Good News Agency – Year VII, n° 3



Weekly - Year VII, number 3 – 3rd March 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 developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education


International legislation



ILO adopts sweeping new charter for maritime sector

New Convention will guarantee "quality shipping" worldwide

Geneva, 23 February (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization today overwhelmingly adopted a comprehensive new labour standard for the world's maritime sector, in what ILO Director-General Juan Somavia called a landmark development in the world of work.

The new Maritime Labour Convention, 2006 was adopted by a vote of 314 for, with no votes against and four abstentions at the 94th International Labour Conference (Maritime), held here on 7-23 February. The vote marked overwhelming support by delegates from more than 100 countries representing seafarers, shipowners and governments. "We have made maritime labour history today", Mr. Somavia said. "We have adopted a Convention that spans continents and oceans, providing a comprehensive labour charter for the world's 1.2 million or more seafarers and addressing the evolving realities and needs of a sector that handles 90 per cent of the world's trade. What's more, we have established a socio-economic floor to global competition in the maritime sector", Mr. Somavia said. (…)

The new Convention clearly sets out, in plain language, a seafarers' "bill of rights" while allowing a sufficient degree of national discretion to deliver those rights with transparency and accountability. (…) The Convention will apply to all ships engaged in commercial activities with the exception of fishing vessels and traditional ships (such as dhows and junks). (…)


Making Universal Birth Registration a Reality in Asia and the Pacific

4th Asia and the Pacific Regional Conference, 14 to 17 March, Bangkok, Thailand

Despite booming economies and rapid development in many countries in Asia and the Pacific, millions of children are still being denied their first and most fundamental right - the right to an identity.

From 14 to 17 March, civil registrars from 26 countries in Asia and the Pacific, along with civil society groups, development organizations and child and human rights advocates, will meet in Bangkok to agree on ways to tackle the issue of Universal Birth Registration. They will seek to:

          Ensure current policies and laws are implemented

          Tackle the legal and political complexities of reaching marginalized communities

          Explore affordable and effective systems to ensure every child is registered at birth

          Highlight the importance of birth registration and educate people on where they can access these services

          Share experiences on civil registration during disasters and complex emergencies and identify preparedness measures.

The conference is being jointly organized by Plan International and UNICEF and the fourth of its kind to put birth registration on the agenda in Asia and the Pacific. Media are welcome to attend the conference and are encouraged to register in advance. For further information:

Arunee Achakulwisut, Plan Asia Regional Office,

Shantha Bloemen, UNICEF EAPRO, 



Human rights



Amnesty welcomes UN call to close Guantánamo Bay

27 February (e-CIVICUS) - Amnesty International has welcomed a United Nations report calling for the closure of the US military detention centre at Guantánamo Bay and urges governments, human rights defenders and its members around the world to send a clear message to the US government that it is time for Guantánamo to go. Susan Lee, Director of Amnesty International’s Americas Programme said: ‘The report confirms concerns which AI has repeatedly raised with the US government. We have consistently called for the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay to be closed. The US can no longer make the case, morally or legally, for keeping it open.’ For further details, see


More than 300,000 internally displaced Liberians return home

24 February - More than 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Liberia will have returned to their home villages by the end of this week, the United Nations mission in the country said today, highlighting increasing stability in the West African nation as it emerges from almost 15 years of brutal civil war.

The UN Mission in Liberia’s (UNMIL) Humanitarian Coordination Section said that these IDPs were being given supplies, a cash grant and protection by the various UN agencies working in the country, and the Mission’s spokesman said that the remaining 14,000 IDPs were expected to return to their homes in the next few months as well. (…) UNMIL said that the disarmament of more than 100,000 ex-combatants had provided the IDPs with the sense of security needed for them to return, and had also opened the way for refugees to come back too.

Last week the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is now actively encouraging the return of about 160,000 Liberian refugees spread through Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Guinea, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

Liberia’s progress in disarmament, security, human rights and other areas since the end of a brutal war prompted Antonio Guterres, the head of the UNHCR, to shift a voluntary repatriation programme that began in October 2004 from “facilitation” to “promotion.” (…)


East and Horn of Africa states agree to tackle displacement regionally

Nairobi, February 24 (UNHCR) Seven countries from the East and Horn of Africa worst affected by displacement, said at a Nairobi conference they were committed to increasing cooperation and adopting regional strategies to deal with forced displacement in the region. "Not only do the conflicts themselves often run across borders, but displacement is in essence a cross-border challenge," UNHCR's Africa Bureau deputy director Oluseyi Bajulaiye told the week-long ministerial conference.

A staggering figure of 11 million displaced, or close to eight percent of the 150 million-strong population of the seven countries from the IGAD sub-region of Africa (Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda) are affected by displacement. This represents 66 percent of Africa's internally displaced, and 30 percent of global internally displaced.

The conference on Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) organised jointly by IGAD – the Intergovernmental Authority on Development sub-regional organisation – and UNHCR, was the first of its kind in the region. (…)


Georgia: Working to improve living conditions for the displaced

On 23 February the ICRC and the Georgian authorities signed a memorandum of understanding on a project to improve living conditions for some 3,000 displaced people. The beneficiaries were displaced around 15 years ago as a result of the conflicts, still unresolved, with the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They are now in 33 collective centres situated in western Georgia and in the Shida Kartli region.

The ICRC has undertaken to upgrade the centres’ water supply and sanitation systems, and to reconstruct roofs where necessary. According to Michel Vouilloz, ICRC water and habitat programme coordinator, “one of the main purposes of the project is to provide access to safe water. In almost all the collective centres people have to carry water over long distances, and they cannot be sure it is safe to drink. We are going to change this. Having water means having a better life, and improved hygiene and sanitation as well.”

In carrying out this work the ICRC is cooperating closely with the Georgian Ministry of Refugees and Accommodation, since it is the national authorities that bear primary responsibility for dealing with problems resulting from internal displacement and for ensuring that those displaced receive aid. (…) Between 2002 and 2005 the ICRC improved living conditions for some 10,500 displaced people in 77 collective centres.


