Good News Agency – Year VII, n° 15



Weekly - Year VII, number 15 – 15th December 2006

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 (in charge) and Elisa Peduto. 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 and to 2,800 NGOs.

It is an all-volunteer 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



Welcome Bulgaria and Romania to the European Union!

The European Council meeting of 14-15 December will welcome the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. To celebrate this important occasion, the Commission is organising a major event in the centre of Brussels hosted by President José Manuel Barroso and Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, and open to all. Representatives of Bulgaria and Romania as well as of the Member States will be present. The colourful event is open to the public.

Welcoming Bulgaria and Romania to the EU, President Barroso said: “Finally the moment of celebration has arrived. 1 January 2007 will be an important day in European history. Bulgaria’s and Romania’s accession to the EU completes our historic fifth round of enlargement, which peacefully reunified Western and Eastern Europe.” (…)

The world’s biggest ever gingerbread, representing a giant map of the EU, will be unveiled. The map will have record dimensions (3x3 metres), so it has been submitted for an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. The President of Romania and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria will complete the enlarged EU’s map by inserting two pieces corresponding to the maps of their countries into the gingerbread map of the EU. (…) The European Commission welcomes everyone to this celebration. For further info consult:



Human rights



Human Rights Day, December 10

“…On this Human Rights Day, we reaffirm that freedom from want is a right, not merely a matter of compassion. Fighting poverty is a duty that binds those who govern as surely as their obligation to ensure that all people are able to speak freely, choose their leaders and worship as their conscience guides them ….“ Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Its formal inception dates from 1950, after the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, as the main UN rights official, and her Office play a major role in coordinating efforts for the yearly observation of Human Rights Day.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) helps protect and promote all human rights around the world. Headquartered in Geneva, the Office is also present in over 40 countries. OHCHR works to ensure the enforcement of universally recognized human rights norms, including through promoting both the universal ratification and implementation of human rights treaties and respect for the rule of law. It also aims to remove obstacles to the full realization of all human rights and to prevent or stop human rights abuses.


Human Rights Day 2006:

MADRE’s Partners Confront Violence against Women and Girls

New York, December 10 -On Human Rights Day, and at the close of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, MADRE, an international women’s human rights organization, emphasizes the imperative to combat violence against women and girls worldwide. In partnership with community-based women’s groups in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and the Middle East, MADRE supports a wide range of programs that confront gender-based violence within a broad-based human rights framework. In the midst of armed conflict, humanitarian disaster, and entrenched gender inequality, MADRE’s sister organizations are on the front lines combating violence against women and girls:

In Iraq, MADRE partners with the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) to protect women from an epidemic of violence unleashed by the US invasion. Since 2004, OWFI has opened five women’s shelters for women seeking refuge from rape, kidnappings, forced marriage and other forms of gender-based violence, and established the Underground Railroad for Iraqi Women, a network that enables women to escape "honor killings".

In Kenya, MADRE partners with the Umoja Uaso Women’s Group, an organization founded by Indigenous Samburu women, many of whom are survivors of gender-based violence. With MADRE support—including teacher trainings and school supplies—Umoja provides community-based education for young girls and boys as a means to promote human rights. In rural, isolated areas such as Samburuland, girls are often assaulted when walking to schools miles from home. Umoja’s school has been instrumental in reducing girls' risk of rape because it allows them to avoid traveling long distances.

In Haiti, where incidents of rape and other human rights violations have escalated sharply in recent years, MADRE partners with KOFAVIV to meet rape survivors' immediate needs and help bring perpetrators to justice. KOFAVIV provides survivors with counseling and free, high-quality medical care, including testing and treatment for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, prenatal care for women who become pregnant as a result of rape, and medical certificates, which are important for prosecuting perpetrators in court.

In Colombia, a decades-long civil war has displaced millions, the vast majority of whom are women and their families. Over 11,000 children have been recruited by armed forces, and 25 percent of combatants are under the age of 18. MADRE partners with Taller de Vida in Bogotá to provide critical services for displaced Afro-Colombian and Indigenous women and youth, and offer peaceful, viable alternatives for young people who are at risk of being recruited as child-soldiers.

Learn more about MADRE’s programs.


European Seminar in January / February 2007 on the Empowerment and Integration of Immigrant Women in the EU

EWL new project on gender and immigration

In July 2006, EWL was awarded a grant - under the European Programme on Integration and Migration (EPIM) - to develop a European project with and for immigrant women living in the EU.  EPIM was launched by the Network of European Foundations for Innovative Cooperation (NEF) in the Autumn 2005, in order to open a debate and encourage broader commitment to the development of constructive integration policies at the EU level and to engage the widest possible range of stakeholders in society in this process. 

Under this project, EWL will organise a European Seminar in January / February 2007 on the empowerment and integration of immigrant women in the EU. The objectives of the project are:

1) to provide a starting point from which immigrant women living in the EU begin to articulate their own experiences and concerns and to advocate their rights to European decision-makers; 2) to initiate a debate at European level on the urgent need for a gender-specific approach to integration/migration policies; and 3) to develop and strengthen networking opportunities between immigrant women.

For more information, contact Clarisse Delorme ( ) at EWL secretariat.



