Good News Agency – Year VI, n° 8



Weekly - Year VI, number 8 – 6 June 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 development

SolidarityPeace and securityHealthEnergy and Safety

Environment and wildlifeCulture and education



International legislation



USA: Senators Clinton and Snowe introduce "Kinship Care" Bill

Washington, DC, May 13 - Legislation aimed at providing federal resources to help the growing number of children in the U. S. now being cared for by relatives was introduced this week by Senators Clinton and Snowe.

Shay Bilchik, President and CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, praised Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) for their introduction of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act and called them compassionate champions of children. (…) The legislation, S.985, is a reintroduction of legislation sponsored by the senators late last year. It attempts to help kin families by both providing greater information and support to families experiencing the challenges of becoming parents again to their relative children. It would also expand current federal funding now limited to foster care and adoption assistance to some kinship families now involved with the child welfare system.

CWLA, as well as other organizations, have been working closely with Senator Clinton and Senator Snowe to develop this legislation to assist kinship families. Senator Thad Cochrane (R-MS) and Senator Tim Johnson (D-SD) joined the two senators in being original sponsors. At the time of its introduction the legislation had already garnered the endorsements of the AARP, Generations United, the Children's Defense Fund, the Evan P. Donaldson Adoption Institute, Grandparents for Children's Rights, the National Caucus of Black State Legislators, and Voices for Adoption. (…)



Human rights



Belgium government recognises water as a human right - more development aid for water

(European Water Management News, 27 April) - On 19 April 2005, the Belgian federal government has adopted a "water resolution" in which it recognises access to safe water as a human right that should be included in the Belgian constitution. The resolution also calls for a significant increase in development aid for drinking water and sanitation, taking into account that access and distribution of water remains in public hands and that developing countries should not be pressurised by international financial or trade institutions to liberalise or privatise their water markets. Other elements of the resolution stress user involvement (especially of women), integrated water resources management, strengthening the capacities of central and local government, progressive water tariffs to protect the poor, and the establishment of an international "water court" under the auspices of the UN. 




Economy and development




EU sets new ambitious targets for development aid

Brussels, May 25 - Underscoring the European Union’s commitment to the Millennium Declaration and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), EU Development Ministers endorsed yesterday at the General Affairs Council in Brussels far-reaching proposals to boost Official Development Aid (ODA) and to accelerate progress towards achieving the MDGs. (…)

“Just before the United Nation’s Summit (in September) on the Millennium Development Goals, this ambitious undertaking puts the European Union in the leadership role of development on a worldwide scale,” declared EU Development and Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Louis Michel.

Based on a proposal from the European Commission, the EU Council has established a new intermediate collective target for ODA, 0.56% of Gross National Income (GNI) by 2010, in order to reach the MDG goal of 0.7% by 2015. In its Conclusions, the Council has also registered the individual thresholds that Member States will have to achieve by 2010. The ten new Member States “will endeavor to increase their ODA to reach 0.17% on GNI by 2010”, while the remaining Member States “commit themselves to reaching” the threshold of 0.51% of GNI. For those countries already over these percentages, they undertake to sustain those efforts. (…)

By fixing the collective ODA target at a level of 0.56% of GNI by 2010, the EU is ensuring that additional funding of €20 billion (€1=$1.26) will be available as from that date.

The General Affairs Council also confirmed the main elements contained in the three Communications approved by the European Commission in April – “Accelerating Progress towards Attaining the Millennium Development Goals” – especially as regards the overall coherence of development policies and the primary focus on Africa.


Translating the millennium pledges into local action across Asia and the Pacific

Suwon City, Korea, 25 May  – Afghanistan, Indonesia, and economically vibrant China joined 10 other Asia and Pacific countries at a Local Government Development Institute (LOGODI) meeting in Suwon City this week to devise ways of localizing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In a statement read on her behalf, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, urged participants to make a personal commitment to ensure realisation of the MDGs at the local level. The president of LOGODI, Mr. Lee Kweon-Sang, said Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) were playing a more important role in Korea, especially on the environment – an area where local governments are increasingly recognizing the need to develop stronger partnerships with civil society for long-term environmental strategies through participatory planning. (…)

Participants included members of Logotri, a network of Asian local government training organizations established by UNESCAP

The workshop 20-23 May arranged by UN-HABITAT’s Training and Capacity Building Branch, received financial support from The Netherlands, Korea and LOGODI.


ICCR members launch sustainability campaign at Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.

New York City, NY///May 25, 2005///ICCR [Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility]  Member the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits of the United Methodist Church today launched a campaign urging Wal-Mart shareholders to vote for proposal number 5 on the company's annual proxy statement, which asks that Wal-Mart's Board of Directors prepare a sustainability report. Sustainability is a business model that instructs companies to take into consideration the needs and interests of various stakeholders while concurrently sustaining their business, communities, and the environment for future generations. Sustainability also entails measuring and reporting corporate performance against economic, social and environmental criteria. The General Board and the 30 other ICCR filers are concerned about Wal-Mart's lack of coherent transparency and openness in public reporting on social, economic and environmental issues. (…)


President of Mali visits IFAD headquarters while new loan agreement for development programme is signed

Rome, 24 May - The President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, visited the headquarters of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) where he was received by the President of IFAD, Lennart Båge. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss development issues and the problems facing Mali in reducing poverty.

A new loan agreement was signed for a development programme in the northern regions of the country where extreme poverty had contributed to an armed conflict during the 1990s. As part of a peace settlement, the Government pledged to promote economic development in the area. The Northern Regions Investment and Rural Development Programme will help to reduce poverty among farmers, nomadic herders and other vulnerable groups in the northern regions of Tombouctou and Gao. (…) IFAD is supporting the US$33.6 million programme with a US$14.6 million loan and a US$803,000 grant. The programme is also receiving cofinancing from the West African Development Bank and the Belgian Survival Fund.