Action by World Bank’s IFC on workers’ rights a major step forward

Brussels, 22 February (ICFTU online) - The ICFTU has applauded yesterday’s adoption by the International Finance Corporation (the private sector lending arm of the World Bank) of a new loan performance standard on labour rights and working conditions. After the new standard is implemented in the coming weeks, all companies that borrow from the IFC will be required to abide by the core labour standards (CLS) as defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO). The CLS prohibit the use of forced labour, child labour and discriminatory practices, and require recognition of freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining. The new standard also obliges IFC clients to observe some other basic conditions, including health and safety standards, protection for contract workers, and a policy for managing reductions in employment. (…)

At the ICFTU’s suggestion the IFC accepted two years ago, on a pilot basis, to include a CLS condition in a loan to a clothing manufacturer, Grupo M, which opened new production facilities in Haiti. The firm initially dismissed hundreds of workers when they attempted to create a union, and it took several months of pressure by the Haitian union, along with international support from trade unions and other organizations, before the workers were rehired and the company recognized the union. In December 2005 Grupo M and the Haitian union signed the first collective agreement aimed at improving wages and working conditions.

The Haitian example demonstrates both the challenges and opportunities created by the new IFC standard, especially the need for an effective implementation mechanism. (…)



Economy and development



Agrarian Reform: a way out of hunger and poverty for millions of impoverished small farmers

President Lula to inaugurate international rural development conference in Porto Alegre – 7-10 March

Rome, 1 March - At the dawn of the third millennium, three-quarters of the world's 852 million men and women suffering from hunger are found in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their survival. Most of them are landless farmers or have such tiny or unproductive plots of land that they cannot feed their families. For many of these poor farmers, new development opportunities in rural areas would allow more equitable access to basic land and water resources while offering an escape from hunger and poverty, noted FAO today.

In order to put these issues at the heart of the debate, FAO is organizing next week's International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ICARRD) at Porto Alegre, Brazil (7-10 March 2006) with the financial and logistical support of the Brazilian government. The conference will take place on the campus of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul.

"We have just 10 years to reach 2015, the target date set by the international community to reduce by half the number of hungry people in the world. Since the very poorest are landless farmers everywhere it will not be possible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals unless we find sustainable solutions to the challenge existing in the world's rural areas. It is an appointment we cannot afford to miss," said Parviz Koohafkan, Executive Secretary of ICARRD.

Convinced that agrarian reform must be tailored to meet the needs of individual countries and that there is no magic formula for resolving global land problems, the Conference aims to foster alliances between governments, small farmers' organizations, international institutions, donors and civil society as a means of assisting the world’s poorest people to gain better access to basic productive resources.

The conference opens on Monday, 6 March with the participation of Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, who has made combating hunger and rural poverty one of his chief priorities.

FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf will also be present at the inauguration, to which heads of state of all Latin American countries have been invited. (…) For more information on ICARRD, its agenda and documentation:


ACDI/VOCA volunteers help Colombian coffee growers move beyond juan

and enter specialty coffees markets

February 23 – (…) On the world stage, the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation’s “Juan Valdez” has been a huge success over the last several decades, creating a clear, global brand identity for Colombian coffee. But now, with expertise from ACDI/VOCA and funding from USAID/Colombia, some small-volume producers of top-grade specialty coffees are moving beyond Juan. They want to win a share of the premium coffee market, gain higher prices for their best products and become players in the future of direct-relationship specialty coffee, where local growers are connected directly to the global market.

To make this possible, the participants have received much-needed equipment, including de-pulping machines, fermentation tanks and drying patios. The ACDI/VOCA Specialty Coffee Program has also provided instruction on use and maintenance of new equipment to maximize the quality and consistency of the coffee. Volunteers like Peltier and Holt, whose market insight helped commercial growers in Montserrate, play a vital role in empowering change. (…)


UN agency heads on unprecedented trip to the Great Lakes region

Geneva, 24 February  – The heads of three of the United Nations largest humanitarian agencies are embarking on their first joint mission to visit their common operations. On Saturday, they travel to the neglected Great Lakes region at Africa’s heart to highlight the suffering of millions of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and returnees. Their unprecedented trip to Africa symbolizes the closer cooperation and coordination between the three agencies because of mutual, integrated issues in their mandates. James Morris, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, Ann M. Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF and UN High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres will visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Burundi from 25 February to 2 March. (…)

On the trip, the heads of UN agencies seek to highlight the needs of vulnerable groups, particularly displaced people, raise donor involvement in emergency and post-conflict reconstruction and explore how to bridge the gap between emergency relief and development in the countries. They will promote education as a way forward for the three countries to break out of the cycle of conflict and poverty, to enhance understanding of the challenges for the most vulnerable and to promote their agencies’ commitment to end child hunger. (…)


African trade negotiators define post-Hong Kong strategy

By Andrew Allimadi

22 February - The Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union jointly organized a retreat for African Ambassadors and Trade Negotiators from the 17 – 18 February in Montreux, Switzerland. The meeting assessed the outcomes of last year’s Hong Kong World Trade Organization ministerial meeting; identified key issues for Africa in the negotiations; and devised a strategy for approaching future negotiations. The strategy is particularly important since the deadline for presenting draft schedules on modalities for future WTO negotiations is April 30.

