Good News Agency – Year VI, n° 7



Weekly - Year VI, number 7 – 13 May 2005

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph. D.

Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.           

Good News Agency carries positive and constructive news from all over the world relating to voluntary work, the work of the United Nations, non governmental organizations, and institutions engaged in improving the quality of life – news that doesn’t “burn out” in the space of a day. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti. Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next.  It is distributed free of charge through Internet to the editorial offices of more than 3,700 media in 48 countries, as well as to 2,500 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



International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and Safety

Environment and wildlifeCulture and education

Actors for change: The growth of human rights institutions



International legislation



UN-ESCWA organizes workshop on "Building a New Iraq: Women’s Role in Drafting the Constitution"

Sixteen newly elected Iraqi women parliamentarians participated in a workshop organized by the Centre for Women at UN-ESCWA in collaboration with the Woodrow Wilson Institute for Scholars on ““Building a New Iraq: Women’s Role in Drafting the Constitution.” Held from 3 to 5 May 2005, the workshop focused on analyzing international policies and conventions on women’s rights. It stressed that improving women’s understanding of the different constitutional and legal processes is the first step towards drafting the New Constitution.

The workshop was facilitated by consultants Chibli Mallat, law professor and director of the Centre for the Study of the European Union, and Farida Bennani, university professor at the Faculty of Law in Marrakech, Morocco. It included sessions on Family Law; Prioritization of Legislative Issues for Iraqi Women; Review of Women’s Rights in Selected Regional Constitutions; Recommendations for Iraq’s Family Law; Development of Advocacy, Public Outreach and Civic Education Programs Towards Increased Women’s Personal Rights in the Constitution, during these three days; Creation of a Strategic Plan; Review of Constitutional Processes; and Study and Discussion of Transitional Administrative Law (TAL). Executive Director of the Iraq Foundation Rend Rahim Francke also joined the discussion on Transnational Administrative Law.

The workshop ended with recommendations on the Iraqi Family Law. It was an effort to involve women MPs in the constitutional process, sharpen their negotiation and lobbying skills in order to enable them to include Women’s Rights and International Conventions in the New Iraqi Constitution.



Human rights



European Commission: €28.3 million in humanitarian aid for one million Palestinians

12 May - The European Commission has allocated €28.3 million in humanitarian aid for one million Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and Lebanon. The aid will provide food, water and sanitation services, employment opportunities, health care, psychosocial support and protection for the poorest Palestinians and those most affected by movement restrictions. Assistance will be channeled through ECHO, the Commission’s humanitarian aid department ( Commented EU Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel: “Despite the improving political climate, most movement restrictions for people and goods remain in place. While it is crucial that humanitarian aid does not become a structural feature of the Palestinian economy, international donors must continue to help meet the urgent needs of the population.”


Scores of CARE supporters convene on Capitol Hill

By Allen Clinton, CARE

Washington, D.C., May 6 - Some 200 CARE supporters from more than 22 states gathered May 4 and 5 in our nation’s capital to meet with members of the Senate and House of Representatives and voice support for reducing extreme poverty.

At CARE's National Advocacy Conference, supporters highlighted three key issues and urged bipartisan support in this battle that directly affects 1.2 billion people living in the world’s poorest communities. "Members of the House and the Senate will listen to constituents if you speak up and communicate to them," says Jeri Rice, a Seattle resident and first time participant. "Coming together to speak with one voice is a powerful symbol that helps build support and momentum around this very important cause."

The two-day program began on May 4 with workshops, where discussions focused on challenges and opportunities for ending extreme poverty; the triumphs and troubles for women in the developing world; communicating effective advocacy messages; and group preparation for policy maker visits. That evening, Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for ABC News addressed the group, delivering an insightful overview of the impact of domestic politics on international affairs.

The next day, the groups were well received by their senators, congressional representatives and their staffs. (…)


Common ground in southern Arabia: Humanitarians, academics and Islamic scholars debate protection of war victims in sharia and humanitarian law

25 April - A seminar on the protection of war victims in Islamic sharia and international humanitarian law was held by the ICRC, the Yemen Red Crescent Society and Aden University in Yemen's southern port city on the 24 and 25 April. (…) For two days, 40 Yemeni scholars, academics, members of parliament and religious dignitaries listened to, and debated, presentations on protecting human dignity in wartime under both Islam's religious law and the Geneva Conventions.

Al-Habib Ali Zeynelabidin Al-Jifri, a well-know young muezzin from a prominent family of traditional Islamic teachers in Hadramout, set out how prisoners of war and civilians are protected in Islam, which embraces the basic aim of international humanitarian law: preserving the humanity of the individual. "It is obligatory," said Mr Al-Jifri, "to translate the principles protecting war victims enshrined in sharia and humanitarian law into practical reality."

Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar of Yemen's Supreme Court and head of the Yemeni Human Rights Organisation, assured the ICRC of his respect for its activities in Yemen and for its neutrality and impartiality, particularly in times on internal conflict, and thanked it for convening the seminar.

The participants concluded that this encounter, the first of its kind in Yemen, had helped overcome misconceptions and that a basis had been laid for joint efforts to spread knowledge of humanitarian concepts and principles that Islam and international law have in common.



