Good News Agency – Year VIII, n° 3
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 http://www3.unesco.org/iycp/uk/uk_sum_monde.htm
Green Cross International defends the right to water at the Paris Conference for Global Ecological Governance
February - At the instigation of the President of the French Republic, a conference for global ecological governance was held in Paris on 2-3 February 2007 with more than 200 participants from 72 countries. The conference was concluded after the launch of the « Paris Call for Action » by President Jacques Chirac. (…) There were 6 themed workshops at the Conference and various ministers, scientists, heads of business, NGOs, and worldwide celebrities participated according to their particular area of expertise. The purpose of these workshops was to generate new ideas to tackle the serious issues threatening our biosphere.
Alexander Likhotal, President of Green Cross International, was invited to participate at the "Making water a collective issue" workshop, which included water sanitation, adaptation of water management to climate change, and water governance. The event gave for Green Cross International the opportunity to share its experience in terms of sustainable management of transboundary waterways and resources, and to renew their call for the adoption of a legal framework convention which would affirm and facilitate the implementation of the right to water.
The « Paris Call for Action », above all underlines the urgency and seriousness of the situation, and calls for the adoption of a universal declaration on environmental rights and duties, which would guarantee a new human right for future generations: the right to a healthy and protected environment. (…)
The signatories of the « Paris Call for Action » will seek to put the environment at the forefront of national and international politics, and commit to "promoting technological development, more efficient organisational methods and behaviours concerning energy, water and natural resources, and incorporating environmental conservation costs into our economic systems. (…)
UN Commission on the Status of Women – 51st session, 26 February-9 March, New York
The fifty-first session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place from 26 February to 9 March 2007. In accordance with its multi-year programme of work for 2007-2009, the Commission will consider “The elimination of all forms of discrimination and violence against the girl child” as its priority theme. Based on this theme, an online discussion was held from 14 August to 8 September 2006. DAW, in collaboration with the UNICEF, also organized an Expert Group Meeting (EGM) on this theme. The EGM was hosted by the UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre in Florence, Italy, from 25 to 28 September 2006.
The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. It is the principal global policy-making body. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide.
February 9 - On 1 February 2007, the EU Parliament approved a resolution asking the Indian government to stop violence against Dalits, the approx. 165 million Indians living at the bottom of the caste system. The resolution is a huge victory for the movement against caste discrimination, which is now asking governments to place further pressure on the Indian government to stop discrimination of casteless.
”We are happy for approval of the resolution,” says Jonas Nøddekær, chairman of the Danish Dalit Solidarity Network. “I see the resolution as a clear manifestation of the European parliamentarians that the present situation is completely unacceptable, and that a country like India, with one of the world’s highest growth rates right now, must do much more to eliminate this discrimination,” says Jonas Nøddekær. He hopes and expects that dialogue and cooperation will be established with the Indian government to improve the conditions of the casteless. (…)
Brussels, 16 February - During her visit to India, European Commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy, Benita Ferrero Waldner, announced that the European Commission is proposing substantial financial assistance to India over the next seven years. An amount of €470 million should be available 2007-2013 to support the implementation of the Joint Action Plan, notably economic co-operation and sectoral dialogues, as well as help India achieve its Millennium Development Goals in the Health and Education sectors. This represents a substantial increase compared to funding provided in the past.
Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said in Delhi: "India is forging ahead. The EU wants to play its part in the emergence of India as a more prosperous nation, playing its role on the international stage on the key issues of our day. We are designing our package to match India's own priorities - economic reforms and progress in health and education – to cement still further the partnership that we are building together."
The new Country Strategy Paper for India 2007-2013 (€470 million in total – a yearly average of €67 million) proposes to focus EU co-operation on the following priorities:
Mobilise EU funds to support the implementation of the Joint Action Plan, notably economic cooperation and sectoral dialogues – on issues ranging from tackling energy co-operation climate change and other environmental concerns to promoting dialogue on employment and social affairs - in order to help India address the most recent challenges of its economic reform process;
Support India in achieving its Millennium Development Goals in the Health and Education sectors, as for example promotion of public administration reforms, decentralisation and community empowerment, deepening school enrolment, enhanced quality education and training of teachers.
For more information: http://ec.europa.eu/comm/external_relations/india/intro/index.htm
Self-employed rural people will benefit from IFAD-supported US$25.3 million development programme in Tanzania
Rome, 22 February - More than 300,000 households will take part in a new programme to boost the business skills of self-employed people in rural areas of Tanzania. The programme will increase the cash incomes of small and micro entrepreneurs and improve their families’ food security. The US$25.3 million Rural Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Support Programme will be partly financed by a US$19.5 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters in Rome by Zakia Hamdani Meghji, Minister of Finance of the United Republic of Tanzania, and Lennart Båge, President of IFAD. The Government of Tanzania will contribute US$4.2 million to the programme. Irish Aid is expected to provide US$910,000, programme participants will contribute US$225,000 and IFAD will provide a grant of US$450,000.
The programme will focus on reaching small rural businesses, particularly those run by women and young people, said Samuel Eremie, IFAD country programme manager for Tanzania.
Boosting the commercialization of coconut water
Cold preservation could help small farmers to gain market share
Rome, 21 February - In an effort to boost the commercialization of coconut water by small farmers and companies, FAO has published a training guide promoting a simple cold preservation process that could increase sales of bottled coconut water. “The cold preservation process requires little investment and skills, and it offers small entrepreneurs a chance to enter the market of bottling coconut water of good quality,” said Rosa Rolle of FAO’s Rural Infrastructure and Agro-industries Division. The process was developed and evaluated in Jamaica, in close collaboration with the University of the West Indies, the Coconut Industries Board and the Jamaican Scientific Research Council.
