Good News Agency – Year VII, n° 2



Weekly - Year VII, number 2 – 10 February 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

Solidarity  Peace and securityHealth

Environment and wildlifeCulture and education



International legislation



Maximum levels set for dioxins and PCBs in feed and food

Brussels, 3 February - The European Commission has today adopted new implementing legislation setting maximum levels for the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) in food and feed. Maximum levels for dioxins in food of animal origin and all animal feed have been applicable since July 2002. However, due to lack of sufficient data and scientific information at the time, no levels were set for dioxin-like PCBs. Since 2002, new data on dioxin-like PCBs has become available, and the legislation adopted today lays down mandatory limits for the combined level of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs. From November 2006, any food or feed in which the sum of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs exceeds these maximum levels will not be allowed to be marketed in the EU.

The reduction of persistent chemicals such as dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs in the food chain is an important part of ensuring the health and safety of EU consumers. (…) Dioxins and PCBs are toxic chemicals that can provoke serious health effects such as cancer, hormone disruption, reduced ability to reproduce, skin toxicity and immune system disorders. They are extremely resistant to any degradation process, which means that they persist in the environment and accumulate in the food chain. (…)

Since 2002, new data on dioxin-like PCBs has become available, and the legislation adopted today lays down mandatory limits for the combined level of dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs, based on World Health Organisation (WHO) toxic equivalency factors for these substances. Food and feed operators have primary responsibility for ensuring that the maximum levels are complied with, while Member State authorities must carry out checks and report to the Commission on their findings. The Commission intends to further review the maximum levels by 31 December 2008, with a view to significantly reducing them further. (…)


Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage to enter into force on 20 April

20 January - Thirty States have now ratified the Convention for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Heritage, adopted in October 2003 by the UNESCO General Conference, allowing it to enter into force on 20 April 2006, that is three months after the 30th instrument of ratification has been deposited. The Convention has been ratified by: Algeria, Mauritius, Japan, Gabon, Panama, China, Central African Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Republic of Korea, Seychelles, Syrian Arab Republic, United Arab Emirates, Mali, Mongolia, Croatia, Egypt, Oman, Dominica, India, Vietnam, Peru, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nigeria, Iceland, Mexico, Senegal and Romania.

UNESCO Director-General, Koïchiro Matsuura, welcomed the exceptionally rapid ratification of this new instrument, which will enter into force in just a little more than two years after its adoption by the General Conference. “This shows the great interest in intangible heritage all over the world, whether in the countries of the South or of the North, and the widespread awareness of urgent need for its international protection given the threat posed by contemporary lifestyles and the process of globalization. It was absolutely necessary to fill in the legal void concerning this essential aspect of cultural diversity and to offer to living cultures inherited through tradition adequate means of preservation,” he said. This Convention completes the standard-setting instrument taken by UNESCO to preserve the tangible heritage and aims to safeguard oral traditions and expressions (including language as a vehicle of the intangible heritage), performing arts, social practices, rituals and festive events, knowledge and practices concerning nature and the universe, as well as know-how linked to traditional crafts. The States Parties to the Convention commit themselves to taking the necessary measures to safeguard the intangible heritage present in on their territory and to establish one or more inventories of this intangible heritage with the participation of the communities and groups that create, maintain and transmit this heritage. An international cooperation and assistance mechanism is also included. (…)



Human rights


Ghana Undergoes Landmark Peer Review

Addis Ababa, 27 January - Ghana is the first African country to successfully complete the five stages of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), after African leaders assessed the country's performance and heard its feedback and action programme. African heads of states, members of the APR Forum, conducted the peer review of Ghana on 22 January on the sidelines of the AU summit in Khartoum. They assessed the country's political, economic and corporate governance, as well as socioeconomic development based on the final review report.

The final review report submitted to the leaders listed capacity constraints, gender disparity, corruption, lack of decentralization and land issues as the main governance concerns in Ghana. Others problems included chieftaincy, unemployment, external dependence, and brain drain.

But the report also identified several best practices in Ghana worthy of emulation by other countries, including success in consolidating democracy. It noted there had been three successful elections and transfers of power since 1996, as well as unique institutions for stakeholder dialogue such as an Annual Governance Forum, the People's Assembly, and National Economic Dialogue. The report also commended Ghana's contribution to regional peacekeeping.(…)

ECA's Executive Secretary, Under Secretary-General Abdoulie Janneh, who attended the peer review in Khartoum, noted that the APRM "is important for Africa's development and it deserves ECA's full support". "The peer review of Ghana is an important milestone for the improvement of governance in African countries," he added.(…)


Remembering is safeguard for future, Secretary-General says in message for first International Day honouring memory of holocaust victims

27 January - Following is the text of the message by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan for the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, 27 January:

Today, for the first time, the United Nations marks what will, from now on, be an annual observance: the International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust. There can be no reversing the unique tragedy of the Holocaust. It must be remembered, with shame and horror, for as long as human memory continues. Only by remembering can we pay fitting tribute to the victims. Millions of innocent Jews and members of other minorities were murdered in the most barbarous ways imaginable. We must never forget those men, women and children, or their agony. Remembering is a necessary rebuke to those who say the Holocaust never happened or has been exaggerated. Holocaust denial is the work of bigots. We must reject their false claims whenever, wherever and by whomever they are made. Remembering is also a safeguard for the future. The abyss reached in the Nazi death camps started with hatred, prejudice and anti-Semitism. Recalling these origins can remind us to be ever on the lookout for warning signs. As the Holocaust recedes in time, and as the number of survivors dwindles, it falls to us -– the current generation -- to carry the torch of remembrance and uphold the cause of human dignity. The United Nations was founded as a reaction to the horrors of the Second World War. Even so, the international community has too often failed to stand up to mass atrocities. In recent years, we have taken important steps to improve on that record, such as establishing the International Criminal Court and agreeing on the collective responsibility to protect. On this International Day of Commemoration, the theme of our observance is “Remembrance and Beyond”. In that spirit, let us pledge ourselves to even greater efforts to prevent genocide and crimes against humanity.