Economy and development



European Union’s budget 2007: new framework, new programmes, new financial rules to boost growth in EU-27

Brussels, 14 December - A record increase of spending for programmes strengthening the sustainable growth, competitiveness and cohesion of the European economy – the first yearly budget of the new Financial Framework 2007-13 translates better the Union's political priorities into budgetary figures. "The new Financial Framework becomes a new financial reality from now on", said Dalia Grybauskaitė, Commissioner for Financial Programming and Budget, after today's adoption of the 2007 budget by the European Parliament. "Once implemented, the new budget will give the significant boost to innovation, transport, education and training programmes bringing concrete improvements which should benefit many people across the Union. It is an undeniable proof of the changes in European thinking and should pave the way - in future – to the further modernisation of EU finances".

The adopted budget amounts to EUR 126.5 billion in commitment appropriations [1], an increase of 5.0% comparing to 2006. It corresponds to 1.08% of the EU Gross National Income (GNI). The payment appropriations [2] will amount to EUR 115.5 billion, or an increase of 7.6% in nominal terms. It represents a level of only 0.99% of EU-27 GNI.

The new financial rules, agreed together with 2007 budget, will simplify access to EU funding, cut red tape particularly for small scale beneficiaries while improving transparency – the public all over Europe will soon be able to know who receives EU funds in regional and agricultural policies. (…) Official information of the European Commission is available at any time at


New US$23 million IFAD loan to boost thousands of rural enterprises in North-Eastern Brazil

Rome, 8 December – Approximately 20,000 poor people will participate in a new IFAD-supported development project to create and consolidate family-owned rural enterprises in Brazil’s semi-arid North-East region. More than 100,000 people are expected to benefit from the project as a result of increased incomes, improved living conditions and multiplying effects within the regional economy.  The US$47 million North-East Rural Family Enterprise Development Support Project will be partly financed by a US$23 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development. The project loan agreement was signed today by Ms Liana do Rego Motta Veloso, Deputy Attorney General, Ministry of Finance and IFAD’s President Lennart Båge, at IFAD headquarters.  Brazil’s Ministry of Agrarian Development will contribute US$22 million to the programme while US$2 million is to be invested directly by project participants.

The North-East region is home to the largest concentration of poor rural people in Brazil. The project will initially be implemented in the Xingó area, where rural poverty is prevalent, and help poor families involved with the development of small agro-industries and other rural enterprises to enhance their business skills and increase their incomes.(…) There are already some 600,000 rural small enterprises and microenterprises, both formal and informal, in Brazil’s North-East region. Most of these enterprises, which include food products and textile handicrafts, are the result of initiatives of poor rural women. With this loan, IFAD will have provided funds for six projects in Brazil since 1980, totalling about US$141 million. 


New development project to improve rural financial services in the Gambia

Rome, 8 December – About 180,000 poor people in rural areas of the Gambia will have better access to savings plans, credit, insurance services and business advice, thanks to a new development project working with the country’s key microfinance institutions. The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will largely finance the US$8.73 million Rural Finance Project with a loan of US$6.12 million and a grant of US$400,000. The agreement for the loan and grant were signed today by Ms Ada Gaye, Deputy Permanent Secretary of the Department of State for Finance and Economic Affairs for the Republic of The Gambia, and IFAD President Lennart Båge at IFAD’s headquarters. The project will provide skills and technical training to local microfinance institutions in six rural divisions in the Gambia. The training will help project participants identify and develop new financial products, such as business development services for rural clients, as well as improve their information management systems and expand the reach of their services. Rural finance institutions will plan, carry out and evaluate the project and its impact on clients. There will also be an annual evaluation by village men and women to generate recommendations for further activities. By the end of the six-year project, participating finance institutions are expected to reach over 70,000 new rural customers. (…) 


Vietnam to be First Pilot Country for 'One UN' Reform Programme

8 December - Kemal Derviş, Head of the UN Development Group and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), joined the government of Vietnam today to announce its selection as the first “pilot” country in the UN’s effort to unify and make more efficient and responsive its work at the national level.  Vietnam is at the forefront of the UN move to deliver as one, said Mr. Derviş.  The UN family has to combine the diversity of skills and mandates present in our agencies to realize our tremendous potential as partners in development.

The One UN pilot program will include at least five other countries and aims to move beyond coordination to consolidating a single presence in countries.  The Vietnam pilot will comprise six participating agencies UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, UNIFEM, UNV and UNAIDS and commitments are expected from others to join or cooperate with the programme in the near future.   The "One UN" plan means agencies will work as one team, with the aim of avoiding fragmentation and duplication of efforts. The goal is to ensure a unity of purpose, coherence in management and efficiency in operations while maintaining the distinct personality, agenda, and purpose of the different agencies.  (…)

“Vietnam is always pushing us to do things better, to be ever more responsive and efficient, and the UN team here is working to answer that call for more effective assistance,” said UN Resident Coordinator John Hendra.  “With this very exciting pilot opportunity, Vietnam is being recognized for its openness and drive to make the UN work better. (…);jsessionid=a6VuQ8opv5e_


UN-HABITAT pledges special funding to help 1,000 Ghana slum families

Accra, 06/12/2006, UN-HABITAT last week pledged funding to help 1,000 poor families in Accra, Ghana secure micro-credit loans for business and home improvement as part of a field testing budget in the slum of Old Fadima. UN-HABITAT Executive Director, Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka told a community meeting during a visit to the slum that the money amounting to some US$27,500, would be disbursed through the Ghana Homeless Peoples Federation as part of a pilot project in recognition of the efforts made by the community which has mobilized itself to raise funds. The Old Fadama community, derogatively known as “Sodom and Gomorrah” is Ghana’s largest squatter settlement. Located in the heart of Accra, the community of some 30,000 people has been under constant threat of eviction. It was established by migrant workers and internally displaced people from northern Ghana, most of whom came to town to find jobs and other economic opportunities. The homeless federation will be assisted in the management of the project by People's Dialogue of Human Settlements of Ghana. Both groups are affiliated with Slum/Shack Dwellers International. 


