Good News Agency – Year VIII, n° 5



Weekly - Year VIII, number 5 – 13th April 2007

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



Afghan Constitution made available nationwide by Counterpart International

April 4 - Copies of the Afghanistan Constitution have been printed and made available widely in communities throughout the country thanks to an initiative of the non-profit development and humanitarian agency Counterpart International. At a hand-over ceremony in the Afghan capital, some 40,000 copies of the constitution (printed in local languages) were made available, for the first time, in many communities. (…)

Counterpart, under Country Team Leader Tilly Reed, is implementing the nationwide Initiative to Promote Afghan Civil Society (I-PACS) with the support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). Since 2005, Counterpart has been working with community groups and Civil Society Support Centers to strengthen the capacity of hundreds of civil society organizations in Afghanistan. The organisation has also worked with the International Center for Non-Profit Law to frame legislation (signed by President Karzai) which enables non-governmental organizations to operate under the full protection of the law. A conference hosted by Counterpart in May will widely disseminate the implications of the new law.

The US$15.5 million USAID-funded program also enabled Counterpart to launch initiatives to integrate gender equity into the civil society strengthening process. Counterpart teams are working with civil society organizations and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for shadow reporting on the International Human Rights Conventions signed by the government of Afghanistan. Among its many innovative programs, Counterpart hosts monthly discussions with religious leaders where Mullahs and Ulemas present their views on civil society and how they might play a role in it. (…)


82 Signatures to the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Author(s): Site Admin <> 

On 30 March 2007, at the UN Headquarters in New York 81 countries and the European Community signed the UN Convention on Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

This is a record number of signatories on the first day for a human rights treaty. 44 states also signed the Convention's Optional Protocol, which provides a mechanism for treating individual violations and for making country visits.The first signatory of the day – Austria made a statement about the importance of the link between the Mine Ban Treaty and the Disability Rights Convention. Mine-affected MBT State Parties signatories included: Ethiopia, Jordan, Nicaragua, Peru, El Salvador, Mozambique, Sudan, Thailand, Uganda, Yemen, and Colombia.

Countries that sign and ratify the treaty are legally bound to ensure that people with disabilities have equal rights as other citizens and the same access to services and opportunities. Examples of key rights provided for in the Convention: The right to vote - The right to an education - The right to quality healthcare - The right to work - The right to equal protection of the law.

The Convention needs to be ratified by 20 countries to enter into force. Jamaica signed and ratified the convention at the opening ceremony, bringing the number of ratifications still required to 19. Disability and human rights groups are now launching a global campaign to secure fast and broad ratification process.  ICBL member organizations, including Handicap International and Landmine Survivors Network have actively participated in negotiating the text of the Convention and securing international support. A list of countries that signed the Convention can be viewed at: The text of the Disability Rights Convention is available at



Human rights



Cambodia launches 1st national task force against human trafficking

April 7 - Cambodian Ministry of Women's Affairs here on Friday launched the kingdom's first national task force to tackle human trafficking. "The first national task force has just been established to help resolve the huge concerns of the Cambodian government in fighting human trafficking effectively," said You Ay, secretary of state of the ministry. “The national task force is a major step forward for the Cambodian government's efforts to coordinate a unified campaign to combat all forms of trafficking of men, women and children for slave labor, begging, prostitution and other exploitations”, she said. "Cambodia will not tolerate exploitation," she added.

The force comprises 14 ministries and institutions and its members will be organized into three working groups to respectively address the problems of human trafficking, protection and reintegration of trafficking survivors and justice for victims through prosecution, said a ministry statement. "The force has a broad mandate to implement agreements and bilateral memoranda of understanding to eliminate trafficking and assist victims," said You Ay.

According to official reports, over 180,000 migration laborers toiled irregularly in Thailand, while hundreds or even thousands of Cambodians are exploited to work as sex slaves in Malaysia, Japan, China's Taiwan and Hong Kong, Qatar, Somali, and Saudi Arabia. (Source: Xinhua)


Uganda: army personnel in Karamoja receive IHL training

April 3- Thirty officers of the 3rd Division of the Uganda People's Defence Force (UPDF) are participating in a three-day training course on international humanitarian law (IHL), from 3 to 5 April, in the Moroto district of Karamoja. The officers, comprised of lieutenants, captains and majors, are battalion commanders, political commissars and intelligence officers. The 3rd Division operates in the Karamoja region in north-eastern Uganda, an area that has witnessed violence in the recent past. The course is part of a training programme jointly organized by the ICRC and the UPDF. A similar event took place in Mbale in November 2006.

An ICRC military expert and a UPDF instructor trained by the ICRC in international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict, are conducting the course. The course will address the principles of proportionality and distinction, with regard to military necessity when choosing targets. The course content will cover behaviour during military action and prevention of abuse of civilians and people no longer engaged in fighting.


"Virtual Campus" will promote teaching of international humanitarian law

Geneva (ICRC), April 2 – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has launched a new website for teachers of its Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) programme, which is designed to introduce secondary-school students to the basic rules and principles of international humanitarian law. The fast-growing programme is already being implemented in over 60 countries worldwide and has outstripped existing capacity for teacher training – hence the creation of the new website, the EHL Virtual Campus. (…)

The EHL programme comprises 30 hours of interactive classroom activities that explore a wide array of ethical and humanitarian issues relating to armed conflict – from child soldiers and war crimes to prisoners of war and missing persons. One of the aims of the programme is to foster in students an awareness of the need for humanitarian norms and an interest and responsible involvement in local and international events.

The English-language EHL Virtual Campus offers a range of teaching resources, including learning modules, workshops, training videos and an online discussion forum. Teaching materials can be downloaded in English, French, Russian and Spanish. The EHL Virtual Campus can be accessed at


Kenya: Religious leaders join anti-FGM fight

Isiolo, 30 March (IRIN) - The decision by Muslim religious leaders in northeastern Kenya to talk about the dangers of female genital mutilation (FGM) during Friday prayers has turned into a significant campaign against the practice. "We have managed to educate people and convince many parents, including those with strong traditional beliefs, that circumcising girls is not a requirement in Islam," said Sheikh Harun Rashid of Isiolo Rahma Mosque. "Our first assignment was to inform the parents that the holy book [Quran] teaches that the painful act is not an obligation; it is a tradition and not a religious obligation," he told IRIN in Isiolo.

The campaign, which started in a small way 10 years ago, is now spearheaded by the Muslim Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya. It still relies heavily on teachings delivered during Friday prayers, to reach the large Muslim populations in northeastern Kenya. More than 30 Mosques exist in Isiolo and Garissa towns alone, and the campaign has been extended to the coastal province as well. (…)

FGM involves the cutting and/or removal of the clitoris and other vaginal tissue, often under unsanitary conditions. It is practised in at least 28 countries globally and the United Nations Children's Fund  UNICEF) estimates that up to 140 million girls and women around the world have undergone some form of FGM.  It is practised extensively in Africa, including in Kenya. But pressure from human-rights activists has so far compelled 16 African governments to legislate against FGM, in line with the 2005 Maputo Protocol, an African regional document that explicitly prohibits and condemns FGM.

Kenya has signed the protocol and banned the practice under the Children's Act 2001, which protects girls from early marriage or forced FGM, and charges anyone found practising FGM. But observers say the law has proved extremely difficult to enforce.


Bahrain - Women's Union vows to push for family status law

By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief

26 March, Manama - The Bahrain Women's Union, a loose association of 12 women's organisations, has pledged to reinvigorate a dormant plan to promulgate a family status law in the kingdom. The union said at a press conference on Saturday that it would table its new proposal after bringing together all concerned parties at a workshop next month to issue recommendations on the law. "We will hold a symposium for representatives from the civil society, lawyers, religious leaders and independent activists to assess past efforts to have the law," Mariam Al Rowaie, head of the Bahrain Women's Union, said.

