in implementing an integrated development plan for the region's marine and coastal resources. Support has also been provided to build capacity for the local organizations, including fishermen associations, to implement activities aimed at protecting endangered species and sensitive habitats. (…)
Thursday Island, Queensland, Australia, 21 November (BWNS) -- A weekly Baha'i radio program is building bridges of understanding across the more than 100 islands of the Torres Strait in the far north of Australia. Aimed at providing a service to the Baha'i community scattered throughout the islands, the program is now also attracting participation by many of the majority Christian population. The program uses a talkback format and functions as an on-air study circle, based on a self-directed approach to training adopted by Baha'i communities worldwide. In a study circle, participants read through selected passages from the Baha'i writings together, and share their understandings with the guidance of a facilitator. The program is broadcast on Thursday Island community radio station 4MW, which is listened to by some 85 per cent of Torres Strait residents.
Titled "Baha-Bi-Buiya," which means "Light-Light-Light" in the two main dialects of the Torres Strait and in Arabic, the program has been broadcast now for more than a year.
Local Baha'is Janelle Gebadi and Margaret Gabey host the program, with the support of back-up presenter Ina Aiputa. The presenters read the passages from the Baha'i writings and then the audience participates in what are often lively discussions. (…)
“The Power of People” – 2nd Global Symposium, 9-13 December, Lucknow City, India
Global Partnership for World Democracy (GPWD) is hosting the 2nd Global Symposium from 9 to 13 December 2005 at Lucknow City, India in which nearly 250 participants from 102 countries will be participating (www.cmseducation.org/symposium) (…) The Global Symposium recognizes the "Power of People" to move and reform the Governments and Corporate structures to create global sustainability. (…) The objective of the GPWD is to facilitate Global Campaign for World Democracy. This Campaign will be formally launched at the Global Symposium when the various participating organizations will come to join hands for the launching of Global Partnership for World Democracy and will start to work to evolve Global Action Agenda from now till 2007. (…)
Nearly 400 participants from all regions of the world gathered in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, from 7-9 November to celebrate accomplishments of the Earth Charter Initiative over the past 5 years, share experiences, and launch a new phase of the Initiative.
Because of the Dutch royal family's long-standing involvement with the Charter, and with sustainable development generally, Earth Charter+5 was formally embraced as part of Queen Beatrix’s Silver Jubilee celebrations. Her Majesty the Queen attended the closing ceremony to hear the conclusions of the conference, and to receive the first copy of a new book, The Earth Charter in Action: Toward a Sustainable World. (…)
The event included a number of other gatherings, starting with the Earth Charter Youth Initiative (5-7 November), which met live for the first time after four years of intensive on-line networking. The Earth Charter Commission itself met for the first time since launching the Charter five years ago (7 November). Thematic sessions explored the application of the Earth Charter in peace-making, inter-faith dialogue, business, education, local governments, international law. (…)
Education for All: some progress, can do better
Dakar, Senegal, 28 November - Significant progress has been made towards achieving Education for All, but “huge challenges” must still be overcome if the objectives set by the world’s nations in Dakar (Senegal) five years ago are to be met by 2015, UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura said here today. Mr Matsuura was speaking at the Fifth Meeting of the High Level Group on Education for All (EFA), which was formally opened by the Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, in the presence of the President of Mongolia, Nambaryn Enkhbaya, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand, and the Vice-President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Arthur Zahidi N’Goma.
Referring to the findings of the recently released EFA Global Monitoring Report, the Director-General said that even though the goal of achieving gender parity by 2005 has been missed, more girls are in school than ever before. Some 20 million new students are attending classes in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa, South and West Asia, he added, and national spending on basic education as well as external aid to EFA have also risen. (…)
The High Level Group meeting on Education for All brings together ministers of education, cooperation and development, the donor community and other intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations annually to assess progress towards the EFA goals. This year’s meeting, hosted by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, will focus on the goal of halving adult illiteracy by 2015. It will also work on a Joint Action Plan to stimulate action on the EFA goals and to offer better, concrete, support at the national level to countries in their efforts to achieve them.