Economy and development



Microfinance crucial to alleviating poverty in forest communities

Basic financial services can help families start their own small businesses

Rome, 27 January - Giving poor forest-dwellers access to basic financial services is a key element in helping them improve their living standards, according to a new FAO publication. The publication, Microfinance and forest-based small-scale enterprises, funded by Norway, shows how microfinance can help low-income households living in forest areas start up and run their own small businesses. Such forest-dwellers frequently live in remote areas where a lack of financial services is a major obstacle to developing successful business activities.(…) Microfinance is a general term referring to the provision of basic financial services such as credit, savings, leasing, equity financing, insurance and remittance mechanisms by banks, non-governmental organizations and credit- and savings cooperatives in both the formal and informal financial sectors.

Microfinance and forest-based small-scale enterprises includes a number of success stories, including one from the Parbat District of Nepal, where 673 small-scale enterprises were set up under a microfinance enterprise development programme, creating employment in rural areas that depend on trade of non-wood forest products such as honey, allo (traditional cloth made from nettles) and lapsi (a fruit used to make drinks and candy). Some 669 of the businesses, or 99.4 percent of programme participants, paid back their loans in full.(…)

FAO's new publication suggests that in addition to their regular services, microfinance institutions should provide business development counseling and support to small enterprises. It notes as well that there is often a need to break social barriers that can discourage rural people from approaching financial institutions for help.


New US$19.75 million IFAD programme to develop the informal dairy industry in Kenya

Rome, 25 January – Thousands of poor, small-scale milk producers and traders will benefit from a new development programme in Kenya. It will strengthen their ability to create and respond to market opportunities in the largely informal dairy sector. The US$19.8 million Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Programme will be financed by a US$17.5 million loan and a US$845,000 grant from the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD). The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters in Rome by the President of IFAD, Lennart Båge, and the Ambassador of Kenya to Italy, Anne Belinda Nyikuli.

Kenya’s dairy sector is one of the largest and most developed in sub-Saharan Africa, accounting for 3.5 per cent of the country’s GDP. (…)  IFAD will work with the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries to help dairy farmers, mobile milk traders and operators of small milk bars to become more market-oriented. Over the next six years, the programme, targeting the Nakuru central area and eight other districts in the west of the country, is expected to lead to an increase in milk production, traded products and income. Farmers and traders will get a better understanding of enterprise skills and key technical services such as feeding, artificial insemination, disease control or quality assurance.(…) This programme will ultimately aim at improving the nutritional status and food security of the 24,000 households that will participate.

With this loan IFAD will have financed 13 investments in Kenya for a total of US$158 million in loan and grants.


ECLAC launches web site for its 31st Session

24 January - Since yesterday, a new website on the 31st Session of this regional United Nations commission is available through the portal of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

This Session makes the main decisions about ECLAC activities, bringing together technical and ministerial-level representatives from ECLAC member states (42 countries and seven associates) to debate major issues regarding the region's economic, social and environmental development; review Commission activities during the previous two years; and set priorities for its work agenda for the next two years. The central theme of this meeting will be a debate on a more solidarity-based social protection system. A special committee on population and development, which is a subsidiary body of the conference, will deal with the subject of international migrations. Some 200 government delegates and 100 representatives of specialized bodies within the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and special guests are expected to attend. (…)


World Social Forum: satisfaction with an "Afrocentric" Meeting

Bamako, January 23 (IPS) - The first phase of the World Social Forum (WSF), which ended Monday in the Malian capital of Bamako, created a focus on "Afrocentric" issues that was missing in previous forums, said coordinator Mamadou Goita. "Africanising the issues was not deliberate. It just so happened that this is the first time we have had a majority of Africans attending a WSF.

Usually there have been less than 100 African NGOs (non-governmental organisations) at any of the other WSFs.It was too expensive for most Africans to travel to Porto Alegre or Mumbai," he told IPS. This year, things were different. "We had over 300 people from the rural areas of Mali alone, while another 8,000 came from neighbouring countries. All of them participated in the forum and enriched the discussions. This has never happened before," said Goita.  (At the closing press conference for the Bamako WSF, organisers tentatively put overall attendance figures for the forum at between 15,000 and 20,000 delegates.) (…)

According to Goita, issues of importance for Africa that came under discussion included female genital mutilation, early marriage and illiteracy among girls. Similarly, the continued occupation of Western Sahara by Morocco was given prominence, as was the situation in conflict areas like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan.  A youth forum set up at the Modibo Keita Stadium gave young men and women an opportunity to interact with village elders and other "older citizens" on issues that affect their lives, including unemployment,immigration and education.



New US$19 million loan to improve harvests and increase incomes of the rural poor in Ghana

Rome, 20 January – A new development programme in Ghana will benefit small farmers, traders and processors of roots and tubers.  Cassava, sweet potatoes, yams, cocoyam and other roots and tubers are grown by the poorest Ghanaians and are crucial to their food security. The US$27.7 million programme will be financed partly by a US$19 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Government of Ghana will contribute US$3.9 million.(...)