Montreux RetreatKey strategies were devised in the following areas under negotiations: development; services; agriculture; and non-agricultural market access (NAMA). ECA was represented by Stephen Karingi and Mustapha Sadni Jallab, who acted as discussants in the sessions on agriculture and NAMA respectively. Regarding development issues, the retreat reaffirmed the importance of combining the different components into one package. Therefore enhanced market access, issue of policy space, concerns regarding preference erosion, and other elements capturing the multidimensional character of development, should be viewed as a package and reflected in the final modalities.(…)


Innovation is key to rural poverty reduction: panellists at UN IFAD’s Governing Council discuss how to support creativity and risk-taking

Rome, 16 February - “Poor people are innovators for life,” stated Olaseinde Arigbede of the Union of Small and Medium Scale Farmers of Nigeria. Arigbede was speaking at a high-level panel discussion at the annual Governing Council meeting of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) yesterday in Rome. The key question, he continued, is: “How can the developed world better support the everyday creativity that farmers are showing?”

“Innovation challenges for the rural poor” was the topic of the panel discussion. Other panel members included Julio Berdegue, President of the Latin American Centre for Rural Development, Ravi Kanbur, world expert on development economics, Reema Nanavaty, Director of Economic and Rural Development for the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) in India, and Matthew Wyatt, United Kingdom Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN organizations in Rome and Chair of the IFAD Governing Council.

“Innovation is driven by the private sector,” said Wyatt. “The rural poor are less likely to benefit and most likely to suffer the negative consequences of innovation,” he warned, “IFAD’s role is in helping poor people rise to the innovation challenges that they face.”

With funding from the United Kingdom, IFAD is currently managing a three-year initiative to expand its capacities for innovation – the Initiative for Mainstreaming Innovation (IMI). (…)

The first Farmers’ Forum held in conjunction with this session of IFAD’s Governing Council was cited as an important innovation. The Forum brought together leaders from more than 50 farmers’ organizations representing small farmers and rural producers worldwide for a global consultation on rural development and poverty reduction.







United Nations continues assistance in Philippines

New York, 24 February - Latest reports from the Philippines National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) indicate that there are now a total of some 980 missing, 122 dead, 17 injured and 560 survivors of the landslide that hit the village of Guinsaugon in Southern Leyte Province on 17 February 2006. 3268 families, or about 16,342 individuals, have been affected.  Some 601 families (2,926 individuals) have been evacuated to designated evacuation centers. (…)

There are currently eight evacuation centres in the vicinity of St. Bernard, which are housing approximately 2,975 people (…) Two of these centres have been opened in recent days in efforts to address concerns of overcrowding in the six original centres.  Pre-emptive evacuations have taken place in three other municipalities of Southern Keyte - Sogod, Liluan and San Francisco - where geo-hazard assessments indicated that there were high levels of risk of additional landslides. Work is currently underway to confirm the number of families that have been evacuated in these municipalities. (…)

The United Nations Country Team has developed a 10-point action plan for supporting the Government in the areas of response, contingency planning, recovery and long-term preparedness and disaster risk reduction. Work is ongoing to mobilize resources to support the utilization of in-country technical expertise in these areas. (…)


United Nations assisting in coordinating Bolivian relief


New York, 23 February - The United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination Team in Bolivia has established an On-site Operations Coordination Center (OSOCC) within the local Emergency Operations Center. Six working groups in health, food, shelter, education, rehabilitation and infrastructure/re-channelling of the river have been established in order to determine the needs and coordinate the response.

In January, intensive rainfall caused severe floods and flash floods in several parts of the country. January rainfall over most of northern Bolivia regions by far exceeded the historical average. As a result, the highlands and most of the rivers of the Amazon basin have overflowed. The most affected areas of the country are the departments of Santa Cruz, La Paz, Beni and Pando, while Cochabamba, Potosi, Tarija, and Chuquisaca are also affected.  (…)

The National Directorate of Civil Defence has been distributing food and non-food items such as clothes, kitchen sets and tents to the affected population. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have been providing aid.  Donor countries including Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Cuba, Japan, Peru, the United States, and Venezuela have reported contributions to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.(…)


Drought in Ethiopia prompts response by Red Cross Red Crescent

23 February - The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is launching an appeal to raise 1.45 million Swiss francs (US$ 1.1 million / € 934 000) to help 36 000 people and their livestock in the critically-affected districts of Oromiya and Somali regions for a period of twelve months. These two areas, located about 800 km south of Addis Ababa, are among the worst hit by food insecurity, water shortage and health-related problems. (…)

The Ethiopian Red Cross Society, through the International Federation emergency short term assistance, will cover the provision of water and water storage materials both for the local population and livestock. Planned longer-term activities will focus on the maintenance of existing water points, rehabilitation of deep wells and the construction of surface water harvesting cisterns to improve availability of water to communities. (…)

The Ethiopian government is leading the overall emergency response through its Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency of which the Ethiopian Red Cross Society is an active member. Food insecurity in Ethiopia has left 2.6 million people in need of emergency assistance.

The International Federation has already released 200,000 Swiss francs from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to help start the relief operations.


ADRA provides food for mudslide and flood survivors in the Philippines

Silver Spring, Maryland, 22 February - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is providing emergency food aid for families in the province of Agusan del Norte, Philippines that have been forced from their homes by the torrential rain that has swept through the region, flooding homes, and causing severe landslides.

ADRA is providing 770 families with a one-week packet of food worth $10 each. Each packet consists of 11 pounds of rice, seven packs of noodles, seven cans of canned meat, more than six cups of nuts, as well as essentials, such as oil, salt, sugar, beans, milk, and one packet of nutritional biscuits. “These foods contain nutrients to sustain a family of five during this emergency for one week until they are able to return to their homes to rebuild their lives,” said Goran Hansen, country director for the ADRA office in the Philippines. (…)


Caritas Confederation responds to Philippines tragedy

Vatican City, 17 February  – The Caritas network is monitoring the disaster that overwhelmed a rural area in the Philippines this morning, as a massive landslide buried at least one village and left hundreds dead and thousands missing.

An estimated 200 people were killed, but that toll will probably rise as many of the 1500 missing could have suffered the same fate, based on estimates by the Red Cross. Some local media were reporting that as many as 3000 people may have lost their lives.