The Samba of Roda and the Ramlila proclaimed Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible
25 November - The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, today proclaimed 43 new Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritages of Humanity. Traditional Indian performances of the Ramayana, the Ramlila, Japan’s Kabuki theatre, the Zambian Makishi Masquarade and the Samba of Roda (Brazil) are among the masterpieces proclaimed. This is UNESCO’s third proclamation of Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage, an international distinction destined to raise public awareness of the value of this heritage, which includes popular and traditional oral forms of expression, music and dance, rituals and mythologies, knowledge and practices concerning the universe, know-how linked to traditional crafts, as well as cultural spaces. Often vulnerable, this heritage, a repository of cultural diversity, is essential to the identity of communities and peoples.
The 43 new masterpieces were proposed to the Director-General by an 18-member jury chaired by Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan. The jury met from 20 to 24 November to examine 64 national and multinational candidatures. A total of 47 masterpieces were proclaimed in 2001 and 2003. Twenty-seven of them have already benefited from UNESCO’s support, particularly from safeguarding operations which received financial assistance from Japan.(…)
During the World Summit on the Information Society: ECLAC Executive Secretary warns of benefits and costs associated with digital technologies
Without the right public policies and institutions, the information society may deepen social inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean
Tunis, 17 November - "The new technologies do not automatically guarantee more growth," said José Luis Machinea, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), during his remarks to the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in Tunis. He warned that achieving the benefits promised by Internet and digital technologies involves more than computers and fibre optic cables. They also require a combination of solid, democratic institutions, robust public policies, an environment favourable to innovation and creativity, and an active, well organized civil society. He noted that Latin America and the Caribbean is the world's least equitative region and added that digital technologies should focus on ensuring growth with equity. (…) In terms of electronic government, the use of ICTs in the public sector has become a new factor in encouraging efficiency and transparency of the state. Almost all countries have electronic government programmes and five rank among the world's top 25 in this sense: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico. The region's countries seek to advance even further in the introduction of ICTs in public primary and secondary schools. (…)
The purpose of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), being held in Tunis from 16 to 18 November, is to guarantee that the benefits of information and communications technologies (ICTs) are accessible to all and to focus on providing specific advantages in some areas, among them governance strategies, health care, education, literacy, cultural diversity, gender equality, sustainable development and environmental protection.
The World Wisdom Council: Meeting in conjunction with Goi Peace Foundation's “Forum 2005 - Creating a New Civilization” - Tokyo, Japan, 10-12 November 2005
The Tokyo Declaration, 11 November: “We, the Members of the World Wisdom Council, building on our Declarations of Budapest and Hanover in advancing our mission and fulfilling our mandate, (…) be it resolved… That we shall henceforth make it our highest priority to do all in our power to activate and ignite the imminent, and rapidly emerging evolved consciousness in the life of the people on a planetary scale, so as to facilitate and accelerate the blossoming of a higher form of civilization that embodies the global wisdom of humankind, in order that generations now living may bring forth a world in which the entire human family may flourish in harmony with all of nature on this precious planet. That, to this end, we shall concentrate our efforts in building powerful and sustainable networks, co-creative partnerships, seeking to activate and draw together in common cause the vast and growing diversity of initiatives now working around the planet to bring forth a newly awakened peaceful and sustainable civilization” (…)
“With this objective in mind, today, in Tokyo as we launch a partnership aimed at creating a new planetary civilization, we resolve to focus our energies on developing the Wisdom-in-Action, a tangible, comprehensive strategic plan of action, to help ignite an emergent critical mass of awakened global citizens. (…)” Contact: David Woolfson, Coordinator, World Wisdom Council email@example.com