Root and tuber crops represent the mainstay of Ghanaian livelihoods, providing more than 42 percent of the staple food supply as well as sizable quantities of raw material for agro-industries. The programme will improve the lives of the farmers, traders and processors who depend on roots and tubers for their livelihoods, at least half of whom are women. It will help them participate more fully in the marketing chain for selling roots and tubers including negotiating prices and contracts and improving bartering and marketing skills. Roots and tuber production will also be improved. Through farmer-field forums, agricultural researchers and farmers will meet to exchange information on cultivation practices and share their experiences. Farmers will enhance their knowledge of new varieties of roots and tubers, soil fertility management and pest control. (…)


New US$26.5 million loan to make financial services available to rural poor people in Pakistan

Rome, 18 January  – Rural poor people who have little access to credit and rural financial services will benefit from a new development programme in Pakistan. The US$30.5 million Microfinance Innovation and Outreach Programme will be financed by a US$26.5 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters in Rome (…)

IFAD will work with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) to help poor people, many of whom are women, gain access to resources and financial services that will enable them to undertake activities that generate income. The programme will support pilot projects to test and develop new microfinance products and services such as livestock insurance, equity partnerships, leasing arrangements, Islamic modes of financing and other innovative financing systems that reduce debt burden, minimize risk, promote asset creation and facilitate income generation. Local lending institutions will be strengthened so they can expand their outreach and provide better financial services in rural areas. (…) At least 180,000 rural households are expected to benefit directly from the programme. IFAD is working closely with the World Bank on the programme. With this loan IFAD will have financed 20 programmes and projects in Pakistan for a total of US$361 million dollars.


Second Annual eCafé Ethiopian Cooperative Coffee Competition Set

18 January - The 2nd Annual eCafé Foundation Ethiopian Gold Cooperative Coffee Competition is scheduled for February 20-24 at the central liquoring lab in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Judges from six countries will rate nearly 200 coffees from five cooperative unions representing Ethiopia’s top growing regions: Yergacheffe, Sidama, Kafa, Tepi and Bench Maji. There will be awards for 12 washed and 12 unwashed coffees.

Besides being honored by the judges, the winning coffees will be included in the eCafé internet auction slated for April. Last year’s auction generated more than $187,800 for the farmers, at an average price of $3.22 per pound, compared to the market price of $1.30 per pound.

For the second straight year, eCafé is working closely with ACDI/VOCA to administer the country’s coffee competition. Since 1997, ACDI/VOCA has empowered Ethiopian smallholder farmers by helping them form competitive, profit-oriented, professionally managed cooperatives. Many of the co-ops have excelled at coffee production, and one produced coffee last year that Starbucks named its eighth Black Apron Exclusive™. ACDI/VOCA’s project has been funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development. (…)


Villages of Hope: The Ricemakers of Vietnam

IAEA Bulletin 47/1 - Thousands of kilometers apart, near the northern and southern curves of Vietnam's S-shaped land, four villages share a common bond. Thanh Gia near north Vietnam's Red River Delta and Dong Tien in south Vietnam's ethnic uplands are villages of hope. So are Bau Don and Cu Chi villages nearer the bustling economic centre, Ho Chi Minh City. Village farmers there team with scientists called "ricebreeders" to improve their harvests and livelihoods. Working together, the farmers and breeders form a modern legion of "ricemakers", helping to shape the future for 82 million Vietnamese men, women, and children. For village families, rice fills their lives and feeds their hopes and dreams. Life is hard but looking up. Over the past decades, many families have almost doubled their incomes. They still live on less than $2 a day, but are aiming for three. The country’s per capita income is about $550 a year, and rising incrementally.

Though poor in income, the village families are rich in impact - their work feeds a country, and more. In little more than a generation, Vietnam has become one of the world's top rice producers. Today the nation exports rice to Switzerland and two dozen other countries around the world. Fears of food shortages have given way to strategies for greater food security and markets. Through it all, the Vietnamese remain among the world's most optimistic people. A 2005 UN survey of Vietnam's households found that eight of ten families say their living conditions are improving day by day.

Nuclear science is among reasons why fortunes are turning. It is helping to accelerate the age-old process of plant breeding that leads to better crops(…) Today more modern tools and methods accelerate nature's way. Rice breeders often apply a process that includes the laboratory irradiation of seeds and plant tissue cultures - usually called induced mutation breeding - to alter plant traits and characteristics. Research yields promising lines of new crop varieties - some that tolerate drought or poor soil conditions, others that resist disease, and still others that meet quality standards for export. In Vietnam, the best are screened and selected in field trials at agricultural stations and in villages like Thanh Gia, Dong Tien, Bau Don, and Cu Chi. The IAEA - through its technical cooperation programme, scientific laboratories, and joint research division with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization - has played a strong catalytic role in Vietnam and other countries. Worldwide since the 1960s, plant breeders have won approval for more than 2300 mutant varieties of crops, including nearly 440 varieties of rice.(…)






Lutheran World Relief working to alleviate hunger in Kenya

Baltimore, February 3 -- Due to poor rains in the autumn of 2005, the food security situation in arid and semi-arid regions of northern and eastern Kenya is rapidly deteriorating, with an estimated 2.5 million people in need of emergency food aid. Relief agencies on the ground have reported high levels of malnutrition among young children and their mothers.

The Government of Kenya, the World Food Program and other relief agencies have already begun distributing food relief to those most in need. Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is working on behalf of the global aid alliance Action by Churches Together to implement a response helping communities recover from the drought by increasing access to water and providing farm tools, seeds and agricultural training to enable people to grow drought-tolerant crops.