To date, most coconut water is still consumed fresh in tropical countries. Once exposed to air, and warm temperatures, it rapidly deteriorates. Present commercial production of canned coconut water has a drawback. Sterilizing the product using high temperature and short-time pasteurization destroys some of the nutrients in coconut water and almost all of the delicate flavour. The cold preservation process recommended by FAO instead protects the natural flavour of coconut water. The process involves filtration, bottling and rigorous temperature control. It allows farmers to produce bottled coconut water that stays fresh from 10 days to three weeks. This will help to meet demands from domestic retail markets. (…)
The cold preservation technology is not protected by a patent and can be used by anybody.
New US$22.83 million IFAD-supported programme to bolster agropastoral activities in Northern Mali
Rome, 16 February – Over 20,000 people in the Kidal region of Mali will participate in a new programme to promote agropastoral activities and improve living conditions. The US$22.83 million Kidal Integrated Rural Development Programme will be partly financed by a US$11.34 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters in Rome by Ibrahim Bocar Daga, Ambassador of Mali to Italy and Lennart Båge, President of IFAD. The Government of Mali will contribute US$2.7 million to finance the programme. The balance of the funding will be provided by the West African Development Bank (US$5.03 million), the Belgian Survival Fund (US$3.5 million) and programme participants (US$26,000).(…) There is potential to develop Kidal’s agropastoral activities and the programme is designed to boost incomes and living conditions for the region’s most vulnerable households, many of whom are nomadic herders.(…)
New web site offers tools for implementation of right to food
Features training materials, e-learning course, virtual library
Rome, 15 February – FAO today announced the launch of an interactive web site on the right to food, providing practical information for policy-makers, legal practitioners, civil society members, UN staff, academics and the general public. Through the web site, users can increase their awareness of the human right to food, access resources for capacity-building at national and international levels, and find guidance, methods and instruments to assist in implementation of the right to food at the country level.
Resources include training materials and an e-learning course, tools to raise awareness of the right to food, and a virtual library containing manuals, technical papers, policy briefs, case studies and publications. (…) The web site also features information on the Voluntary Guidelines to Support the Progressive Realization of the Right to Adequate Food in the Context of National Food Security. (…)
Development of the web site was made possible with funding from the German government. To accommodate a wide range of users, a low-band, text-only version is also available, and the information can be downloaded to CDs and disseminated locally. (…)
Entrepreneurs don't grow on trees
But with a little help from FAO, poor families around the world are starting their own small forest businesses
Rome, 13 February - An innovative new approach from FAO is helping poor people around the world turn trees into cash income - without felling the trees.(…)
Fruits, nuts, herbs and spices, resins, gums, fibres -- all these non-wood forest products (NWFPs) provide poor families around the world with food, nutrition and income. Indeed, some 80 percent of the population of developing countries use such products in one way or another to meet health and nutritional needs, according to FAO.(…) That is why FAO's Forestry Department established its Community-based Tree and Forest Enterprise Development (CBED) Programme with funding from the Norwegian government. The project helps poor communities set up, sustain and grow small businesses while giving them incentives to better manage and protect their resource base, allowing them to tap the wealth of nearby forest resources without depleting them. (…)
All in all, ten community-level businesses employing 239 people were established. Increases in the incomes of participating households ranged from US$5 to US$70 per month -- 15 to 50 percent more than they were making before.(…) And after pilot projects have been established, FAO meets with policy-makers and planners to talk about larger structural and legal bottlenecks that inhibit small-scale forest enterprise development, with an eye to effecting reforms.
ILO, UNDP to join forces to promote growth for decent jobs
Geneva, 9 February – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have agreed to strengthen their collaboration and partnership in a major new effort to bolster UN actions designed to reduce poverty and create more decent work. ILO Director-General Juan Somavia and UNDP Administrator Kemal Derviş signed the joint agreement here today in a public ceremony. It is designed to promote inclusive economic growth with social development to benefit the bottom 20 to 40 per cent of the population, and bolster UN efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.(…)
The agreement is a direct follow-up to the 2006 UN Economic and Social Council Ministerial Declaration on decent work and full employment and a practical step towards the implementation of UN system efforts to “deliver as one. The two agencies have already identified a number of countries which offer the greatest opportunities for combined support from UNDP and the ILO to work together towards making decent work a central element in UN country programmes. The agreement is open to other UN agencies and funds and programmes and will contribute to ongoing UN reform efforts. The new partnership will give concrete expression to the requirements of UN Resident Coordinators leading UN country teams in more than 130 countries, to be strong and effective advocates of the entire UN agenda. It could also serve as a model for expanded interagency work, in particular for the role and participation of specialized agencies in the framework of the new Resident Coordinator system.(…)
UN $2.35 million to Guinea from Global Emergency Fund
New York, 16 February - The United Nations has made $2.35 million available from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) for urgent humanitarian activities in the West African country of Guinea. The humanitarian situation in Guinea has increasingly become a source of concern since 10 January 2007, when a general nationwide strike was launched. (…)
Fearing that the unrest could provoke population movements, particularly among the refugee population living in Guinea’s Forest region (Guinée Forestière), which numbers some 18,000 people, mainly from Liberia and Côte d’Ivoire, humanitarian organizations operating along the border are on alert and have been monitoring Guinea’s borders on a continual basis. (…) The CERF funds are to be used for the purchase of medicines and other medical supplies for the injured, as well as to support essential telecommunications and a common humanitarian air service to ensure access to more remote parts of the country, such as Guinée Forestière. These emergency projects will be carried out by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), in collaboration with their non-governmental partners. (…)
Mozambique: UN starts airlifting food to thousands of flood victims
15 February - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has started rescue and food delivery missions with a chartered helicopter in central Mozambique where the worst flooding in years has forced some 85,000 people to flee their homes. (…)WFP and its partners began distributing food aid this week to 2,000 people in temporary accommodation centres in Caia district and to 6,100 people in Mutarara district of Tete Province.