The programme will help community members to gain skills in organizing themselves into groups, ensuring their voices are heard during local planning of poverty reduction activities. Local administrations will strengthen their ability to identify, plan and implement activities that truly meet the needs of rural poor people. IFAD funds will contribute to financing these activities. (…)


UN-ESCWA holds training program for Senior Iraqi Planning and Development Ministry Staff

Beirut, 20 May (United Nations Information Service) - The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA) will hold management training programs for senior staff of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation from 23 May to 3 June 2005 at the United Nations House, Beirut. (…) Beginning at 10am Monday morning, the training will brief participants on UN-ESCWA activities and efforts to support sustainable development and regional integration, highlighting its work to support the reconstruction of Iraq. The training will also address the challenges Iraq faces to join the World Trade Organization and the experiences of UN-ESCWA member countries on this issue. (…)

The training will also introduce United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) initiatives on good governance and present the UNDP Program on Governance in the Arab Region (POGAR). The Iraqi participants will also be visiting several Lebanese institutions to gain exposure to their experiences in public sector reform and the introduction of modern public sector management practices. 

UN-ESCWA, with the support of UNDP, organized similar training programs upon the request of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning as part of its capacity-building program to introduce its staff to best practices in modern public management. (…)


Norway, UNDP sign aid agreement for Caucasus

New York, 10 May - Zephirin Diabre, Associate Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Jan Petersen, Foreign Minister of Norway, today signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing Norway to providing $10 million for UNDP projects in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia over the next three years. (…)

Norway will provide the funding for programmes in democratic governance, energy and sustainable development. The projects to be funded have yet to be specified, and funding is contingent upon approval by the Norwegian parliament.

UNDP country offices in Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia already collaborate closely with Norway. In Armenia, for example, Norway support efforts aimed at fighting human trafficking, raising public awareness and assisting trafficking victims. In Azerbaijan, Norway is contributing to a UNDP Blood Bank project. And in Georgia, Norway has supported work on a child labour survey, which UNDP has conducted together with the Georgian Department of Statistics. (…)


Investment in water and sanitation pays off in economic growth

Source Weekly, No. 17-18, 2 May - Investments in a nation's water and sanitation infrastructure speed up economic growth, reduce poverty and improve public health, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) told the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) meeting in New York.

A study by the Swedish group found that the GDP of poor countries with improved water access and sanitation grew, on average, by 3.7% per year, compared to 0.1% per year without that investment. Moreover, cost of investing in water and sanitation can be as low as US$ 4 - US$ 7 (EUR 3 - EUR 5.40) per person, per year.

The economic benefits to health, agriculture and industry of meeting the water and sanitation Millennium Development Goals range from US$ 3 to US$ 34 (EUR 2.30 ­ EUR 26) per dollar invested, says the report.

Contact: David Trouba, SIWI, ; Maria Stenström,



Social Development Network launched on internet

An electronic network was established by UN-ESCWA called the Social Development Network (SDNet) to boost efforts to become a regional centre of excellence in knowledge management using the widest participatory approach possible, while enhancing the dialogue, information exchange, and cooperation among member countries, within the countries themselves, and with interested parties elsewhere. Using a knowledge management approach, SDNet will initially serve as a pilot modality to host and moderate online discussions of the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD 1994), the Beirut Declaration resulting from the Arab Population Forum (APF 2004) and the vital links between population and development.

Eventually, UN-ESCWA will use SDNet to debate the likelihood of implementing the MDGs and to exchange views and best practices among member countries and other regional organizations both within and outside the UN system on social development in the Arab region. (…)






Russian Federation / Chechnya: Help for flood victims

19 May - Yesterday the ICRC began providing aid for 312 families living in rural areas affected by the recent flooding in Chechnya.

On May 14 relief supplies had already been distributed to 138 households in Grozny and rural areas situated along the banks of the Sunzha, one of the three main rivers in the republic.

The aid consists of basic household items including bed linen, blankets, mattresses, kitchen sets, buckets and hygiene kits containing soap, detergent, toothbrushes and toothpaste.

As a result of the flooding in Chechnya, several hundred families have had their houses damaged or destroyed. According to official sources, water levels may continue to rise.

The ICRC will maintain contact with the local branch of the Russian Red Cross, district administrations and other national and local authorities with a view to coordinating relief efforts.


Ethiopia: ICRC delivers aid to displaced people in Gambella

18 May - On 11 May the ICRC completed a two-week distribution of maize, beans, oil and agricultural tools to nearly 46,000 displaced people from the Nuer and Anuak communities who had to leave their homes in Ethiopia’s south-western Gambella region earlier this year following renewed clashes among different Nuer communities. They had been forced to sell most of their cattle and tools to cope with the hardships of displacement.

This aid came at a critical moment: right before the onset of the rainy season, and at a time when the displaced people were running out of even the most basic items needed for survival. The ICRC expects the beneficiaries to be able to grow their own food again after the next harvest.


India helps WFP feed Afghan schoolchildren

Kabul, 17 May – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed another major food shipment from India as part of its pledge to donate one million metric tons of wheat to help feed schoolchildren in Afghanistan. The Indian wheat is converted into fortified biscuits with micronutrients that boost children’s nutrition and enhance their ability to learn. The biscuits – totaling 18,000 metric tons and worth an estimated US$19,390,000 – constitute the third shipment as part of India’s million-ton pledge to WFP.

“We are very grateful to the government of India for this contribution. It has made a dramatic difference in our efforts to spread school feeding in Afghanistan and improve both the health and educational condition of many poor Afghan children,” said WFP Country Director and Representative Charles Vincent.