New funding to further PATH’s rice fortification method

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will support introduction of the Ultra Rice® technology in developing countries

December 6 - What if there were a way to increase nutrients in rice, the staple food of more than half of the world’s population? How many children could be saved from iron deficiency? How many birth defects could be prevented?

PATH’s Ultra Rice technology, a “grain” reconstituted from nutrient-enriched rice flour, can be mixed with natural rice to help fight micronutrient deficiencies in vulnerable communities. It is already in use or under consideration in a handful of rice-consuming countries. Now PATH has received a $US6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate broader access to, and greater use of, fortified rice. (…)


In Latin America's Cities, Unemployment Drops and Job Creation Increases

But social security coverage for salaried workers remains below that of the past decade

5 December - Following more than a decade of persistent growth in unemployment, the past four years (2002-2005) have seen a decrease in urban unemployment rates in most Latin American and Caribbean countries. This trend, and the parallel upturn in job creation in cities, are factors that have contributed to recent advances in combating poverty.

These are among the findings of the latest Social Panorama of Latin America 2006, released yesterday by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). The year 2002 saw a reversal of the unemployment trend, the report notes, and the beginning of a partial recovery in waged employment. The regional unemployment rate, based on official figures from the countries, went from 11.0% to 9.1% between 2002 and 2005, and is expected to decrease even further in 2006, to about 8.5%. At the same time, the yearly job creation rate increased between 2003 and 2005, as compared to the 1991-2002 period. In 2003-2005, the total number of job-holders in urban areas rose by just over 5.3 million per year, well in excess of the 3.3 million per year increase over the 12 previous years.(…)

The ECLAC report cautions that unemployment in Latin America continues to be high - around 3 percentage points above the 1990 level. This is partly due to rising rates of participation in the labour force, primarily through the increasing incorporation of women: between 2002 and 2005, around 2.8 million women and 2.5 million men joined the workforce, compared with 2.2 and 2.0 million, respectively, in 1990-2002.(…) 


FAO, IFAD and WFP executive heads in joint visit to northern Ghana

Joint Ghana visit highlights field level cooperation

Accra/Rome, 5 December - Amid growing calls for reform and coherence among United Nations partners, the heads of the three Rome-based food and agriculture agencies demonstrated their determination to strengthen joint efforts to reduce hunger and poverty at the grassroots level by visiting Ghana’s food insecure Northern Region this week.

While in Ghana, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the World Food Programme reviewed joint initiatives in support of the Government’s efforts to attain food security for the country’s entire population. (…)

FAO, IFAD and WFP share the vision of building a food-secure country through a twin-track approach: provision in the short term of assistance to hungry households to meet their education, health, and nutrition needs and building medium and long term sustainable livelihoods through agricultural and rural development. (…) 


New funding to further PATH’s rice fortification method

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant will support introduction of the Ultra Rice® technology in developing countries

December 6 - What if there were a way to increase nutrients in rice, the staple food of more than half of the world’s population? How many children could be saved from iron deficiency? How many birth defects could be prevented?

PATH’s Ultra Rice technology, a “grain” reconstituted from nutrient-enriched rice flour, can be mixed with natural rice to help fight micronutrient deficiencies in vulnerable communities. It is already in use or under consideration in a handful of rice-consuming countries. Now PATH has received a $US6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to facilitate broader access to, and greater use of, fortified rice. (…)






UNICEF celebrates 60 years for children

New York, 8 December - Six decades after its inception as a temporary relief agency, UNICEF is marking its 60th anniversary today, celebrating its many achievements on behalf of children all over the world. Born from the ashes of World War II, UNICEF’s first mission was to provide milk, food, blankets and medicine to millions of European children left hungry, homeless and weakened by war.  Serving more than six million meals a day, it quickly earned the nickname, “milkman to the world’s children.” Once the children of Europe were on their way to recovery, UNICEF broadened its mandate beyond European borders to help children suffering from poverty and illness throughout the world.  Ever since then UNICEF has been on an evolutionary journey, adapting to meet the needs of children in an ever changing world. (…)

Perhaps UNICEF’s greatest achievement has been putting children at the center of the international development agenda.  No longer a separate cause with separate concerns, children are an important part of global strategies to reduce illness, poverty and mortality while boosting education, gender equality and environmental sustainability. In short, they are at the very heart of the Millennium Development Goals.  In the coming years UNICEF will continue to push for the needs of children, entering its efforts on reaching MDG targets by 2015. Highlights of the 60th anniversary celebration include a commemorative meeting at the UN General Assembly, the screening of a new UNICEF documentary, “Wake Up World,” a photo exhibit and multi-media art show entitled, “Mosaic UNICEF,” and, of course, a celebration with children.


New grants help CARE save lives in Darfur

Atlanta, Georgia, USA, December 7 - Three highly respected American philanthropies have committed a total of $2.5 million to CARE to meet the urgent needs of people who have been harmed by the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Darfur. In separate pledges, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Howard G. Buffet Foundation have each contributed $1 million towards CARE's work in Darfur, and Pam Omidyar's Humanity United has pledged $500,000.