Economy and development



Afghanistan: 14 000 grain silos to be distributed to farmers
FAO project training local tinsmiths in silo production

Rome, 12 May - Around 14 000 grain storage silos will be distributed to farmers in nine provinces of Afghanistan, thanks to a new FAO project funded by the Government of Germany.

The locally produced metallic silos, with grain storage capacities ranging from 120 to 1 800 kg, will be given to individual farmers, farmers' groups and cooperatives. The aim is to help reduce post-harvest losses, improve grain quality, increase the income of farmers by allowing them to sell grain during the off-season when prices are more favourable, and enhance household food security. The $2.4 million project will also rehabilitate or construct ten community storage warehouses in major grain-producing areas of Afghanistan this year to encourage the re-establishment of local grain markets.

Around 220 tinsmiths and technicians in the country are currently being trained through the project in an effort to build local capacity and improve the quality of local silo production.  


Region’s poorest countries look to trade, debt relief, aid and ict to achieve development goals

UNESCAP Special Body meets 10-11 May in Bangkok prior to 61st Commission Session

Bangkok, 6 May – The Seventh Session of UNESCAP’s Special Body on Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries will meet in Bangkok from 10-11 May 2005 to consider trade, debt relief and aid for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and information, communication and space technology for meeting development challenges. (…)

The Special Body on Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries discusses and makes recommendations to the Commission on selected issues of importance to the least developed and landlocked developing countries.

Of the world’s 50 least developed countries, 14 are located in the UNESCAP region, as are 12 of the world’s 30 landlocked developing countries. Four UNESCAP members - Afghanistan, Bhutan, Lao People's Democratic Republic and Nepal - are considered to be both least developed and landlocked developing countries. More information on least developed and landlocked developing countries may be found on the UNESCAP website at

The report of the Special Body is expected to highlight the concerns of the least developed and landlocked developing countries in light of the United Nations Millennium +5 Summit which will be held in New York in September 2005. The Special Body immediately precedes UNESCAP’s 61st Commission Session, scheduled for 12-18 May at the UN Conference Centre, Bangkok.


MarketPlace promotes dignity not charity

12 May - At MarketPlace: Handwork of India, over 480 Indian women artisans and their families represent the model of self-sufficiency and national identity that Mahatma Gandhi felt could be developed through cottage industries and craft development.

 MarketPlace, a non-profit fair trade organization, was born in the poor neighborhoods of Mumbai (Bombay) in 1986 as a program to provide employment for low-income women who otherwise had very few options.  With little education or training, these women faced many obstacles.  (…)

At present, MarketPlace works with 14 artisan-controlled cooperatives that make the intricate clothing and home décor sold throughout MarketPlace’s catalog and website, as well as in over 300 boutique stores throughout the US.  Working on the grassroots level, MarketPlace has tailored development to promote self-sufficiency and sustainability rather than charity.  Within the artisan groups, emphasis is placed on democratic decision-making, on promotion from within and on every artisan having a say and stake in the direction of the company.

Organizing the workers to achieve financial security is only part of MarketPlace’s mission.  Through SHARE, a non-profit organization working with MarketPlace, artisans have replaced hopelessness with plans for improvements.  As they begin to change the way they think about themselves and their future, they have also determined to work for other improvements in their neighborhoods.  Now community activists, artisans put to use their newfound organizational and communication skills they so eagerly embraced.  Groups have taken on daunting tasks such as providing basic health education within their poor communities, attending workshops on women’s legal rights and forming social action committees to tackle issues such as alcohol abuse and garbage collection. (…)


IFAD Executive Board approves loans and grants totalling more than US$184 million to aid tsunami recovery and combat rural poverty in 14 countries

Rome, 22 April – The 84th session of IFAD’s Executive Board approved US$171.8 million in loans and US$12.5 million in grants to improve the lives of rural poor people in 14 countries, as well as aid tsunami recovery in the worst affected areas. (…)

There are 192 ongoing IFAD-supported rural poverty eradication programmes and projects, totalling US$6.5 billion. IFAD has invested about US$2.8 billion in these initiatives. Cofinancing has been provided by governments, beneficiaries, multilateral and bilateral donors and other partners. At full development, these programmes will help more than 100 million rural poor women and men to achieve better lives for themselves and their families. Since starting operations in 1978, IFAD has invested almost US$8.7 billion in 689 projects and programmes that have helped more than 250 million poor rural men and women achieve better lives for themselves and their families.


New Electronic Platform to connect entrepreneurs from Asia and Africa

New York, 22 April - Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan today announced the launch of a new web site –TICAD Exchange – to facilitate trade and investment between Asia and Africa. Coming online as the 50th anniversary of the Bandung Conference of 1955 is underway in Jakarta, Indonesia, the TICAD Exchange is a first step toward building a strong interregional networking mechanism of Asian and African public and private sectors. (…)

Koizumi also announced the doubling of Japanese aid to Africa, now at 8.8 percent or US$529.9 million of its total Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) budget. "In the three years to come, Japan will double its ODA to Africa with grant aid continuing to be its central feature," he said, adding that Japan will hold TICAD IV in 2008.

