Good News Agency – Year IX, n° 16



Weekly - Year IX, number 16 – 19th December 2008

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. It is distributed free of charge through Internet to the editorial offices of 4,000 media in 49 countries and to 2,800 NGOs and 500 high schools, colleges and universities. 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



94 Nations sign global ban on cluster munitions

More likely to join treaty protecting civilians.

Oslo, 4 December - The new international treaty banning cluster munitions, which opened for signing on December 3 and 4, 2008, is one of the most important measures that nations have taken to protect civilians from the deadly effects of armed conflict, Human Rights Watch said today. By the close of the signing conference in Oslo, 94 nations had signed the treaty, which bans cluster munitions outright and provides strong humanitarian provisions for their cleanup and assistance to victims. (…)

The new treaty has a groundbreaking provision requiring states that join it actively to discourage other nations from using cluster munitions in joint military operations. Signatories include dozens of stockpilers and former producers and users of the weapon. Eighteen of 26 NATO nations, including the UK, France, and Germany, signed the agreement. Those signing included some of the most severely affected states, such as Laos, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, which made a surprise announcement that it was signing after a change of heart by President Hamid Karzai. The number of signatories is expected to increase quickly. (...) The agreement will become binding international law six months after 30 signatories have ratified it. Four ratified in Oslo: Holy See; Ireland; Norway and Sierra Leone. (…)


New human rights instrument closes vital protection gap, says top UN official     


12 December - The United Nations human rights chief has welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption of an important new instrument to strengthen the protection of economic, social and cultural rights, stressing that it gives a voice to victims of violations. “The approval of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is of singular importance by closing a historic gap,” stated UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.

The Protocol, adopted during the Assembly’s 10 December meeting commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, will enable victims to complain about violations of the rights enshrined in the Covenant at the international level for the first time. Ms. Pillay stressed that the Protocol provides a voice to victims of human rights violations. It also “makes them better equipped to enlist the international community’s help to address their plight.”

The Optional Protocol will now be opened for signature during 2009 and enter into force once it has been ratified by ten States.


Scottish climate bill could set global example

Edinburgh, Scotland, 9 December - The newly published Scottish Climate Change Bill has the potential to become a world leading piece of legislation if it receives cross-party backing from Scottish MPs, according to WWF-Scotland. The targets in the bill include a 50 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and a cut of 80 per cent by 2050. It also sets out measures to tackle shipping and aviation emissions, as well as emissions from all six greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide.

WWF-Scotland campaigners have so far conveyed over 25,000 messages of support for the bill from around the world and Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland, said: “It’s vital that MSPs back strong measures already in the bill and work constructively to improve it further.”

Scottish Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson said: “As a government we are determined to have carbon assessment at the heart of our decision-making. We are breaking new ground with our carbon assessment project which will ensure climate change impacts are considered in future budgets and spending decisions.” (...) Scottish Green MSP Patrick Harvie said: “I believe it can be the foundation for the most effective legislation yet delivered on climate change anywhere in the world, but it still needs a lot of work.”



Human rights



Brazil’s Supreme Court upholds rights of Indigenous Peoples

12 December - A vote in Brazil’s Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the reservation of Raposa Serra do Sol on the frontier between Brazil and Guyana/Venezuela. The vote is seen as a victory for all Indigenous Peoples across Brazil.

The Supreme Court’s vote is a milestone in the thirty-year battle of the Makuxi, Wapixana, Ingarikó, Taurepang and Patamona indigenous peoples for the recognition of their constitutional right to their ancestral lands. (...)


Journalists in Tajikistan help citizens protect their rights

Almaty, 10 December - Tajik journalists improved their reporting on human rights issues thanks to a series of trainings organized by a local media association in cooperation with UNESCO. Citizens’ complaints to media regarding human rights violations increased in Tajikistan since September 2008, reported the Tajik Association of Independent Electronic Mass Media Organizations (TAIEMM). (…) Some 35 journalists from independent newspapers, TV and radio companies in Sogd and Khatlon regions, and in the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, followed the training in human rights which was organized by TAIEMM with the support of UNESCO’s International Programme for the Development of Communication (IPDC). (…) This training series was specifically designed to give journalists practical knowledge and skills necessary for television and radio reporting, preparation of articles and conducting of interviews. (…)


Seven human rights fighters receive top UN awards


10 December - The United Nations General Assembly today awarded its top human rights prize to seven global advocates ranging from a Congolese doctor who treats female victims of sexual violence, a nun who fought for indigenous rights before her murder in Brazil, and the assassinated Pakistani leader Benazir Bhutto.