LWR has worked in Kenya for approximately 30 years, with a focus on building sustainable rural livelihoods and improving food security. Working with local partner organizations, LWR-ACT will distribute farm tools and seeds to 2,000 of the most vulnerable households in the Taita Taveta and Makueni districts, including many households now headed by single parents, grandparents, or orphans due to a parent's death from HIV/AIDS. Another 20,000 households will benefit from construction and rehabilitation of wells and dams - largely built by community members themselves as part of a food-for-work program - that will provide water for both people and livestock, and allow community members to irrigate their crops. (…)


Pakistan: Shelter for earthquake victims

3  February -- The ICRC has just completed a series of distributions of corrugated iron sheeting for 10,912 families affected by the recent earthquake in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The material is being used to build temporary shelters more suitable than simple tents.

At the outset of its operations in the region, the ICRC realized that one of the greatest challenges faced by the stricken population was to survive the harsh winter. In December 2005, it distributed corrugated iron sheeting, which is available on the local market and can be used to build shelters that protect from the cold. A higher degree of insulation can be achieved by adding a layer of grass between the sheeting and the underlying wooden structure. Priority was given to vulnerable families living in higher areas likely to be cut off by bad weather first.

By 31 January the ICRC had delivered corrugated iron sheeting to 157 villages above the snowline in the Neelum and Jhelum valleys. In order to reach these remote areas, the ICRC used a fleet of nine helicopters that made 505 round trips from its logistics base in Abbottabad and lowered the material in slings. Ten expatriate and local ICRC engineers were involved in the distributions, which cost 1.9 million Swiss francs, over a period of two months. The distributions were carried out with the support of local community leaders, village heads, Pakistan Red Crescent Society members and army personnel, all of whom helped to identify the most vulnerable families in the villages. As a result of the operation, these families are now in a better position to withstand the rigours of winter.


Angola, Huambo: NGO Roots of Peace implements USD 12 million demining projects

2 February - - United States of America non-governmental organisation (NGO) Roots of Peace will promote a landmines clearance and economic project in Huambo province, amounted at USD 12 million, for a three-year period. The information was given by the NGO chairman, Mário Salzmann who is in the country making a research and looking for partnership for the project.

According to Roots of Peace official, the programme will be implemented in partnership with the NGOs World Vision and Halo Trust, that have already implemented agricultural and demining projects in the region.  Mário Salzmann said that the project aims at continuing with the appeal made by the late Princess Diana, when she came to Angola in January 1997, campaigning for a world free from landmines. This work will guarantee better safety for people, free movement from one place to the other, to guarantee the economic reorganisation of the region and the transportation of farming goods to other provinces, as well as to the country's capital.

The NGO, with its headquarters in the State of California, USA, was founded in 1997 and aims at informing people about the dangers of landmines, thus carrying on with the late Princess legacy.

Since 2002, Roots of Peace, in partnership with Halo Trust, helped to remove more than 100,000 landmines and other dangerous and unexploded devices in Afghanistan with private funds from the public.


Caritas announces creation of new working group on Haiti 

Vatican City, 1 February – Representatives from Caritas member organisations, the Caritas Internationalis (CI) General Secretariat, and the CIDSE network (Coopération Internationale pour le Développement et la Solidarité ) agreed to set up a new Working Group on Haiti during a January 2006 meeting at the CI General Secretariat in Vatican City. The Caribbean nation, long plagued by socio-political turmoil and violence, is one of the poorest countries in the world.  

The decision to set up the working group signals a long-term commitment by Caritas, Catholic agencies, and Church entities to support Caritas Haiti’s work in addressing its country’s social crisis. Pursuing lasting solutions to this crisis and promoting the transformation of the country into a more just society based on solidarity are among Caritas Haiti’s priority issues. (…)

In laying down its goals, the Working Group agreed to strengthen partnership between member organisations in working together for Haiti, to strengthen the capacity for coordination of bilateral international cooperation, and to strengthen the capacity for coordination of advocacy activities related to Haiti.


Firstlogic donates software to the United Nations

New York 1 February - The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) today signed an agreement with Firstlogic Inc., a global information technology software provider that will supply data quality software on a pro-bono basis. This data quality software, known as IQ8 and IQ Insight, will be used for data analysis on forensic and financial records of United Nations programs in tsunami-affected areas. The software will improve the quality of data analysis. “The UN will benefit from this donation, which will help achieve high quality, reliable, and complete data to better review financial records and take more informed decisions about the delivery of humanitarian assistance in tsunami-affected areas,” said Jan Egeland, the United Nations’ Emergency Relief Coordinator.  He also welcomed the continued interest of the private sector in supporting the work of the United Nations. “We know that the task of reviewing all the financial data coming from programmes in tsunami affected areas is enormous,” said Joe Zurawski, Firstlogic Vice-President of Global Alliances and Product Management. “Firstlogic is very pleased to help the United Nations in its goal to achieve high standards in accounting for the funds received for this disaster.”


IAAF charity auction raises US$30,000 for UN agencies

Double heptathlon world champion Carolina Klüft of Sweden and former Olympic sprint relay champion Debbie Ferguson of the Bahamas, both supporters of Athletics for a Better World

Rome, 1 February  - An online charity auction of athletics memorabilia staged by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has raised over US$30,000 for WFP, the UN Children's Fund UNICEF and the Food and Agriculture Organization.