"Thousands of displaced people continue to suffer in Darfur from violent attacks and lack of life-saving resources. These generous grants will allow us to reduce the number of child deaths, replenish depleted food supplies, and improve access to water and sanitation in Darfur," said Paul Barker, CARE's country director in Sudan. (…)

The situation in Darfur has often been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. The newest commitments of funding will be used in health care, water and sanitation and food security, as well as projects to help families gain livelihoods to support themselves. (…)

CARE has worked in Sudan since 1979, implementing projects in health, livelihoods, food security, water and sanitation, relief operations around Khartoum and other parts of the country, and peace advocacy. CARE was among the first agencies to respond to the Darfur emergency when it began in 2003. The agency remains deeply concerned about violence against vulnerable people in the region.


Clear Path funds girls' education in Pakistan

6 December - To follow up on its relief shipments to Pakistan earlier this year, Clear Path International has funded the education of 55 girls and young women whose school was destroyed by a powerful earthquake that shook the region a year ago.

In March, Clear Path sent two containers of medical equipment, surgical supplies and orthopedic devices to Mensehra near the epicenter of the earthquake. One of the containers also included hundreds of bags of clothes, tents, sleeping bags, tools, household goods, school supplies and other in-kind donations from more than 100 families on Bainbridge Island, Washington.

One of the containers was funded by the Rotary Club of Bainbridge Island, whose members also assisted in the collection of the relief goods at Sakai Elementary. The other container was funded by Susila Dharma International based in Vancouver, B.C.

After the shipments, Susila Dharma International provided more than $3,000 to Clear Path to help support the schooling of the girls in the Siran Valley in temporary quarters set up by Pak Relief & Development Society, a Pakistani non-governmental organization. Funding so far has paid for the hiring of three teachers, school supplies, rent, utilities and equipment to continue the girls' education interrupted by the natural disaster and until their school can be rebuilt. (…)


International Federation boosts its efforts to help flood victims in Kenya and warns of more floods to come in Africa

6 December - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching a revised emergency appeal for 26.3 million Swiss Francs (21.9 million US$/ 16.5 million €) to support the Kenya Red Cross Society in its response to the current flooding affecting most parts of the country, especially the North-East and the Coastal regions. It aims to assist around 563,000 people over the next four months.

According to figures released last week, approximately 723,000 people have been affected in different parts of the country and about 60,000 people have been displaced in the coastal, western and eastern provinces of Kenya. At least 34 people already died. Out of the total number, more than 315,000 people are cut off as a result of destroyed road links and bridges, especially in the Ijara district. The health situation is particularly alarming. (…)

Kenya Red Cross volunteers are increasing their efforts to reach the most vulnerable people and provide them with emergency help, using helicopters and boats when necessary. The appeal includes the provision of water purification tablets and sachets to 176,000 people while emergency water supplies will be provided to 151,000 persons through 23 mobile water treatment plants. Some 10,000 emergency latrines will be built for 200,000 displaced people. (…)


The Rotary Youth Center for Aceh’s tsunami orphans set to open December 4

Dedication ceremony precedes second anniversary of the disaster

Howard Chang

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, 4 December - As the second anniversary of the South Asia’s killer tsunami approaches, the youth of Aceh together with Rotary Club Jakarta Gambir in Indonesia, and Rotary Club Turramurra Australia will dedicate a children’s village in a youth center in Banda Aceh as part of their continuing effort to help youngsters orphaned by the disaster. The village of Gampong Anak of the Rotary Youth Center will officially open after the dedication ceremony, set for 10 a.m. on Dec. 4, 2006.

The project was initiated by the Indonesian Rotary clubs with support from Rotary clubs around the world. Immediately after the tsunami struck, the District’s Task Force determined such a center was needed as a base for the ongoing assessment of the needs of the region’s hundreds of displaced and orphaned children. Local Rotarians and volunteers will oversee the Youth Center programs.Expected to attend the dedication are Aceh Governor Azwar Abubakar and Rotary International President Bill Boyd. A 15-member delegation from the Rotary Club of Turramurra, which donated US$1.0 million to the project, also will attend.

The Rotary Youth Center complex includes the Gampong Anak “children’s village,” consisting of 12 group homes, each housing 8 children and two “mothers”.


Lebanon: Activities of ACT members working under the appeal

Geneva, 4 December - Among the greatest needs currently being expressed in villages are non-food relief items. The Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), through its humanitarian relief arm, Inter-Church Network for Development and Relief (ICNDR) in Lebanon, has outlined a distribution plan that includes agriculture assistance and essential winter supplies. (…)

Another huge need identified is in the psychosocial sector. ICNDR, in collaboration with the Church of Sweden (CoS), will provide a range of services throughout Lebanon from now until January. Equipment will be provided for children with mental and physical handicaps, and entertainment events for children ages 3 to 6 are planned. (…)

December and January will see the continuation of water and sanitation work implemented by Norwegian Church Aid in support of ICNDR. When work is completed, which is expected to be by the end of January 2007, the joint team will have distributed 5,000 water-storage tanks; repaired, laid and fitted water pipes in 10 villages; trucked water into 11 villages;  provided 15 generators; distributed 10,250 hygiene kits; provided other general services such as emptying septic tanks and purifying water. In all, water and sanitation efforts are being completed in more than 80 Lebanese villages by NCA and ICNDR. (…)


DKK 1.5 million to fight modern slavery

4 December - Thanks to a big effort from about 700 volunteer refund collectors at this year's Roskilde Festival, DanChurchAid and Roskilde Festival announce the record-breaking result of DKK 1.5 million (approx. € 202,000). The profits are donated to two of DanChurchAid's Cambodian partner organisation, Ponleur Kumar and Friends, who both work on preventing and fighting modern slavery. DKK 956,743 (approx. € 128,421) was the result after eight days of collecting refund from bottles, cans and cups at this year’s Roskilde Festival. That is the same as every festival-goer donating an average of 12 bottles to the festival’s humanitarian focus.