The TICAD Exchange network, which is now up and running on the World Wide Web (, is developed and managed by the TICAD Bureau of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with technical support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) through its UNIDO Exchange Programme. Sponsored by the Government of Japan, it aims at improving a readily usable information base on trade and investment to facilitate the identification of new business opportunities, and providing an on-line facility for information exchange among users. (…)






Former US Presidents say $10 million in privately raised funds for tsunami reconstruction to include adopt-an-island in Maldives

6 May – George Bush and Bill Clinton, the 41st and 42nd Presidents of the United States, announced that a  private fund bearing their names has raised US$10 million so far and will be used to target projects in four countries affected by last December’s  Indian Ocean tsunami, including the United Nation Development Programme’s adopt-an-island programme in the Maldives. The privately raised funds will go to reconstruction projects already underway in Indonesia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives – the four countries visited by the two Presidents during their tour of region February 17-22 earlier this year.  (…)

Presidents Bush and Clinton made their joint announcement before a crowd of several thousand contributors to the Bush-Clinton Houston Tsunami Fund.

A portion of the funds will help Adopt-An-Island in the Maldives, a programme established by UNDP to allow businesses, governments, individuals or organizations to directly support communities in tsunami-stricken islands to rebuild. The proceeds from the Bush-Clinton Fund will go to the United Nations Foundation to adopt an island on behalf of the Bush-Clinton Fund, and will be used to improve an island’s water and sanitation conditions and to reconstruct the island’s harbor and its government offices. (…)


New operation provides WFP food aid to 550,000 Haitians

Port-Au-Prince, 5 May – For the next two years, 550,000 Haitians – the vast majority of them women and children – will be guaranteed at least one nutritious meal every day, provided by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP).

In an effort to improve the nutritional status of the most vulnerable, WFP today launched a new Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO), which will provide food aid to more than half a million hungry poor Haitians for two years, at a cost of US$40 million. Seventy-six percent of Haitians live on less than USS2 per day, while 55 percent live on less than US$1 per day. (…)

A contribution of US$7.2 million to the new PRRO has already been confirmed by the Government of Canada. (…)

The recovery component will use 85 percent of the food resources and will comprise community nutrition activities including nutritional education for malnourished children under five and anaemic pregnant and nursing women, food assistance to people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, and food-for-recovery activities. The relief component, using 15 percent of the food resources, will allow WFP to respond rapidly but adequately to emerging needs, providing food aid immediately to vulnerable victims of natural disasters or civil strife. (…)


UNICEF to support US $90 million in rebuilding tsunami affected schools

Jakarta, May 4, 2005 - UNICEF will support the Indonesian Government through Ministry of National Education by allocating US $90 million to rebuild 300 destroyed primary schools and repair another 200 damaged schools in the tsunami devastated province of Aceh as well as Nias island in North Sumatra province.

Construction is scheduled to start in mid 2005 and end in 2007 in the most affected areas in at least six districts of Banda Aceh, Aceh Besar, Nagan Raya, Aceh Jaya, Aceh Barat and Simeulue as well as in two districts in North Sumatra, Nias and Nias Selatan.

The final quota of rehabilitated and constructed primary schools for each district will be determined by the needs, including the size of the school age population, as well as the availability of overall financial resources from all committed donors and partners, including UNICEF.

In rebuilding the schools, the Ministry of National Education, UNICEF and the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), as the operational partner, will use and apply a “child friendly” school design with the perspective of “education for all”. Disabled children, for example, will have access to all parts of the school easily. (…)


Helen Keller International receives $300,000 tsunami relief grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation 

Grant helps supply micronutrients to Indonesian tsunami survivors to fight water-borne diseases

New York, April 28 –  Helen Keller International (HKI) received a $300,000 grant from the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF) for its project, “Tsunami Relief Through Micronutrient Supplementation in Indonesia.”  The 12-month project strives to safeguard the health of approximately 250,000 children and 200,000 households affected by the 2004 tsunami by providing vitamin and mineral supplements.

This new grant will enable HKI to reduce morbidity and mortality among Internally Displaced People (IDPs) by assessing the population conditions and by providing vitamin A capsules and zinc treatments, along with multivitamin and mineral supplements to complement food aid.  While some of these IDPs are staying with relatives or friends, many of them are living in shelters of varying standards and are in need of shelter, food, clothes, medical aid and other assistance.  (…)


Quick U.S. response allows WFP to cancel ration cut in Darfur but funding still critical

Khartoum, 26 April – The United Nations World Food Programme announced today that thanks to a rapid donor response, the agency will not be forced to carry out expected ration cuts in May for close to two million people living in Sudan’s western region of Darfur. The reprieve follows WFP’s warning three weeks ago of impending ration cuts due to a lack of funds which remains a concern.

As a last resort due to severe under-funding, WFP had planned to halve the non-cereals part of the daily ration for general distributions in Darfur in May. However, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Food for Peace has stepped in and redirected to Sudan around 14,000 metric tons of non-cereals already on the high seas. (…)

WFP warned that despite this stop-gap measure for the current non-cereals shortfall, the overall emergency operation in Darfur still remains severely under-funded. Of the US$467 million WFP needs for the Darfur operation, only US$281 million has been received, leaving a 40 percent shortfall. (…)


Deloitte and UNDP join forces for tsunami reconstruction

United Nations, 22 April – Through its member firms, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu, one of the world's leading professional services organizations, has begun providing 14,000 hours of pro bono advisory services to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to help ensure that tsunami reconstruction funds are used efficiently and transparently, UNDP announced today.