More than 50 world-class athletes donated running vests, bib numbers, statues and signed photos to the "Athletics for a Better World" auction, which ran on the internet from 16-30 January. When we first launched 'Athletics for a Better World', we did so with the confidence that our sport's top stars would show that they cared deeply about creating a better world by donating articles of personal value  The highest bid was for the gold medal competition kit and bib number which Double Olympic champion Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco wore when he won the 1995 World Indoor 1500 metres gold in Barcelona, Spain - his first ever global title. The kit was the last item on offer, and appropriately enough raised more than any other individual item: US$3,406.98.(…)


ADRA builds schools in Liberia

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA - January 30 - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is working to revitalize the educational system in Liberia, helping to rebuild schools, reconstruct kitchens for school feeding programs, and provide training for kitchen staff in schools that were damaged or destroyed during the 14 years of fighting in Liberia. (…) ADRA plans to renovate a junior high school in Sanniquellie, Nimba County, benefiting 300 students. The damaged portion of the building includes the roof, cracked floors, damaged ceiling, and windows.  ADRA will also construct 12 kitchens for schools in Nimba County. (…) The project is funded by ADRA International, and is valued at close to $33,000. It will run from January until April.

ADRA is present in 125 countries, providing community development and emergency management without regard to political or religious association, age, or ethnicity.


United Arab Emirates to build 1,000 homes for Sri Lanka tsunami victims

Colombo, 27 January - The Red Crescent Society of the United Arab Emirates this week signed two agreements with UN-HABITAT to provide funding for the construction of 1,000 houses in areas of Galle, Trincomalee, Ampara and Kattankudy devastated by the December 2004 tsunami killer wave. The agreements were signed by Mr. Abdullah Al-Mahmood of Red Crescent Society, UAE and Mr. Lalith Lankatillake, Regional Advisor of UN-HABITAT. The UAE Red Crescent Society signed an agreement to provide 1.2 million US dollars to build 100 new houses in Kattankudy, and 80 new homes in Galle. Another 220 houses, partly damaged by the tsunami in Galle will be rehabilitated. Funding will also be provided for the development of community infrastructure facilities in both Galle and Kattankudy.The UAE Red Crescent Society signed a separate agreement to provide 3.2 million US dollars for 600 new homes in Kinnya in Trincomalee district, and Saianthamarathu in Ampara district. The project will be implemented by UN-HABITAT in partnership with the Muslim Foundation for Culture and Development. (…)



Peace and security



FSD to clear unexploded ordnance in support of WFP's programme in Laos

27 January - The Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (Fondation Suisse de Deminage – FSD) signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Lao National Regulatory Authority for Mine Action (NRA) to start a clearance programme funded by the Australian Government in support of the World Food Programme's (WFP’s) Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO) in Savannakhet. (…) Under the agreement, FSD will undertake community-based UXO clearance activities to support WFP's program in food-insecure provinces.

WFP has been distributing food under the PRRO in Central and Southern Laos since June 2004. The distributions are aimed at households most at risk from crisis situations such as flood, drought and chronic food insecurity. WFP has been assisting households in these regions, through emergency operations, for over 29 years. (…)

The programme is funded as a part of Australia's recent 5 year pledge of $75 million for global Mine Action announced by the Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Mr Downer in Vientiane during September 2005. As part of this pledge Australia will provide $7.5 million for UXO activities in Laos over the next 5 years. FSD will also continue to seek further funding to support WFP in other provinces including Khamuaone and Saravan. (…)


Canadian Landmine Awareness Week will take place February 27-March 5

17 January - Canadian Landmine Awareness Week will take place February 27-March 5th, 2006. This year we have a fundraising target of $21,000. Our theme is Act Now! For a mine free world, calling on the Canadian government and civil society to take immediate action to build a mine-free world.

MAC has adopted four taglines around which activities can be organized: No reservations, no exceptions, no loopholes, no excuses. Each tagline is linked to messaging on a specific issue of concern: namely, universalization of the Mine Ban Convention, mine clearance deadlines, victim assistance and the role of Canadian leadership.

Universalization of the Ottawa Treaty banning landmines is key to ensure that the emerging international norm of a total ban continues to take hold, yet only 75% of the world’s countries have joined the ban. Those that have must meet their obligations under the treaty—including the clearance of all mines within 10 years. While the challenge of fulfilling obligations related to survivor assistance is immense, states and civil society must vigorously commit themselves to fully meeting the needs of all those affected by mines. And finally, Canada must tangibly recommit itself to global leadership on the issue, and dedicate a minimum of one dollar per Canadian per year until a mine-free world is achieved. (…)


Landmine clearance breakthrough

DanChurchAid introduces new mine clearance method which is cheaper and more effective than previous methods.

16 January - In Angola thousands kilometres of roads are not being used, and are thus effectively closed off because of threat of landmines. The landmines cause victims and create obstacles for the UN and NGOs in trying to assist many refugees and internally displaced people returning home after the war. DanChurchAid has developed a mine clearance system which can clear roads in a record time.

Seeing the system at work on the Angolan roads is quite an overwhelming sight. The vehicle that is part of the system was previously used during the riots in townships in times of apartheid in South Africa. Now, mounted with large-loop detectors and equipped with state of the art GPS system, it is being put to a good use – making Angolan roads safe for civilian population.

Developed by DanChurchAid’s deminers, the vehicle can trace landmines quicker, safer and faster than any other known method. The technical name is WADS, Wide Area Detection System, and it combines modern computer and satellite navigation with a cross-country vehicle. (…)


Sudan – a year with the peace agreement

The first anniversary of the peace agreement in Sudan coincides with the fiftieth anniversary of the country gaining its independence from Great Britain. Twenty-two of these years have borne the stamp of Africa’s longest armed conflict. The fragile peace must be guarded.