Under school feeding projects, almost one million Afghan boys and girls received highly nutritious biscuits at school in 2004. WFP plans to cover 1.1 million students in 2005 and India’s latest contribution will be pivotal in reaching this objective. (…)


Helen Keller International receives $1.5 million USAID grant for Child Survival

New York, May 10 – Helen Keller International (HKI) has received a $1.5 million grant from the Child Survival and Health Grants Program, which is administered by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  The grant supports a four-year integrated program to improve nutrition, called Nutrition+, to be implemented in the Koulikoro Region of Mali, a densely populated area with few resources to benefit the population.  With Nutrition+, HKI will introduce a state-of-the-art package of nutrition interventions focusing on the most critical period for mother and child survival and development: pregnancy through the first two years of life.

Despite recent gains in democratization, governance, and economic growth, Mali has the 7th highest under-five child mortality rate in the world, and nearly 70% of these deaths occur in children younger than two years of age.  As in other West African countries, malaria, acute respiratory infection, diarrhea, and vaccine-preventable diseases like measles and tetanus are the leading direct causes of child mortality in Mali.  However, 51% of mortality is attributable to malnutrition, meaning that if these children had been adequately nourished, they would have survived.  Micronutrient deficiencies are rampant, and health statistics in the Koulikoro Region are even more alarming than the national statistics.  (…)

HKI has previously worked in four of the nine health districts in the Koulikoro Region.  This most recent grant will enable HKI to expand to the entire region, reaching 85% of the population, or 452,000 people, each year.


Venezuela flood relief

May 9 - More than 200 families in Venezuela's Vargas, Miranda and Mérida States received food in the wake of massive flooding, via a grant from FHI.  Partner organization RENACSENIV (Red Nacional Cristiana de Servicio al Niño Venezolano) provided food and personal hygiene items to families who had lost homes and personal belongings due to floods that came in January and February. RENACSENIV utilised a network of its own regional offices, churches and non-governmental organisation to reach flood-affected households in the three states.

While RENACSENIV's name does indicate its primary mission is working with children, the flood relief efforts aimed to help entire families live through the difficult initial days after the floods. One of the aims is to help parents take care of their children adequately. "We're seeing more interest in their personal hygiene and in keeping the house clean," commented RENACSENIV's Miranda State coordinator in their report.

The churches involved not only helped with material distributions but also counselled families through emotional hard times, and returned for follow-up visits. Because RENACSENIV has longstanding programs in the affected areas, the organisation will be able to stay engaged with affected families long term.

In total, 13 churches and one local non-governmental organisation provided donations or volunteers to RENACSENIV's relief efforts.


ADRA launches tsunami recovery in Somalia

Nairobi, Kenya, 9 May - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is launching a recovery project in Somalia to aid survivors of last December’s tsunami. ADRA is supplying livelihood support items, improving access to safe water and sanitation facilities, and training and conducting seminars on hygiene and health topics.

The project will provide livelihood support items including boats, fishing equipment, tents, and household items. The water and sanitation infrastructure component includes construction of solar-powered spring systems, shallow wells, water storage tanks, a borehole, and latrines. Through establishing and training village-based health committees, ADRA will empower target communities to manage the water and sanitation resources provided by the project. (…)

The project is funded primarily by Aktion Deutschland Hilft (ADH), through ADRA Germany, with a contribution of more than $2.1 million. The Swiss Solidarity Chain is providing funding of nearly $500,000, through ADRA Switzerland, to restore livelihoods in five villages. ADRA Belgium/Luxembourg and ADRA Italy are also assisting ADRA Switzerland in co-financing the Swiss Solidarity Chain project. (…)



Peace and security



Adopt-A-Minefield launches Farah Appeal in honor of new AAM Youth Ambassador Farah Ahmedi

Adopt-A-Minefield has launched The Farah Appeal, a campaign to raise mine action funds in honor of newly-named AAM Youth Ambassador Farah Ahmedi. Farah, who lost her leg to a landmine ten years ago, recently won ‘The Story of My Life’ competition, sponsored by ABC’s Good Morning America and Simon & Schuster.

After winning the competition, Farah met with First Lady Laura Bush at the White House on May 5th, to discuss her experiences as a landmine survivor.  At the White House, Farah was accompanied by AAM Board Chair Ambassador Nancy Rubin and AAM Executive Director Nahela Hadi as well as representatives from Simon and Shuster and “The Story of My Life.” (…)

In her role as AAM Youth Ambassador, Farah will act as a spokesperson for That Landmine Thing—AAM’s and Landmine Survivors Network (LSN)’s joint student fundraising campaign. A 17-year-old high school student herself, Farah brings home to students living in the United States the reality of landmines for youth around the world. We are very excited that Farah has joined the team as our Youth Ambassador and we’ll be sending you more info about her in the autumn editions of the Deminer and the That Landmine Thing 2005/2006 newsletter.

For more information on Farah’s autobiography, please visit


Japanese assistance for displaced people and returning refugees in Somalia gets underway

Hargeisa, Somalia, 26 May  – A Japanese funded programme to help resettle displaced people and refugees returning home in northern Somalia this week made major advances as the authorities agreed to set aside land for thousands of destitute people. The municipalities of Hargeisa in Somaliland, and Gorowe in Puntland, have agreed to UN-HABITAT proposals on resettlement sites. A beneficiaries committee has been established in Hargeisa to help coordinate the development of infrastructure ranging from new homes, to schools, markets and water supplies with UN-HABITAT, UNHCR, UNDP and other international agencies. In Puntland progress has also reached advanced stage.