The first Deloitte team recently began work in Indonesia and will review UNDP reconstruction operations in affected areas. The team will recommend methods to improve reporting, review existing control mechanisms, and seek to identify opportunities to strengthen accountability. Deloitte teams will also tour UNDP operations in the Maldives and Sri Lanka.

Deloitte firms in Australia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, and the United States are participating in this landmark initiative. Deloitte teams will work with UNDP to review and advise on opportunities to strengthen financial systems, processes, and procedures. Donor governments have contributed more than US$112 million to UNDP for tsunami reconstruction programs.


New Yorkers To Join 24-Hour Global Hunger Walk  - June 12

New York -- On June 12, New Yorkers will join with tens of thousands of people around the globe in a unique 5-kilometer (3.1 miles) “Walk-the-World” event to raise awareness of hunger. The walk supports the work of the World Food Program which last year fed over 80 million of the world’s hungriest people.

Walk-the-World was initiated two years ago by TNT the global provider of express, mail and logistics services.  The event takes place in the course of a 24-hour period in 24 different time zones.  Last year, more than 40,000 people participated in over 70 countries in a bid to focus public attention on the plight of the world’s 852 million hungry people and to call for action.  (…)  

Last year almost $1 million dollars was raised, enough to feed 30,000 hungry children for one year at WFP’s school feeding projects. (…) 

Walk the World aims to focus attention on the world’s hungry, in particular, to ensure that the 300 million children in the world are fed.  On average it costs $34 to feed a child for a school year, or 19 cents a day.  Adult participants are being asked to pay a minimum $19, enough to feed 100 children for a day.  Participants under 12-years of age are being asked to contribute a minimum of 19 cents. 

Walk the World,



Peace and security



Second part of Algeria's stockpiles destruction

Author: Gaetan de Beaupuis

Algeria, 29 April - Handicap International Representative witnessed the destruction of the second part of Algerian landmines stockpiles by the National People Army. On 8 and 9 May 2005 , Algeria is holding a symposium on the implementation of the Convention, with ICBL participation...

On the 28th and 29th March 2005, Handicap International was invited to witness the second operation of landmines destruction in presence of members of the inter-ministerial Committee for the follow-up and the implementation of the Ottawa Convention, one UNDP representative and the Ambassador of Canada. During this operation, 30.000 mines have been destroyed by explosion, incineration, and crushing of fuses, mine casing and wooden stakes, reels of trapping wire, on the military base of Hassi Babah, then melting of metal bodies on the military base of Beni Mered (logistical central base, 40 km away from the southern Alger).

The operation was carried out by the Algerian army, with transparency, rigour and professionalism. (…) To this day, the National People Army has destroyed 62% of its 150 050 landmines stockpile.


Building homes and hope in Iraq

Valuable vocational skills complement a home reconstruction program in Erbil, Iraq.

Erbil, Iraq, April 28 – Iraqi villagers outside Erbil, in the Kurdish northern part of the country, have more to look forward to than just a new home as Spring approaches.  In a country with a 70 percent unemployment rate, the 800 families who helped build their own homes in a recent housing reconstruction effort may be able to turn these valuable skills into much needed value, such as jobs. 

A year ago, Counterpart International met with local leaders, elders, and community representatives to identify needs in the war torn Qushtapa sub-district.(…) The organization was able to complement the communities' decision to construct houses and their corresponding infrastructure of water and sanitation systems and primary schools, by providing technical expertise and training in self-built home construction and community infrastructure development. Today, these 800 families from 39 villages are completing their new homes thanks to technical support that was provided by Counterpart through some $5.4 million from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Families also added local roofing materials to complement UNHCR's building guidelines, making their houses more energy efficient in this colder northern region of the country. (…)

Counterpart established a presence in Iraq in 2003. With critical support from the US Department of State, UNHCR and USAID, the organization has successfully piloted, replicated, and refined its civil society programs across the Middle East, the former Soviet Union, Central and Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa.


Peacebuilding, Conflict Transformation & Post-War Rebuilding, Reconstruction And Resolution

A Five-Days International Training Programme organised by TRANSCEND and the Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania, July 11 – 15, 2005 Cluj-Napoca, Romania.

9 May - Peacebuilding, Conflict Transformation and Post-War Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Resolution (PCTR 2005) is designed for practitioners, political leaders and policy makers, and organisations working in areas affected by conflict, violent conflict, and war, as well as countries and regions in post-war situations.  Building upon experiences in peacebuilding, conflict transformation, and post-war reconstruction, rehabilitation, reconciliation and healing, and people-centred, participatory development, from former Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Colombia, Nepal, Somalia, Nicaragua, South Africa, and the Middle East, as well as from the countries of the participants themselves, the programme is highly intensive and practice-oriented.

PCTR is designed for advanced participants and practitioners to develop skills and tools for implementation in practice, addressing both the needs of the individuals taking part, as well as the needs and challenges confronting the communities, organisations and institutions they work within, both in the field and in their organisation, programme and project design.