The UN Prize in the Field of Human Rights, awarded every five years, was presented at a General Assembly ceremony marking the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The winners are former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour; United States ex-Attorney-General Ramsey Clark; Executive Director and co-founder of Jamaicans for Justice Carolyn Gomes; Denis Mukwege, co-founder of the General Referral Hospital of Panzi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC); Human Rights Watch, represented by its executive director Kenneth Roth; Ms. Bhutto; and Dorothy Stang of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who was murdered in Brazil three years ago. (...)


Genocide Prevention Task Force delivers blueprint for U.S. Government to prevent genocide and mass atrocities

8 December - The Genocide Prevention Task Force today released its final report on the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. The report makes the case for why genocide and mass atrocities threaten core American values and national interests, and how the U.S. government can prevent these crimes in the future.

Jointly convened by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, The American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace, the Task Force began its work last November with the goal of generating concrete recommendations to enhance the U.S. government’s capacity to recognize and respond to emerging threats of genocide and mass atrocities. “The world agrees that genocide is unacceptable and yet genocide and mass killings continue,” said Madeleine K. Albright, former Secretary of State and Co-Chair of the Genocide Prevention Task Force. “We believe that preventing genocide is possible, and that striving to do so is imperative both for our national interests and our leadership position in the world.” Read More     UN Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide


Round-table on the political participation of women in the Maghreb

26 November - UN-INSTRAW and the Center for Arab Women Training and Research (CAWTAR) organized a National- Round Table on the Political Participation of Women in the Maghreb, on Wednesday, 26 November 2008, at CAWTAR headquarters in Tunisia. This will be the third round table, following those that were held in Morocco and Algeria, to be organized within the context of the joint UN-INSTRAW/CAWTAR project “Strengthening Women’s Leadership and Participation in Politics and Decision-Making in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia,” which was launched in June 2008 with funding from the Spanish Government. (...) This project contributes to strengthening the integration of women in political life and in decision-making process in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia - countries that are considered to be open to women’s participation in those areas, having asserted their willingness to promote women’s rights and having ratified the most important international instruments and conventions aiming at the achievement of gender equality in the exercise of political rights. (...)



Economy and development



United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation - 19 December

By resolution 58/220 of 23 December 2003, the General Assembly decided to declare 19 December, United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation. This was the date on which the General Assembly endorsed the Buenos Aires Plan of Action for Promoting and Implementing Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries.

The Assembly also urged all relevant United Nations organizations and multilateral institutions to intensify their efforts to effectively mainstream the use of South-South cooperation in the design, formulation and implementation of their regular programmes and to consider increasing allocations of human, technical and financial resources for supporting South-South cooperation initiatives.


Irrigation key for Africa’s food security – Diouf Urges Global “Early Reaction Fund” for countries in crisis

Sirte, Libya, 15 December - Water management is “a key element” in food security, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf told a ministerial conference on “Water for Agriculture and Energy in Africa: the Challenges of Climate Change” which opened here today. The conference is organized by FAO, as the Chair of UN Water, together with the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Government and in collaboration with stakeholders including the African Union, the African Ministers’ Council on Water Development, the African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa.

During the three-day conference ministers from 53 African countries will consider a “Blue Revolution” programme designed to harness Africa’s largely untapped water resources to its development. The conference aims at setting the scene for moving from talk to action. The $65 billion, 20-year programme details the irrigation and hydroenergy investments required in each country. (...)