By Finn Erik Thoresen, Acting Secretary General, Norwegian People’s Aid

10 January - Today it is one year to the day that the peace agreement for Sudan, the so-called Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), was signed in Nairobi. Norway, and the previous Development Minister, Hilde Frafjord Johnson, played a central role in the process which led to the agreement between the Sudanese government and the liberation movement in the south of the country, the SPLM (Sudan People’s Liberation Movement). A 22-year long civil war was brought to an end. Now a six-year interim period will be followed in 2011 by a referendum on independence for South Sudan.   

Sudan has a population of about 40 million people and is nearly five times the size of France. South Sudan alone makes up a fifth of the entire country with about 8.5 million inhabitants.

The peace agreement was criticised for being negotiated without broad-based participation and in that the SPLM leader, the now-dead John Garang, was self-willed and pushed through his own ideas. An indisputable fact, however, was that there was peace. The international community is acting as guarantor for the peace through, among other things, pledges of massive economic support to the building up of the country, particularly in the south. A commission, under the leadership of Norwegian diplomat, Tom Vraalsen, is to monitor and report upon the extent to which the peace agreement is or is not upheld, including where the international community’s obligations are concerned. On the day of the agreement’s anniversary, it appears that Vraalsen faces a demanding task in relation to the following up of donor countries’ promises. (…);action=Article.publicShow;ID=3118






PACT Establishing Centre of Excellence in Tanzania

3 February - On the occasion of World Cancer Day (4 February), the IAEA announced that its Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) will establish its first Centre of Excellence in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. This low-income East African country has one of the continent's highest cancer rates and only one cancer treatment centre.(…) The IAEA spends about $12 million each year for improving cancer treatment in the developing world. Last year, it established the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), to build partnerships with the WHO and other organizations dedicated to controlling cancer. Much of the IAEA's share of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize Award has been dedicated to helping the developing world deal with the dramatic rise in cancer that is overwhelming limited health resources and equipment. (…)

The majority of cancers prevalent in Tanzania today require radiotherapy treatment. PACT will establish its first Centre of Excellence at the Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The ORCI estimates that each year there are over 20,000 new patients with cancer in Tanzania. Currently, ORCI can treat only about 2,500 patients per year - only a fraction of radiotherapy needs in Tanzania. To meet future needs, Tanzania will need many more machines and a corresponding number of doctors, nurses and technicians to operate them, according to PACT. The additional cancer therapy system from MDS Nordion will allow the Institute to treat another 1,000 patients per year. This is the initial step in building PACT´s first Centre of Excellence.(….)


Angolan president inaugurates hospital constructed with Chinese aid

Luanda, Feb 3 (Xinhua via COMTEX) - Luanda General Hospital, built in Angolan capital of Luanda, with Chinese government aid and constructed by a Chinese company, was inaugurated on Friday in a ceremony presided over by Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos.

With a capacity to hospitalize 100 patients, the institution was built and equipped with the fund from the Chinese government, estimated at 8 million U.S. dollars. The two-story hospital covers an area of 800,000 sq.m. in a five-hectare plot. The medical ward will have specialties such as otolaryngology, dermatology, pediatrics, neurology, ophthalmology, physiotherapy, among others.

The construction works lasted 15 months and was constructed by the China National Overseas Engineering Corporation.


Northwest medical teams sends 1,500 team of volunteers

Portland, Oregon, USA, 2 February - Whether it’s a devastating hurricane, a brutal war or the crushing despair of chronic poverty, Northwest Medical Teams has sent critically needed medical volunteers to help people in desperate conditions for the past 27 years.

This Saturday, Feb. 4, Northwest Medical Teams sends its 1,500th volunteer team—this time to Oaxaca, Mexico, where medical care is nonexistent. Dr. Paul Stromberg, a Portland surgeon with Eye Health Northwest, will lead a team of five volunteers to Oaxaca. Team members, all of Portland, include Dr. Kevin McKinney, nurses Shirley Soderberg, Diane Mattox and Phyllis Fletcher, and layworker Debi Stromberg. The team will perform sight-saving surgeries for indigenous villagers living in hillside shacks with no clean water, adequate food or sanitation.(…)

Northwest Medical Teams began its work in Mexico more than 20 years ago when it responded to the devastating 1985 earthquake in Mexico City. This year, 24 medical, dental and work teams will help thousands of families with health concerns, education projects and construction needs. The Mexican government reports that 75 percent of all mother-infant deaths occur among Oaxaca’s rural population. (…)


Polio endemic countries hit all-time low of four 

Eradication drive enters new phase with global roll-out of monovalent vaccines

Geneva/Evanston/Atlanta/New York, 1 February – The number of countries with indigenous polio has dropped to an all-time low of four, as polio eradication efforts enter a new phase involving the use of next-generation vaccines targeted at the two surviving strains of virus.

In 2006, monovalent vaccines, aimed at individual virus strains, will be the primary platform for eradication in all remaining polio-affected areas, announced the core partners in polio eradication – the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF – enabling the eradication drive to hone in on poliovirus types 1 and 3.    