At least one village, including its full schoolhouse, was buried after nearly two weeks of heavy rains finally made the mountainside above give way. Emergency personnel were digging in the search for survivors. Just a few houses were left standing, according to initial reports. (…)

Caritas Philippines is on the ground to help in the relief effort and to funnel international aid to the local people.

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


33 tons of warm clothing collected by ILO personnel for Pakistan quake victims

Geneva, 9 February (ILO News) - Thirty-three tons of warm clothes collected locally under an initiative launched by a group of staff of the International Labour Office left the ILO building today bound for Pakistan quake victims. The clothing will be delivered to the quake areas by army helicopters in Pakistan, while colleagues at the ILO office in Islamabad and the Pakistani Office for Humanitarian Assistance will ensure distribution to those most in need.

The ILO staff launched the initiative after seeing images of bare-footed children wandering in the snow four months after the earthquake. Other international agencies, the local population, schools and department stores joined in the initiative. Hundreds of cartons with shoes, anoraks and blankets were packed by volunteers within less than 48 hours last week.
"The success of this collection which was meant to be a modest contribution to help Pakistanis suffering from the extreme winter in the Himalayas went far beyond our expectations", said Zohreh Tabatabai, Director of the ILO Department of Communication which initiated the collection.

Because of the large volume of clothes collected, they could not be transported on a commercial flight as originally foreseen. Mr. Walter Fust, Director-General of the Swiss Development and Technical Cooperation Agency (CDRI) immediately arranged for the clothes to be transported to Islamabad via Karachi. The clothes will arrive this Sunday.



Peace and security



UE aid package worth more than €120 million to meet basic needs of Palestinian population

February 27 (European Union @ United Nations) - The European Commission has unveiled an aid package worth more than €120  million (€1:$1.19) to meet the basic needs of the Palestinian population, and to help stabilise the finances of the current caretaker government (  This package is independent of any future decisions on support for the incoming Palestinian Authority, which will be reviewed once the new government is in place, in the light of the principles set out in the Quartet (EU, US, UN and Russia) statement of January 30, 2006. (…)

Commented EU External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner: “No other donor is doing as much as we are to support the interim government during the transition period. The €120 million package we present today is a very substantial contribution, which will help both to alleviate hardship, and relieve the pressure on the caretaker government’s finances.” She also added that “we are watching political developments in the Palestinian Territories very closely. How we are able to help the Palestinians in the future will depend to a large extent on the decisions taken by their newly elected government; whether its members support non violence, recognise Israel and stand by existing agreements.”

The Palestinian Authority is not currently able to balance its revenues and expenditures, without outside help. It has a substantial monthly deficit, which is set to rise with the Israeli decision to withhold transfers of taxes and customs duties due to the Palestinians.

The World Bank estimates that nearly half (43%) of the Palestinian population lives below the poverty line, with 15% of the population classified as living in deep poverty.

For more information:


MAT Dog Centre formally opened

21 February- The MAT dogs are making their new home in Kenya after travelling 3,000 miles across the World from Sri Lanka to Kenya.  The new dog centre is within the International Mine Action Training Centre (IMATC) in Nairobi, Kenya.  The IMATC was established on 17th February 2005 as a joint venture between the British and Kenyan governments and has a mandate to train African forces to clear their own minefields to international mine action standards.

The new dog centre was formally opened by Mr Adam Wood, British High Commissioner to Kenya, as part of an official ceremony to celebrate the first anniversary of the IMATC.  The MAT dog centre is East Africa’s first dedicated mine detection dog training facility and will be an important addition to the Centre which provides high quality training, advice and expertise on all aspects of humanitarian demining. (…)


Red Cross increases awareness activities on landmines risks

Angola Press Agency (Luanda)

Luanda, 21 February - Angola Red Cross (CVA) has extended to other four provinces of the country its activities on landmines danger sensitisation programmes, aimed at educating the population on the risks involving these explosive devices, as well as teaching them to inform any suspected cases in their localities.

According to CVA's disasters prevention coordinator, Kiala Simão, the provinces included in this programme are Moxico, Kwanza Norte, Kuando Kubango and Zaire, thus adding to six the zones covered by this project. Until the end of 2005, landmines awareness campaigns were only carried out in Bié and Benguela provinces.

The CVA is organising a seminar in its headquarters, which started on Monday and is being attended by the local co-ordinators who will then orientate the works in the respective provinces.

The training, based on themes such as reduction of risks, sharing information and assistance to the victims, is being guided by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)'s landmine action chief, Becky Tompson.


Haiti ratifies the Mine Ban Treaty and brings the Number of States Parties to 149!

By Virginie Andre

Haiti, 21 February - On 15 February 2006, Haiti deposited its instrument of ratification of the Mine Ban Treaty with the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The treaty will enter into force for Haiti on 1 August 2006. Haiti’s first transparency report required under Article 7 of the treaty is due on 28 January 2007.  Haiti will become the 149th State Party to the treaty. Another five countries have signed but not yet ratified. The United States and Cuba are now the only countries in the Americas outside of the treaty.

Haiti signed the Mine Ban Treaty on 3 December 1997. Over the years, the ICBL and others involved in the promotion of the treaty have maintained contact with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Haiti in order to provide support for the ratification process, and encourage progress whenever the political situation in the country permitted.

Haiti has regularly demonstrated its support for a comprehensive ban on antipersonnel mines. It has voted in favor of every pro-ban United Nations General Assembly resolution since 1996, including UNGA Resolution 60/80 on 8 December 2005, calling for universalization and implementation of the Mine Ban Treaty. (…)


Polish troops lead the way in demining Bagram base (Afghanistan)

By Anita Powell

Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, 19 February  — Before officials expand this base to roughly twice its current size, they’ll have to manually evict countless longtime tenants.

Local officials estimate it will take between three and five years to clear all of Bagram Air Base, a former Soviet base, of Soviet-sown anti-personnel mines, Afghan-laid anti-tank mines and anti-personnel mines and countless ammunition rounds, small bombs, grenades and shrapnel.