Heavy rains in central and northern Mozambique and neighbouring Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe over the last month flooded the Zambezi, Chire and Rivubue rivers, and officials estimate that as many as 285,000 people may need food and other assistance for the next few months in a worst-case scenario. (…) WFP and other in-country humanitarian agencies will soon launch an appeal to support the Government’s efforts, including food, air operations for rescue and delivery of relief supplies, and telecommunications to facilitate coordination of the response. Some 40,000 hectares of crops have been lost at a time when they are in their peak growing and development period ahead of the April/May harvest. So far this year, flooding has also hit Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. WFP has responded across the region, but faces a critical shortfall in funding for all its operations in southern Africa, requiring $105 million through to the end of 2007.
Zimbabwe: 350,000 orphans, vulnerable children to benefit from new UN-backed plan
15 February - Some 350,000 Zimbabwean orphans and vulnerable children will benefit from a new multi-million dollar partnership signed today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Government and 21 non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which aims to increase school enrolment, improve nutrition and provide health care. (…)
The agreement, backed by more than $70 million from donors over five years, enables the NGOs to fund and support a further 150 community-based organizations, allowing the National Action Plan to massively scale-up its help to communities.
Almost one in four children in Zimbabwe, 1.6 million, are now orphaned and this number is growing. HIV and AIDS have dramatically increased children’s vulnerability in recent years. Economic hardships have added stress on Zimbabwean families who continue to absorb 90 of the country’s orphans. As most orphans and vulnerable children remain with their larger family, the agreement will ensure that the 171 NGOs and community-based organizations can strengthen the capacity of families to care for them, mobilize and support community based responses, and ensure access to essential services, including education, health care and birth registration. (…)
February 12 - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is continuing its assistance to Indonesia, one of the countries most severely affected by the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004. ADRA is currently working to rehabilitate and reconstruct schools in the sub-districts of Aceh Barat and Aceh Jaya in West Aceh, which is located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. ADRA is also providing professional development and enhancement training courses to rebuild the teaching skills of teachers in the targeted region.
“One of the most affected sectors of this emergency was that of education,” said Wendy Brightman, director for the ADRA Tsunami Response Operation based in Medan, Indonesia. “In Aceh Barat, 36,000 students in 198 schools were affected. The Department of Education reports that 70 percent of schools’ infrastructure was damaged. This resulted in a disruption of the normal education program and services. The impact of the disaster … extends to reduced teaching staff capacity. Therefore it is important that ADRA revitalizes not only the physical infrastructure, but invests in the professional development of the educators in the region as well.”
In order to achieve its goal of restoring efficient education services in the West Aceh region, ADRA is rehabilitating and reconstructing four elementary schools. Each school will receive furniture, educational materials and supplies, and professional development and enhancement training courses for teachers and administrators. Nearly 1,300 students, teachers, and administrators are expected to benefit from the project.
The one-year school rehabilitation project, valued at an estimated $745,000, is scheduled to be completed in late 2007. (…)
Taiwan Government provides funding for HKI's nutrition and health initiatives in Burkina Faso
New York, February 7 – The Taiwan government today announced its funding of the final phase of a three-year $375,331 program with Helen Keller International (HKI) in support of HKI’s efforts to combat malnutrition and blindness in Burkina Faso, one of the poorest countries in Africa. In addition, the government approved new funding for a three-year $300,000 project to fortify cooking oil with vitamin A, another sustainable method to improve the health of children and mothers in Burkina Faso. (…)
Vitamin A is crucial for maternal and child survival, and vitamin A deficiency (VAD) is a leading cause of nutritional blindness. It is estimated that controlling VAD will avert over 20,000 child deaths per year in Burkina Faso alone.
Food fortification is one strategy to combat VAD. The three-year project supported by the Taiwanese is part of a larger regional initiative in West Africa operating in eight countries. Fortifying cooking oil with vitamin A has proven to be effective, widely-accepted, sustainable and low cost. This project will help reduce child and maternal morbidity and mortality, while increasing the competitiveness of locally-produced cooking oil.
Eating foods rich in vitamin A, including orange fruits and vegetables and dark-green leafy vegetables, is another method to control VAD effectively. The project supported by the Taiwan government is being implemented in 23 primary schools in the province of Komandjiari. (…)
Jakarta, Indonesia, February 5 - CARE is distributing food and water purification solution to more than 15,000 flood-affected people in the district of Tangerang, Indonesia, after the worst floods to hit Jakarta in five years. Entire parts of the city are underwater, with the water levels reaching as high as six feet in some areas. More than 200,000 people have been forced from their homes and seeking shelter in community centers, schools and mosques across the city.
"CARE works in the Jakarta area, so our staff were able to respond immediately to this latest disaster," said Gail Steckley, CARE's country director in Indonesia. "Many of our staff are also among the families affected." (…)
CARE is providing 15,000 people with Air Rahmat, a locally-made water purification solution, and jerry cans to keep the treated water free from further contamination. At the same time, CARE is providing health education about the risks of contaminated water and how to properly purify water before drinking. Starting Tuesday, CARE will also begin distributions of food to up to 10,000 people.
The floods are the latest in a string of disasters to hit Indonesia. Parts of Aceh, the site of the 2004 tsunami, were also flooded in December, 2006, and the government is currently working to contain outbreaks of dengue fever that are being reported across the country.
CARE has been working in Indonesia since 1967, and operates a broad range of integrated projects in disaster risk reduction, emergency response, environment and natural resource management, health, livelihoods and water and sanitation.
15 February – Just days after launching a large-scale security operation to clean up one of Haiti’s most notorious hotbeds of criminal gangs, the United Nations peacekeeping mission has transformed the former crime boss’s headquarters into a free medical clinic, with clowns to cheer up sick children.