Sri Lanka: Community credit reduces risk for poorest

by Patrick Fuller, International Federation in Sri Lanka

12 December - In the years since the tsunami struck, most of the affected families along Sri Lanka’s coastline have received some form of help to rebuild their homes and restore their livelihoods. But it is not uncommon to find that humanitarian assistance programmes have failed to bring lasting benefits to some of the poorest and most marginalized families. One of the key obstacles has been gaining access to loans and financial services via the commercial banking sector. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Sri Lanka Red Cross Society (SLRCS) have stepped in to help some of these families via a partnership with SANASA, a well respected Micro Finance Institution (MFI) cooperative, with more than 800,000 members and 25 years of experience in Sri Lanka. A four-year pilot project is beginning in the southern district of Matara where 750 of the poorest families in the district will be provided with access to SANASA’s micro-finance services. (…) Backed by the Swedish Red Cross and Belgian Flanders Red Cross societies, the project aims to strengthen, diversify and protect livelihoods in a way that is sustainable over the long term. (…)


Applications open for social innovation contest for Latin America and the Caribbean

Given its positive results in identifying innovative ideas, the contest was extended for another year


11 December - The invitation to take part in the fifth annual Experiences in Social Innovation competition, organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) with support from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is now open. The deadline for application is 16 January 2009. The contest was originally set to end in 2008, but given its positive results in identifying innovative ideas, it has been extended for another year.

The 2008-2009 cycle follows four prior successful contests, in which a total of 4,400 applications have been submitted. Of these, 60 have been elected finalists, from the following countries: Argentina (8), Belize (1), Bolivia (3), Brazil (19), Chile (2), Colombia (9), Cuba (1), Ecuador (3), El Salvador (1), Guatemala (1), Haiti (1), Mexico (1), Paraguay (2), Peru (6), St. Lucia (1) and Uruguay (1). The competition focuses on innovative initiatives in eight areas: community health, primary education, youth programmes, income generation, corporate social responsibility, volunteer work, rural/agricultural development and food security/nutrition. (...) The four contest cycles have awarded prizes for a total of US$268,000. (...)


USD 30.17 million loan from IFAD to empower rural women and reduce poverty in the Mid-Gangetic Plains of India

Rome, 11 December - A USD30.17 million loan to the Republic of India from IFAD will assist in increasing the social and economic empowerment of rural women, giving them greater access to microfinance and business development services.

The total cost of the Women’s Empowerment and Livelihoods Programme in the Mid-Gangetic Plains is USD52.47 million. The loan agreement was signed today in Rome by Shri Arif Shahid Khan, Ambassador of the Republic of India to Italy and Lennart Båge, IFAD President.

The Mid-Gangetic Plains constitute India’s largest pocket of poverty in terms of population. The rural economy suffers from acute population pressure, low crop productivity and inequitable land tenure. Women experience deeper deprivation here than elsewhere in India because of strong patriarchy and rigid caste divisions. As well as increasing access to financial institutions, the programme will empower rural women by establishing grass-root organizations and increasing their participation in local government. (...)

India receives more funding from IFAD than any other country in the world. To date, IFAD has financed 22 programmes and projects in India, approving loans for a total of USD595.3 million.


Rwanda: food and nutrition interventions for PLWHA

2 December - ACDI/VOCA has won a five-year, subagreement from Catholic Relief Services on the Ibyiringiro project to support improved services available to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) and orphans and vulnerable children (OVC) in Rwanda. USAID and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program provides funding for the project, which will address four main impediments to improving the livelihood security and resiliency of households impacted by HIV and AIDS: a lack of available resources to expand the quantity and quality of services to PLWHA and OVC households already receiving food rations; a lack of strong community-based organizations to consistently support PLWHA and OVCs; insufficient economic opportunities for PLWHA and OVC households; insufficient weaning food and targeted nutrition education to HIV positive mothers to prevent the transmission of HIV to their infants after six months of exclusive breastfeeding.

ACDI/VOCA will be primarily working with local cooperatives in cooperative development, including training in management, financial systems and governance.






International Human Solidarity Day - 20 December

International Human Solidarity Day was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2005 as an initiative in the fight against poverty. (A/RES/60/209)

International Human Solidarity Day is:

A day to celebrate our unity in diversity

A day to remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements

A day to raise public awareness of the importance of solidarity

A day to encourage debate on the ways to promote solidarity for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals including poverty eradication

A day of action to encourage new initiatives for poverty eradication.


Flood-stricken Papua New Guinea receives UN assistance

16 December - The United Nations is sending a disaster assessment team to Papua New Guinea after severe sea swells hit the northern shoreline, affecting up to 60,000 people, according to government estimates. The possibility of water-borne disease is one of the major health concerns and timely and adequate water and sanitation assistance is required, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said today. The swells destroyed houses, food and water supplies. Main needs identified by the government include water containers, tarpaulins, water purification tablets, food rations and insecticide-treated anti-malarial bed-nets. The surge, which damaged crops and led to the loss of gardening tools, hit eight provinces and left some 34,000 people in need of immediate aid, according to the national Red Cross. The six-member UN Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC) team will arrive in Port Moresby, the capital, tomorrow to reinforce relief efforts already undertaken by the UN country team.