The task illustrates one of the many obstacles facing Afghanistan: The nation is the second-most mined country in the world, with anywhere from 5 million to as many as 20 million mines scattered in its rugged terrain. Much of the ordnance is found in and around former Soviet bases — like Bagram — and at former Northern Alliance and Taliban strongholds. (…)

At Bagram, some of the most detailed and difficult demining work is handled by the Polish army, which has a company-sized presence on base. The sappers of the 1st Engineering Brigade of Brzeg, Poland, take to the base’s fields daily, spending hours kneeling in the earth, tentatively poking around with metal detectors and spades. (…)


Pakistan and India resume train link through Rotarians’ peace efforts

19 February - It is joyous occasion for Rotarians because our persuasion to both  Governments of Pakistan and India to open rail link between Munabao and Khokhropar did succeed.  Yesterday Pakistan and India resumed a train service across the Thar desert, 41 years after it was suspended following the 1964 war.

Many passengers burst into tears and shouted "Long Live Pak-India friendship" as the Thar Express halted at Zero Point (border), the last stop on the Pakistani side of the border. Dancers wearing traditional dresses danced to the beat of drums to greet the train, decorated with colorful buntings. At the station, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav received the passengers, some of whom had gifts in their hands and tears in their eyes.

The following were the reactions of the passengers: "I was 13 years old when I came here. Now I am going to my home for the first time after  58 years," said Mohammad Ali Azhar, whose parents migrated to Pakistan to escape bloodshed that killed hundreds of thousands of people following partition of the sub-continent in 1947. "History has been repeated. I am very glad to be in India," Jan Zahad, the train driver, told Reuters. Zahad said he drove the last Pakistani train out of India in 1965 when the two countries went to war and the service halted. (…)

The service will be operated using a Pakistani train for the first six months and an Indian train for the subsequent six months. It will be the second rail link established between India and Pakistan since they launched a peace process two years ago  after they went to the brink of a fourth war at Kargil. For more information: A C Peter, District Chair : Relations with Pakistan & Afghanistan  Rotary International, District 3010, New Delhi, India. E-mail:


2006 Pathways To Peace:  Middle East Festival, Edinburgh, 8 February to 12 March

From Wednesday 8 February – Sunday 12 March 2006 the 3rd Annual Edinburgh International Festival of Middle Eastern Spirituality and Peace brings together artists, scholars, grassroots spiritual activists and an outstanding line-up of internationally distinguished Middle Eastern musicians.

From Wednesday 1 March to Saturday 4 March we have a four-day series of events called Pathways to Peace, including Pathways to Peace Through Spiritual Dance (1 March), Pathways to Peace Through Musical and Spiritual Practice (2 March), and a two-day conference, Pathways of the Heart (3-4 March). Pathways to Peace Through Spiritual Dance will celebrate four specific dance and movement forms, namely, Traditional Sufi Movement, Sacred Circle Dance, Dances of Universal Peace and 5 Rhythms Dance. (…) Pathways to Peace Through Musical and Spiritual Practice will celebrate diverse forms of musical and spiritual practice for peace. (…) The four-day Pathways to Peace series then continues with a two day conference, Pathways of the Heart. Speakers, musicians, composers and medics contributing to the conference include Murshid Saadi Shakur Chishti, Bishop Kallistos Ware, Prof James Morris, Prof Nigel Osborne, Prof Aziz Sheikh, Dr John Parris, Rohana Laing, Sheelah Trefle Hidden, Elizabeth Carmack, Davod Azad and Latif Bolat. A wide range of themes will be explored, including those of Dimensions of the Heart, and Understandings of the Spiritual Nature of the Heart. (…)


'Warfare or Welfare? Disarmament for Development in the 21st Century - A Human Security Approach'  - New book by Colin Archer, Secretary-General, International Peace Bureau

February - This publication sets out information and arguments that form the basis of IPB's new programme - see  - Main Programme - Disarmament for Development.

The two principal themes are military spending and the effects of weapons systems (landmines, small arms, depleted uranium and others) on development.  Also chapters on human security, military bases and gender perspectives. Contains a wealth of useful references and websites.

Cost: £5 per single copy plus £1 postage. For orders of 5 or over: £3 per copy plus 20% added for postage. The Book can be previewed at

The International Peace Bureau is dedicated to the vision of a World Without War. We are a Nobel Peace Laureate (1910) and over the years 13 of our officers have  been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Our 276 member organisations in 70 countries, and individual members, form a global network bringing together expertise and campaigning experience in a common cause.

Our current main programme centres on Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable Development. 






Sudan: ICRC responds to cholera outbreak in Juba,

Khartoum, 21 February - In response to the recent cholera outbreak in Southern Sudan, the ICRC is currently airlifting some thirty metric tonnes of emergency medical supplies to Juba, the regional capital. The medicines include infusions and oral re-hydration salts which are urgently needed to treat the sick and to boost fast depleting medical stocks.

Two rotations by air from Nairobi are being made to deliver the medicine for patients hospitalized at the Juba Teaching Hospital (JTH). Over the next few days, additional assistance is scheduled to reach Juba by air from the ICRC's logistics base at Lokichokio, in northern Kenya. (…)

The first cases of cholera were reported at the end of January in Yei town, southwest of Juba and the first occurrence of cholera was reported in Juba on February 6. (…)

Sudan: MSF responding to severe cholera outbreak in Juba

22 February - After mounting an emergency response in Yei, MSF's new emergency intervention will focus on Juba, a town of more than 250,000 inhabitants, designated as the capital city of southern Sudan after the 2005 North-South peace agreement. The objective of this intervention is to reduce mortality in infected cases and try to cut the spread of the disease.

A team is already working in a Cholera Treatment Center (CTC) that has been set up in Al Shaaba paediatric hospital. It will ensure adequate treatment in the CTC, train the local health staff, establish clear treatment protocols and ensure regular supplies.