Flemish government and UN launch women and AIDS programme in Mozambique

Maputo, 6 May - The Flemish Government and the United Nations in Mozambique today announced the launch of a four year programme to combat the growing feminisation of the HIV and AIDS epidemic in Mozambique.

According to figures from the Mozambique Government, an estimated 58% of people living with HIV and AIDS in the country are women and girls and 75% of those living with HIV in the age group 15 – 24 are female. (...)

The programme, which will be coordinated by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), tapping on the strengths of the entire UN System, the Government of Mozambique, international and local NGOs, will identify gaps in the response to women and girls in Mozambique and will support the development of an integrated national strategy with a sustained advocacy campaign to highlight the situation of women, girls and AIDS. (…)


1.2 million children immunized in West Bank and Gaza strip

Ramallah/Gaza City, 5 May - An immunization campaign against measles, mumps and rubella was launched today for 1.2 million children and young people in the West Bank and Gaza strip. 

There have been several reported cases of mumps and rubella among school aged children and university students respectively in various locations in the West Bank and there is a high risk that mumps could easily spread among school children.  All children must be protected against measles – one of the most contagious diseases as well.  Dozens of school immunization teams will, over the next few weeks, conduct operations in 15 districts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.  In addition, health facilities and mobile health teams will assist in ensuring vaccinations from main cities to isolated villages. This campaign is partly sponsored by the Government of Japan.

The campaign, led by Palestinian Authority Ministries of Health, Education and Higher Education, UNICEF and United Nations Relief and Works Agency, is joined by other UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to make it a success.  (…)


First global report on efforts to roll back malaria highlights progress and challenges

Burden of malaria still worst in Africa, but prevention and treatment reaching more people

Cairo/Geneva/New York, 3 May  - More people are accessing prevention and treatment services for malaria, sparking hope that the number of people who become sick and die from malaria will begin to decline. However, challenges remain to reduce the burden of the disease which still kills one million people every year, most of those in Africa, according to the 2005 World Malaria Report.

The report, released today by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), finds that progress has been made in preventing and treating malaria since 2000. It finds that more countries are introducing the newest medicines to treat malaria, and that more people are receiving long-lasting insecticide-treated mosquito nets through innovative new programmes. The report analyzes malaria data collected through 2004 and represents the most comprehensive effort ever made to present the available evidence on malaria worldwide. (…)


Call to boost HIV/AIDS awareness in Africa

Addis Ababa, 2 May - Policymakers have reiterated the need for Africa to tackle HIV/AIDS by talking frankly about the disease in a bid to educate people. The call follows a meeting of ECA’s Commission on HIV/AIDS and Governance in Africa (CHGA) in Casablanca Morocco last week which drew over 100 participants. They discussed challenges caused by the pandemic on the continent and came up with a set of recommendations which will be presented to African leaders and policymakers through a Final Report to be published later this year.

The report will look at five specific areas including prevention and treatment, impact of HIV/AIDS on gender, HIV/AIDS and youth, human capacity, and financing the response to HIV/AIDS.

Participants agreed that to mount an effective response, Africa must close the knowledge gap on HIV/AIDS through a frank assessment of the situation in different regions and countries.

They also stressed that Africa must take urgent action to stop people with HIV/AIDS from dying prematurely, and to prevent healthy people from becoming infected. This should fit into long-term planning for the continent. (…)


Laotian youth teach peers to protect their reproductive health

EU-funded initiative reaches remote villages and urban teens at risk

Phontong, Saravan Province, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, 2 May — A visiting health education team has set up a stage and loudspeakers, and the whole village has come to watch. A dozen adolescents are sitting up front. They take turns before the microphone as a moderator quizzes them about reproductive anatomy and disease prevention, teasing them gently when they become embarrassed, and the crowd laughs.

One young-looking teenager, blushing but confident in her answers, has a lively interaction with the trainer. Then she quietly leaves the group and goes behind the stage to nurse her infant son.

Phetsone, 16, in many ways typifies the 15-24 target group that the educators, from the NGO Health Unlimited, aim to reach in this rural area where sexual activity and childbearing often start at an early age. Briefly married to a boy her own age, Phetsone is now divorced and lives with her family. She tells a visitor that she wants to marry again, if she finds a good man.

The educational activity is part of the Reproductive Health Initiative for Youth in Asia (RHIYA), which operates in seven countries with support from the European Union and UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund. (…)


Polio immunizations in India target 170 million children

By Vukoni Lupa-Lasaga

29 April - An estimated 170 million children received the oral polio vaccine during National Immunization Days launched across India on 10 April. World Health Organization Director-General Jong-Wook Lee traveled to New Delhi five days ahead of the event to demonstrate global support for India's fight against polio. In the weeks leading to the NIDs, close to 100,000 Rotarians and family members participated in advocacy and social mobilization efforts to generate a high turnout. They also provided logistical support during the immunization days to ensure that volunteers and vaccine were in the right place at the right time. (…) Hundreds of Rotarians traveled from Australia, Canada, the United States, and other countries to support their Indian counterparts during the NIDs. (…)

Since January, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partners and the government of India have organized three massive immunization campaigns. At least four more nationwide or regional campaigns targeting polio-endemic areas in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are planned through the end of 2005.