Bahrain has been sharply divided over promulgating a status law that would govern family relations and ensure greater rights for women and mothers. Conservatives have opposed the law, saying that it would clash with Islamic precepts and would upset social family order. But activists say that the law is needed to address family injustices and help women and children with their rights instead of placing their situations at the discretion of court judges who have no formal text to guide them on the verdicts. The union added that it would also push for the introduction of a quota system in the Bahraini elections to help women win. 


Communities nationwide will fly Children's Memorial Flag on April 27 to support child abuse prevention

March, Washington, DC - CWLA launched the Children's Memorial Flag Campaign in 1998 to draw public awareness to the problem of nearly 3 million children reported abused and neglected each year. The campaign's centerpiece is the Children's Memorial Flag. The banner, designed by a 16-year-old California youth, depicts five doll-like figures of children standing side-by-side, holding hands against a red backdrop. A sixth child in the center is represented by a thin, white chalk outline, symbolizing a child lost to violence. (…)

This year, many organizations and communities will fly the flag on April 27 as well as throughout April to recognize Child Abuse Prevention Month. The United States leads the world in homicides against children and youth under age 15, accounting for 73% of all homicides and 54% of all suicides of children, birth to age 15, among the world's top 26 industrialized countries. In 2002 alone, 1,390 children died as a result of abuse or neglect in the United States.

To locate organizations and communities participating in Flag Day activities visit More information about Child  Abuse Prevention Month is also located at this site, including a list of ten things you can do to support Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Child Welfare League of America is the nation's oldest and largest membership-based child welfare organization. It is committed to engaging people everywhere in promoting the well-being of children, youth, and their families, and protecting every child from harm.



Economy and development



New trade rules expected to benefit some developing countries

Poorer countries will need flexibility for critical development needs

Geneva/Rome, 11 April – Multilateral agricultural trade policy reform is expected to stimulate trade and economic growth, but any new trade rules need to be compatible with the first Millennium Development Goal, which calls for the proportion of people suffering from hunger or living in extreme poverty to be reduced by half by the year 2015, warns the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its annual report on the State of Agricultural Commodity Markets 2006  (SOCO2006), issued today. (…)

According to the FAO report, “many lower-income countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, are less well placed to gain in the short- to medium run from of trade liberalization that includes improved access to export markets, or from further opening of their own markets. The extent to which these poorer countries benefit from trade liberalization will depend upon their economic structures, their competitiveness and their capacity to respond to new market incentives.” (…)

The new issue of The State of Agricultural Commodity Markets is intended to raise awareness of the interests that developing countries have in the Doha Development Round by focusing on market access issues and the measures needed to ensure that trade policy reform contributes effectively to the reduction of poverty and food insecurity.


Cooperation agreement: Republic of Korea and ECLAC to study the creation of public-private alliances for export development

This United Nations body will study the Asian country's success in this area.

4 April - The government of the Republic of Korea and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) signed a cooperation agreement today to launch the project: "Building Long-Term Strategies and Public-Private Alliances for Export Development: The Experience of the Republic of Korea."(…) Financed by this Asian country, the project will study how the Republic of Korea has created and implemented a strategy to turn itself into one of the world's primary exporters of knowledge-intensive, value-added goods and services, and how it has designed and managed governmental incentives for new private-sector activities in the fields of innovation and export development.

This issue will be included in the document to be presented by ECLAC's Secretariat for consideration by its members during the Thirty-Second Session of the Commission, to be held in the Dominican Republic in 2008. (…) The Republic of Korea applied for admission as a Member State of ECLAC on October 23, 2006. This application will be presented for consideration by ECLAC's Executive Secretary at the next Session of the Committee of the Whole, which will meet at United Nations Headquarters on June 5.


Africa's economic growth to improve in 2007, according to ECA

Addis Ababa, 3 April (ECA ) – African economies are forecast to grow by an average of 5.8% in 2007, according to the latest edition of the Economic Report on Africa (ERA 2007), the annual flagship publication of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), which is launched today. The report, titled “Accelerating Africa's Development through Diversification,” notes that African economies continued to sustain the growth momentum of previous years, recording an overall real GDP growth rate of 5.7% in 2006. 28 countries recorded higher economic growth rates in 2006 than 2005.

According to the report, Africa's recent growth performance was underpinned by improvements in macroeconomic management in many countries as well as strong global demand for key African export commodities, resulting in high export prices, especially for crude oil, metals and minerals.

Factors that are likely to hinder growth in the future include lack of diversification of production and exports as well as instability and vulnerability to shocks, and the increasing spread of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, which undermines labour supply and labour productivity. In addition, inefficient public infrastructure and unreliable energy supply at the national level as well as poor integration of transportation and energy networks at the regional level will continue to undermine the productivity and international competitiveness of African economies.

ERA 2007 finds that the diversification process in Africa is highly influenced by investment, per capita income, and the degree of openness of trade, macroeconomic policy stance and the institutional framework. Based on these findings the report recommends several strategies to promote diversification in African economies. (…)

The 2007 edition of ERA is produced in partnership with the African Union Commission for the first time. It thus gives a truly African perspective on the performance of African economies and the key development challenges faced by the continent. The report seeks to generate constructive debate on effective strategies for addressing these challenges.    


Irish Aid announces new strategic partnerships with United Nations’ development agencies

Core funding for United Nations’ development agencies to exceed €86.44 million in 2007

Dublin, 3 April – Conor Lenihan TD, Minister of State for Irish Aid and Human Rights, today announced new strategic partnerships with key UN development agencies. He was joined at the announcement by the Director of Emergency Programmes for UNICEF, Dan Toole.  Under the strategic partnerships, Irish Aid will guarantee significant levels of funding for the next four years, allowing for better strategic planning by the UN agencies. The partnerships will include strict requirements on monitoring and evaluation, efficiency and coherence to encourage efforts towards a streamlined UN family. Partnerships are being agreed with UNICEF, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). (…)


FAO forecasts record cereal crop for 2007

Despite improved world cereal supply, 33 countries are in crisis

Rome, 3 April – World cereal production in 2007 is forecast to increase 4.3 percent to a record 2 082 million tonnes, according to the April issue of FAO’s Crop Prospects and Food Situation report. The bulk of the increase is expected in maize, with a bumper crop already being gathered in South America, and a sharp increase in plantings expected in the United States, according to the report. A significant rise in wheat output is also foreseen, with a recovery in some major exporting countries after weather problems last year. FAO forecasts coarse grains production to rise 5.6 percent to 1 033 million tonnes, and wheat to increase 4.8 percent to about 626 million tonnes. Global rice production in 2007 could rise marginally to 423 million tonnes in milled terms, about 3 million tonnes more than in 2006, FAO says.

Low-income food-deficit countries - Although still highly tentative, FAO's first forecast indicates that for the group of 82 low-income food-deficit countries, 2007 cereal production could remain around the above-average level of 2006. Following improved 2006 harvests in most of these countries, cereal imports in the 2006/07 marketing year are expected to decline in most regions. (…)  Despite improved food supplies in many food insecure countries, 33 countries worldwide are in a critical situation, mostly due to conflict and adverse weather, FAO says.


UNESCAP Marked 60th anniversary with pride and commitment

Gala event featured song, dance and keynote address by Thai princess

Bangkok, 28 March - The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific marked 60 years of service to the region today with a commemoration at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a video message and special guests included Thailand’s Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. The event also featured a dance performance and singing by heads of UN agencies in Bangkok.