The great result is achieved thanks to a huge effort from about 700 voluntary refund collectors and support from the Roskilde-goers at this year’s festival.

With the campaign ’Act against Slavery,’ Roskilde Festival and DanChurchAid focused on modern slavery in Cambodia. The profits from the campaign are donated to two Cambodian organisations Ponleur Kumar and Friends who both work on preventing and fighting modern slavery. (…)


Caritas responds to typhoon Durian in the Philippines

Vatican City, 4 December – In the wake of the devastation caused by Typhoon Durian (Reming), which lashed large parts of the Philippines last Thursday, Caritas volunteer teams from the 16 affected dioceses and archdioceses in Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions immediately swung into action, providing relief and solace to affected populations. As part of their long-term social and development work with communities, Church schools and parish centres became an immediate refuge for thousands of families across the affected regions.  In the diocese of Legazpi, 3,700 families from eight towns in the area are being provided with shelter, food and solace by diocesan Caritas relief teams.  Nine hundred sacks of rice have already been dispatched to affected dioceses in the Bicol and Southern Tagalog regions and some parts of Central Luzon.

Caritas diocesan relief teams are currently assessing the situation and establishing priority immediate response needs. Caritas Philippines has launched an appeal for US$ 1.3 million to the Caritas network, targeting a month-long relief operation for more than 15,000 families. (…)

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in 200 countries and territories.


Five students to raise funds, AIDS awareness on 2,000 km hike

Lynne Ward - Vukoni Lupa-Lasaga

Johannesburg, South Africa, 29 November - A team of five Rotary-sponsored international students are participating in a 2,010-kilometre (1,249-mile) hike from Johannesburg to Cape Town, South Africa, to highlight the plight of AIDS orphans. The 20-day event will start on 2 December. The hike’s duration and distance are intended to underscore the bleak prediction that in the absence of concerted efforts, there will be 20 million AIDS orphans in Africa by 2010. Currently, there are 12 million. Also, 2010 is the year that South Africa hosts the World Cup, locally a passionately anticipated soccer event.

Along the way, the hikers who are students at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand will raise funds for Rotary club-sponsored AIDS orphans projects in Africa. Four of them are Rotary Ambassadorial Scholars, receiving scholarship funding from The Rotary Foundation.

“Why am I spending 20 days of my life walking across South Africa?” asks development studies masters student Ryan McDonnell from near Boston, Massachusetts, USA.  “I want to challenge the notion that ordinary individuals can’t make a tangible difference in the lives of others. Too often we make excuses that we don't have the ability, the time, the energy or that the problem is simply too big.” McDonnell notes that it is easy to give up in the face of the mind-boggling HIV/AIDS statistics. His colleagues have equally powerful reasons for joining the effort cosponsored by South African Rotary clubs and Rotary clubs around the world. (…)

With the support of nonprofit organization Hope Worldwide, Rotary clubs are implementing community-led responses to the needs of AIDS orphans and vulnerable children in Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria, South Africa, and Zambia. In addition to training more than 40,000 caregivers to AIDS orphans, the project aims to provide support for more than 146,000 orphans in the next five years. Tens of thousands of Rotarians are involved with community-based projects that are helping to improve the lives of millions of HIV/AIDS affected Africans. The hikers will describe the experiences of the 20-day journey on the Rotary Aids Hike blog at



Peace and security



Indonesia set to become party to the Mine Ban Treaty soon

Author(s): Site Admin

8 December - Nine years after signing the Mine Ban Treaty, the Indonesian parliament approved the ratification bill on 7 December 2006. The Canadian Ambassador to Indonesia and Els Coolen from the Indonesian Campaign to Ban Landmines were present when the bill was approved. Indonesia, whose constitution includes aiming for world peace, has now finally taken the last step towards action on this front. It is hugely significant that the fourth most populous nation in the world has thrown its weight behind the movement to promote a mine free world.

As the only step left in the process is the final signature of the President, Indonesia will be able to present its ratification at the next Mine Ban Treaty Intersessional Meetings which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, in April 2007.

Together with Poland and the Marshall Islands, Indonesia was one of the three remaining states to have originally signed the Mine Ban Treaty and had not ratified it yet.


Japan supports Jordan and NPA in demining efforts

December 7 - Japan , through its embassy in Jordan, and Norwegian People’s Aid have signed an agreement where The Japanese Grass Root Fund will support one of NPAs demining teams consisting of 25 deminers working in Jordan throughout 2007. The agreement is worth USD 165,000 and will be used for manual mine clearance on the border between Jordan and Israel , between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea.