On 11 March 2005, the Government of Japan pledged US$ 1,895,200 for Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and Returnees in Somalia under a UN-HABITAT programme designed to improve the living conditions, security of tenure and economic opportunities of IDPs and returnees urgently requiring assistance in both districts.  A total of 680 families are the direct beneficiaries of low-cost housing units. They include an estimated 2,720 children and 680 women. These households will also benefit from awareness raising and training in hygiene, sanitation, rainwater harvesting, etc.  Approximately 400 people will receive practical training in construction, quarrying and brick-making techniques, and 80 community leaders will be trained in Community Action Planning. (…)


Supporting the peace process in Sudan

Agricultural projects countrywide total $16 million - more funds urgently needed

Rome, 25 May - Agricultural relief and rehabilitation operations are crucial to support the smooth transition to a sustainable peace in southern Sudan, FAO said today. Countrywide, the agency is carrying out emergency relief and rehabilitation projects totalling $16 million.

FAO has appealed for nearly $62 million for emergency assistance to the country's agriculture sector for 2005. So far it has received about $10.5 million - just 17 percent of the funds requested. (…) FAO expects to reach over 450 000 vulnerable farming families with its ongoing projects. Planned beneficiaries include internally displaced households and returnees, whom FAO is helping to resettle and restart farming activities. (…)

"An estimated 580 000 returnees are expected after the rainy season," said Erminio Sacco, FAO's Emergency Coordinator for southern Sudan. "Most will be returning with nothing to communities that are already extremely poor. If we overburden these communities, we risk creating further conflict. So we are very carefully targeting the most vulnerable people, whether residents or returnees. Increasing the capacity of communities to absorb new returnees will also be a key activity of the FAO interventions."


Austrian Aid for Mine Victim Poster won the Golden Award

Author: Anne Capelle

The new Austrian Aid for Mine Victims-ICBL poster received The Golden Award in Montreux, which is the highest award in the advertising world.

Austrian Aid for Mine Victims (AAVM) worked on this project with the advertising agency WIEN NORD PILZ Werbeagentur GmbH (WNP) from Vienna. AAMV is grateful for the work of WNP, a young, dynamic agency, winning the second Gold Award for ICBL-AAMV jointly designed posters!!

It is another success for the advertising campaign of ICBL Austria: last year the campaign had won the price of Europe’s best newspaper advertising at the Art Directors Club of Europe for "Zerfetzte Hoffnungen" the poster presented at the Nairobi Review Conference by Austrian Aid for Mine Victims.

The print ad “Father, Mother, Child”, created by the advertising agency Wien Nord Pilz, won a gold medal in the category public interest. This price means again attention of an international audience for the landmine topic.

The Golden Award Montreux is one of the leading international multimedia festivals in Europe. The juries judged more than 2,512 entries from 32 countries.


African tradition meets the global future

International Youth Leadership Conference 2005, 1st through 7th August, Ghana

Chief Nana Apeadu renowned human rights activist from Ghana, Dr. Nina Meyerhof, President of Children of the Earth (NGO), and Audrey Kitagawa, Advisor to the Office of the Special Representative of the United Nation’s Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict invite youth from around the world to participate in the Apeadu Peace Center’s fourth international youth leadership program in Aburi, Ghana. The conference will be held from the 1st August to the 7th August 2005.

Imagine coming to Africa attending an international conference to become a certified Peace Builder. Our conference will empower young peacemakers with the practical skills, knowledge, and inspiration that are required to become active peace builders in their own community. (…)

In 2005 we will also explore the theme When The African Past Meets The Global Future. Considering the context in which our conference will take place, Africa, this theme is especially relevant. A most exciting feature of the conference will be how council sessions were/are used in traditional African tribes and how we can learn from the process. Most importantly this theme will teach us how to realise spirituality in our daily lives and how spirituality cannot be disconnected from Peace.






New salt iodisation plant opens in Afghanistan

“Salt of life” factory will produce 40 tonnes of iodised salt per day for Kabul population

Kabul, 26 May  – An eleventh salt iodisation plant in Afghanistan began production on Monday in the Bagrami district of Kabul, with the capacity to generate up to 40 metric tonnes of iodised salt per day for the capital’s population and surrounding provinces.

The new “Namak-e-Zendagi” – or “Salt of Life” – plant, which has been supported by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health and UNICEF and is managed by a private company, will supplement the existing supply of iodised salt within the area. Lack of iodine is a major cause of medical conditions such as goitre and physical stunting, brain damage in newborn babies, as well as impairing intellectual development and educational potential amongst children.

Afghanistan has seen the creation of new iodised salt plants throughout the country since 2003; nationwide, these plants now have the capacity to produce enough salt to meet the population’s requirements. Adding iodine to salt is one of the simplest, cheapest and most effective methods of introducing iodine into the diet, while the costs of iodised salt to the consumer are comparable to the non-iodised product. (…)


Afghanistan polio immunization targets "missed" children

Provinces previously cut off by winter snow to benefit from three day special campaign

Kabul, 26 May – More than 2 million children in 64 districts of Afghanistan cut off by heavy snowfalls earlier in the year, along with districts in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, will be targeted in a special round of polio immunization starting Sunday 29 May. The campaign is a vital step in ensuring that no children are missed in the nationwide effort by the Afghan Ministry of Public Health, UNICEF, WHO and partners to eradicate polio in the country.

The three day campaign is being staged in addition to the planned four main rounds of polio immunization in 2005. An especially harsh winter in Afghanistan left many areas impossible to reach by vaccinators in the year’s first round held in March.