“Throughout these six decades, UNESCAP has worked closely with the peoples of the Asia-Pacific region in their endeavor to build freedom from fear and freedom from want,” said Mr. Ban. “Today, this region of four billion people is a powerhouse for global economic growth,”

UNESCAP has chosen “Building an Asia-Pacific Century” as the theme of the 60th anniversary celebrations. “It is our privilege to serve the people of the region, and to be associated with their success,” said UNESCAP Executive Secretary, Kim Hak-Su. “On this historic occasion, we rededicate ourselves to building an ‘Asia-Pacific Century.” (…)

UNESCAP was founded as the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) on 28th March 1947. ECAFE moved its headquarters from Shanghai to Bangkok in 1949.


Asian investment in Africa: a new era of cooperation

27 March - This joint UNCTAD/UNDP publication aims to help African countries attract and benefit from FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) inflows from Asia with a view to harnessing FDI to achieve long-term, sustained development based on the Asian experience. FDI is a significant source of external finance and a means of integrating into the global marketplace. So far, Africa has been left out of this process. This may be attributed to small market size, poor infrastructure, weak regulatory framework, debt problems and, in some cases, political instability. Over the past decade, however, there has been considerable progress with reforms in several African economies.

Trends in Asian FDI in Africa

Outward FDI from developing Asian economies has grown significantly since the early 1990s. Outflows from the region have reached a new high of an estimated US$ 90 billion in 2006. Only a small percentage of Asian FDI is currently targeted at Africa, but this is likely to change. (…)

Promoting investment in Africa has become a strategic priority in the international economic cooperation efforts of some Asian countries, including Malaysia and China. The recent rapid growth of Chinese FDI in Africa is partly the result of joint efforts by the Chinese and African Governments, including initiatives adopted in Beijing at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation






Solomon Islands: UN continues to provide aid as 5,500 displaced in wake of tsunami

9 April – After a deadly tsunami struck the Solomon Islands one week ago, the United Nations continues to provide aid and technical assistance in the wake of the natural disaster which has displaced at least 5,500 people in the South Pacific nation, the world body’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. According to Government figures, 35 people have died after last week’s tsunami which was caused by an earthquake measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale, whose epicentre was 345 kilometres northwest of the country’s capital. Approximately 1,500 people who were forced to flee their homes are now residing in 12 camps around the town of Gizo. Sanitation remains a problem in the camps around Gizo, as streams and rainwater are the main source of water for the displaced. (…)

The UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team dispatched to the Solomon Islands is working closely with the Government in bolstering coordination and information management, while the UN Resident Coordinator based in Fiji, Richard Dictus, is in Honiara to meet with UN agencies on the ground and officials. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has sent emergency health kits, as health officials continue to monitor diarrhoea-related illnesses, malaria and measles. OCHA said that a measles and vitamin A campaign will be launched next week.

The Government reports that there are enough medical professionals and supplies to administer to the current needs. However, the number of injured may climb as people from disaster-affected communities return to their homes from higher ground and go to hospitals, OCHA said.

Five medical teams from France, Taiwan, Canada, Australia and the Red Cross have been deployed to support the Ministry of Health, and the French military has airlifted drugs and other medical supplies to Gizo.


WFP cranks up emergency relief for Afghan flood victims, delivering enough to feed 60,000 people

Kabul, 5 April - Within hours of the first reports of devastating spring floods reaching the Afghan capital, WFP accelerated relief plans that by today have managed to deliver 1,000 tonnes of emergency rations, enough to feed 60,000 victims of the rising waters for 30 days. Despite the effort, WFP remains concerned about the fate of many who may be beyond the reach of immediate help, stranded in remote, sometimes war-torn, mountainous regions cut off by the destruction of access roads and subsequent landslides and avalanches. (…)

WFP’s relief effort is further complicated in the flooded southern province of Helmand, where security is a major concern as a result of frequent clashes between insurgents and Government and international forces. Reaching flood victims in such areas has become a huge challenge as trucks carrying WFP food are frequently attacked by anti-government elements. (…) WFP’s assistance is part of a coordinated relief effort that includes several Government ministries, UN agencies, NGOs and the international military. (…)


Afghanistan: ICRC provides assistance to flood victims in conflict-affected areas

April 5 - The ICRC is supporting the Afghan Red Crescent Society in an emergency operation to assist 8,500 people affected by flooding in conflict-affected areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan.

Unexpectedly heavy rainfall and the flooding that ensued has exacerbated an already complex humanitarian situation in Helmand, Daikundi, Uruzgan, Laghman and Nangarhar provinces.

Over the past week, the ICRC has been providing food and non-food assistance to the victims of the flooding. "More than 120 tons of food items, such as rice, peas, ghee, salt, sugar and tea have been distributed among the families affected by the disaster. In addition, 600 families received tarpaulins, jerry cans, blankets and basic hygiene items to take care of their essential needs in the aftermath of the flooding," said Bruce McRae, ICRC coordinator for the relief operation.

The ICRC is coordinating closely with the Afghan Red Crescent Society in responding to these sensitive areas in conjunction with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. The organization is seeking to ensure access to the most remote villages suffering from the flooding. (…9


Catholic Relief Services responds to Solomon Islands tsunami

CRS stands ready to commit an initial $100,000 for emergency response.

Baltimore, MD, USA, April 2 – Catholic Relief Services stands ready to commit an initial $100,000 to aid emergency relief operations in the Solomon Islands after a powerful earthquake triggered a tsunami that flooded several villages and killed more than a dozen people. (…) The most serious damage appears to have hit the island of Gizo, which is located in the northwestern Solomons, close to the Bougainville area of Papua New Guinea. (…)

Catholic Relief Services is the official international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in 99 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed.

CRS is a member of Caritas Internationalis, a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development and social service organizations operating in over 200 countries and territories worldwide. Caritas Internationalis is the official humanitarian agency of the global Catholic Church.



Peace and security



UN Democracy Fund’s Advisory Board to meet tomorrow to review first-year progress

9 April – The Advisory Board of the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF), established to promote and consolidate new and restored democracies with financial and technical help, will meet tomorrow to review the Fund’s progress after its first year of activities and decide on future priorities and policies.

UNDEF began its first day of practical work on 6 March last year, although it was established by the Secretary-General in July 2005 and welcomed at that year’s World Summit, which reaffirmed democracy as “a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural system.” The 2005 World Summit also affirmed that “there is no single model of democracy, and that it does not belong to any country or region”.

The Fund complements current UN efforts to promote free and fair elections, human rights, support to civil society, pluralistic media and the rule of law. So far, it has received a total of $61.2 million from 28 countries, with an additional contribution of $4 million firmly pledged by donors. The largest financial contributor is the United States with $18 million, followed by Japan and India.

The Secretary-General’s Advisory Board is composed of 17 members, including representatives from the largest Member State contributors to the Fund, those from Member States selected by the Secretary-General to reflect diverse geographical representation, and also representatives from civil society and personal representatives of the Secretary-General. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to address the Board early on Tuesday morning in New York.


Remembering Rwanda, Ban Ki-moon calls for ‘global partnership against genocide’

9 April – Thirteen years after some 800,000 Rwandans were murdered by their compatriots in an orchestrated criminal campaign, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called today for “a global partnership against genocide” and pledged to strengthen United Nations mechanisms to ensure that such an event never happens again.

The post of UN Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide – currently held by Juan E. Méndez of Argentina – will be upgraded to a full-time position, Mr. Ban said in a message marking the anniversary of the start of the genocide. The UN Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention will also be boosted, the Secretary-General said, adding that Africa has taken its own steps as well, such as the proposed Pact on Security, Stability and Development for the Great Lakes Region, which contains measures on genocide prevention and punishment. “Preventing genocide is a collective and individual responsibility,” Mr. Ban said. “Everyone has a role to play: governments, the media, civil society organizations, religious groups, and each and every one of us. Let us build a global partnership against genocide. Let us protect populations from genocide when their own government cannot or will not.” Mr. Ban paid tribute to both the victims of the 1994 genocide and the survivors, whose “resilience continues to inspire us.”

The Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) to prosecute individuals responsible for committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide during 1994, when Hutu militias and others killed Tutsis and moderate Hutus, often using machetes or clubs. Noting that Member States have agreed in principle to the “responsibility to protect” populations in danger of genocide or war crimes, Mr. Ban said the “challenge now is to give real meaning to the concept, by taking steps to make it operational. Only then will it truly give hope to those facing genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing.”



South Asia: regional cooperation finally in sight

Analysis by Praful Bidwai

New Delhi, April 7 (IPS) - South Asia, home to more than one-sixth of humanity, and situated at the junction of three important sub-regions of the Asian continent, has made cautious moves towards mutual cooperation and greater integration. (…)The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has just admitted Afghanistan as its eighth member-state. Iran has been also invited to SAARC as an observer. (…)

At SAARC's 14th summit meeting, which ended here on Wednesday, the leaders of the eight nations that constitute its membership resolved to develop "cross-border regional projects" pertaining to four issues that affect their people's daily lives -- water, energy, food and the environment. They set up a SAARC Development Fund for poverty alleviation, with an initial modest capital base of 300 million US dollars. They also called for the full implementation of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement in "letter and spirit", signed earlier.

And they demanded a international convention on terrorism, "which would take every possible measure to prevent and suppress, in particular, financing of terrorist acts by criminalising the provision, acquisition and collection of funds for such acts." (…)


Swiss deminers clear path for 70,000 in Laos

5 April - A Swiss-based demining organisation has announced a two-year operation to clear hundreds of hectares of farmland in Laos heavily contaminated by unexploded ordnance. The Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD) aims to return the land to 70,000 inhabitants in central and southern parts of the country that were recently hit by major food shortages. The two-year project, revealed on the eve of Wednesday's International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, is being funded by the United States and Australia.

According to the Geneva:based FSD, the US Air Force dropped over two million tons of bombs and other ammunition on Laos during the Vietnam War, which ended more than 30 years ago. Today it is estimated that over 25 million pieces of unexploded ordnance still litter the countryside, injuring and killing over 50 civilians every year and preventing the rural population from planting sufficient crops. (…)

The FSD is active in almost ten countries including Burundi, Angola, Iran, Sudan and Sri Lanka. Two of its mine clearance experts were killed last August in southern Sudan.


UNICEF, Canadian Government support ‘Vital markers for a safer living environment’

Sarajevo, Bosnia and Heregovina, 4 April – An additional 133 square kilometers of suspected mine areas in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) will be clearly marked with 10,400 warning signs. With funding from the Government of Canada, UNICEF is providing the signs and other equipment to the BH Mine Action Centre, a local NGO.

An estimated one million landmines and explosive remnants of war are among the many dangerous legacies of the conflict of the 1990s that continue to face the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, including children. Unless dangerous areas are clearly marked, people may forget or ignore their existence in the flurry of daily life. 

“BH MAC expresses its gratitude to UNICEF and Canada for everything done on mine action so far, especially for mine risk education and marking of suspicious territories,” said Mr Dušran Gavran, BH MAC Director. “Mines will be a threat in BiH for a long time, so continuous Mine Risk Education and minefield marking are necessary to avoid new victims of mines and unexploded ordnances (…)” The marking of mine-contaminated areas is an essential component of risk reduction at the community level, as highlighted by research and feedback from field visits. It is a constant reminder of the lurking danger of landmines and the most efficient tool against complacency. 


Australia to assist with Cambodia demining (Cambodia)

4 April - The Australian Government has committed $US9.7 million to assist with clearing landmines in Cambodia. The donation marks International Mine Action Day, and will be spread out over the coming for years. Canberra says the funds will help clear explosives from millions of square kilometres of Cambodian territory. The United Nations says millions of Cambodians live in areas affected by landmines, and that a third of all victims are children. (…)

Canberra has also committed for the first time to joining international talks aimed at phasing out the use of controversial cluster bombs. Humanitarian groups say cluster bombs, which scatter tiny explosives across vast areas, are to blame for many civilian casualties in conflicts around the world. Australia is joining a group of countries seeking to develop a legally binding treaty to ban or restrict the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster bombs. (…)


Britain in £30m bomb-clearing fund (Lebanon)

4 April - Britain is to pay for specialist sniffer dogs to travel to Lebanon to help clear unexploded cluster bombs from last summer's fighting.

The move is part of a £30 million Government funding package for projects to remove deadly explosives from former warzones. The cash, spread over three years, will also be used to clear landmines, cluster bombs and other killer devices in countries such as Angola, Cambodia and Sri Lanka.


Cycling across South America for a mine-free Colombia - part II

Author(s): Site Admin <> .

22 March - After leaving Lima, Colombian cyclists travelling from Bogota tu Ushuaia, Argentina, on a mission to spread awareness about the landmine situation in their country and the world, continue their journey south through Peru and Chile. They feel that through their ride - sponsored by the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines - they are achieving their goal of generating awareness about the antipersonnel mine problem in individual countries and in the world, using Colombia as an example.

Unfortunately, one of the three members of the expedition had to leave his mates to return to Colombia due to personal problems. The Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines, would like to thank Edwin for his help and commitment. During the rest of the journey, the two remaining members of the team, 22-year old Juan Guillermo Bohórquez and 30-year old John Rivas, came across all kind of stories, but there was a very special one that touched their hearts: that of Jesús Rolando Janampa Lazo, a Peruvian antipersonnel mine victim.

Jesús Rolando lost his left leg at the age of 14, and as a result he walks with the help of a prosthesis. And yet, he decided to accompany Juan Guillermo and John in their trip, cycling along with them for many kilometers and giving them a great life lesson.

After leaving Jesús, Juan Guillermo and John crossed the remaining part of Peru, confirming the awareness generated by the Campaign and the force it has developed. (…)






Medical Teams International sends medical volunteer to Sudan

April 6 - On April 9, Medical Teams International will send its first medical volunteer to West Darfur in 18 months. Dr. Jon Bird, an emergency room physician from Farmington, Missouri, will help care for thousands of families forced to flee their homes from ongoing violence. Dr. Bird will spend four weeks in the Sudanese region of Darfur, an area that the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. He will train local health care workers with the Sudan Ministry of Health and treat displaced people living in makeshift camps—temporary shelters where outbreaks of malaria, acute respiratory diseases, dysentery and bacterial infections run rampant.

A combination of violence, and more recently government restrictions on access, by foreigners, have prevented Medical Teams International from sending volunteers to the area. A member of the Darfur Relief Collaboration, Medical Teams International has been providing health care assistance in Darfur since 2004. The Collaboration provides food support, medical care, shelter and sanitation/hygiene assistance to 60,000 displaced Sudanese people. (…)


UNICEF funds four projects on Vietnamese children in 2007

VietNamNet Bridge, 5 April - Four cooperative projects between Vietnam and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) will be implemented in 2007 with the aim of bettering the protection and care for children.  The information was released at a conference held in Ha Noi on Apr. 3 by the Viet Nam National Committee for Population, Family and the project management board of UNICEF.

The UNICEF will grant a total of 1.44 million USD to these projects, which aim to build a children protection system and raise public awareness of the need to prevent children from accidents and injury. The third project is on preventing mine and bombs-related accidents, and the fourth on family policy. (Source: VNA)


Indian Red Cross fights HIV/AIDS discrimination

by Amit Kumar of the International Federation in Delhi

2 April - Some 5.2 million people in India are living with HIV but many are left isolated and untreated because of stigma and misconceptions about the disease. The Indian Red Cross is therefore working to ensure that people living with HIV have access to information, care and medical support. At the same time, the National Society is working to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS among the public, media, police and health workers in an effort to help those affected by the virus to live full and useful lives within their communities.