There is a heightened awareness of the stakes involved for India, which is one of only six countries where polio is still endemic. As a result, government officials, politicians, religious leaders, and celebrities are lending their weight to the effort to rid the country of polio. For example, Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan and cricket star Sachchin Tendulkar are now regular participants in social mobilization events. Popular leaders such as Sonia Gandhi, president of the Congress of India (the ruling party), launch NIDs throughout the country.


Helen Keller International launches cataract program in Senegal

New York, April 28 – In collaboration with the Ministry of Health and the National Blindness Prevention Program, Helen Keller International (HKI) launched a new cataract program last week in Ziguinchor (Casamance), Senegal. (…) The goal of HKI’s three-year program is to reduce cataract blindness in the Ziguinchor region and to develop a model for improving cataract surgery services that can be adopted by other health regions in Senegal.

Cataract is the number one cause of blindness worldwide and accounts for 50% of all blind adults.  An estimated 20 million people are blind from cataract, and 100 million are in need of a cataract operation to restore full sight.  (…)

Supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), HKI’s new program seeks to increase awareness of and demand for cataract surgeries, access to eye health services, and the ability of the health system to deliver quality surgeries at minimal cost. (…)


UNAIDS and the Government of India join forces to combat HIV in uniformed services

New Delhi, 28 April – Today, India’s Minister of Defence, Mr Pranab Mukherjee, and Dr Ulf Kristoffersson, Director of the UNAIDS Office on AIDS, Security and Humanitarian Response, announced the signing of a partnership agreement committing both parties to work together to reduce the impact of HIV and increase prevention efforts among military personnel, particularly young men and women.With some 1.3 million active members in the Indian military and 535,000 in the reserve, the partnership agreement has the potential to affect a large segment of the country’s population. (…)

Uniformed services are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection due to a number of factors, among them the young age of military personnel. The majority are in the age group at greatest risk for infection, the sexually active group under 24 years of age. During peacetime military personnel are up to five times more likely to contract sexually transmitted infections (STIs)—including HIV—than the civilian population. In times of conflict this risk can be significantly higher. (…)



Energy and safety



Harnessing the power of the sun to clean water 

European Water Management News, May 4 - Scientists in Scotland are leading research to develop new technology that can harness the power of the sun to clean up polluted water - while producing electricity at the same time. At the heart of the research at Aberdeen University is a new type of fuel cell that is capable of using sunlight to break down various pollutants in water and produces electricity as a byproduct.

The results of a £1.2 million three-year research initiative could eventually be used to treat water in third world countries as well as provide cheap water treatment in the oil and gas and water industries.

The research is led by scientists at the university’s department of chemistry and school of biological sciences and has attracted funding from the Department of Trade and Industry and three industrial partners, Yorkshire Water, Scotoil Services, a North Sea oil service company, and OpTIC Technium, a manufacturing technology company based in North Wales.

Source: The Scotsman:


Scientists unite in call for action as global food demands threaten to outstrip world water supply

European Water Management News, April 27 - While many of today’s rivers, lakes and groundwater reservoirs continue to be overexploited, a new report launched today by leading scientists at the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development warns that unless steps are taken to improve the way water is managed, twice the world’s current water consumption may be needed by 2050 to feed a global population of some 9 billion.

The scientists from the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), World Conservation Union (IUCN) and International Water Management Institute (IWMI) said that the ambitious international commitment to halve the number of people facing hunger have missed a fundamental question: where is the water needed to grow the food to feed future generations properly? The report, “Let It Reign: The New Water Paradigm for Global Food Security” points out that feeding the world is in many ways a daunting water challenge.



Environment and wildlife



San Joaquin Air District and Public Health Advocates set clean air rule deadlines

New regulations will control particulate matter sources

Fresno, CA, USA, 5 May - The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District today announced a settlement that will ensure the adoption of four new air pollution control measures in the Valley to control particulate matter air pollution by the end of 2005.

The measures are required under the District’s federally-approved 2003 cleanup plan for particulate matter. Under the plan, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in May 2004, these control measures should have been adopted last year but the district missed the deadlines. The 2003 cleanup plan was the result of prior litigation by the same organizations after years of inaction by the District and EPA.

The District, recognizing its legal liability for failing to promulgate these rules by the deadlines required by its own plan, and the federal Clean Air Act, agreed to be bound by a court-endorsed consent decree, filed today along with the lawsuit. The consent decree will not be ordered by the Court pending a 45-day period within which the Justice Department may submit comments on its terms, but neither the groups bringing this suit nor the District expect the Department to have any concerns. (…)


Ben & Jerry's and WWF launch climate change college

London, UK, 28 April – Ice cream makers Ben & Jerry’s are seeking young people to stop the melt and help lick global warming. Together with WWF and polar explorer Marc Cornelissen, the internationally-recognized brand is launching the Ben & Jerry’s Climate Change College in support of WWF’s international PowerSwitch! campaign.