The organization is planning to increase the capacity of the CTC and, if necessary, set up new structures in order to face the important number of new cases expected. For the time being, another CTC is running in Juba teaching hospital but it has already reached its full capacity. (…)


Massive polio immunization campaign protects Sudan’s children

Khartoum, 20 February -- In a continuing all-out effort to eradicate polio from Sudan, the Federal Ministry of Health of the Government of National Unity and Ministry of Health of the Government of Southern Sudan, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other partner organizations, today launched this year’s first round of the national polio immunization campaign in Sudan, 20 to 22 February 2006. The goal of this first round is to immunize the estimated 8.1 million children under five years in Sudan, particularly those living in the poorest communities or those intermittently cut off by conflict. These children are the key to stopping the spread of the disease.

Sudan has succeeded in interrupting transmission of wild polio virus. No new cases of polio have been reported in Sudan since June 2005. The total number of confirmed polio cases in Sudan in 2004 was 127. During the first half of 2005, only 27 cases were reported bringing the total number of cases to 154. Continued attention and vigilance is needed. (…) The immunization drive is crucial if further cases of infection are to be avoided among children. This year’s campaigns are synchronized to happen simultaneously throughout the country.

In 2006, UNICEF, WHO, Rotary International and the Centres for Disease Control, among other partners, are supporting the cost of vaccines, logistics, vaccination teams and social mobilization efforts in Sudan.


MSF leads a campaign to vaccinate 100,000 people in southern Ethiopia

Meningitis is endemic in Ethiopia and epidemics tend to break out particularly during the major dry season, from January to March.

20 February - The first cases of meningitis were reported during the first week of January in the Welayita region of the Kendo Kocha and Bolo Sore woredas (administrative units), in southern Ethiopia, the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region. In four weeks, the total number of cases have reached 89 (including 13 deaths) in Kendo Kocha and 52 (three deaths) in Boloro Sore.  MSF immediately began working with the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to respond to this epidemic, providing medications (oily chloramphenicol and Ceftriaxone) and treatment protocol training to medical personnel at health centers.

A vaccination campaign has also been initiated to contain the epidemic. It will target more than 200,000 people (everyone between the ages of 2 and 30* not previously vaccinated). The campaign was launched on Sunday, February 12, and includes a major information drive. It will continue for about two weeks. The campaign is a joint project of MSF and the Ministry of Health. It will be carried out by ten teams, each composed of two vaccinators and four assistants, working at ten sites in the two areas, for a total of 20 vaccinators and 40 assistants.

MSF will coordinate the campaign with a medical coordinator, nurse and logistician, all international volunteers, with the assistance of a medical coordinator from the capital, Addis Ababa. The Ministry of Health has supplied the vaccines, while MSF is providing injection supplies and handling the cold chain and logistical support (seven vehicles). (…)


WHO, UNESCAP propose new global health goal

New analysis presented today shows vast majority of global chronic disease pose heavy can be prevented

Bangkok, 14 February (UN Information Services) -- A new global goal: to reduce the projected chronic disease death rates by 2% each year until 2015 would prevent 36 million people dying of chronic diseases in the next 10 years - significantly, 25 million of those lives saved would be in the UNESCAP region. That is the recommendation of a WHO report of the Preventing chronic diseases: a vital investment that was launched today at the United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok. "This growing epidemic has substantial macro-economic impact on the economies of the region. Countries in the region, such as China, India and the Russian Federation, could forego billions of dollars in national income over the next 10 years as a result of chronic diseases, in addition to losing their human resources," said Mr Kim Hak-Su, Executive Secretary, who launched the Report today at the UN Conference Centre. (…)

Three of the most important are unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and tobacco use. Globally, these risks are increasing as people's eating change to foods high in fats and sugars, and people's work and living situations are much less physically active.

One billion people globally are overweight or obese, and WHO predicts that will rise beyond 1.5 billion by 2015 without immediate action.

Many countries in the UNESCAP region have already begun to take action to address these risk factors and reverse the current trend. Indonesia, the Philippines, Tonga and Viet Nam have applied a WHO-recommended Stepwise Planning Framework, an approach to chronic disease prevention that is flexible enough to be applied successfully in any country. (…)



Energy and safety



African NGOs say ‘No’ to terminator technology

27 February (e-CIVICUS) - A group of African NGOs has appealed to the United Kingdom to oppose any moves to erode the global moratorium of Terminator technology agreed under the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) in 2000 and to move towards an outright ban of this controversial GM technology. Terminator technology is a form of genetic modification that makes harvested seeds sterile and was designed by the biotech industry to prevent farmers from saving their seed, forcing them to buy new seed each season. Next month in Brazil delegates at the Convention of Parties of the CBD will face a concerted effort by Australia , Canada , New Zealand and the United States , to weaken the global moratorium on Terminator technology by allowing a ‘case by case’ assessment. The African NGOs argue that ‘enforced seed sterility in our seed would dramatically affect farming and rural livelihoods across Africa’. For more information, visit 


Global wind power industry spins into high gear

Brussels, Belgium, February 23 (ENS) - Worldwide, the wind energy industry installed more than US$14 billion worth of new generating equipment last year, an increase of 25 percent over 2004, according to new figures released by the Global Wind Energy Council.

In terms of new installed capacity in 2005, the United States led the world with 2,431 megawatts (MW), roughly enough to power 680,700 average U.S. households per year. Germany was next in the world with 1,808 MW of new installed capacity, Spain was third with 1,764 MW, India was fourth with 1,430 MW, Portugal was fifth with 500 MW, and China was sixth with 498 MW. This pattern of development shows that new players such as Portugal and China are gaining ground, the Council said.

The total installed wind power capacity now stands at 59,322 MW worldwide.