“I feel better when I come here,” says Kavita, an HIV-positive casual labourer, who is undergoing treatment through an Indian Red Cross project at Thambaram Hospital. “They understand my problem.”  The project, which has been running since July 2004, provides food and hygiene items to people living with HIV, as well as counselling to them and their families. The hospital has 16 wards for HIV patients, 12 for people with tuberculosis, an intensive care unit, a children’s ward and a palliative care ward. (…)

The Thambaram Hospital project is just one example of the strategies developed by the Indian Red Cross in response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic. (…) Equally important is the Red Cross’ massive advocacy initiative addressing stigma and discrimination. As part of this, the Indian Red Cross national headquarters recently organised a painting competition and seminar on the theme “HIV/AIDS prevention – keep the promise” to coincide with the last World AIDS Day.


Fewer bird flu outbreaks this year - sign of progress, FAO says

Avian influenza still threatens people’s lives and economies

Rome, 2 April -- Despite substantial progress in global efforts to bring the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus under control, the disease continues to spread to new countries and to new areas in some countries where containment has not been successful, FAO said today. The virus continues to threaten the lives of people living and working around poultry, while hurting farm incomes and reducing the availability of nutritious food. (…)

Fewer cases of H5N1 outbreaks seen this year -  According to FAO’s Chief Veterinary Officer, Joseph Domenech, worldwide ”there have been fewer cases of the disease this year than last year at the same time, indicating that there is a reduction in overall viral load. The presence of H5N1 in wild birds is less than it was last year when we saw a surge in the virus, particularly in Europe. Also there is more transparency, better surveillance and improved and timelier reporting of outbreaks”.

According to Dr. Domenech, ”The risk of a pandemic will be with us for the foreseeable future. However, looking on the positive side, many countries have managed to control the disease. Many have also eradicated the virus. The negative side is that the virus still circulates in some countries in Asia and Africa. Egypt and Indonesia are heavily infected, as is Nigeria, though to a lesser extent. This situation is a constant call to increase global efforts to contain this disease before it has an opportunity to mutate into a form that can threaten the world with a human pandemic.”


2007 Africa Malaria Day, April 25 – Roll Back Malaria now!

Africa Malaria Day is every year commemorated on 25 April. This day has been set aside by African governments committed to rolling back malaria and meeting the United Nations malaria-related Millennium Development Goals. It is, therefore, an opportunity for the RBM Partnership to show solidarity with African countries battling against this scourge by supporting several events and activities around the world.

In Africa, many countries will be organizing events and activities in the run up to 25 April and on Africa Malaria Day itself. In Europe, coalitions and alliances against malaria will be advocating in Parliaments. As for the malaria community of the United States, it will be highlighting this day with the first Malaria Awareness Day. The focus of this year's Africa Malaria Day will be on the need to work in partnership to reverse the progression of malaria and make a significant impact in endemic countries: Leadership and Partnership for Results. 


Four children to receive life-saving heart surgeries

Rotary program provides free care to children with serious heart ailments

Howard Chang and A.C. Peter (

Delhi, India, 30 March - Four children from rural India will receive life-saving heart surgeries next week thanks to a partnership with Rotary clubs and Delhi-area hospitals. The children, from the Madanpur Khadar in Delhi, remote areas of Haryana, and Kashmir states, have congenital heart conditions which can be fatal if left untreated. The children will be admitted for tests on 30 March to the National Heart Institute, and the Delhi Heart and Lung Hospital. (…)

The project is part of the Rotary’s Gift of Life program, which teams Rotary clubs with hospitals to bring young children with serious heart ailments to medical centers that can provide proper treatment.  “The families of these children suffering from chronic heart illness have no monetary resources and would never be in a position to raise enough money for the surgery,” says A. C. Peter, a member of Rotary Club of Delhi East End and one of the project leaders. “Rotary came forward to reach out to the children and their family.” 

According to recent statistics in India, approximately 8 of every 1,000 children suffer from congenital heart diseases. Only a small portion of the children get medical expertise since the majority cannot afford the high cost of surgery. The Gift of Life project was launched by Rotary clubs in India in December 2002. Under the project, hundreds of children born with heart ailments have been given free cardiac surgery, medicine, and other services. The Rotary Club of Delhi East End, which established its Gift of Life program three years ago, has provided heart surgeries for 28 children over the past five months. Many children from neighboring countries have also come to India and undergone successful heart surgery under the Gift of Life project.(…)

Rotary clubs in India plan to arrange free surgeries for 100 more needy children by end of this year in partnership with the National Heart Institute, Delhi Heart and Lung Hospital, Fortis Hospital, Apollo Hospital and Indian medical community.


Medical Teams International receives Gates Foundation grant to improve health in Uganda

March 30 - Medical Teams International has received a $485,732 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support an 18-month program to improve the health of impoverished women and children in northern Uganda.

The grant will train 232 Ugandan health care workers, refurbish two critically-needed medical clinics and implement sanitation services for more than 40,000 people living in Uganda’s Lira District. The health projects will help thousands of families who are returning to their villages after years in makeshift camps. The World Health Organization estimates more than two million Ugandans have fled their homes since 2002 when fighting escalated. (…)

Many Ugandan families are returning home to villages devastated by years of conflict. Water and sanitation systems are broken down and medicines and health clinics are nonexistent. Lack of hygiene and clean water contribute to conditions that quickly become deadly: malaria, dehydration from diarrhea and acute respiratory infections. Working together with the Ministry of Health, Medical Teams International will train community health providers, helping them to update their primary health care skills and better manage childhood illnesses.

Medical Teams International has been working in northern Uganda since June 2004, providing medical care, health education, and medicines and supplies to local clinics and hospitals. More than 40 local staff manage projects in the Lira and Pader districts. Ten volunteer medical teams are scheduled to serve month-long assignments during the next 12 months.


Over 1.5 million to be immunized against meningitis

Large-scale meningitis vaccination campaign in Uganda.

March 13 - During the past weeks, teams from Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) assisted in the vaccination of over 860,000 people against meningitis, a contagious and potentially fatal infection of the brain membrane. These mass immunization campaigns, have taken place across large swathes of northern Uganda, southern Sudan and the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), countries which make up part of what is traditionally known as the "meningitis belt," which stretches from Senegal in the west of Africa to Ethiopia in the east. The total population at risk in these countries is around 300 million.

Without treatment, bacterial meningitis kills up to 50 percent of those infected. Even if the disease is diagnosed early and treated with appropriate antibiotics, the case fatality rate remains five to ten percent. As many as one out of five survivors will suffer from neurological after-effects such as deafness or mental retardation.

In southern Sudan, MSF is currently in the process of vaccinating a further 528,000 people, mostly under the age of 30, bringing the total number vaccinated to over one million. (…) In addition to the planned vaccination of a further 600 000 people in the West African state of Burkina Faso, assessments are being carried out in a number of areas and teams are on alert in other countries where outbreaks are feared. In addition to the vaccinations, MSF is also supporting efforts to treat people who have contracted the meningitis as well as conduct epidemiological surveillance. (…)



Energy and safety



Green Schools program also greens students' homes

As part of a program to increase energy-efficiency in schools, almost thirty schools in Southern California are helping students trade conventional lightbulbs for compact fluorescents

San Bernardino County, Calif., USA, April 4 (source: Solar Cookers International) - The Alliance to Save Energy has partnered with Southern California Edison to enroll an initial nine elementary and high schools in the Alta Loma, Hesperia, and San Bernardino Unified School Districts in a program to bring home energy-efficient CFLs. Southern California Edison provided the energy-efficient bulb, and the program is funded by California utility rate payers and administered by Southern California Edison under the auspices of the California Public Utilities Commission. (…)

The immediate goal of the exchange program was to substitute some 4,000 CFLs for incandescent bulbs during the 2006-2007 school year. The program's long-range goal was to swap 12,000 bulbs over three years. But the energy- and money-saving idea caught on so well that in just four months -- and with just nine schools initially participating -- schools had to scramble to keep up with the demand for CFLs. When the dust had settled, more than 8,000 bulbs had been swapped in the fall semester alone. Now, 20 more schools are gearing up for bulb exchanges during the spring semester, with the potential of exchanging several thousand more CFLs and surpassing the 12,000 three-year goal in only one year. (…)

Based on these numbers, students in the nine participating schools have already saved more than $400,000 in overall energy costs for their families and about 3 million kWh over the lifetime of the CFLs. Given the projections for spring, the Green Schools program anticipates that the schools will save more than $700,000 and 5.2 million kWh by the end of the school year in June.