The Government of Japans Grass Root Fund aims to aid self-supporting socio-economic development activities to benefit sectors at the grassroots level. Norwegian People’s Aid is conducting mine clearance in Jordan  n collaboration with the National Committee for Demining and Rehabil- itation (NCDR) for the purpose of meeting Jordans commitments under the Mine Ban Treaty. More specific obectives are releasing dangerous areas in Jordan for infrastructure, housing, agriculture, manufacturing and service industries and to support the foundation for a sustainable and competent national humanitarian mine action entity in Jordan.;action=Article.publicShow;ID=4465


Caritas Holds Peace-building and Reconciliation Training in Beirut

Beirut, Lebanon, 5 December – Despite the serious political crisis gripping Lebanon, threatening to derail the country’s peace, 23 people met today in Beirut for a four-day peace-building and reconciliation training session. The session is based on Peace-building: A Caritas Training Manual, which was recently translated into Arabic. The participants are of various faiths, and come from Caritas member organisations in Djibouti, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Jordan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. The solidarity shown by the Confederation has enabled this initiative, which is being carried out by the Caritas Middle East Regional Office, to happen, thus allowing all members to be witnesses of charity and builders of peace.


Nepali Army starts process of clearing landmines (NEPAL)

4 December, Xinhua News Agency - Nepali Army (NA) has initiated the process of clearing landmines it had planted to deter the combatants of the Communist Party of Nepal (CPN) (formerly known as guerrilla) during the 11-years conflict, The Kathmandu Post daily reported.

“We have already started the process of clearing landmines by establishing Mine Action Center at our headquarters,“ the English language newspaper quoted Prabin Bahadur Khadka, a Major in NA, as saying. He said that the NA would establish five separate Mine Action Centers in five NA divisions across the country and the technical team would carry out needed surveillance of landmines and other explosives. He informed that the NA currently has some 12,000 anti- personnel mines planted in its different base areas. He also made it clear that they have recordings, markings and fencing of all landmines and devices planted in their positions.


The Kingdom of Norway supports humanitarian demining efforts in Serbia 

22 November - H.e. Ms. May Britt Brofoss, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Norway in Slovenia, and Mr. Goran Gačnik, Director of ITF, signed the Memorandum of Understanding at the 17th ITF Board of Advisors Session held in Ljubljana on 22 November 2006. The Memorandum of Understanding was signed between ITF and the Kingdom of Norway for donation in the amount of 3,700,000.00 NOK.

Norway has already contributed to ITF this year for demining activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia, while the funding covered by the respected Memorandum of Understanding has been an additional contribution for demining activities in Serbia.

Norway remains one of the ITF biggest donors and valuable contributors to mine action efforts in South East Europe.






International donors up funding to fight H5N1 avian flu

Assistance to Africa increased

Bamako/Rome, 8 December - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization today welcomed additional funding from the international donor community to continue the fight against the deadly H5N1 avian flu virus. Some US$475 million was pledged today at the end of a major three-day international donor conference on avian flu in Bamako, Mali.

Alexander Müller, FAO Assistant Director-General, told the conference that avian flu remains a “potent threat around the world – both to animals and humans.” Mr Müller urged donors to make Africa “a top priority for resources and technical assistance in the battle against avian influenza”, warning that ”one weak link can lead to a domino effect, undoing all the good that we have achieved so far. Now is no time for complacency.” (…)

Donors have strongly supported FAO’s work to help countries contain bird flu. So far, FAO has used US$10 million of its own funds and has received US$66 million from donors with agreements signed for another US$25 million. A further US$60 million is in the pipeline.


ADRA Fights HIV and AIDS in Togo

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, December 4 - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency is combating the spread of HIV and AIDS in Togo through educational programs that raise awareness about HIV and AIDS. According to the Integrated Regional Information Network, Togo, a small country of five million people, has the third highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS in West Africa with some 200,000 HIV-positive people in Togo.

ADRA Togo’s HIV and AIDS awareness project, implemented in collaboration with the Red Cross and a local health center, involves staff visiting villages throughout Togo, discussing subjects such as HIV prevention, symptoms, contamination, and attitudes towards those who are affected. During the programs, peer educators perform skits, songs, dances, poems, and other entertainment education to teach students about the disease. Attendees also participate in question and answer games about HIV and AIDS.

In October alone, the sessions impacted nearly 1200 students and their teachers. The majority of these students come from poor rural areas and are between the ages of 12 and 24. The entire project, which is valued at more than $36,000, began in January 2006 and is scheduled to end in December. (…)


HIV/AIDS awareness in Darfur

by Charlotte Brudenell, ACT-Caritas

Nyala, South Darfur, Sudan, 1 December - To mark World AIDS Day (December 1), the Sudan Council of Churches (SCC), a local partner of ACT-Caritas, has organized three days of events in Nyala town, the capital of South Darfur state. "Celebrating World AIDS Day creates an opportunity to raise awareness," says Lokman Mohammed, acting HIV/AIDS coordinator at SCC. "People in Darfur need to open their eyes about HIV/AIDS. There is a great deal of ignorance about the disease, and as a result, people do not know how to protect themselves."

Under the slogan "Ignorance + risky behavior = AIDS", SCC aims to inform people about HIV/AIDS and promote safe practices throughout the campaign. (…)

The campaign focuses on young people, as they are one of the groups that is most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, but they also have the potential to play a big role in tackling the epidemic.  (…)


New report shows improvements in child survival in Africa, but more than a million African babies still die in the first month of life

Johannesburg, South Africa, November 22 - Sub-Saharan Africa remains the most dangerous region in the world for a baby to be born, with 1.16 million babies dying each year in the first 28 days of life, but six low-income African countries — Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Madagascar, Malawi, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania — have made significant progress in reducing deaths among newborn babies, according to a new report published today by a consortium of nine international organizations including Save the Children.