“We are here to help the Haitian people,” the commander of the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) Brazilian contingent Claudio Barroso Magno Filho said. “And this aid cannot be achieved if there is not first security and peace. That is why our security operations are immediately followed by our humanitarian assistance.” Until last Friday, when the UN launched a 700-troop-strong operation in the Boston area of Cité Soleil, one of Haiti’s most crime-ridden neighbourhoods in Port-au-Prince, the capital, Jamaica Base was the headquarters of the gang chief named Evans, who used it to coordinate his activities in a country that has seen a surge in extortion, kidnappings and the recruitment of children into gangs.
Now, doctors and dentists from MINUSTAH’s Brazilian contingent tend to local residents at what is today a new community centre. At its inauguration yesterday, Raymond Jean-Baptiste turned up with his seven-month-old daughter, happy for the free consultation. Clowns came too, dancing with the children, and the Brazilian peacekeepers handed out free footballs.
They also brought soup and clean drinking water for Boston’s residents. (…)
Religious delegation going to Iran to talk peace
A U.S. faith-based delegation is set to visit Iran Feb. 17-25 with plans to meet religious and political leaders in the hope of improving relations between the people of Iran and the U.S.
Philadelphia, PA, February 14 - Mary Ellen McNish, general secretary of the American Friends Service Committee, is part of a delegation of 13 U.S. religious leaders that will visit Iran next week (Feb. 17-25) to deepen dialogue between religious and political leaders there in the hope of defusing tensions between the U.S. and Iran.
During the weeklong visit the group is scheduled to meet with Christian and Muslim religious leaders, women serving in the Iranian parliament, former President Mohammad Khatami and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The U.S. delegation includes representatives from the Mennonite, Quaker, Episcopal, Catholic and United Methodist churches as well as the National Council of Churches, Pax Christi and Sojourners/Call to Renewal in Washington, D.C. The trip comes after 45 religious leaders met with Iranian President Ahmadinejad for 75 minutes during his visit to New York, Sept. 20, 2006.
“Our primary goal is to engage in dialogue with a variety of Iranians,” said Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) international program director, Ron Flaming. The trip is being organized by MCC and the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), an international social justice organization based in Philadelphia. The Service Committee is a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for humanitarian work conducted on behalf of Quakers worldwide.
“We are making this trip hoping it will encourage both governments to step back from a course that will lead to conflict and suffering,” said McNish. (…)
Houmine Al-Tahta, Lebanon, 12 February – (…) Almost six months after the ceasefire that ended the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon, UNICEF warns that unexploded ordnance – including cluster bombs – remains one of the key threats affecting Lebanese children and their families. The UN Mine Action Coordination Centre for South Lebanon estimates that there are approximately 1 million unexploded munitions left in the area, and it will take many more months – perhaps a year – to clear all of them. As of end of January, more than 200 people had been injured or killed by cluster bomb explosions since the ceasefire, including 70 children and youths under 18 years of age, 7 of whom died.
Working with Lebanon’s National Demining Office and other partners, UNICEF has made educating and protecting children from unexploded munitions a top priority. Through awareness campaigns, they learn how to identify bombs and landmines, and what to do if they see one. Posters, banners, and TV and radio spots all help to spread the message among children: Don’t approach, don’t touch and report to the authorities.
The campaign uses a child-friendly approach, incorporating crucial information into games, plays, discussions and interactions. In one such activity, called "Game of the Goose", children throw a large cardboard die, then walk a certain number of paces down a paper path that is illustrated with various scenarios. (…)
Angola Press Agency (Luanda)
Huambo, Angola, February 8 - A team to monitor the methods of demining, the security of sappers and identified mine fields adopted by local operators will be set up this year in Angola's central Huambo province. This was announced by the coordinator of the provincial Commission on Landmine Action and Humanitarian Aid (CNIDAH), Agostinho Njaka, who added that the team will work mainly on identified "red" zones (highly mined zones), like the districts of Huambo, Bailundo, Katchiungo and Tchicala-Tcholohanga.
He justified the creation of such a team saying there has been significant delays in the monitoring of the quality of cleared areas and those awaiting clearance, a task that will be assigned to team members for the checking of the polices and strategies designed by Angolan Government.
The source added that new operators will be incorporated in the demining process this year, with a view to facilitating the operation in other fields, in view of the priorities of the local government, for the opening of new roads and farming fields.
According to a CNIDAH report that reached Angop, some 2,968 landmines, including 2,915 anti-personnel, 53 anti-tanks mines and 1,110 unexploded ordinances (UXOS) were removed and destroyed in 2006.
Author(s): Site Admin
February 6 - The journey began on 10 December 2006 when three Colombians left Bogotá to bicycle to Ushuaia in Argentina, in a bid to support the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines and to draw international attention to their country’s extensive landmine problem.
John Rivas Medina, Edwin Pedreros and Juan Guillermo Bohórquez will arrive at their destination in early March. Throughout their journey they are stopping to disseminate information on the devastating effects of landmines in Colombia.
Although the country is a State Party to the Mine Ban Treaty, non-state armed groups continue to lay mines and use other improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that harm local populations, frustrate demining efforts, and impede production and economic growth in some areas.
The men have already traveled through Colombia, Ecuador and large part of Peru. While their trip itself is attracting significant media attention, they have also been organizing a series of side events including lectures and meetings with various social organizations. Currently they are being given support by a mine victim association in Peru and a group of Peruvian victims accompanied them when they entered Lima. (…)
14 February - Among her first major meetings of her term, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan has convened an urgent consultation on polio eradication on 28 February. After reviewing the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Polio Eradication, which concluded in October 2006 that eradication was technically feasible in the remaining four endemic areas, Dr Chan has examined the progress made since October in Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan. She concurs with the findings that eradication is feasible if enough children are vaccinated to stop transmission of the virus.