The three-year initiative will see six young people – aged 18-25 – each year become Climate Change Ambassadors after graduating from the Ben & Jerry’s Climate College. Successful applicants to the college will be fully trained through internships, workshops, and a visit to the polar region to witness the issue for themselves and support ongoing research into climate change. (…)

The project’s main objective is to help these young people develop the practical skills to help fight climate change and prevent the polar ice caps from further melting. This group of international ambassadors will be recruited from the UK and the Netherlands. After completing their college and field mission in 2006 the ambassadors will campaign and spread the message with support from Ben & Jerry’s and WWF. (…)


Supreme Court allows citizens to seek legal redress for harm caused by pesticides

Manufacturers' attempt to lock courthouse doors fails

Washington, DC, 27 April - The United States Supreme Court today upheld the right of people to sue pesticide manufacturers to compensate them for injuries caused by toxic pesticides.

Patti Goldman, managing attorney for Earthjustice in Seattle, was the principal author of the friend of the court brief submitted by public health and conservation groups in this case arguing that pesticide makers can be held accountable in court for pesticide-caused injuries.

Statement on today’s ruling by Patti Goldman:

“This decision is a victory for fairness to individuals who are poisoned by toxic pesticides. This decision makes pesticide manufacturers accountable for the harm their products cause and creates incentives for those corporations to refrain from promoting dangerous pesticides and to make sure their labels disclose and guard against the risks posed by these products.” (…)


San Joaquin Air District and Public Health Advocates set clean air rule deadlines

New regulations will control particulate matter sources

Fresno, CA, USA, 5 May - The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District today announced a settlement that will ensure the adoption of four new air pollution control measures in the Valley to control particulate matter air pollution by the end of 2005.

The measures are required under the District’s federally-approved 2003 cleanup plan for particulate matter. Under the plan, approved by the Environmental Protection Agency in May 2004, these control measures should have been adopted last year but the district missed the deadlines. The 2003 cleanup plan was the result of prior litigation by the same organizations after years of inaction by the District and EPA.

The District, recognizing its legal liability for failing to promulgate these rules by the deadlines required by its own plan, and the federal Clean Air Act, agreed to be bound by a court-endorsed consent decree, filed today along with the lawsuit. The consent decree will not be ordered by the Court pending a 45-day period within which the Justice Department may submit comments on its terms, but neither the groups bringing this suit nor the District expect the Department to have any concerns. (…)



Culture and education



Sixth Annual UNA-USA Model UN Conference - May 19-21, 2005

New York Marriott Marquis and U.N.Headquarters, New York

This year's event will host over 2,000 students at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel and UN Headquarters in New York City from May 19-21, 2005.

UNA-USA's conception of Model United Nations (Model UN) is based firmly on the realistic portrayal of UN deliberations. Delegates will be expected to conduct extensive research on the agenda topics, the country that they are representing and the United Nations itself. In addition, students will be expected to faithfully represent their country's positions, as do actual delegates to the United Nations. It is through intense research into a country's culture and national interests that students will be able to participate in a realistic simulation of the United Nations. (…)

The UNA-USA Model UN Conference offers support to every attending advisor. Prior to the conference, each school will be given an advisor's guide and preparation materials. This year, UNA-USA MUN is also launching a new partnership network through which veteran advisors will be paired with novice advisors to address pre-conference questions. During the conference, advisors will have the opportunity to participate in workshops and attend lectures on current Model UN and international issues. (…)

The UNA-USA Model UN Conference is supported by a 125-member secretariat composed of college students from across the globe. Undergraduate and graduate students studying at world-renowned universities direct the committees and work year-round to ensure a realistic and rewarding educational simulation.


IFAD, UNIFEM and IDRC to co-sponsor regional “gender mainstreaming” conference in New Delhi, 10-12 May

Rural women in South Asia among the poorest people in the world

New Delhi, Monday 9 May - The increased need to address gender inequalities in development projects will be the focus of a three-day conference in New Delhi being jointly organized by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and Canada’s International Development Research Centre.

Gender inequality is the primary cause of persistent poverty and the main reason why many developing countries are off-track to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The regional conference, entitled “Development Effectiveness through Gender Mainstreaming,” will take place on 10-12 May and assess the progress that has been made in poverty reduction and gender equality in rural South Asia.

About two thirds of the world’s 1.2 billion extremely poor people live in Asia; more than half of them can be found in South Asia. Women represent the majority of poor people in Asia, particularly in rural areas. This is largely due to the fact that rural women do not have equitable access to the productive assets and services they need to improve their lives.

The goal of the conference is to promote development policies and programmes that can effectively reduce gender inequality and rural poverty in South Asian countries. (…)

For more


Training HIV/AIDS orphans in sub-Saharan Africa

Field schools fight hunger and poverty with farming know-how and life skills

Rome, 9 May - AIDS orphans in Africa are being helped to improve their often desperate living conditions by learning agricultural techniques in specially designed schools, FAO said today.

To date, FAO has set up 34 Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools for orphaned children in Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia and Zambia, targeting a total of around 1 000 young people. Many of these children are not able to farm because their parents could not pass on the necessary agricultural knowledge before dying of AIDS.