Department of Public Information launches Un Radio News/Usa,
A new audio news service for Us radio market
November - United Nations Radio launched UN Radio News/USA, a new source of audio feeds for radio broadcasters about the world Organization and the issues that affect the American people. UN Radio News/USA is updated as news breaks and is available free to radio stations at www.un.org/radio/newsusa. (...) Through the service, broadcasters enjoy access to a selection of actualities as well as complete, unedited audio of the day's meetings, speeches, news conferences and media stakeouts, making it possible for stations to cover the UN as never before. Spanish news and special reports will also be posted. (…) UN Radio News/USA is supported by the United Nations Foundation. For more information: www.unfoundation.org
3rd WSF World Spirit Forum - Collaboration in Consciousness
January 22 - 25, 2006 - Arosa, Switzerland
7 December - This third 2006 WSF World Spirit Forum will bring together the WWC World Wisdom Council (intitiated by Club of Budapest) with the first WSYC World Spirit Youth Council (initiated by Children of the Earth) and delegates from spiritual non profit organizations in a meaningful dialogue of preparing for the future. (…) This Forum will be a three day intensive meeting scheduled for selected visionary young people and world-renowned elders to begin to work on a conscious ethical living-systems approach to the future. Non-profit organization representatives will focus on furthering consciousness collaboration and meaningful cross-fertilization of ideas and practices so as to achieve a shared commitment. (…) This year's theme will be "Collaboration in Consciousness". Join inspiring visionaries such as Jane Goodall, Ervin Laszlo, Franz Josef Radermacher. See you at the World Spirit Forum?
UNESCO CHAIR ON EDUCATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS, DEMOCRACY AND PEACE
UNITWIN / UNESCO Chairs Award Winner (November 2002)
by Professor Dimitra Papadopoulou, UNESCO Chairholder
The UNESCO Chair on Education for Human Rights, Democracy and Peace of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (henceforth A.U.Th.), Greece, was founded in the beginning of 1997 by a bilateral Agreement between UNESCO and the Aristotle University. The “Chair” is attached to the A.U.Th., which is the largest University of Southeast Europe with 10 Faculties, 44 Schools, 2.200 Faculty Members and about 70.000 students.
The purpose of the UNESCO Chair is, according to Article 2 of the Agreement, “to promote an integrated system of research, training, information and documentation activities in the field of human rights, peace and democracy at local, sub-regional and regional level”.
The UNESCO Chair of the A.U.Th. maintains a profile of academic-educational as well as community-oriented activities. Academic activities entail an undergraduate and a graduate course, whereas community oriented ones involve specific actions ranging from training courses, conferences and seminars to cultural events (art exhibitions, concerts, theatre etc.).
Since 1997, the UNESCO Chair has focused its activities on introducing and promoting in the University, as well as in primary and secondary education curricula, the concepts of human rights and peace, as well as the values of the Culture of Peace. The aim of these activities is to sensitise various target groups or the public at large on issues of human rights, peace, non-violence, democratisation, etc.
The academic activities of the UNESCO Chair constitute an essential part of its presence and work at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. In the context of its academic work, the UNESCO Chair runs two Academic Programmes on Education for Human Rights and Peace:
1. At undergraduate level, an Interfaculty, Interdisciplinary Academic Programme on Education for Human Rights and Peace, entitled “Contemporary World Problems and the Scientist's Responsibility: an Interdisciplinary Approach”.The UNESCO Chair offers the above Programme to undergraduate students of almost all Schools of A.U.Th.. The Programme is based on invited lecturers from various University Schools who contribute on a voluntary basis. The Programme is designed and directed by the UNESCO Chairholder Professor Dimitra Papadopoulou.
From the beginning of 1997 until the Spring Semester of 2003 (a total of 13 semesters), eighty (80) Professors taught in the Programme, most of them coming from A.U.Th., but also from other Greek Universities and from as many as twenty-five University Schools, such as the Schools of: Law, Psychology, Physics, Biology, Chemical Engineering, Medicine, Philosophy, Pedagogy, Classics, History, etc.