Given that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative is built on the complementary strengths of various partners, of which WHO is the lead technical agency, Dr Chan has invited all major stakeholders to the consultation to examine the collective capacity to meet the remaining operational and financial challenges. (…)
Representation is expected from: finance and health ministries, technical experts, as well as the office of the head of government of the endemic countries; donors with investments of over US$ 10 million; spearheading partners Rotary International, CDC and UNICEF; political organizations such as the Commonwealth. The directors of the three WHO regions which have polio: AFRO, SEARO and EMRO are also attending.
EU donation saves lives in Ethiopian child survival campaign
Addis Ababa, 13 February - A dramatic coverage increase for a UNICEF- backed Child Survival initiative has been achieved in Ethiopia. This was made possible through a donation of €7,600,000 from the European Union. The money funded The Enhanced Outreach Strategy (EOS) programme – a ground-breaking project which has provided life-saving interventions for Tigray, Oromia, Amhara and the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR). Between October and December 2006, over 5.3 million children between six and 59 months old received vitamin-A supplementation and nearly five million received de-worming treatment. Additionally, over 5.2 million were screened for malnutrition and referred to WFP’s Targeted Supplementary Food Programme. More than 840,000 pregnant and lactating women also received the same treatment. (…) Thanks to the EU donation, two regional Emergency Nutrition Coordination Units (ENCUs) were also revitalised in the Tigray and SNNP regions. These facilities will monitor nutrition trends, and coordinate emergency responses when and where they are needed.
Two new regional ENCUs are planned for Amhara and Oromia regions, and should be ready for business by spring 2007. Further EOS interventions are also scheduled between May and June in all four regions. By the end of June, the second EOS round will be delivered to more than 5.9 million children and 1.2 million pregnant and lactating women in the four regions supported by the EU. EOS is a national programme aiming to cover six basic low cost, high-impact child survival interventions for women and children.(…)
Contact: Vivian Fiore at +1 847-866-3234
Evanston, IL, USA, 8 February - Nearly 100 volunteers from the United States and Europe will travel to India and the West African country of Nigeria to immunize children against polio – a crippling and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East. These volunteers - all members of Rotary, a humanitarian service organization that has made polio eradication its top philanthropic goal - will work with local authorities and Rotarians to help administer the drops of oral polio vaccine to every child under the age of five, deliver the vaccine to remote villages and educate families on the importance of protecting children against polio. (…) (The trips schedule, omitted here, is available on the web site)
Nigeria and India are the major strongholds of polio and among just four countries (including Pakistan and Afghanistan) where the virus has never stopped circulating. World health experts recently announced that a polio-free world now hinges on these four countries. Northern Nigeria accounts for the majority of global cases having reported 1,105 in 2006 out of a global total of 1,969 cases (data as of 7 February 2007). (…) India is the other major hotbed for this disease, accounting for 666 cases in 2006 (…)
Rotary’s commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever. In 1985, Rotary members worldwide vowed to immunize all the world’s children against polio. Since then, Rotary has contributed more than US$616 million to a polio-free world. Besides raising and contributing funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries during national immunization campaigns. Tremendous progress has been made in the last two decades. To date, the number of polio cases has been reduced from 350,000 children annually in the mid 1980s to less than 2,000 cases all last year. Only 4 countries: Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, are still polio-endemic - an all-time low.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). (…)
Kyrgyzstan, February – For women in Batken, Kyrgyzstan, a new user friendly, non-invasive, family planning method, CycleBeads™, will now be available thanks to Project HOPE and a brand new partnership with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. The agreement, for a $300,000 project, “Improving the Health of Women and Children through Family Planning and Breastfeeding,” began in January.
The focal point of the family planning component of the program is a string of 32 color-coded beads developed by the Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University. The beads, representing the fertile and non-fertile days of a woman’s reproductive cycle, offer women a low cost, natural alternative to family planning.
Project HOPE first introduced the successful CycleBeads program in Jalalabat, Kyrgyzstan in 2005 with 200 sets of beads distributed. An innovative twist, to the generally accepted Standard Days Method of family planning, the CycleBeads approach received positive reactions from participants. (…)
Ukraine: In the Ukraine, Project HOPE is the sub-contractor to the International HIV/AIDS Alliance on Tract Agreement Number 3. The $150,000 award, which began in October 2006, will be used to expand a school-based HIV and substance abuse prevention program based on a life skills approach for elementary school-aged children said Reister. “This is a good example of Project HOPE taking a model and expanding upon it. It’s an extension of our Russian program but we added an HIV component targeted toward younger children,” she said.
Uzbekistan: In addition, Project HOPE’s Central Asia division in Uzbekistan is now offering a brand new program concentrating on the Avian Influenza. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Reister said, “Project HOPE is a sub-contractor for this brand new program. We will be providing technical assistance for farmers and veterinarians to teach them how to recognize Avian Flu. Also we will work with the general population to educate them about the Avian Flu and how to prevent the disease.”
New US$29.85 million project for better water management in the Sudan’s Butana region
Rome, 16 February – A US$29.85 million project for better water management in the Butana region of the Sudan will enhance the ability of about 80,000 poor rural households’ to cope with drought conditions. The Butana Integrated Rural Development Project will be backed by a loan of US$24.8 million from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Government of the Sudan will contribute US$4.29 million and US$760,000 will be provided by the people living in the project area. (…) The project will assist rural people in five states that share natural resources in the Butana region. In particular, the project will boost their incomes from livestock production and other small businesses and at the same time ensure the sustainable management of natural resources. It will also improve animal nutrition, access to veterinary services and the organization of meat and dairy marketing.(…)
Bali, Indonesia, 12 February – An historic declaration to conserve the “Heart of Borneo” was officially signed today between the three Bornean governments – Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia and Malaysia. The tri-country declaration will conserve and sustainably manage one of the most important centres of biological diversity in the world, covering approximately 220,000 square kilometres of equatorial rainforests – almost a third of the island.