The Alliance to Save Energy is a coalition of prominent business, government, environmental, and consumer leaders who promote the efficient and clean use of energy worldwide to benefit consumers, the environment, economy, and national security.


Buildings can play a key role in combating climate change

Significant gains can be made in efforts to combat global warming by reducing energy use and improving energy efficiency in buildings

Oslo, 29 March – The right mix of appropriate government regulation, greater use of energy saving technologies and behavioural change can substantially reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from the building sector which accounts for 30-40 % of global energy use, says a new report from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sustainable Construction and Building Initiative (SBCI). The new report, Buildings and Climate Change: Status, Challenges and Opportunities, says many opportunities exist for governments, industry and consumers to take appropriate actions during the life span of buildings that will help mitigate the impacts of global warming. Citing the example of Europe, the report says more than one-fifth of present energy consumption and up to 45 million tonnes of CO2 per year could be saved by 2010 by applying more ambitious standards to new and existing buildings.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said:"Energy efficiency, along with cleaner and renewable forms of energy generation, is one of the pillars upon which a de-carbonized world will stand or fall.” (…) “This report focuses on the building sector. By some conservative estimates, the building sector world-wide could deliver emission reductions of 1.8 billion tonnes of C02. A more aggressive energy efficiency policy might deliver over two billion tonnes or close to three times the amount scheduled to be reduced under the Kyoto Protocol," he added. (…)


Key Points from the Buildings and Climate Change report

Oslo, 29 March - In the life time of an average building most energy is consumed, not for construction, but during the period when the building is in use. That is, when energy is being used for heating, cooling, lighting, cooking, ventilation and so on. Recognising this, the report pushes for a greater use of existing technologies like thermal insulation, solar shading and more efficient lighting and electrical appliances, as well as the importance of educational and awareness campaigns. Typically more than 80% of the total energy consumption takes place during the use of buildings, and less than 20% during construction of the same.

"To achieve improved energy efficiency in buildings you often do not need to use advanced and expensive high-tech solutions, but simple solutions such as smart design, flexible energy solutions and provision of appropriate information to the building users," says Olivier Luneau, SBCI (Sustainable Building and Construction Initiative) Chairman and Director for sustainability at Lafarge. "Simple solutions can include sun shading and natural ventilation, improved insulation of the building envelope, use of recycled building materials, adoption of the size and form of the building to its intended use etc," he said. "Of course you can achieve even better results if more sustainable construction system solutions are used, such as intelligent lighting and ventilation systems, low temperature heating and cooling systems and energy saving household appliances."

In addition to a greater use of relevant energy saving technologies, the report stresses the importance of appropriate government policies on building codes, energy pricing and financial incentives that encourage reductions in energy consumption. (…)

The Buildings and Climate Change report will be presented to the annual general meeting of the SBCI, which is convened in Rabat, Morocco, from 2 to 4 April 2007.


“100 Pumps in 100 Days” campaign provides clean drinking water to children in Africa

Tennis star Nicole Vaidisova helps launch campaign to bring clean water to African communities through PlayPump™ water systems

Westport, CT, USA, March 22 - To commemorate World Water Day and to improve children's access to clean drinking water worldwide, PlayPumps International, together with Save the Children, is launching a campaign to bring clean water to 100 schools and communities in Africa. 

Supported by tennis star Nicole Vaidisova, the 100 Pumps in 100 Days campaign aims to raise $1.4 million to fund PlayPump™ water systems — an innovative pump powered by a merry-go-round. (…) The campaign, which will begin on March 22 and end on June 29, will engage students, clubs, faith-based organizations, and others in raising money and awareness. The campaign's Action Kit contains 100 ideas for fundraising and outreach. 

PlayPumps International, which raises money to donate PlayPump™ water systems to schools and communities in sub-Saharan Africa, is known for its collaborative approach. PlayPumps International has enjoyed the support of foundations, corporations, governments and celebrities, including music artist Jay-Z, whose MTV documentary "Diary of Jay-Z: Water for Life" raised awareness of the water crisis. 

A PlayPump™ water system is a child's merry-go-round attached to a water pump and storage tank that provides clean drinking water and powerful educational messages to schools and communities in Africa. By 2010, 4,000 PlayPump™ systems will be installed in 10 sub-Saharan African countries. (…)


Solar cooking keeps on spreading around the globe

(Source: Solar Cooking International)

Uganda - In the last six months of 2006, the Solar Connect Association (SCA) distributed 300 solar CooKits in rural areas of western Uganda, including the villages of Kikokwa and Ruharo, as well as in the Orukiga refugee settlement. With support from its new partner ­ the Foundation for Solar Cookers in the Netherlands ­ the SCA plans to disseminate an additional 2000 solar cookers in the western areas by the end of 2007. The SCA has worked with Project Environmentale de Virunga in the eastern Congo, near the habitat of the mountain gorillas, and with the Association Burundais pour la Protection des Oiseaux in Bunjumbura-Burundi. Both of these neighboring organizations reportedly need sources for low-cost aluminum foil and other materials. Contact: Solar Connect Association, Uganda. E-mail:,

India - Fair Fabricators has been honored for its “outstanding performance” in India’s solar cooker program. The award was sponsored by the governmental Ministry of Non-Conventional Energy Sources. Fair Fabricators reports that it has manufactured and sold more than 100,000 solar cookers in the last two decades. The company is a leading manufacturer of aluminum-bodied solar box cookers, but also manufactures parabolic-type solar cookers and expects to begin production of solar box cookers made of fiber-reinforced polymer. Contact: Mahendra Kumar Rawat, Fair Fabricators, India, e-mail:

Bolivia - The Center for Development of Solar Energy (CEDESOL) is working to install 2000 solar cookers and 2500 fuel-efficient, two-burner “rocket” stoves in Bolivia by the end of May. Over the next 12 months it hopes to scale up to 15000 stoves and cookers. CEDESOL contributes to a campaign led by the German aid group GTZ to distribute 100000 solar cookers, heat-retention cookers, and fuel-efficient stoves by 2010.The GTZ campaign is to be launched during an international seminar in La Paz this month. Contact: CEDESOL, Bolivia, e-mail:

Germany - The Mueller Solartechnik company will soon release its latest solar box cooker, Pil Kaar 2. It  has two opposing reflectors that automatically adjust throughout the day to track the movement of the sun, using a microcomputer powered by photovoltaic cells. This allows for constant temperatures to be maintained over extended periods of time without manual adjustment. Due to the design of the cooker and placement of the reflectors, it is recommended primarily for those in equatorial regions.  Contact: Mueller Solartechnik, Germany, , Web:



Environment and wildlife



Earth Day Network climate change workshop at AARP WomenVision Summit

April 12-15, Tucson, Arizona, USA

Washington, DC, April 9 - Earth Day Network (EDN) presents the workshop Climate Change: Challenges and Opportunities for Women at the AARP's upcoming Womenvision Summit, April 12-15, in Tucson, Arizona. Speakers include Teresa Heinz Kerry, one of the nation's leading environmental advocates, and Susan Joy Hassol, who wrote the widely acclaimed HBO documentary Too Hot Not to Handle.