In total, sixty lectures were given on subjects, such as: The rights and protection of political refugees ● New Biotechnologies and Bioethical Questions ● Violence on Children: Protection of their Rights ● The Right to Religious Freedom and Equality ● Xenophobia, Racism, Social Exclusion ● Underprivileged Groups: Refugees and Migrants ● Terrorism and Asymmetrical Warfare ● Education for Human Rights, Democracy and Peace: Towards a Culture of Peace ● Women's Rights and Democratic Education: Discussing about Gender, Democracy and Citizenship, etc.
2. At post-graduate level, the UNESCO Chair participates, since 1998, in the European Master's Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation. The programme is organised with the co-operation of 38 Universities of all the Member States of the European Union.
The lectures given in Thessaloniki (UNESCO Chair/A.U.Th.) focus on the following three thematic areas:
a. Issues of Peace and Human Rights Education. Towards a Culture of Peace
b. Contemporary World Problems and the Scientist’s Responsibility
c. Human Rights, Issues of International Law and International Relations
The UNESCO Chair has also developed a wide range of activities regarding Education for Human Rights and Peace in Schools. These activities include:
1. A close cooperation and joint activities with Schoolteachers at all levels of education, with a view to promote the principles of Education and the Culture of Human Rights and Peace in primary and secondary schools throughout Greece.
In the context of the above cooperation, the UNESCO Chair of the A.U.Th. established in 2001 the National Network of Schoolteachers for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence, a Peace Movement of Greek Educators, which currently consists of more than 700 members. The aim of this Network is for all participants to promote – through their teaching practice and combined efforts – the principles of the Culture of Human Rights and Peace.
2. A Programme for the Sensitisation of the Youth to Human Rights and Peace, implemented by the UNESCO Chair, in collaboration with the Institute of Education for Peace (launched in 1998).
The aim of this Programme of Education for Human Rights and Peace in Schools is to familiarise and sensitise pupils with basic concepts of human rights and peace, through exercises and games of experiential learning. Also, as a result of these educational interventions, a teacher’s book “The alphabet of Human Rights Education and Peace” was published by the UNESCO Chair, A.U.Th., Thessaloniki, December 2001.
The UNESCO Chair has been also collaborating with the National Armed Forces, since 1998. The collaboration consists in the delivery of lectures and documents concerning issues of Education for Human Rights and Peace, as well as the Culture of Peace, to Armed Forces personnel, soldiers and the public.
Since 1998, in order to disseminate the values of Human Rights and Peace and the Culture of Peace, the UNESCO Chair organizes National and International Conferences on topics such as:
“50 Years of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948 – 1998”, May 14-17, 1998.
“Towards a Culture of Human Rights and Peace. The Role of the Universities”, International Interdisciplinary Conference, December 2-4, 1999.
“The Role of Teachers in the Culture of Human Rights and Peace”, National Interdisciplinary Conference, December 14-16, 2001.
Some of the topics discussed in these Conferences are:
“Children: A case of provocative violation of human rights” * “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights 50 years later: Reality beyond Ideology” * “Environmental Protection: an issue of Peace Education” * “Human Rights and management of ethnic conflicts” * “Xenophobia, Racism and School” * “Child abuse and neglect”, etc.
Since 1998, the UNESCO Chair has also organized a number of Symposia on topics such as:
“Youth for a Culture of Peace”, May 7, 1998. The Symposium was dedicated to the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“2000 – International Year for a Culture of Peace”, April 20, 2000. The Symposium was dedicated to 2000 - International Year for a Culture of Peace, etc.
Art- Recognising the eminent role of art in the promotion of human rights and peace and the importance of NGOs for the dissemination of these concepts in society, the UNESCO Chair, in co-operation with the Institute of Education for Peace, has organised, since 1998, a series of cultural events.
From autumn 2003 until summer 2005 several activities of the UNESCO Chair took place:
I. The UNESCO Chair continued successfully its undergraduate and postgraduate academic programme in the field of Education for Human Rights and Peace towards a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence. The programme is interdisciplinary and interfaculty at both its levels.