Afghanistan remains on the threshold of being declared polio-free. From a total of 27 polio cases reported in 2000, only one case has been reported in Afghanistan in 2005. Last year, there was a total of four cases. (…)


Governments welcome new WHO/UNICEF global immunization strategy that aims to avert millions of deaths

Geneva, 25 May - Governments meeting at the World Health Assembly officially committed to adopting an ambitious new global strategy to fight vaccine-preventable diseases, which kill more than two million people every year, two-thirds of whom are young children . The Global Immunization Vision and Strategy (GIVS) was designed by WHO and the UNICEF. (…)

GIVS has three main aims: to immunize more people against more diseases; to introduce a range of newly available vaccines and technologies; and to provide a number of critical health interventions with immunization. GIVS covers the period 2006-2015 and offers a set of strategies from which countries can select and implement those most suited to their specific needs.

Vaccination has been one of the most successful and cost-effective public health interventions in history. It has eradicated smallpox, lowered the global incidence of polio by 99% since 1988, and achieved dramatic reductions in illness and death from diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and measles. In 2003 alone, immunization averted more than two million deaths. (…)


War-surgery seminar for surgeons from Caucasus

25 May - A seminar on war surgery organized by the ICRC is currently taking place (May 23-29) in Sochi, in south-west Russia. Thirty-one surgeons from the Russian Federation (Chechnya, Ingushetia, Dagestan, North Ossetia), Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan are attending.

The event gives them an opportunity to share their experience and practical recommendations on the best way to treat different kinds of wounds and on other issues of interest to surgeons.

ICRC chief surgeons François Irmay and Kenneth Barrand, who have worldwide experience helping victims of armed conflict, are attending. Russian experts, among them staff from St Petersburg Medical Technical College and the Burdenko Main Military Clinical Hospital, have been invited to give lectures and present reports on the subject.

War-surgery seminars for practitioners from the Caucasus have been held regularly in the Russian Federation since 2002. Working in war zones across the globe has given the ICRC extensive knowledge of medical care for the victims. It organizes professional training worldwide and arranges for the publication of books and other study material on the subject as well as articles in specialized journals.


World Blood Donor Day 2005

Geneva, 24 May - The countdown to World Blood Donor Day (WBDD) has started. As last year, the day will be celebrated on 14 June, the birth date of Karl Landsteiner, who discovered the ABO blood group system. This week the World Health Assembly, which includes the 192 Member States of the World Health Organization, agreed WBDD will be celebrated internationally on 14 June each year to promote voluntary blood donation globally.

This year, World Blood Donor Day 2005 will have the theme “Celebrating your gift of blood” and will highlight true stories of people whose lives have been changed — in many cases saved — by blood. Again, the day will be celebrated across the globe with one city representing the fulcrum of activities. This year that city is London, United Kingdom, a major international hub and capital of a country which has a solid tradition of collection of safe blood supplies by relying on voluntary, unpaid donation.

WBDD provides the opportunity to raise awareness of the need for blood and blood donors. Over 80 million units of blood are donated every year around the world, but only 39% is collected in developing countries where 82% of the global population live. (…)

WBDD is also an important part of the strategy to reduce transmission of serious illnesses like HIV/AIDS, malaria, hepatitis B and C. The latest figures collected by WHO, based on a global survey, show that at least 65 countries did not test all donated blood for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C and syphilis, as recommended by WHO. (…)


WHO establishing smallpox vaccine reserve

Research options for new medicines, vaccines for smallpox discussed by the World Health Assembly

20 MAY 2005 | Geneva -- Today, countries at the World Health Assembly discussed two reports regarding smallpox.

Smallpox, a highly infectious disease which kills about a quarter of the people it infects, was declared eradicated in 1980. The only known samples of the virus are stored in two secure laboratories approved by WHO (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA and Vector, Kostsovo, Russian Federation). However, the World Health Assembly has recognized the possibility that smallpox could be reintroduced, and since 1996 has had ongoing discussions about measures to prepare for a smallpox emergency.

Today, countries welcomed progress on WHO's work to establish a global smallpox vaccine reserve. This reserve would be used in the event of a smallpox emergency, particularly for those countries that don't have the resources to create their own stockpile.(…) 

The World Health Assembly also noted a report which detailed several recommendations for research on the smallpox virus. This research was recommended by the WHO Advisory Committee on Variola Virus Research in November 2004, and is intended to develop better medicines, vaccines and diagnostics for smallpox. (…)


Pittsburgh architect wins international competition to design the perfect pitch for Somkhele, South Africa's first girls' football league

20 May - Somkhele, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa Siyathemba Consultants, the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies and Architecture for Humanity are pleased to announce that Swee Hong Ng is the winner of the "Siyathemba," design competition. Mr. Ng will be collaborating with the community and local architects to design and build a sports and HIV/AIDS outreach center in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, an area with one of the one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in the world. Mr. Ng's design was selected by an international jury and the youth of Somkhele from more than 300 entries received from around the world

Launched in 2004, the "Siyathemba" competition challenged the world's designers to create the "perfect pitch," for the youth of Somkhele, South Africa, who are three times more likely to become HIV positive than youth in other parts of the world. Siyathemba is the Zulu word for "hope." In addition to serving as a gathering place for youth between the ages of 9-14 and health education/training centre, the pitch will also be home to the area's first girls' football league. (…)

Swee Hong Ng, 29, is an emerging architect completing his licensing with EDGE studio in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. "The design utilizes the natural asset of earth to create terraces that emulate the gentle flow of the area's landscape," explained the Singapore-born designer. "The pair of "V" shaped terraces create a focal point similar to an outdoor amphitheatre, where performances, talks and other events may be hosted." The terraces are constructed from earth and adobe brick and paved with concrete for seats.