Wind power development is set to boom in the near future due to the rising price of petroleum products and the need to limit emissions linked to global warming. (…)



Environment and wildlife



Mexican industry takes voluntary action against climate change; Government gives public recognition

Mexico City, February 22  - Mexico's environment ministry (SEMARNAT) recognized fifteen major companies today for publicly reporting their greenhouse gas emissions through a voluntary public-private initiative known as the Mexico Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Program. "Mexico is committed to fight global warming," said Secretary of Environment Jose Luis Luege Tamargo. "Collaborating with industry is a key part of our strategy."

The Mexico GHG Program, the first of its kind in a developing country, is a voluntary program established in 2004 through an agreement between the Mexican Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Mexico-based CESPEDES is also involved as a program administrator. (…)

Twenty-seven companies in Mexico are currently participating in the program, including those from the most-energy intensive sectors. The entire cement and petroleum sectors are engaged, as well as major representatives of the iron and steel sector. Besides the companies being recognized, twelve more are currently in the process of developing GHG inventories. (…)


UNEP launches Green Building Initiative

Paris, 21 February – A new international effort to “green” the multi-billion dollar building and construction sector was launched here today with some of the biggest names in the business. Construction giants Lafarge, Skanska and Arcelor are among the founding members of the Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative (SBCI), which aims to promote environmental friendly practices across this vast industry.

The sector, which employs over 100 million people worldwide and contributes approximately 10% of global Gross Domestic Product (GDP), also seriously impacts on many of the world’s most pressing environmental problems like climate change, waste generation and depletion of our natural resources. Whether it’s influencing multi-lateral environmental agreements, encouraging “green architecture” in high profile buildings or tackling topics like the illegal plundering of sand from pristine beaches the challenges for the industry are immense. (…)

It is hoped that the work of the SBCI will help ensure buildings are routinely designed, constructed and maintained from an environmentally sustainable point of view over their entire life span, taking into account what is called the “life-cycle approach”.

Other goals are that increasingly legislation and building standards include sustainability considerations and requirements. And, that policies and incentives provided by governments support sustainable building and construction practices.

The SBCI has been set-up as a neutral and worldwide platform, in partnership with international leading companies and others working in this area. As such it will be able to provide direct input to other initiatives, governments and global bodies making recommendations and decisions affecting sustainable development in this sector.  (…)


WWF discovers new coral reef in Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand, 21 February – As scientists met in Thailand to discuss coral reef restoration and management one year on from the Asian Tsunami, WWF announced the discovery of a previously unknown coral reef off the Thai coast The reef, located off the coast of Khao Lak, a popular tourist destination on the Andaman Sea coast of Thailand, was discovered in January by a team of WWF divers after being tipped off by local fishermen.

Initial surveys reveal that the 270-hectare reef is home to over 30 genera of hard corals and at least 112 species of fish from 56 families. Also found was a species of parrot fish (Chlorurus rakaura) — first discovered in Sri Lanka and never seen in Thailand until now — as well as a rare species of sweet lips (Plectorhincus macrospilus).

“This is a spectacular reef and its exciting to think that there may be even more areas like this still awaiting our discovery,” said Dr Robert Mather, WWF Thailand's Senior Programme Manager.

WWF is working closely with Thailand's Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, the Department of National Parks, local communities and dive operators to manage the reef, which may ultimately be included in a new marine national park. (…)


Carbon emissions reduced by United Nations project

Geneva, 3 February  - Eastern European countries have taken a small but very significant step in reducing greenhouse gas emissions according to the final report of their United Nations project issued today. The energy efficiency investments participating countries have shown how energy savings in their cities, power stations and factories can help achieve the global aims of the Kyoto Protocol under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The inefficient and polluting energy systems in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) are glaring economic and environmental problems. But they can provide some of the most promising self-financing opportunities to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. With only 6 per cent of the world’s population, these countries produce some 12 per cent of greenhouse gases. Opportunities to cut CO 2 emissions can come from the vast potential for cost-effective energy efficiency investments in economies in transition.

With the support of the United Nations Foundation and co-financing partners, the Energy Efficiency 21 (EE21) project ‘Energy Efficiency Investments for Climate Change Mitigation’, has demonstrated that it is possible to identify, develop and finance energy efficiency and renewable energy investment projects that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Eastern Europe and the CIS. This is an important step for energy efficiency market formation in economies in transition and essential for further progress. (…)

The final report describes the results of the five-year project including some US$ 60 million of energy efficiency investment project proposals. The World Bank and other investors have approved financing for eighteen investment projects in Belarus, Bulgaria, Russian Federation and Ukraine for a total of US$ 14.9 million. (…)



Religion and spirituality



"Time for Reflection" in Scottish Parliament

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom, 6 February (BWNS) - Representatives of the Baha'i Faith were invited recently to address Scotland's Parliament as part of the body's weekly proceeding that allows people from different faiths to share their perspectives on the challenges facing the country. It was the first time an invitation had come from a Member of Parliament.

Carrie Varjavandi, a Baha'i from Dundee, addressed the body on 18 January 2006 during its "Time for Reflection." Ms. Varjavandi invited Parliament members to consider the current world situation. "The world today faces apparently intractable problems, which governments and peoples are striving courageously to solve: climate change, poverty and religious fanaticism to name but a few," she said. She then suggested that the spiritual teachings of Baha'u'llah not only identified disunity as the underlying cause of these problems, but also offered a solution. 'The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established'" she said, quoting Baha'u'llah, the Founder of the Baha'i Faith. Ms. Varjavandi also said that Baha'u'llah's story was one of "the great untold stories of our time." (…)

The invitation to contribute to the "Time for Reflection" came from a member of the Green Party, Chris Balance, MSP. (…)



Culture and education



UNESCWA Signs Memorandum with Arab ICT Associations

Beirut, 21 February  (United Nations Information Service) -- The Officer-in-Charge of the UNESCWA Information and Communication Technology Division, Mr. Mansour Farah, said that UNESCWA and the Union of Arab Information and Communication Technology Associations (IJMA3) have agreed to launch specific activities aimed at facilitating the dissemination of information and communication technology (ICT) in the region, with special emphasis on job creation and poverty alleviation.