1.“Contemporary World Problems and the Scientist’s Responsibility” (undergraduate level)
During the period mentioned above, numerous lectures were given by 22 Professors from 12 Schools of the University of Thessaloniki. Lectures were, also, offered by six NGOs, i.e. Medicins Du Monde, Doctors Without Frontiers, Amnesty International, etc. In total, 31 lectures were given.
2. “European Master’s Degree in Human Rights and Democratization” (postgraduate level)
17 professors from the Schools of Psychology, Law and Philosophy-Pedagogy of the University of Thessaloniki gave lectures at the UNESCO Chair’s postgraduate programme, during the above mentioned period of time.
In the context of this postgraduate programme, foreign students prepared, under the supervision of the Chair’s academic staff, their Master of Art Theses.
Within the same context, apart from the lectures organized at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki during the spring semester of each academic year, the UNESCO Chair also offers lectures in the winter semester courses every year, which take place in Venice, Italy.
II. Our collaboration with the National Network of Schoolteachers for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence is one of UNESCO Chair’s most creative activities. This partnership guarantees the introduction of the Culture of Peace values in the Greek schools as well as the sensitisation of both educators and pupils in these values.
III. “Towards a Culture of Peace. Education for Peace in School” (Editor: Dimitra Papadopoulou), a new publication by the UNESCO Chair in collaboration with the Institute of Education for Peace (Thessaloniki, 2005, p.530). The book, a collective and interdisciplinary volume, is the Chair’s and A.U.Th.’s contribution to the International Decade towards a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).
The numerous and multidimensional activities of the UNESCO Chair of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki are based on a wide range of cooperations with various institutions, networks, Universities and individuals, such as academics, teachers, artists, students and citizens. It is a key principle of the UNESCO Chair to expand its activities in order to reach and sensitize as many Target Groups as possible to global problems and questions. Thus, the UNESCO Chair has been organizing, since 1997, its educational/ academic, as well as community oriented activities on an interdisciplinary/pluridisciplinary basis, through its cooperation with the following partners:
Professors of several Schools and Faculties of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, such as, inter alia: the Schools of Psychology, Law, Philosophy and Education, Physics, English Language and Literature, Chemical Engineering etc. The participation of the UNESCO Chair in European Projects and Networks (such as the European Master's Degree in Human Rights and Democratisation and the TEMPUS) has opened the way to a closer cooperation of the UNESCO Chair/A.U.Th. with other academic Networks.
Through the above cooperations, the UNESCO Chair/A.U.Th. is constantly developing a broad interdisciplinary framework of studies regarding multiple contemporary problems, focusing on peace, human rights, democracy, tolerance, non violence, environmental problems etc. Some of the issues discussed in the Academic Programmes of the UNESCO Chair are the following: Terrorism and Asymmetrical Warfare § Water and environment problems and their peaceful settlement § The pros and cons of Nuclear Physics § New Biotechnologies and Genetically Modified Organisms, Bioethical Questions § Migration and Cultural Identity § Violence on Children § The Right to Religious Freedom and Equality, etc.
The activities of the UNESCO Chair have also a very strong impact on the students of the A.U.Th. The fact that approximately 1900 students have attended the Chair’s interdisciplinary courses since 1997, illustrates its ability to draw their attention and interest to major global issues.
It is worth noting that the UNESCO Chair’s activities are not limited inside the academic community, but extend to the rest of the society as well. Through its various conferences, round tables, educational interventions etc, the UNESCO Chair manages to attract a variety of audiences and raise public awareness about the above mentioned issues.
The creation by the UNESCO Chair of the National Network of Schoolteachers for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence has added a new significant perspective to its multidimensional activities. The Network members have been working actively and with great eagerness in order to diffuse and implant the values of love, respect, tolerance and democracy in the minds of hundreds of children.
UNESCO Chair on Education for Human Rights, Democracy and Peace.
Chairholder: Prof. Dimitra Papadopoulou
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