“This is an historic occasion which marks new collaboration between our three countries,” said MS Kaban, the Indonesian Minister of Forestry. “This will put the Heart of Borneo on the world stage as one of the last great blocks of forest in the world.”
The Heart of Borneo Declaration, signed by ministers from the three South-east Asian countries at an official ceremony held in Bali, is a lifeline for Borneo’s rainforests that are threatened by unsustainable logging, forest fires and forest conversion for plantations. Since 1996, deforestation across Indonesia has increased to an average of 2 million hectares per year and, today, only half of Borneo’s original forest cover remains.
The declaration also formally ends the plans to create the world’s largest palm oil plantation in Kalimantan along Indonesia’s mountainous border with Malaysia. The scheme – supported by Chinese investments – was expected to cover an area of 1.8 million hectares and would have had long-lasting, damaging consequences to the Heart of Borneo.
The island is home to 13 species of primates, 150 species of reptiles and amphibians, over 350 species of birds, and around 15,000 species of plants, and continues to be the source of many new discoveries – more than 50 new species were discovered last year alone. (…)
Environment ministers rise to the challenge of globalization and UN reform
UNEP Governing Council/Global Ministerial Forum rediscovers responsibility for environmental pillar of sustainable development
Nairobi, 9 February - An enhanced programme to reduce health and environmental threats from toxic mercury pollution was agreed by 140 governments at the close of an international gathering of environment ministers. The decision includes developing partnerships between governments, industry and other key groups to curb emissions of the heavy metal from power stations and mines to industrial and consumer products. After two years, governments will gauge its success and reflect on whether the voluntary initiative has worked or whether negotiations should commence on a new international and legally-binding treaty.
The mercury decision, along with 15 other key decisions, was made on the final day of the United Nations Environment Programmes (UNEP) Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum. Part of the new programme may mirror a successful UNEP-coordinated partnership to clean up vehicle fuels in developing countries. In four years this voluntary partnership, launched at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, has phased out another notorious heavy metalleadfrom petrol pumps across sub-Saharan Africa. (…)
Branson offers $25m climate prize
Scientists must 'put their minds to it today,' he says of removing emissions
London, February 9 (MSNBC staff and news service reports) - British tycoon Sir Richard Branson on Friday announced a $25 million prize for a way to extract a billion tons or more of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year. The Virgin Group chairman was joined by former Vice President Al Gore and other leading environmentalists as he announced the Virgin Earth Challenge prize.
Branson compared it to the competition launched in 1675 to devise a method of estimating longitude accurately. It was 60 years before English clock maker John Harrison discovered an accurate method and received his prize from King George III. "The Earth cannot wait 60 years. We need everybody capable of discovering an answer to put their minds to it today," Branson said.
Gore said the planet had a "fever" that had to be taken seriously. "Up until now, what has not been asked seriously on a systematic basis is, is there some way that some of that extra carbon dioxide may be scavenged effectively out of the atmosphere? And no one knows the answer to that," Gore said. (…)
Entries will be evaluated by Branson and Gore, as well as NASA climate scientist James Hansen; James Lovelock, who devised the Gaia theory of Earth's ecosystems; British environmentalist Sir Crispin Tickell; and Australian paleontologist Tim Flannery.
The winner will have to come up with a way of removing one billion tons of carbon gases a year from the atmosphere for 10 years — with $5 million of the prize being paid at the start and the remaining $20 million at the end.(…) Experts agreed the challenge is difficult, noting that while scientists have started to safely bury CO2 emissions before they reach the atmosphere, no one has captured them after they are released.
Contest details are online at www.virginearth.com
UNDP and UNEP cement their partnership with New Poverty and Environment Facility
Under the venture, the UN partners take practical steps to help African nations tackle climate change
Nairobi, 6 February – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Environment Programme (UNEP) cemented the bond between fighting poverty and protecting the environment today by launching the joint Poverty and Environment Facility in Nairobi during the twenty fourth session of the UNEP Governing Council. The Facility, one of the first concrete examples of UN Reform in action, is designed to help developing countries to integrate sound environment management into their poverty reduction and growth policies. It will play a central role in expanding the UN’s environmental work around the world, with an emphasis on Africa and Asia. (…) The strengthened relationship between the two UN bodies will be practically applied across a wide range of issues. In a few months time , for example, under the UNDP-UNEP Climate Partnership, five nations in Sub-Saharan Africa will claim a greater stake in their environmental future with the help of a new joint project designed to help poorer countries to navigate the Kyoto Protocol’s Clean Development Mechanism (CDM). The CDM is a market-based mechanism that allows developed countries to earn emissions credits by financing projects in developing countries that contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (…)
30 January - Green Cross Sri Lanka is in the process of establishing a park at Wellawatta beach in the Colombo district to be named the Green Cross Solar Park. This park will have all the normal facilities and amenities for visitors including a canteen and an information center, which will be lit by Solar panels that will be donated by Green Cross Japan and its President Shoo Iwasaki. The Government of Sri Lanka, through the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs, will provide some financial assistance.
Yachay Wasi Environmental project in Peruvian Andes finally underway
An environmental and sustainable development project of NGO Yachay Wasi
Recovery of the Circuit of Four Lakes in the Peruvian Andes is finally underway after a matching grant by Rotary Foundation in USA was approved in December 2006. Grant matches initial pledge by a district of Rotary International, Australia in 2005.
This environmental and educational project is geared to the recovery of the circuit of four lakes located in the province of Acomayo, in the department of Cuzco, in the Andes of Peru. These lakes are Laguna Acopia near the village of Acopia – native village of Luis Delgado Hurtado, Co-founder and President of Yachay Wasi - , Lagunas Pampamarca and Asnacocha near the village of Mosoqllaqta, Laguna Pomacanchi near the village of Pomacanchi. The villagers and many smaller communities located near these lakes rely on these waters. There are 36 Indigenous communities living near these lakes with a 2002 estimated population of 25,518 inhabitants. The lakes are located at an altitude of 3600 meters. The contamination of these lakes has been a growing problem over the past few years.