The report, Opportunities for Africa’s Newborns, brings together new data and analysis from a team of 60 authors from the group, called The Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health, (PMNCH). To view the entire report, go to

“Good news does come out of Africa, “said Dr. Joy Lawn, co-editor of the report, who works in Africa for Saving Newborn Lives, a program of Save the Children. “While the survival of the African child has shown almost no improvement since the 1980s, the fact that during 2006 several large African countries have reported a dramatic reduction in the risk of child deaths gives us new hope of more rapid progress to save Africa’s children.” (…)



Energy and safety



Zambia : International Federation signs a Water facility agreement with the EU

by Tapiwa Gomo, Lusaka

8 December - The provision of water and sanitation is the beginning of poverty reduction among poor communities. This was the message sent by Dr. Mukesh Kapila, the International Federation’s Special Representative for HIV and AIDS during the signing of a Contribution Agreement between the International Federation and the European Commission in Lusaka, Zambia.

Under the Agreement, which is under the 1st Call for Proposals for Africa, Caribbean, and Pacific - European Union (ACP-EU) Water Facility, the European Commission will provide €1.84 million from the 9th European Development Fund (EDF) to support water and sanitation interventions in Zambia implemented by the Zambia Red Cross with support from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the British and Swedish Red Cross societies.

The project is co-financed with the Federation who will contribute €610,000, bringing the total project cost to €2.45 million (US$3.2 million). (…)


Chinese company makes, exports thousands of solar cookers

A company in China reports that it produces 80,000 solar cookers per year, selling 50,000 in China and exporting 30,000 to countries such as Pakistan, India, the United States, and Brazil. Tom Rick, a spokesman for the Yancheng Sangli Solar Energy Co., Ltd., says that 1.84 million solar cookers have been produced by the company since it began manufacturing them in 1983.

The concentrator-type solar cookers are comprised of two reflectors totaling 1.5 square meters of collection area. The reflectors are made of thin cast iron with a highly reflective aluminum coating. Each reflector focuses a concentrated beam of light onto an area five centimeters in diameter under the cooking pot. The cooker is rated at 800 watts and is designed so that the reflectors are close to the ground, giving the cooker a low center of gravity for greater stability in wind. The company reportedly was the first to standardize production of solar cookers in China, and its cookers were selected by the Chinese government for distribution in fuel-strapped Tibet. The sunny western provinces of China, such as Sichuan, Xinjiang, and Guizhou, are other important markets for the cookers. (…)


Costa Rica - "Renewable Energy for the Developing World" workshop, 22-27 January

Solar Energy International’s next "Renewable Energy for the Developing World" workshop will be held 22-27 January, 2007, at Rancho Mastatal environmental learning and sustainable living center. The center is located in the last virgin rainforest of Costa Rica’s Puriscal County. The property shares a significant border with the splendid La Cangreja national park, in Sabana Grande. Much of the six-day workshop will be hands on: participants will help a women’s cooperative build and use solar ovens, design and install a solar-electric system, and build a methane biodigester, amongst other things. The workshop will also include overviews of social and cultural issues related to working in the developing world. The registration fee of $650 covers food, lodging and all in-country transportation. Contact: Solar Energy International, P.O. Box 715, Carbondale, Colorado 81623, USA. Tel: 970-963-8855, fax: 970-963-8866, e-mail:, Web:



Environment and wildlife



Environment-Romania: a small victory called route 66a

Vesna Peric Zimonjic

Belgrade, December 9 (IPS) - The controversy over construction of a major highway in western Romania that threatens to destroy the precious Retezat and Domogled natural reserve parks has been put off at least for now. Authorities have decided to temporarily halt the project after the environmental aspect of building the much advertised Route 66a came into focus, with leading experts calling for the plan to be dismantled. (…) Greenpeace had been warning that construction of the road was illegal, and that hastily drawn up plans to use international funds had bypassed necessary licences from planning commissions, environmental agencies and the Scientific Council of the Retezat Park. Construction of the controversial road has reached a point now only a kilometre from Retezat forest. The road was meant to connect the towns of Petrosani and Baile Herculane, long neglected in broader development plans.

Retezat and nearby Domogled in that region are considered among the last remaining unspoilt forests in Europe. Situated in the west of the country in the southern Carpathians region, they are home to more than 1,200 plant species, some 60 of them found only in this area. They are also home to many animal species long driven out of other areas of Europe by industrialisation and modern life. (…)


Europe sees progress on Corporate Social Responsibility

Brussels, 8 December - Corporate responsibility on social and environmental matters is gaining ground in Europe. Two years after the European Multistakeholder Forum on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) representatives from business, trade unions, national governments, academia and other organisations, at the initiative of the European Commission, discussed progress achieved on implementation of the forum's recommendations and the way forward. They concluded that more and more European businesses are adopting CSR practices and invited all stakeholders to play an active role in making Europe a pole of excellence on CSR. Vice-President Günter Verheugen and Commissioner for Social Affairs Vladimir Spidla addressed the meeting together with a number of Members of European Parliament and other high-level representatives. Participants agreed that a wide CSR uptake in the EU can be further promoted by intensifying cooperation between different stakeholder groups. The European Commission attaches growing importance to socially and environmentally responsible behaviour by enterprises, identifying CSR as an essential ingredient for the European strategy for sustainable growth and more and better jobs. (…) More information:

European Commission policy on CSR:

CSR Forum Review Meeting:


Kiev to Host Ministerial Conference on Carpathian Convention

EU Joins Effort to Promote “Carpathian Space”

Kiev, 8 December  - The seven member governments of the Carpathian Convention will meet in Kiev next week for a three-day conference on protecting the natural and cultural heritage of the mountainous areas of Central and Eastern Europe. Ministers of Environment will attend a high-level session on the final day to adopt an action programme setting out their priorities for achieving greater environmental, social and economic well-being for the Carpathian region. (…) The Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians, which entered into force on 4 January of this year, seeks to strengthen regional cooperation, sustainable development and environmental protection in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. The Convention joins together four EU Members, one acceding country and two EU neighbors thus providing a unique framework for European cooperation. To advance this cooperation on environment and sustainable development, the European Commission and its partners are investing €4.5 million to promote the concept of a “Carpathian Space”. The aim is to provide a common strategic vision for the countries and peoples of this historically marginalized European mountain region. (…)

Over 50 non-governmental observer organizations are expected to participate in the Conference; they will organize the “Carpathian celebrations” as a cultural event on the final day.  (…) 


The Future of the Iraqi Marshlands

UNEP Reveals New Data on Marshlands Recovery and Progress in Bringing Clean Water to Marsh Arab Communities

Tokyo, 7 December – Almost half the Iraqi Marshlands, considered by some as the original biblical “Garden of Eden” and an ecosystem of global importance, has recovered to its former 1970s extent. At the same time, up to 22,000 people living in the area are now getting access to safe drinking water and approximately 300 Iraqis have been trained in marshland management techniques and policies. A series of community led environmental awareness campaigns have been organized by local leaders and residents, and an internet-based Marshland Information Network (MIN) has been set-up. These are some of the results from the first phase of a Japanese funded project that will be presented to a meeting of high-level Iraqi officials, local community leaders and representatives of the international donor community in Kyoto, Japan tomorrow.

The project, “Support for Environmental Management of the Iraqi Marshlands”, is managed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). It is helping the Iraqi people to restore the marshlands and manage them in a sustainable manner, as well as providing safe drinking water and sanitation systems to marshlands communities lacking access to these basic necessities.

The Iraqi Marshlands are one of the world’s largest wetland ecosystems. By the time the former Iraqi regime collapsed in 2003, these Marshlands – with their rich biodiversity and unique cultural heritage – had been almost entirely destroyed. Extensive ecological damage to this area, with the accompanying displacement of much of the indigenous population, was identified as one of the country’s major environmental and humanitarian disasters.(…) Building on the success of the project’s first phase, a second phase was recently launched with financial support from the Japanese and Italian governments. This next stage of the project focuses on data collection and analysis of water, environmental and socio-economic indicators to support the development of a marshland master plan, further technical training, awareness raising and additional clean drinking water provision.



Culture and education



UNICEF Executive Director honours the father of the ‘Green Revolution’

New York, 4 December - UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman presented the annual Quality of Life Award to Norman Ernest Borlaug, father of the ‘Green Revolution’, in New York today. “Borlaug has seen hunger up close, and in response, he has dedicated his life to feeding the world,” said Ms. Veneman. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, Dr. Borlaug developed strains of high-yield disease-resistant wheat that he introduced, alongside modern agricultural production techniques to much of the developing world. The resulting ‘Green Revolution’ was a dramatic improvement in agricultural productivity that swept the globe in the 1960s. Today, he is using the same techniques to increase food production in Africa. “From having seen hunger during my travels to Africa and other parts of the globe, I hope that countries around the world will heed Norman Borlaug’s call and one day bestow the man who dedicated his life to feeding the world with the biggest prize of all – the prize of a world free of hunger.”

The International Quality of Life Awards have been presented by Auburn University each year since 1994. The Awards honour those who have made significant contributions to individual, family and community well-being. Past honorees have included Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu of Capetown, South Africa; Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State; and Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director, World Food Programme.


“Age of Connectivity: Cities, Magnets of Hope”

Caring Communities for the 21st Century: Imagining the Possible

Friday ,9 February 2007  International Conference   10am – 6pm    United Nations Headquarters

As part of a series of Interlinked Congresses addressing the “Age of Longevity” held in cities around the globe, this free conference is organized in coordination with United Nations partners: Programme for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat), Programme on Ageing, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Department of Public Information; World Olympians Association, NGOs, and the private sector.  The Conference is in support of the United Nations Commission for Social Development and 7th Global Forum on Building Trust in Government. The “Age of Connectivity” interrelates basic elements that influence our quality of life – innovative rethinking of the basic elements  -- family, education, health, housing, multi-levels of government, and the ICT Information Highway  – and creates a unique opportunity to encourage a quality blueprint for an enriched “Society for All Ages.”

Successful case studies, public/private partnerships, and perspectives of local authorities, NGOs and business will be featured. The Conference’s purpose is to build bridges and develop projects, services and products that support the needs of people of all ages.  Each month the world’s older population increases by 1.2 million! Program will address: Social and Economic Sustainability through Technology, Rural and Urban Development, Entrepreneurship, Employment, e-learning, e-health, e- government, Networks, Capacity Building. ” When perceived with an open mind, these interrelationships offer endless opportunities for us all. (…)Registration Deadline 5 February 2007    



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Next issue: 12 January 2007.


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