Farah represented the UNESCWA Secretariat during the signing of a Letter of Understanding (LoU) with IJMA3, which was represented by Mr. Waheed AlBalushi of Bahrain, the country currently chairing the Union. The aim of this, said Farah, is “to provide technical assistance to member states, including ICT capacity building; promoting the development of regional knowledge networks; and encouraging the development of ICT tools and applications to achieve universal and affordable access to information and knowledge”.


Encouraging hungry children in Haiti to go to school

Haiti, February - Rice, pulses and salt are loaded onto WFP trucks at WFP’s warehouse in Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince. They are going in convoy to the “Ecole Nationale Trou Caïman”, where WFP feeds 520 children through its school feeding activity. Each year, 38,000 Haitian children aged five and under die – almost one in three because of malnutrition. Through its school feeding programme, WFP provides food for almost 300,000 children in Haiti, including those in the most insecure areas.


Earth Charter Initiative to collaborate with ICLEI World Congress

Capetown, February - The ICLEI World Congress happens once every three years, and is one of the world's pre-eminent events in the field of local and regional sustainability. ECI will be facilitating a session on educating and mobilizing local communities for sustainability, using the Earth Charter directly as well as other methods that are in harmony with the Charter. ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability has long been an important partner and Earth Charter Endorser; in fact, the Earth Charter has been written directly into ICLEI's constitution. Konrad Otto-Zimmerman (Secretary-General of ICLEI) ran the Local Communities session at EC+5, and Alan AtKisson (ECI International Transition Director) will lead the session in Capetown. We expect our working partnership with ICLEI to continue to grow. For information on the Congress, visit


Earth Charter Commissioner Wangari Maathai to visit Tampa, Forida, on 23 March

Dr. Wangari Maathai, Kenya Earth Charter Commissioner, won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize for her contribution to sustainable development, democracy and peace. "Peace on earth depends on our ability to secure our living environment. Maathai stands at the front of the fight to promote ecologically viable social, economic and cultural development in Kenya and in Africa. She has taken a holistic approach to sustainable development that embraces democracy, human rights and women's rights in particular. She thinks globally and acts locally."

These are the opening sentences of the Committee's statement of its reasons for the Peace Prize award. Earth Charter Communities USA (ECCUSA) and the University of South Florida Patel Center for Global Solutions are sponsoring Dr. Maathai's visit to Tampa on Thursday, March 23rd, where she will speak at a free event on the university campus at 7 p.m. Earlier in the day, ECCUSA and USF Women in Leadership & Philanthropy are hosting a luncheon for Dr. Maathai. ECCUSA Board member, Lorna Taylor Gregory CEO Premier Eye Care, has been the organizing force behind this outstanding opportunity to bring Dr. Maathai to Tampa.

Contacts: Jan Roberts, Earth Charter Communities USA:


Global Action Week 2006 (24-30 April) - Every child needs a teacher

Global Action Week aims at mobilising public opinion to exert pressure on governments and intergovernmental agencies to provide free quality public education for all. (…) This year will see the 7th annual Global Action Week in which EI, together with its partner organisation the Global Campaign for Education, will demand the right to education of millions of children currently excluded from education. (…) To get over 100 million more children to school, countries need better infrastructure, teachers, and materials. This year, Global Action Week activities will make the case for teachers. Over 15 million new teachers are needed to attain universal education. Qualified teachers are the key to quality education. They need to be fully trained, and to have status, respect, decent wages and adequate working conditions.

To this end, teachers worldwide will mobilise with their unions as well as NGOs working on education issues. Teachers' unions affiliated to EI in 46 countries (Australia, India, Kenya and United Kingdom to name but a few) will organise a range of local and national events in support of the Global Action Week. (…) EI's websection is updated regularly to keep you abreast of developments.


1st Baikal international games of indigenous people- Buryat Republic, Russia 

The 1st Baikal international games of indigenous people “Routs 2006” took place in Tunka Valley from 17 to 19 February 2006. There were more than 400 participants from all over Baikal regions, Siberia, Mongolia and USA. Tunka Valley accommodated people from different places to create relationships, based on cooperation and love. The opening ceremony was a demonstration of wonderful national traditions, including horse riding, dances and welcome Buryat ritual.  

Tunka Valley 3 day event has become a many leveled life experience full of happy meetings and enlightenments. We met with Lamas, shamans, took part in national blessing nature ceremony, scientific conference “Problems of indigenous people”, presentations of national centers, concerts, and national games.  People met according to a great law of resonance.  Further information: Nina Goncharova – Planet 3000 coordinator, Russia:


“Democratizing The Management Of Educational System: Theory And Practice”

Conference in Moscow, 24-26 April 2006

Organizers of the conference: International Association of Promoting School Councils (IAPSC), Russian Chapter of Association for World Education (Russian AWE Chapter), Russian Academy of Education, Ministry of Education and Science of RF, Academy of improving qualification and teachers’ retraining, International Pedagogical Academy.

The goal of the conference: to determine the common problems, to exchange international experience in democratizing educational system, to find the ways out. There will be both plenary and panel sessions. The heads of educational institutions, officials from institutions of ruling the educational system, teachers, students and their parents will take part in the conference. In addition there will be the open jubilee session of the Presidency of IAPSC, devoted to the 15 years of its activity.

The participation in the conference is free of charge. The travel expenses, accommodation and food are at the participants’ expenses. Application for the conference is taken till 1 April 2006.

The abstracts must be sent by E-mail: no later than 1 March, 2006. They must be no more than 2 pages, and include any of the topics concerning democratic principles in educational process, structure of self-management bodies, forms of their work, the means and recourses of democratizing the educational process, any positive experience of democratization, etc. Contacts: Lidia Shkorkina


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Next issue: 24th March 2006.


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