The project has the goal to clean the lakes waters and banks of these four lakes of existing solid trash and to prevent further chemical contamination from modern detergents and pharmaceutical discards; to recover the biological diversity, flora and fauna representative of this important site; to educate and assist the communities on ways to prevent future contamination, which will include building septic tanks and laundry facilities in some villages.
As a result of this Rotary Grant, the first phase of Project will start in March 2007.
The Rotary International Grant will be managed locally by Rotary Club del Cusco in cooperation with Yachay Wasi, Cusco which will implement the work.
Religion and spirituality
Congo Republic issues stamp for World Religion Day
Brazzaville, Congo Republic, 31 January (BWNS) -- The Congo Republic this month became the second country to issue a postage stamp for World Religion Day, an annual event commemorated in dozens of cities and towns around the globe. The stamp was presented here on 20 January 2007 at a World Religion Day program that drew more than 250 participants from eight religious communities. (…)
The day is celebrated with interfaith discussions, conferences and other events that foster understanding among the followers of all religions. World Religion Day, which always falls on the third Sunday in January, is traditionally commemorated a day early in Brazzaville.
The new stamp from the Congo pictures a globe surrounded by the symbols of 11 religions. Across the top it says, in French, "God is the source of all religions." (…)
In Entebbe, Uganda, organizers of the World Religion Day commemoration there announced that they had requested their national postal service to issue a stamp for the occasion next year.
At their celebration this year, hosted by the Entebbe Municipal Council, participating religious leaders signed a declaration to form the Entebbe Inter-Faith Coalition. The signers pledged to use "the unifying power of religion to instill in the hearts and minds of all people of faith the fundamental facts and spiritual standards that have been laid down by our Creator to bring them together as members of one family."
Communities across Canada and the United States also held observances for this year's World Religion Day, as did Hong Kong and towns in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and a number of other countries.
Two new 2007 films for Jews, Palestinians, everyone
San Mateo, CA, USA, February 20 - Now available to you are two new videos -- DVDs to illustrate what it looks like when diverse people – young and old, even “enemies” Connect, Communicate, and Change. The principles are universal, beginning with a new quality of listening in homes, institutions, communities and nations. Because of the urgency on Earth, these DVDs will continue to be gifted to whoever will use them.
1. Dialogue at Washington High - DVD - 43 minutes. A Jewish and a Palestinian exemplar model on how to connect with the "other" beginning with personal Story. Tenth grade high school students then engage each other in dyads with a new quality of listening. The diverse youth speak about their new way of communicating.
A 2007 film by the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group, San Mateo, California, USA.
Request DVD at http://traubman.igc.org/vidschool.htm
2. Peacemakers: Palestinians & Jews Together at Camp – DVD - 83 minutes. The partnership of a Palestinian-Jewish Dialogue and 85-year-old camp brings together in the California mountains 140 Muslims, Jews and Christians of all ages, including from Israel and Palestine. They discover one another and their ability to communicate and cooperate in new ways. Back down the mountain, they hold a public San Francisco event to tell the community about their struggles and breakthroughs.
A 2007 film by the Jewish-Palestinian Living Room Dialogue Group & Camp Tawonga, California, USA. Request DVD at http://traubman.igc.org/vidcamp.htm
World’s sustainability experts on new free web channel
London, 19 February - A new web-based video channel gives viewers the big picture on the environment with hundreds of free, thought-provoking videos of global experts on a wide range of subjects and a new focus on sustainability - with startling warnings, well-informed commentary and practical ideas and solutions. Main features include:
- world leaders offering solution-oriented commentary on conflict resolution, inter-faith dialogue, geo-politics, terrorism and global security;
- access to audio and video downloads for offline use, education, advocacy, training and consultancy work:
- accessible content enhancing understanding of long-term sustainability issues.
Big Picture TV offers a growing archive of over 330 video clips - equivalent to 40 hours of free content. Many clips are around 5 minutes in length, enabling visitors to hear directly from world leaders without risking information overload.
London-based founder Marcus Morrell says “in the face of an unprecedented environmental crisis, Big Picture TV will help people see the world today in a broader and more positive context. Problems such as climate chaos, rising sea levels and species extinction are all too familiar but they are only half the story. The big picture is about pragmatic solutions, recognising that the crises we face bring with them opportunities to rethink, innovate and progress.”
Millions of Iraqi children benefiting from UN-backed school supplies programme
15 February - Millions of school bags, books, pencils and other essential learning materials are now being delivered to Iraq’s primary schoolchildren thanks to a United Nations-backed national school supply drive. The drive, organized by the Iraqi Education Ministry and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) with support from the European Commission, aims to reach all Iraqi primary schools, bringing basic learning tools to millions of children aged 6 to 11.
“Iraq’s parents and teachers have shown unshaken determination to educate their children through years of deprivation, but the current terrible insecurity is testing many to the limit,” UNICEF Representative for Iraq Roger Wright said, calling on the international community to provide more support to protect the war-torn country’s education system during the current emergency. “Iraq’s education system needs a great deal more investment and attention to survive this time of crisis.” (…)
Mr. Wright acknowledged the great commitment by the Government to prioritize education even under the most difficult circumstances. In the last two years alone more than 159 damaged school buildings and 800 school water and sanitation facilities have been restored, 30,000 teachers retrained and basic school materials delivered directly to Iraq’s children with the support of UNICEF and partners including the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the European Commission. “Schools are a symbol of hope to Iraq’s families,” Mr. Wright said. “We must do everything in our power to keep Iraq’s classroom doors open, welcoming and safe for children.” Materials will be distributed both centrally from Baghdad and directly to local governorates, reaching even the most remote schools. Supplies will arrive in classrooms in advance of the second half of the school year. Baghdad classroom makes use of UNICEF supplies.