Rotary International honors Australia, Sweden for polio support

19 May - In recognition of Australia's US$10.5 million in accumulated contributions to the global effort to eradicate polio, Rotary International presented Prime Minister John Howard with its Polio Eradication Champion Award on 16 May. "On behalf of Rotary's 1.2 million members worldwide, I am honored to present this award to Prime Minister Howard," said RI President-nominee William Boyd. "On the eve of polio eradication and Rotary's 100th anniversary, it brings me great pleasure to celebrate the tremendous achievements of our public-private partnership."

AusAID, Australia's overseas aid program, matched contributions made by private-sector donors, including Rotarians, to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative from 2001 through 2005. Provided through a matching agreement with the Australian Rotary Foundation Trust, the funds have been applied to strategic polio eradication needs. For example, the contributions helped fund technical support for the Eastern Mediterranean region and operational costs of immunization activities in Pakistan and Nigeria.

Carin Jämtin, Sweden's minister for international development cooperation, was similarly honored on 17 May for Sweden's recent $30 million contribution to the global anti-polio effort. (…)

Sweden's contribution has helped reduce a funding shortfall for 2005 polio eradication activities. Overall, the initiative has a global funding gap of $50 million to be filled by July, for activities in the latter half of the year. An additional $200 million is required for 2006.

The Polio Eradication Champion Award was established in 1995 to recognize governments and world leaders who have made outstanding contributions toward the goal of eradicating polio. (…)


New joint guidelines on health services and HIV/AIDS

Experts brought together by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have agreed to joint guidelines on health services and HIV/AIDS. The new guidelines are a move to help protect the safety and health of workers that deal with HIV/AIDS and they are designed to ‘ensure a functioning and healthy medical work force’.

The background for the guidlines is that while access to healthcare is a basic human right, provision of healthcare remains problematic. (…) The key issues treated in the joint guidelines are:

§         Preventing and containing transmission risks

§         Social dialogue, including all types of negotiation, consultation and information sharing among governments, employers and workers

§         Information, education and training in order to sensitize healthcare workplaces to HIV/AIDS related issues and the rights and needs of patients and workers

§         Focusing on gender, as the majority of healtcare workers are women

The joint guidelines will be presented to the 293rd session of the ILO Governing Body in June 2005 for approval. Once adopted they will be translated into several languages and disseminated by the ILO and WHO. This will be complemented by social dialogue activities and training to encourage implementation.



Energy and safety



Nuclear weapons grade material removed from Latvia

IAEA, US and Russia remove fresh highly enriched uranium

26 May - The IAEA has helped Latvian authorities remove weapons grade material from a shutdown research reactor in Salaspils, close to the capital Riga.

On 25 May 2005, about three kilograms of fresh highly enriched uranium (HEU) was safely airlifted back to Russia, which had originally supplied the fissile material to fuel the Latvian research reactor. Although this amount is less than what is needed to build a nuclear bomb it still requires stringent security arrangements to ensure its safety, and guard against terrorist acts. (…)

The nuclear fuel was airlifted under guard from an airport near Riga to a secure facility, NPO Luch, in Podol´sk, Russia. There, the HEU will be blended down to make it unsuitable for use in a nuclear weapon.

The mission was a joint effort between Latvia, the Russian Federation, the United States, and the IAEA. It was carried out under the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, funded by the US. The IAEA facilitated the contracts for the shipment to take place. (…)


Cloud seeding success in Thailand

Source Weekly, No. 17-18, 2 May (Source: Independent on Line) - More than 30 flights a day have been heading for the clouds in Thailand to persuade them to part with their water. The planes spray silver iodine, salt and dry ice causing vapour droplets to freeze and fall to the ground. Cloud seeding (as this technique is known), 1,000 times in less than a month, has eased the toughest drought for seven years by 80 per cent.

The planes use a technique patented by the King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, spraying chemicals into warm and cold clouds at different altitudes to make rain fall over a wide area.

Thailand's success has led countries including Cambodia and Oman to ask for technical assistance. However, Thailand says that cloud seeding only works if you have the right type of clouds and where humidity is higher than 60 per cent.

Cloud seeding experiments have been taking place for more than 60 years and the technique has also been applied successfully in Australia, China, Malaysia and the Philippines.



Environment and wildlife



“Promoting an Enabling Environment: Music, Technology, Culture, and Healthcare”

International Conference,  9 June 2005, 1 – 6pm,  UN Headquarters, ECOSOC Chamber 

This unique interrelated event is part of a series organized by the International Council for Caring Communities (ICCC) in collaboration with the United Nations ICT-Task Force, Programme on Ageing, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA); the Rusk Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine, New York University Medical Center, Global Music Healing Institute; NGOs and the private sector. The Conference will address applications related to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in terms of creating partnerships and improving health of citizens worldwide.

How can ICT (information, communication technology) enhance healthcare delivery, staff-efficiency and effectiveness?  How to utilize the power of musical rhythm in healthcare delivery?

Topics include: ICT as an enabling tool for rural and urban delivery of health care services -  Emerging technologies in music and medicine - Power of music in creating a dialogue among children - New understanding of the impact of musical rhythms and its utilization as a  “Medical Tool” -


Mekong countries commit to environmentally sound economic development

Shanghai, China, 27 May – WWF commends environment ministers from the six countries in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) – Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam – for committing to ensure that economic development in the area is environmentally sound and sustainable. The ministers made their commitment in a joint statement issued at the end of an inaugural meeting held here, with support from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). WWF was one of several representatives of civil society organizations invited to the meeting to share their perspectives. (…)

The meeting on 25 May provided the environment ministers with the opportunity to underline the vital importance of conserving and maintaining high-quality ecosystems, such as forests and rivers, in the light of increasing and intensified economic development in the Mekong.