This new phase was announced alongside the confirmation that indigenous poliovirus has not circulated in Egypt and Niger for over 12 months. This is the first time in three years that the number of polio-endemic countries has fallen, leaving Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan as the only countries that have never stopped indigenous polio transmission. (…)

In addition to mass immunization with monovalent vaccines in the four endemic countries, large-scale campaigns with these vaccines will need to take place in 2006 in eight countries –  including Somalia, Indonesia and Yemen – to stop recently imported polioviruses. Critical to the success of these campaigns is a US$ 150 million shortfall which must be filled as rapidly as possible.   The eradication effort requires a further US$ 425 million for the 2007-2008 period.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by national governments, the World Health Organization (WHO), Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and UNICEF.  (…)


Azerbaijan: the ICRC supports prevention and control of TB and HIV/AIDS

20 January - An international workshop has taken place to encourage collaboration between prisons and public health services for the prevention and control of tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

The international workshop on "The prevention and control of tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS in prisons and opportunities for collaboration between government health services" was jointly organized by the Ministry of Justice of Azerbaijan and the ICRC. Seventy representatives from the prison and public health sectors, international and non-governmental organizations attended the workshop from 17 to 19 January at Baku's Park Inn Hotel.

The Deputy Minister of Justice, Vilayat Zahirov, and the ICRC Medical Coordinator for Health in Prisons, Dr. Hernan Reyes, participated in the workshop. Experts from Belgium, Georgia, Russia, Switzerland, and Ukraine gave lectures and recommendations.

The workshop was designed to contribute to a better understanding and dialogue between concerned institutions leading to improved effectiveness and coordination between the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Health in the prevention and control of TB and HIV/AIDS within the penitentiary system. (…)


Save the Children helping families respond to avian flu threat

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, January 18 - Families in Aceh Province, Indonesia, who are still recovering from the devastating tsunami of a year ago, have a new concern—Avian influenza.

And once again throughout the region Save the Children is working to help children and families meet the latest health challenge. (…)

In response to the growing concern over the virus, Save the Children is working to protect both people and poultry throughout Indonesia. The agency is playing a lead role among humanitarian organizations and United Nations agencies in producing posters and leaflets to inform consumers and poultry producers about how to identify and report infected poultry and how to protect both humans and animals against the virus. The agency is working closely with the government of Indonesia and its key ministries in distributing the vital information. (…) In Aceh Province, where Save the Children has assisted tens of thousands of families as part of its tsunami recovery programs, the agency also is supporting hundreds of poultry farmers in dealing with the virus threat.

The Indonesian government is providing vaccinations for poultry. Any infected chickens are culled and compensation is paid (approximately $1.50 per bird.) At present none of the poultry producers supported by Save the Children have reported any bird illness or death. (…)


Bangladesh - Sanitation revolution begins in remote village

by Sagor Marandy – Communications

The installation of low-cost latrines and new hygiene practices have revolutionised sanitation standards in the remote underdeveloped and underprivileged village of Meda of Phulpur sub-district in Mymensingh district, located 122 kilometres north of Dhaka. The village is located within World Vision Bangladesh’s Phulpur Area Development Program (ADP), and contains 190 households. Villagers helped install 152 latrines in 2005, which has given the majority of households access to sanitary latrines.

World Vision played a vital role in building awareness on sanitation among the villagers, and as a result locals have stopped their old practices and have developed an understanding of better hygiene.  A year-and-a-half ago, only five per cent of people used sanitary latrines. Many people in the village suffered from diarrhoea each year, and knowledge on hygiene and healthy practices was almost nonexistent. (…)

World Vision International is a Christian relief and development organisation working for the well being of all people, especially children. Through emergency relief, education, health care, economic development and promotion of justice, World Vision helps communities help themselves.



Environment and wildlife



India highlights new Ramsar sites on World Wetlands Day

New Delhi, India, 2 February – India has designated six new wetlands to the Ramsar Convention on Wetland’s list of wetlands of international importance. The wetland areas include the : Hokera Wetland and Surinsar-Mansur Lakes in the northwestern Himalayan province of Jammu & Kashmir; Chandertal Wetland and Renuka in Himachal Pradesh; Rudrasagar Lake in the northeastern state of Tripura; and Upper Ganga River in Uttar Pradesh.

The Convention on Wetlands, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, is an intergovernmental treaty which provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources. There are presently 150 contracting parties to the Convention, with 1,585 wetland sites, totalling 134 million hectares, designated for inclusion in the Ramsar List of Wetlands of International Importance. The designations, announced on World Wetlands Day, bring the number of Ramsar sites in India to 25. (…)

WWF wants to see 250 million hectares of global wetlands be protected and sustainably managed by 2010.


Greenpeace plans bigger presence in Africa

by Yinka Adeyemi

25 January - Greenpeace, the international NGO, is undertaking a scoping study which, it hopes, will help increase its presence and work in Africa, John Van Mossel, the project manager of the study group said today in Addis Ababa. Mr Van Mossel, who had earlier visited South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya, met with the Sustainable Development Division officials of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). He said although Greenpeace was a global organization, with offices in 38 countries, it does not have an office in Africa. Mr Van Mossel said his data-collection mission in Africa would help estimate the potential to achieve important change, define where Greenpeace could add value, analyse how "traditional Greenpeace methods" could work in Africa and explore alternative ways of working and networking. Contrary to popular opinions about the public image of Greenpeace, he said the organization was “really committed to non-violent, creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems and force solutions.” Greenpeace, he said, would like to establish a strong governance structure through which it would engage “unassailable” African leaders, and put more emphasis on education and information in its campaign. Mr Van Mossel said Greenpeace would pay more attention to issues that were important to Africa, such as water, forests, land and sustainable agriculture. (…)



Culture and education



Republic of Korea, Unescap sign agreement to establish new Ict Training Centre

Centre to be first United Nations office based in Republic of Korea

Bangkok, 31 January (United Nations Information Services) – The Republic of Korea and the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific signed an Agreement today in Bangkok to establish a new ICT training centre to be located in the Republic of Korea.Known as the Asian and Pacific Training Centre for Information and Communication Technology for Development (APCICT), the institute will be the first United Nations office based in Republic of Korea. Signing on behalf of the two parties were H.E. Yoon Jee-joon, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea in Thailand, and Kim Hak-Su, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and UNESCAP Executive Secretary. During the ceremony, Mr. Kim noted that the APCICT will be located in Incheon City, “a vibrant area that is also a hub of ICT business.” UNESCAP expects that APCICT will play a leading role in its ICT work, and contribute towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goal 8, Target 18, to make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies, in cooperation with the private sector.