February 14 - The ICRC has donated 50 textbooks on International Law to the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law of the University of Liberia. The textbooks will provide the law library with educational material related to International Law.
This donation is part of a framework whereby the ICRC intends to work with the law school for the promotion of International Humanitarian Law (IHL), aimed at strengthening educational initiatives towards international legal standards.
The ICRC hopes that the donation will increase support to those teaching International Law, help implement the principles and norms deriving from this branch of the law, and establish good working relationships between the two institutions.
In addition, the ICRC intends to undertake a number of academic activities with the purpose of disseminating International Humanitarian Law, and fostering its respect.
These include incorporating International Humanitarian Law into postgraduate curricula, organizing moot court competitions, offering training on International Humanitarian Law, and promoting the study of International Humanitarian Law by hosting seminars and workshops.
Oxford University seminar kicks off Earth Charter UK, Wangari Maathai as special guest
On 9-10 February, a special seminar on "The Earth Charter, Past and Future" was held at Exeter College, one of the oldest colleges at Oxford University. The Earth Charter UK Trust was formally launched at this seminar to the music of New Orleans Jazz, and with the powerful symbol of a special tree planting ceremony, whose special guest of honor was Nobel Peace Prize winner, and Earth Charter Commissioner, Wangari Maathai.
The planting of the tree was also the first official contribution of Great Britain to the global United Nations Environment Program "Billion Trees" campaign, which Prof. Maathai has championed. And finally, Prof. Maathai simultaneously kicked off a new lecture series, at Oxford University, sponsored by the Cambridge University-based Center for International Sustainable Development Law (making the series an example of Oxford-Cambridge institutional collaboration as well).
The tree was also, of course, a tree -- a walnut whose purpose also was to replace an historic, 300-year-old tree that had been the oldest and greatest in the Exeter College garden. The old tree had died and had to be removed; the new tree is expected to last for a further 300 years. The symbolism of this historic tree-planting heightened the feeling that something wonderful had happened at Oxford.
February 9 - Over 500 schoolchildren in Orwa, West Pokot and Lorongon, Turkana District, will benefit from two new primary schools built by the ICRC. The ICRC started building the school structures in May and completed them in December of last year. (…)
This is the second school project that the ICRC has commissioned in the Turkana and West Pokot districts. Following a chronic situation of inter-ethnic clashes, often over scarce resources, the organization carried out an assessment in these areas in 2004 to see where assistance was needed. It was found that students were learning in abandoned buildings or under trees while many others had fled their homes and were no longer going to school at all, as was the case in Orwa. Thanks to the new school, many pupils and their families have now returned to their villages. The ICRC constructed similar schools in Kainuk, Turkana and Ritten, West Pokot. Both were inaugurated in October 2005.
Besides building schools, the ICRC assisted families in both communities by providing seeds and tools to farmers, by treating the livestock of pastoralists and by rehabilitating shallow wells. The organization also holds regular discussions with community leaders to raise awareness of humanitarian principles and to seek ways to ease tensions in both areas.
Jerusalem: the Ministry of Education presents The Face-to-Face Program for Coexistence
February 8 - The Face-to-Face program held at Givat Haviva includes a two-day encounter between Jewish and Arab high school students. About 2,000 students from Jewish and Arab schools participated in this program in 2005-2006, and close to 4,000 students are expected to participate this year
An evaluation program that studied the activity showed that after it had been completed there was a decrease in negative stereotypes, more openness towards the other side and recognition of the complexity of finding solutions that will facilitate a joint future. (…)
The Face-to-Face program is held at Givat Haviva and includes a two-day encounter between Jewish and Arab high school students. The purpose of the encounter is to lay the initial groundwork for a joint future based on mutual respect between Jewish and Arab citizens by reducing the sense of alienation and mutual fear. In preparation for the joint encounter, the students and teachers participate in a uni-national clarification process at their schools. During the two-day encounter, the students participate in workshops in mixed groups, which are conducted by two facilitators – Arab and Jewish. (…)
The philosophy that guides the Ministry in defining and implementing the policy is that the key to coexistence is understanding the self-identity of every individual in the group along with in-depth
understanding of another culture. This is achieved by getting to know the culture and narrative of the other, while accepting the uniqueness of each individual through listening, respect and acceptance. To learn more about Face to Face ('MIFGASHIM') please go to:
ESCAP Provides Training for TV Journalists to Raise Awareness of MDGs
Bangkok, 7 February – Television broadcast journalists from 13 Asia Pacific countries began a specialized training programme in Bangkok today, designed to enhance their skills in reporting on the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The three-day session is organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) and the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union (ABU), with AsiaWorks Television providing the training. Participants will produce feature length news items and public service announcements on the MDGs upon their return. The finished pieces will be distributed by ABU across its network of national broadcasters, potentially reaching billions of people. The initiative is part of UNESCAP’s ongoing efforts to advocate the key messages of its second regional MDG report, A future within reach.
Luanda, Angola, February 1 - February first has a special meaning for 60 girls in the Viana Municipality of Luanda. They are the first of 180 girls to graduate form a Vocational Training Program that was developed in 2006 to address the educational needs of young girls victimized by a 30-year civil war— one of the longest civil conflicts on the African continent. The overall aim of the project is to enhance the self-esteem and self-reliance of young women in Angola. (…)
The vocational program is organized into three phases: Phase one includes three months of instruction for the girls in basic literacy, math, and domestic arts—including Cooking, Decoration, Sewing, Flower Preparation and Hairstyling. Outside these core course, instructors focus on promoting life skills like goal-setting and healthy relationships, as well as HIV/AIDS awareness and family planning methods. Upon graduation, the girls enter phase two of the program with 45 day internships where they can practice and utilize their specialized skills. Phase three follows with a 15 day evaluation of their performance. The process will continue for one year until 180 girls have passed through the program. (…)
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