Of the estimated 34 million orphans in sub-Saharan Africa, more than 11 million lost their parents to AIDS. By 2010, it is estimated that up to 20 million children could lose one or both parents to the disease. Children orphaned by AIDS and living in rural areas are particularly at risk from malnutrition, disease, abuse and sexual exploitation. (…)

FAO is working with the World Food Programme (WFP) and other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and local institutions, to found the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools for children and young people in response to the growing numbers of AIDS orphans. The schools aim to share agricultural knowledge, business skills, and life skills with orphans and vulnerable children between 12 and 18 years of age.  (…)


San Diego exemplary high school students awarded Annette I. Baughman scholarship funds by UNA-San Diego Chapter

$ 10,000 in college funds for outstanding achievement in Model United Nations

San Diego, CA, USA, April 20 - The United Nations Association San Diego Chapter (UNA-SD) congratulates San Diego high school students Alexandra Berkowitz, Jason Raftery, and Michael Sullivan, for their exemplary academic performance and for serving as model ambassadors in Model United Nations.  Students applied from eight San Diego schools, wrote essays “What the UN means to me,” and the UNA-SD committee reviewed transcripts and interviewed the students.  The awardees received a total of $10,000 through the UNA-SD Annette I. Baughman Scholarship Fund. Each student demonstrated exceptional writing skills, knowledge of the UN and participated in Model United Nations (MUN), a program where students learn about the United Nations through role play and negotiation. The awards ceremony on April 23rd at the Mission Valley Resort is part of the 2nd Annual San Diego High School Model United Nations Conference. (…)

Model UN allows students to step into the shoes of ambassadors from UN member states to debate current issues on the organization's vast agenda - all in the interest of mobilizing "international cooperation" to resolve problems that affect countries all over the world. The insights they gain from their exploration of history, geography, culture, economics and science contribute to the authenticity of the simulation, create a lively and memorable experience, and provide students a rich and well-rounded education.  Student "delegates" in MUN prepare draft resolutions, negotiate with supporters and adversaries, plot strategy, resolve conflicts through negotiations, and navigate the UN’s rules of procedure.

Kubichan Communications – Media Relations for UNA San Diego Charter -


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“10 Stories The World Should Hear More About”

In its continuing efforts to draw attention to important international developments and issues that fall outside the media spotlight, the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI) launched on  3 May 2005 a new list of “Ten Stories the World Should Hear More About.”

Good News Agency includes the following story, which is emblematic of the progress in the field of human rights. DPI will provide additional information about the stories, including contacts for United Nations focal points for the respective issues, on the special Ten Stories web page (  This site can be also accessed through the UN News Centre portal, at



Actors for change: The growth of human rights institutions

Defending human rights has a new tool in its arsenal. More than 100 national institutions have emerged in recent years to protect the rights of vulnerable groups. They are increasingly active in a wide range of human rights causes, from the prevention of torture and discrimination to conflict resolution.

The Story

What does an improved status of the Tsaatan minority in Mongolia have in common with the rescue of child soldiers in Uganda, the probe into decades-old cases of forced disappearances in Mexico or documents on the training of police in Northern Ireland?  All of these examples reflect a promising trend -- a growing role and effectiveness of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights. “Building strong human rights institutions at the country level is what in the long run will ensure that human rights are protected and advanced in a sustained manner,” Secretary-General Kofi Annan stressed in a 2002 report. And that’s what -- away from the media spotlight -- appears to be happening.

Since the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted in 1993 the so-called Paris Principles -- minimum standards concerning national human rights institutions -- many countries have worked with the UN to establish or enhance such bodies. What often goes unnoticed, however, is that these institutions, already numbering more than 100, are increasingly active in a wide range of human rights causes. 

The Context

The majority of existing national institutions can be grouped in two broad categories: “human rights commissions” and “ombudsmen.” Less common, but no less important, are the “specialized” national institutions which function to protect the rights of a particular vulnerable group.  Such national institutions are not set up to replace the UN human rights organs or non-governmental organizations working in the same area. Their role is complementary, and a strengthening of such institutions can only enhance the effectiveness of both national and international human rights machinery.

In January 2005, the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan launched a report, A Call to Justice. Thanks to this bold initiative, for the first time Afghans were asked to express their views on vital issues of peace, security and justice. 

The Danish Institute for Human Rights is creating a knowledge database to raise awareness of the specific impact and consequences of anti-terrorism legislation.

The official probe into the forced disappearance of 532 people in Mexico during the 70’s and early 80’s had limited results until the Mexican National Human Rights Commission intervened and was able to throw light on that tragic episode.

Established as an outcome of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement 1998, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has investigated and supported through courts key cases on issues covering all political and religious viewpoints.

The National Human Rights Commission of Mongolia has made a significant contribution to securing the rights of the Tsaatans, the smallest ethnic minority in the country, residing in an isolated mountainous area.

Despite the challenges of working in conflict areas, the Ugandan Human Rights Commission has investigated reports of recruitment of child soldiers and made recommendations on their reintegration into society.

The National Human Rights Commission in India has been making efforts to create an environment in which economic, social and cultural rights could be better promoted and protected.


For further information:

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):

Orest Nowosad, Coordinator, National Institutions Unit, Capacity Building and Field Operations Branch, Tel: +41 22 917 92 23, E-mail:

Useful web links:

Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): 

National Human Rights Institutions Forum:

Minorities in Mongolia:

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):

Forced disappearances in Mexico:

Child soldiers in Uganda:

A call for justice (Afghanistan):

Platform of knowledge by the Danish Institute for Human Rights:

Economic, social and cultural rights in India:

Peace process and national institutions in Northern Ireland:

Source: REUNIC


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Next issue: 4 June.


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