Democratic Republic of the Congo: Red Cross launches campaign to reunite conflict-dispersed families

Goma, 9 December (ICRC) - Although North Kivu has been relatively calm in recent days, the ordeal is far from over for families thrust apart by the armed conflict. To help them, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Red Cross Society of the Democratic Republic of the Congo have launched a campaign to speed up identification of children separated from their parents and family reunification. (…)

The vast network of the Congolese Red Cross is being used both to register stranded children and to take the tracing requests of families having lost contact with their children. The details are then broadcast throughout North Kivu on four local radio stations three times a day. Explanatory posters are displayed in Red Cross offices in the field and in various public places to inform the families about this service. In addition, beginning this week the ICRC is going to display photographs of lost children in areas with concentrations of displaced people - schools, churches and child care centres, as well as camps for the displaced. (...)


Caritas aid efforts underway in Sri Lanka following Cyclone Nisha

5 December - Nisha has caused severe damage in Jaffna and Vanni after the storm hit northern Sri Lanka on 25 and 26 November. In the Jaffna peninsula alone 338, 579 people were affected by the cyclone, with 93,135 forced from their homes by the bad weather into camps. Some 12,000 houses were completely destroyed and another 31,000 houses were badly damaged.

Caritas is one of only two international aid agencies allowed to operate in Jaffna and Vanni by the Sri Lankan government. The local Caritas has already begun providing meals to those made homeless through its network of diocesan centres. Caritas provided them with clothes, mats and other immediately needed essential items. Cooked meals were provided for five consecutive days. In Jaffna, Caritas is providing for the relief and rehabilitation needs of 3000 families currently in temporary accommodation.  Caritas is also providing non-food items in the Jaffna, cleaning all wells and giving people shelter. Caritas is ensuring medical treatment is available to people in camps with the help of Holy Cross sisters. (…)


Save the Children expands assistance to children hurt by Zimbabwe hunger crisis

Westport, Conn., 2 December - With a deepening food emergency threatening the lives and well-being of millions of Zimbabweans, Save the Children is moving rapidly to reach vulnerable children, expanding existing nutrition, food and other programs in the country. The situation for children in Zimbabwe, where nearly one-third of children are malnourished, is deteriorating. Nearly half of the country’s population - about 5 million people - will be in need of food aid to survive by the end of the year, according to the United Nations. Save the Children is currently providing food assistance to 200,000 people and enabling families to prepare for the future by distributing seed, small livestock and helping to set up vegetable gardens. (…)


Lebanese and Palestinian children create their own space to play

Burghliyeh, Lebanon, 28 November - Yesterday, ANERA inaugurated a children’s park in the municipality of Burghliyeh, a Lebanese and Palestinian community near Tyre. Motivation for the park came from a series of fun, interactive meetings conducted by ANERA over two months with small groups of children from Burghliyeh. The meetings brought out, early on, the need for a safe, clean and open place for children to play. They had been playing in irrigation ditches and cow pastures. (…)

The play area was the result of a partnership between ANERA and the Association for Rural Development, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development. Playgrounds for Palestine, an American non-profit, helped in identifying the right playground and negotiating a reduced price from a supplier in the United States. (…)



Peace and security



UNICEF unites young leaders from eight North Caucasus regions for peace

Nalchik, Russian Federation, 12 December - Last month, on the International Day for Tolerance, roughly 150 volunteers and children from eight regions of the North Caucasus gathered in Nalchik for the first Congress of Young Peace Builders. The congress was organized by UNICEF to bring together those who participate in UNICEF’s peace and tolerance programme. (...) Congress activities also included peace and tolerance trainings carried out by experienced volunteers. Other volunteers organized a round table focused on the steps young people can take to bring peace to the region.

In a declaration developed as a result of the round table, volunteers hope to alert adults to the fact that children and young people are most affected by the ongoing violence and interethnic strife in the region. The declaration concludes: “We, the children of the North Caucasus, are determined to do everything possible to achieve peace and stability for our region.” (...)

UNICEF has been running the peace and tolerance programme in the North Caucasus since 2005.