AEGEE joins new European platform

AEGEE-Europe is joining the European Civic Forum

31 January - On January 14, 2006 AEGEE-Europe joined a European Civic Forum (Forum Civique Europeen). (…)  AEGEE-Europe has made a decision to become involved in this initiative, as it fully reflects AEGEE’s values and also the Year Plan Topic "Take Control- Democracy in Europe". (…) The resolution AEGEE-Europe signed among others, calls for participation in the animation of the European Civic Forum; encouraging meetings and participation of the members in the organized initiatives by other members. Furthermore, it asks to work in order to bring to foreground European civic dialogue, to carry out information and awareness campaigns for European citizens, to organize annual meetings to clarify and precise civic and democratic model that “we want for Europe”.

European Civic Forum includes around 50 national, European, regional and local associations from 16 different European countries. Among other members of this young platform, there are ANO pro Evropu, ARCI, Cafe Babel, Cap Magellan, Community Service Volunteers, Democracy International, Foundacion Cives, Citizens Union Paremvassi, MRJC, etc. Please find the full list of signing Organisations on the website,

AEGEE is one of the biggest interdisciplinary student associations in Europe; it is represented by 15.000 students, active in 241 academic cities, in 40 countries all around Europe, which presents amazing culture variety. AEGEE is a secular, non-profit organization, not linked to any political party. All projects and activities are based on voluntarily work of its members.


Choreography continues for orphaned girls in Tajikistan

20 January -  (…) Ten young ballerinas, with their smiling faces and pink point shoes gliding through their newly-equipped dance studio, are gaining confidence and poise while providing hope to their Dushanbe, Tajikistan school's administration for a brighter future.

Six months ago, an employee of Counterpart International volunteered to teach ballet to orphaned girls at Boarding School-Internat #1, offering them an opportunity to enjoy the beauty of dance. More than teaching just ballet techniques, Irina Wunder, a former dancer herself, was also seeking to provide a creative outlet for the children living in the school through exposure to an activity promoting self-esteem and assurance. Following the debut performance on the stage of Tajik Opera House in March 2005, the young ballerinas will now have an opportunity to continue developing their ballet skills in their own newly-equipped room with dance barres and mirrors.

Thanks to Counterpart International, volunteers and supporters, the school proudly opened the ballet room with a small ceremony on December 14, 2005. (…)

Wunder, the Counterpart employee who initiated the program, studied ballet in the former Soviet Union from 1979 to 1990 before directing a US State Department humanitarian assistance program with Counterpart from 2003 until the summer of 2005.  Currently stationed in Lima, Peru, she serves as a consultant for the organization. Her initiatives target underprivileged youth and provide support to creatively promote social and economic incentives through exposure to performing arts.


Opening of Palestinian Women's Research and Documentation Centre

18 January - The Palestine Women’s Research and Document Centre (PWRDC) was inaugurated today in Ramallah by Zahira Kamal, Minister of Women’s Affairs of the Palestinian Authority, and Pierre Sané, Assistant Director-General of UNESCO for Social and Human Sciences. During the ceremony, held under the patronage of Prime Minister, Ahmed Qureia’ (Abu ‘Ala), Zahira Kamal recalled that the joint committee established by UNESCO and the Palestinian Authority considered the creation of the Centre as a priority project. She also expressed the “hope that the centre will become an important Palestinian institution, giving a voice to Palestinian women at the regional and international levels.” The first of its kind in an Arab country, outside North Africa, this institution will serve as both a documentation and resource centre and as an observatory. It will be devoted to research on gender equality and human rights with an emphasis on women’s rights legislation, on the causes and consequences of poverty among women, on violence against women and on their participation in political life. (…) The programme, designed in 2004 in close consultation with the Palestinian Authority, aims to promote education, culture, communication and science for the benefit of the Palestinian people. (…)


ICAF's First International Cultural Figurines and Children's Puppets Exhibition

16 January - As part of the European Children's Festival to be held in Munich right before the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the First International Cultural Figurines and Children's Puppets Exhibition will be held at Galeria Kaufhof am Marienplatz in Munich on May 26 - June 9, 2006. Galeria Kaufhof and IDW GmbH Duisberg-Toronto are exhibition sponsors.

The exhibition will showcase global cultural diversity and unity during the European Festival, which is the first regional event organized as a prelude to the World Children's Festival in Washington, DC in the summer of 2007.

The exhibition will show how children share and interpret their culture to gain other's understanding. Children for this exhibition will make twenty figurines and twenty puppets. Two figurines and puppets each will be made in Germany and the United States. The other participating countries are: Austria, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Ghana, Great Britain, India, Italy, Kenya, Korea (South), Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. (…)

The International Child Art Foundation (ICAF) employs the arts to heal, inspire and unify children across the globe while the World Bank has become one of the largest suppliers of reconstruction and development assistance around the world.



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Next issue: 3 March.


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