"The timing and focus of this workshop is so important because of the current worldwide debate about how best to address global warming." said Kerry. "It will take the leadership of women in government, business and throughout society to insure that climate change solutions are not only effective, but responsive, as we transition to a greener economy and a healthier environment."

The goal of the workshop, scheduled for the afternoon of Saturday, April 14, 2007, is to discuss how participants, as consumers, investors, professionals, civic-minded citizens, and member of religious communities, can contribute to developing and promoting solutions to climate change. The workshop will also highlight the financial, employment and other opportunities for women presented by the green technology revolution that is being driven by climate change. (…) 


Earth Day Network counts down to Earth Day 2007, April 22nd

Washington, D.C., April 3 - For the first time since Earth Day 1970 officially launched the modern environmental movement in the U.S., a single environmental issue - global warming - has captured simultaneous worldwide attention. (…)

Earth Day Network has engaged in several national campaigns for Earth Day 2007 and beyond, many of which will be announced in the weeks leading up to Earth Day, April 22nd. In addition, offers the following resources for Earth Day 2007:

Register and Find Earth Day Events & Sermons - Join thousands of others who have registered their events around the world. Find an event to attend and show up to support the health of our planet

Offset the Carbon Emissions of Your Event - Take the extra step and offset the carbon emissions of your Earth Day event and all your events year-round

What You Can Do - Find out what you can do in your home, office, and at school year-round to help the Earth and then spread the word

Join Project Switch - Pledge to switch out your inefficient incandescent light bulbs. Together we can cut our energy use and carbon emissions and save millions of dollars

Bring Earth Day to the Classroom - Join the EDN Teachers Network and find a variety of environmental lesson plans dealing with current issues, along with contests and games

Earth Day Network,, seeks to grow and diversify the environmental movement worldwide, and to mobilize it as the most effective vehicle for promoting a healthy, sustainable planet. (…)  


Planting hope for a safer tomorrow in Bangladesh

By Aditya V. Bahadur and Stacey M. Winston of the International Federation

2 April - Faced with the growing threat of climate change and extreme weather, several communities in Bangladesh have come up with an innovative solution to reduce the impact of severe flooding. These creative projects – aimed at reducing the risk of disasters – are supported by the Bangladesh Red Crescent (BDRCS), the International Federation and the British Department for International Development (DFID).

Clasping a small branch, Amirul Islam proudly stands in front of a group of curious onlookers. “These trees will lead to an improvement in our environment and play a role in the overall development of our community,” he explains. Amirul is a Bangladesh Red Crescent volunteer. He and a small group of fellow volunteers have planted about 300 trees on two plots of land close to Sirahkunj, a small village on the low-lying, flood-prone northern plains of Bangladesh.

Once they reach a certain size, these trees will be replanted along riverbeds and roadsides where they will reduce the impact of seasonal floods by increasing soil coherence and preventing the erosion of precious top soil that is so important for agriculture. In addition, community forestry makes a small contribution towards balancing the effects of green house gases.

The project is also building resilience within the community by providing a sustainable source of income, explains Sifayet Ullah, a disaster management officer with the International Federation. “Once the trees mature, they will be replaced with fresh saplings and their wood will be sold in local markets with the profits going back into the community,” he said. (…)


New offensive against Desert locust

Aerial control operations on the Red Sea coast and in the Horn of Africa

Rome, 28 March – In a new offensive against Desert Locust, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) called on countries in northeast Africa to intensify surveys and control operations, particularly on the Red Sea coast of Eritrea and Sudan and in northwest Somalia.

FAO and the Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA) have launched aerial control operations on the Red Sea coast near the Sudanese and Eritrean border to eliminate small swarms that are forming from a local outbreak that has been underway since the end of last year. Ground control operations against hopper and adult infestations have been in progress in both countries for several months. DLCO-EA aerial operations will also start this week on the coast of northwest Somalia near Djibouti. This new offensive against an old enemy is conducted in close cooperation with local anti-locust teams. If the swarms are not controlled on the Red Sea coast, they are likely to migrate to cropping areas in the Tokar Delta on the coast of Sudan and to the Eritrean Highlands where it will be difficult to stop them from attacking pastures and crops.


Climate change challenges open up opportunities for developing countries

Climate change recognized as one of the major political, technical, developmental and societal challenges of the century

26 March – (…) At the 2007 Trade Commission session on 22 March in Geneva, which was devoted to emerging issues in the trade, environment and development debate, experts pointed out that global warming was accelerating due to human activities. Changing climate patterns were negatively affecting all countries, the poorest being the least able to react and adjust.

Despite the urgent need for action, the meeting participants agreed that climate change response measures should not prevent developing countries from achieving their economic growth and poverty reduction objectives. On the contrary, the present and future climate change regime should provide an opportunity for creating new jobs and new business opportunities and for developing innovative products, services and technologies that could contribute to climate change mitigation. Trade rules and practices should facilitate the widespread use of those goods and services. (…)

The Kyoto Protocol mechanisms, in particular the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), had already delivered emissions reductions of more than 1.9 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent. With carbon price well above US$ 10 per tonne, there was an enormous potential to generate green investment flows to developing countries. Ultimately, participants agreed that climate change was above all a development challenge, making it an issue that UNCTAD should prominently address, for example through the promotion of the biofuels option.


Environmentally-friendly UN building in Montenegro

Podgorica - The first United Nations premises incorporating ecological principles will be built in Montenegro’s capital to a design by Daniel Fügenschuh. The City of Podgorica has donated a very attractive site on the banks of the River Moracˇa for this energetically autonomous building. The special equipment for the ecological technology and building services will be financed by the Austrian Development Agency and implemented by the World University Service Austria. The building itself is being financed by the Montenegrin government and will have a usable surface area of approximately 1400 m². Completion is scheduled for 2008.

The project is the result of an invited architecture competition held in 2005. The building, which opens up to the riverbank, is embedded in the landscape and presents itself as the horizontal counterpart to the adjoining Millennium Bridge, Podgorica’s newest landmark. The various UN agencies operating in Montenegro (UNDP, WHO, UNICEF, UNHCR, IOM and UN consultants) will be brought together under a single roof slab that is perforated with large openings for natural ventilation and lighting purposes. Photovoltaic cells floating above the roof slab act as a shading device while also providing enough energy to meet the building’s estimated annual energy demands. The ventilation system works on the displacement principal, using the heat generated in the interior to drive the movement of air. (…);jsessionid=aealFRP_Q0Ah



Religion and spirituality



Earth Charter Initiative: religion strategy launched

For the past six months, ECI has conducted a process of consultation and research to strengthen its active engagement with religious communities and faith-based organizations. The consultation resulted in the development of a specific Earth Charter Program on Religion and Sustainability, for which ECI is currently seeking funds and support. The program will center around the production of high-quality educational materials to increase the level of awareness, knowledge of best practices, and commitment to action among the religions on key international issues like climate change, biodiversity loss and sustainable living.

A major element of this program will be the creation of an Earth Charter Guidebook on Religion and Sustainability. The guidebook will present basic background information, success stories, and best practices on how the Earth Charter can be used within religious contexts to foster reflection and dialogue on, and commitment to, sustainable development. A central piece of the booklet will be a narrative on the contributions of spiritual and religious thinkers and communities in the drafting of the Charter.

The core elements of the program were presented at the first International Experts’ Workshop on Faith-Based Organizations and Education for Sustainable Development, organized by UNESCO Catalonia in Barcelona from March 22 to 24. The workshop was attended by leaders, experts, and activists from various local, regional, and international faith-based organizations, and was aimed at mobilizing faith-based organizations for the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development. (…)


A Centre for the World Religions: a spiritual agenda for peace

May, 11th, 2007, 9:00 a. m. to 6:00 p. m. at UNITED NATIONS, 326 East 48th Street, Room E

You are cordially invited to participate in a one day’s conference that ACWR will hold May 11th, 2007, at the UN, New York. This is a follow-up of two previous meetings in 2005 and 2006, in promotion of a peace initiative that takes renewal of religion as a starting point for peacemaking in the political and economic arenas. These conferences dealt with a concrete and comprehensive eight point agenda that met with great interest and support.