MAG signs Accord de Siège in the Republic of Congo

More than 1,200 dangerous items destroyed since mid-October.

4 December - MAG has become only the 56th organisation to have signed a comprehensive Accord de Siège with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Francophony in the Republic of Congo. The Accord will make it easier for MAG to operate in the country and carry out its stockpile management and demolition activities. Working in partnership with the Ministry of Defence and alongside the Forces Armées Congolaises (FAC), MAG is carrying out Conventional Weapons Management and Disposal (CWMD) operations and recently undertook a series of demolition activities.

A number of large Soviet aircraft bombs were destroyed, along with other items of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and artillery rounds. In total more than 1,200 dangerous items have been destroyed since mid-October 2008 when the second phase of this programme started. (…)


Europol creates network for editors of law-enforcement magazines

The Hague, The Netherlands, 28 November - Europol (European Police Office) launched a network for editors of law-enforcement magazines during a seminar on 27-28 Participants from 18 EU Member States discussed how best to cooperate amongst editors such as exchanging articles, best practices and contacts, and promoting international law enforcement cooperation at national and regional level. Europol offered the participants an intense programme containing presentations, workshops and networking sessions. The editors presented their own magazines and gave an impression of the broad variety of information available to their readers i.e. the law enforcement officers of their respective forces.

The outcome of the seminar will result in a platform for editors to exchange information, ideas and articles being created. Furthermore, the Corporate Communications Unit will update interested parties through regular email notifications about new developments at Europol. (...)

The seminar for editors is intended to be a recurrent event. Fostering external communication with the Member States and EU partners is an important part of Europol’s Communication and Marketing Strategy.






Burkina Faso: 770 Red Cross volunteers assist in a yellow fever campaign

by Lazare Zoungrana, Burkina Faso Red Cross

12 December - Kombissiri is a traditionally quiet city 45 kilometres south of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, but on this occasion there is an exceptionally large crowd in its June 2nd Square.

On 28 November, the country’s first lady Madame Chantal Compaoré visited to supervise a response and prevention campaign against yellow fever. Two long lines stretched on hundreds of metres under the strict watch of health officials dressed in white, and volunteers from the Burkinabe Red Cross volunteers. All these participants had the same goal - to immunize and be immunized against yellow fever, a virus that broke out in the district of Ouahigoya some time ago.

The Burkinabe Red Cross has come to assist in the fight against the virus which persistently circulates in Burkina Faso. (…) On the spot, the Burkinabe Red Cross volunteers are supporting the health officers. (…) For the Red Cross community health coordinator, Dr. Maxime Yaméogo, the tasks that the volunteers have to deal with are the same as in the 37 health districts nationwide where the risks of catching yellow fever are high. (…)


Swiss Rotarians stage National Polio Day 

Rotary International News - 8 December - Swiss Rotarians used their creativity and numbers to join the thousands of Rotary clubs who have raised funds for Rotary’s US$100 Million Challenge.

More than 200 Swiss Rotary clubs pooled efforts for Swiss National Polio Day on 13 September, raising US$643,000. Some 13,000 Rotarians across districts 1980, 1990, and 2000 supported the event, with help from 16 Rotaract clubs and countless other volunteers, including employees of Rotary International’s Europe and Africa Office in Zurich.  

Working with local political leaders and regional health officials, Swiss Rotarians set up bright yellow booths, decorated with a colorful sunflower design, on sidewalks and city squares in 200 cities and villages across the nation. On the day of the event, booth volunteers donned yellow vests used during polio immunization campaigns to sell small packets of 10 sunflower seeds for 75 rappen (about 64 cents), roughly the cost of a single dose of oral polio vaccine. (…)

This campaign was the first stage of a strategic effort to promote polio eradication awareness in Switzerland and Liechtenstein and raise US$830,000. More coordinated activities are being planned for upcoming months. (…)

Adapted from Rotary Suisse Liechtenstein , the certified regional magazine of Switzerland and Liechtenstein.


Global measles deaths drop by 74 per cent

The Eastern Mediterranean region achieves measles goal three years early

Atlanta/Geneva/New York/Washington, 4 December - Measles deaths worldwide fell by 74 per cent between 2000 and 2007, from an estimated 750 000 to 197 000. In addition, the Eastern Mediterranean region which includes countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and the Sudan has cut measles deaths by a remarkable 90 per cent - from an estimated 96 000 to 10 000 - during the same period, thus achieving the United Nations goal to reduce measles deaths by 90 per cent by 2010, three years early. The progress was announced today by the founding partners of the Measles Initiative: the American Red Cross, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation), UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO). The data will be published in the 5 December edition of WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Record and CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (...)