The ministers' commitment is timely as their leaders prepare to advance discussions on regional economic cooperation. The GMS leaders will be holding their second summit meeting in July in Kunming, China, which will focus on infrastructure development and associated trade, investment and production opportunities.

 Infrastructure is being planned along "economic corridors", which will link major ports and cities with each other as well as with other less developed areas. The opening up of some of these areas, through building of roads and dams and accompanying infrastructure, will threaten the Mekong's rich natural heritage and rural livelihoods, if adequate measures are not taken to prevent or mitigate associated negative and cumulative impacts. (…)


ASEAN combats illegal wildlife trade in Southeast Asia

Jakarta, Indonesia, 26 May – In an unprecedented move against Southeast Asia’s illegal and unsustainable trade in wildlife, delegates from the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed upon a five-year action plan to combat threats to the region’s rich biological diversity.  (…)

The illegal and unsustainable trade in wild animals and plants in the region continues to drive critical threats to the survival of a large number of threatened species. Birds and reptiles for the pet trade, luxury items made of ivory and hawksbill turtle shell products, as well as highly-valued medicines such as musk, tiger bone and ginseng are all in high demand as the economic growth in the wider Asian region has continued to increase. (…)

The newly endorsed ASEAN Regional Action Plan on Trade in Wild Fauna and Flora provides a solid framework agreement for collaboration between the ten member countries. Specifically, it addresses common issues of enhanced law enforcement networking, inter-agency co-operation, strengthened national legislation, and increasing the availability of scientific information to guide wildlife trade management by CITES authorities.  (…)


WWF and World Bank join forces to reduce global deforestation

United Nations headquarters, New York, 25 May – WWF and the World Bank announced at the fifth meeting of the United Nations Forum on Forests the renewal of a partnership that aims to reduce global deforestation rates by 10 per cent by 2010.

Known as the World Bank/WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation & Sustainable Use, the programme will support the establishment of new forest protected areas such as national parks, more effective management of forest protected areas, and improved management of forests outside of protected areas.

The Alliance also will help to facilitate regional cooperation and the adoption of policies in support of more effective forest management.  (…)


IAEA & environmental partners help protect shared water resources

20 May - The IAEA is working more closely with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and other partners to help countries assess and manage limited water resources. The results of the shared expertise are proving especially valuable for transboundary water problems facing countries in Africa, Asia and other regions.

Among other areas, the IAEA supports UNEP´s Global Environmental Monitoring System/Water (GEMS/Water) programme on water quality assessment including conducting laboratory inter-comparison testing to ensure accurate and precise measurement of water quality. This collaboration has helped in expanding the networks of laboratories in the developing member states globally. The Agency also provides expertise for shared aquifer management projects in Africa funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by UNEP. (…) An aquifer in the North-Western Sahara, for example, is an important freshwater source for the people of Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. With increasing scarcity of clean surface waters it is vital the aquifer is preserved for peoples´ use both today and in the future.

The joint project involving the IAEA and UNEP as well as other partners such as UNESCO, FAO and OSS, is helping these three countries to use isotopic and nuclear techniques to protect their shared water source. (…)


Mine plan agreed to tackle pollution time-bombs

Clean ups of old sites and coherent policy on new mines on the cards under landmark European agreement to boost regional environment and security

Cluj-Napoca/Nairobi, 13 May – An historic strategy to reduce the environmental risks of mining in Eastern Europe is to be adopted today by governments attending an international conference in Romania.

The plan, agreed at the end of the conference by ministers and officials from around a dozen countries in the region, is likely to lead to detailed assessments of sites whose continued operation has become a source of pollution and tension in an already volatile part of the world.

It is hoped that the strategy will also trigger the financial, technical and administrative support needed to clean up old mines, smelters and processing facilities in the region.

Higher health and environmental standards for the operation of new mines, alongside sound planning for their eventual closure and decommissioning are also part of the plan.

The strategy will also accelerate the establishment and extension of early warning systems on key rivers and tributaries in order to warn countries in the region of chronic pollution incidents.

Studies, carried out on behalf of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), have concluded that numerous old and abandoned sites are now cause for environmental, social and political concern. (…)


Global finance community joins UN to tackle climate change

Institutional investors managing USD 3.22 trillion back new call for action at 2005 Investor Summit on Climate Risk

New York, 10 May – An unprecedented grouping of pension funds, foundations, European investors and US state treasurers have joined today with the United Nations to back a new call for urgent action by the global investment community to tackle the threat of climate change.

Faced with growing evidence of the negative economic consequences of climate change this powerful alliance of institutional investors managing USD 3.22 trillion are pressing for capital market regulators to demand more rigorous corporate disclosure of climate risks.

Amongst other commitments, they are also seeking to unlock USD 1 billion in capital in the next year for investment in clean technology. The 2005 Call for Action was made at a summit at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Klaus Toepfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told participants at the summit, "The local and global challenges created by climate change - environmental, economic and social - are manifold and will both multiply and accelerate in our lifetimes. For the world's financiers, investors and capital markets the time to act is now.”  (…)


Europeans want policy makers to consider the environment as important as economic and social policies

(European Water Management News, 4  May) - For Europeans, a healthy environment is as important to their quality of life as the state of the economy and social factors, according to a new Eurobarometer survey. The environmental issues that citizens worry most about are water pollution, man-made disasters, climate change, air pollution and chemicals. The survey is also the first to examine attitudes towards the environment across the enlarged EU-25.

 Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "This survey is proof that European citizens care greatly about their environment, and believe that it is intrinsically linked to their quality of life. The results give a clear mandate to the Commission to continue working to deliver a high level of environmental protection. Eurobarometer findings also confirm that the public shares the Commission’s conviction that a strong environmental policy can be an engine for innovation and growth.” A summary of the survey and the full report are available at:



Culture and education



Shigar Fort: a new model of conservation combines economic and cultural objectives

Shigar, Pakistan, 24 May - The Shigar Fort in Baltistan, Pakistan, presents a new model for restoration of endangered cultural monuments in Pakistan and elsewhere in the Muslim World.

Featuring guest rooms that highlight the heritage of the region, the project is meant to bring cultural and economic objectives together in a way that sustains the operations and maintenance of the Fort while providing a catalyst for economic improvement in the area. The project is also part of the infrastructure for a new form of cultural tourism that combines accommodation at an international standard with intimate, first-hand experience of the unique natural and cultural heritage of the area.

The project is one of a series of social, cultural and economic development initiatives carried out by the Aga Khan Development Network in the Northern Areas of Pakistan since the early 1980s.

The restoration of the Shigar Fort/Palace and its conversion into the "Shigar Fort Residence," by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, builds on a process that began with the restoration of Baltit Fort (inaugurated in 1996) and the historic village of Karimabad, both in the Hunza Valley. While it builds on these earlier efforts, it also represents a pioneering approach that stresses adaptive re-use. In addition to restoration efforts, the Trust has also focused on reviving traditional skills, generating new employment opportunities and providing training in the jobs needed for a changing economy. (…)


Varna Declaration on cultural corridors in South-East Europe

23 May - The Summit of heads of state of South-East Europe*, which took place in Bulgaria on May 20 and 21, closed with the adoption of the Varna Declaration pledging to “contribute to the promotion of cultural heritage and cultural corridors within the region.” It also pledges to “promote urgent measures for the protection of cultural heritage at risk within the region, including continuing action to counter the illicit traffic in cultural property.” The Forum was organized by the President of Bulgaria, Georgi Parvanov, the Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, and the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis. (…)


Teachers are now official partners in the Bologna Process on higher education

20 May - The Education International (EI) Pan-European Structure has today been recognised by the Bergen Ministerial Conference as a consultative member of the Bologna Process aimed at developing a European Higher Education Area. This participation is an official recognition of teachers and their unions as actors of the Bologna Process.

" We underline the central role of higher education institutions, their staff and students as partners in the Bologna Process. Their role in the implementation of the Process becomes all the more important now that the necessary legislative reforms are largely in place, and we encourage them to continue and intensify their efforts to establish the European Higher Education Area," says the Ministerial Declaration adopted today in Bergen by 45 Ministers of Higher Education. (…)

The Bologna Process aims to establish by 2010 a European area of higher education formed by 45 countries, achieving full student mobility and mutual recognition of credits and degrees. This will no doubt affect academics, researchers and staff working in the higher education sector.

Launched in 1999, the Bologna Process did not immediately involve the organisations representing higher education staff on both national and European levels, although the European Student Organisation and the European University Association were already engaged in the debate. Academics are now officially represented through EI.

Education International represents over 3 million academic and research staff worldwide, of whom approximately 650,000 live and work in the geographical area now included in the ‘ Bologna’ Process.


UNESCO and FAO launch training CD-Rom on digitisation for librarians and laymen

13-05-2005 4:30 pm UNESCO and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization are launching the “Digitization and Digital Libraries” module to teach librarians and laymen how to digitize documents and put them on line and create virtual libraries. The kit, available from the FAO and UNESCO free of charge, is compatible with a wide range of computers, Pentium I and later, as well as older operating systems, making it particularly well-suited for users in developing countries. (…) The interactive module includes 15 hours of training which users can personalize to meet their particular needs at their own pace. The kit, which features a comprehensive course on how to create virtual libraries, is equally suited for beginners and more advanced users.

The module contains a technical glossary and search function, as well as a wide range of resources such as recommended reading, practical guidelines, software and manual. An on-line community will be launched in association with the module to allow learners to exchange views, share information, and request help from each other.  (…)


ICAF e.V. opens the first children and youth art gallery in Munich!

Opening reception Friday, June 17, 2005

Event starts at 4:00pm for children/youth and 7:00pm for general public.

Gallery hours are Monday - Friday, 10am-6pm; Saturday, 11am-2pm. Every Thursday at 6:30pm enjoy a concert of classical music or jazz.  Address: Amalienstraße 41, Rgb. D -80799 Munich, Germany. Telephone: + 49 (0) 89 28 80 65-46. E-mail:

The International Child Art Foundation is a nonprofit organization that prepares children for a creative and cooperative future so they can lead us into a safer and better world. ICAF's headquarters are in Washington, DC and its European office is in Munich.


The Maximo T. Kalaw Jr. Earth Charter Award -  7 - 9 November 2005

The Earth Charter Initiative is pleased to announce a new Earth Charter award, which will be presented for the first time during Earth Charter+5, a celebration of the first five years since the official launch of the Earth Charter. This Award has been named to honor the memory of Juni Kalaw, the former Executive Director of the Earth Council, and to recognize his vision and legacy in motivating and mobilizing widespread participation by individuals and organizations in building a more just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Who is eligible for the Earth Charter Award?

Projects that have occurred between 2000 and 2005 will be considered for recognition. Submissions may be made by individuals or organizations, and projects can be local, regional, or international in scope. Submissions should demonstrate outstanding work done with the Earth Charter in accomplishing one of the following goals of the Earth Charter Initiative:

o To promote the dissemination, endorsement, and implementation the Earth Charter by civil society, business, and government.

o To encourage and support the educational use of the Earth Charter in schools, universities, faith communities, and other settings.

Earth Charter staff, senior advisors, Commissioners, and Steering Committee members are not eligible to apply.



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Next issue: 24 June.


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