Therefore we feel inspired to take the level of discussion a big step ahead by inviting NGOs and individuals active in other interfaith, peace and social justice initiatives to join an intense working session on May, 11th, 2007, again at the UN. This meeting is designed to explore possibilities of close cooperation between a range of organizations and individuals so as to turn this agenda into a joint venture that will gain momentum and spread through many voices. We are aware that success will depend on a broad basis of support. We aim to promote a global peace initiative and not a particular organization. We envisage a chorus of distinct voices, each with their own emphases, to join in a campaign for thorough change.

If you wish to share in an effort that draws on the unchanging wisdom of our religions and turns this deep inspiration into a campaign of active solidarity with the suffering, please, do come and join hands with us! (…)



Culture and education



School enrolment more than doubles in Southern Sudan as new academic year opens

Juba/Sudan, 2 April – Some 850,000 children are enrolled in school today in Southern Sudan – a major increase from an estimated 343,000 during the war. Many of these students have joined school in the single year since a campaign to significantly increase primary-school enrolment was launched on 1 April 2006. The ‘Go to School’ initiative, led by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology of the Government of Southern Sudan, and supported by UNICEF, aims to get 1.6 million children into school by the end of 2007. (…) Of the 850,000 children now in school, 34 per cent are girls – a significant milestone in overturning taboos that restrict girls from obtaining an education. (…)

The two-decade war that ended in January 2005 left Southern Sudan’s infrastructure in tatters. Of the 2,922 schools currently operating in the region, only 16 per cent are permanent buildings.

The 'Go to School' initiative is supporting the development of over 200 new permanent classrooms, along with the rehabilitation of nearly 300 existing ones. Over 400 emergency classroom tents have already been provided to ensure shelter for outdoor schools while permanent construction gets under way. Over 2,500 teachers were trained in 2006. In 2007, the 'Go to School' initiative aims to reach a further 5,000 teachers through intensive English language training and fast-track training in teaching methodologies.

The ‘Go to School’ initiative provides an unprecedented opportunity to reverse the worst effects of the war, thanks to generous contributions from donors including the Governments of Japan, Denmark and the Netherlands; The US fund for UNICEF; and the German and Swiss National Committees for UNICEF, among many others.

UNICEF is appealing for $30 million for education in Southern Sudan to train teachers; construct permanent schools; build capacity; and provide the much-needed learning materials that will help pupils stay in the classroom and obtain a quality education. Pledges so far cover about 30 per cent of this amount. (…) UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


Chairperson of the German Committee on Education says education is a public good, not a commodity

29 March - "Education is a public good, not a commodity," said Ulla Burchardt, Chairperson of the Committee on Education, Research and Technology Assessment of the German Bundestag, at a meeting organised by the Gewerkschaft Erziehung und Wissenschaft (GEW), one of EI’s German member organisations. The EI delegation met Ulla Burchardt in Berlin to share its views about the negotiations currently going on in the framework of the Doha Round and their potential impact on education. It was an occassion for EI to express its concerns and advocate for education to be excluded from trade agreements negotiations in general, and GATS in particular.

(…) This meeting follows a series of meetings with trade negotiators from the EU, Brazil, Argentina, the Caribbean Group, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand held in Geneva on 20-22 March focusing mainly on domestic regulations.

Education International shares all available information with its network of partners and stakeholders who hold the same principles and values about the issue.


Paraguay: master’s degree in sustainable development and renewable energy

In February, Paraguay became the first country in Latin America to offer a master’s degree in sustainable development, renewable energy and energy efficiency. Paraguay is following the lead of Spain, which has offered such a degree for five years. The degree is offered in response to global climate change and strains on global energy supplies.  (…)

The course was organized by the UNESCO professorship in sustainability of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, the Universidad Nacional de Asunción (UNA), and several other universities in Spain, Paraguay, Nicaragua and Argentina. It is sponsored by the European Union's Urb-Al program, which links interested urban and rural organizations from various European and Latin American countries in decentralized cooperation networks. For more information about this course, contact Ing. Lisa Lugo (Universidad Católica “Nuestra Señora de la Asunción”)  or Ing. Juan Carlos Silvero (UNA),


World Book and Copyright Day - April 23

By celebrating this Day throughout the world, UNESCO seeks to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.

© Unesco  - 23 April: a symbolic date for world literature for on this date and in the same year of 1616, Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died. It is also the date of birth or death of other prominent authors such as Maurice Druon, K.Laxness, Vladimir Nabokov, Josep Pla and Manuel Mejía Vallejo. It was a natural choice for UNESCO's General Conference to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity.

The idea for this celebration originated in Catalonia where on 23 April, Saint George's Day, a rose is traditionally given as a gift for each book sold. The success of the World Book and Copyright Day will depend primarily on the support received from all parties concerned (authors, publishers, teachers, librarians, public and private institutions, humanitarian NGOs and the mass media), who have been mobilized in each country by UNESCO National Commissions, UNESCO Clubs, Centres and Associations, Associated Schools and Libraries, and by all those who feel motivated to work together in this world celebration of books and authors.


10th United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF)

October 24-28, 2007 Stanford University – Call for Entries

UNAFF, which is now completing its first decade, was originally conceived to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was created with the help of members of the Stanford Film Society and United Nations Association Midpeninsula Chapter, a grassroots, community-based, nonprofit organization. UNAFF is an independent project of the UNA-USA.

The Festival celebrates the power of international documentary films and videos dealing with human rights issues, environmental survival, protection of refugees, famine, homelessness, racism, disease control, women's issues, children, universal education, war and peace.

The theme for UNAFF 2007 is:  “Camera As Witness”. Formats: 16mm and 35mm film; 1/2", Beta SP, DVD, PAL/NTSC. Preview on 1/2" VHS (PAL/NTSC), DVD (NTSC region 0 or 1). All lengths are eligible.  Deadline is June 1, 2007 (Late deadline June 10). Entry fee: $25 for films up to 30 min. (late deadline $35), $35 for films longer than 30 min. (late deadline $45)


15th Annual international conference on conflict resolution

May 5-13, St. Petersburg, Russia ( Formal Conference Program: May 6-11

At a time of rising turmoil- a time that calls for new thinking, new vision, new understanding, and new ways of relating in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent global community.

A multidisciplinary, multicultural conference sponsored by Common Bond Institute (USA) and Harmony Institute (Russia) in cooperation with the Int.’l Humanistic Psychology Association.  This effort has received support over the years from former President Clinton, former President Yeltsin, and St.Petersburg Governor Jakovlev. It is endorsed by over 80 organizations internationally

The Annual International Conference on Conflict Resolution (ICR) held each spring in St. Petersburg, Russia, represents a collaboration between two institutes - one American, one Russian. More than ever, it speaks to the immediate potential for both dramatic and violent decline in world relations, and at the same time compelling movement toward peace, understanding, and harmony in the global community.

This year's conference is again part of an integrated Series of International Conferences CBI is coordinating in 2007 to explore The Consciousness Of Peace, leading to the 2nd a new international conference series on "Engaging The Other" being held in fall of 2007 in the USA. The ICR program examines fear-based belief systems, negative stereotypes, prejudice, scapegoating, revenge, victim identity, and justified violence for a deeper understanding of how these become embodied in our concepts of "The OTHER." Among the rich variety of related topics addressed this year are dynamics of Terrorism throughout the world, Trauma, Forgiveness and Reconciliation, as well as issues in regions of conflict, including the Middle East, South Asia, and the Balkans.



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Next issue: 4 May 2007


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