MSF responds to Zimbabwe’s cholera outbreak

MSF has emergency staff on the ground in the most affected areas and has been sending vital supplies to these areas.

4 December - MSF has been treating cholera in Zimbabwe since the outbreak started in August and will continue to care for patients throughout the country as long as is needed. The outbreak has reached many provinces of the country but is at its highest levels in Harare and its suburbs, where MSF has set up two cholera treatment centres at the Infectious Disease Hospital and at Budiriro Polyclinic. To date, we have treated about 4,000 patients in Harare and 1,300 in the Mudzi district at the border with Mozambique. The patient numbers are stil high but have more or less stabilized at a total average of about 350 admissions per day in Harare. (...) MSF is also covering the rural areas south of Harare, and Masvingo and Manicaland provinces, where scattered cases of cholera have been found in several villages.

MSF teams are working alongside the Ministry of Health as much as possible and helping to train health workers to treat patients and to control future outbreaks. MSF has emergency staff on the ground in the most affected areas and has been sending vital supplies to these areas. (...)


Africare and Abbott Labs celebrate World AIDS Day with documentary launch

Washington, DC, 4 December - In recognition of World AIDS Day, Africare, together with Abbott Labs, hosted a viewing and discussion of “Together We Can!” a documentary that aims to show a comprehensive approach to HIV/AIDS through the inspiring story of Ophelia Haanyama Ørum, an HIV/AIDS activist and author. (...) The documentary tells of her experiences in both Africa and Sweden as a woman living with HIV/AIDS, her personal battle with the disease and her journey from hopelessness to strength.

33 million people today are living with HIV. In 2007, 2.5 million people were infected and 2.1 million died of AIDS-related causes. Though the figures are high, the unified global AIDS response has brought significant progress towards slowing the spread of HIV. (…)

Africare is a leading non-profit organization specializing in African aid. It is also the oldest and largest African-American led organization in that field. Since its founding in 1970, Africare has delivered more than $710 million in assistance and support - over 2,500 projects and millions of beneficiaries - to 36 countries Africa-wide. (...)


USAID and ANERA celebrate the completion of Rafidia hospital in northern West Bank

Nablus, West Bank, 4 December - American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrated on Thursday the completion of extensive renovations to Rafidia Surgical Hospital in Nablus. USAID contributed a total of $950,000 through ANERA’s Emergency Water and Sanitation (EWAS) program. The event was attended by the Minister of Health Dr. Fathi Abu Moghli, USAID Mission Director Howard Sumka, ANERA President William Corcoran as well as other Palestinian and U.S government officials. Rafidia Surgical Hospital is the largest in northern West Bank (...). The repairs done in Rafidia Hospital improved the medical care for thousands of Palestinians, particularly those who cannot afford medical care in private hospitals.

ANERA is a leading provider of development, health, education and employment programs to Palestinian communities and impoverished families throughout the Middle East (…)



Energy and safety



GEEREF clean energy fund decides on first investment of €22 million to support projects in Africa and Asia

Brussels/Poznań, 11 December - The Global Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Fund (GEEREF) set up by the European Commission to provide clean energy to developing countries and economies in transition has decided on a first set of investments totalling €22 million. Contributing to the fight against climate change, the investments will finance small-scale renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan and southern Africa as well as in Asia. The announcement was made today by European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas at a presentation of the GEEREF at the UN Climate Change Conference in Poznań, Poland.

“The GEEREF is creating a finance platform to support the global fight against both climate change and poverty,” Commissioner Dimas said. “Tackling both these issues together is at the heart of the EU’s ‘shared vision’ for a global and comprehensive international agreement on climate change that we are discussing here in Poznan and which must be concluded by the end of 2009.” (...) Together the European Commission, Germany and Norway have committed about €110m to the GEEREF over the period 2007-2011 and it is envisaged that further financing from other public and private sources will be forthcoming. (...)


Europe’s energy future changed today

Brussels, 9 December - For the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the Renewable Energy Directive, agreed today, confirms Europe as the leader of the energy revolution the world needs. The target means that more than one third of EU electricity must come from renewables in 2020 and wind energy will be the biggest contributor. (...) “Today tomorrow changed. The European Parliament and the Council have agreed the world’s most important energy law” stated Christian Kjaer, EWEA Chief Executive. (…)

For the first time, each Member State has a legally binding renewables target for 2020 along with a clear trajectory to follow. By June 2010 the Member States will draw up National Action Plans detailing the ways in which they are to meet their 2020 targets, which will then be submitted to the Commission for assessment. They will report on how they are doing every two years. These measures will lead to real progress in the 27 countries. (...)[tt_news]=1428&tx_ttnews[backPid]=718&cHash=beaeab61ef


EU adopts new Safer Internet Programme: € 55 million to make the Internet a safer place for children

Brussels, 9 December - The EU will have a new Safer Internet Programme as of 1 January 2009. Following the overwhelmingly positive vote on 23 October in which the European Parliament expressed its support for the new Safer Internet Programme (IP/08/1571), the Council of Ministers has adopted today the new Programme.

 The new Safer Internet Programme covering the period 2009-2013 had been proposed by the European Commission on 28 February 2008 (IP/08/310) to protect children in the ever more sophisticated online world and empower them to safely use web services like social networking, blogging and instant messaging. While 75% of children (aged between 6 and 17 years) are already online and 50% of 10-year-olds have a mobile phone, a new Eurobarometer survey published today shows that 60% of European parents are worried that their child might become a victim of online grooming (...) and 54% that their children could be bullied online (...). The new Safer Internet Programme will fight grooming and bullying by making online software and mobile technologies more sophisticated and secure. From 2009-2013, the EU will spend € 55 million to make the Internet a safer place. (...)



Environment and wildlife



Greater Mekong a biological treasure trove: more than 1000 new species discovered in a decade

Gland, Switzerland, 15 December - Over a thousand new species have been discovered in the Greater Mekong Region of Southeast Asia in just the last decade, according to a new report launched by WWF. (...) While most species were discovered in the largely unexplored jungles and wetlands, some were first found in the most surprising places. (…) The region comprises the six countries through which the Mekong River flows including Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the southern Chinese province of Yunnan. It is estimated thousands of new invertebrate species were also discovered during this period, further highlighting the region’s immense biodiversity. (…)

The report stresses economic development and environmental protection must go hand-in-hand to provide for livelihoods and alleviate poverty, and ensure the survival of the Greater Mekong’s astonishing array of species and natural habitats. (…)


Good news to share about the Earth Charter focus area on religion and sustainability

18 November - After several months of research and development, ECI gladly presents the Earth Charter Guide on Religion and Climate Change that is available for download on the EC website. The Guide presents a three-step methodology for assessing the ethical challenges of climate change aimed at gaining a macro-perspective on our climate crisis, assessing the root causes of climate change and framing inclusive solutions.

The Guide could be especially useful in religious seminaries, theology and ethics classes, congregational study groups and interfaith dialogues on the deeper dimensions of climate change and global warming. (...) Download.


Religion and spirituality



Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - 18-25 January 2009

Christians throughout the world will be praying “that they may become one in God’s hand” during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2009.

Traditionally celebrated between 18 and 25 January (in the northern hemisphere) or at Pentecost (in the southern hemisphere), the Week of Prayer enters into congregations and parishes all over the world. Pulpits are exchanged, and special ecumenical worship services are arranged. The liturgical material for 2009 is rooted in the experience of the churches in Korea. In their context of national division the churches have turned for inspiration to the prophet Ezekiel, who also lived in a tragically divided nation and longed for the unity of his people.


In Tehran, a Christian-Muslim symposium affirms dialogue, criticizes media

Equal participation and shared responsibility in society are at the basis of a peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, stated participants at an inter-religious symposium in Tehran, Iran last week. They highlighted the value of learning from each other’s faith and criticized “irresponsible media”. The 13-14 December symposium on “Religion and peaceful coexistence” was jointly convened by the Tehran-based Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization and the World Council of Churches (WCC).

A joint communiqué summarizing eight points of agreement highlighted the co-existence between Christians and Muslims in Iran, as well as the value of dialogue, which “should not be confined to scholars and spiritual leaders,” and of “learning about each other’s faith”.

The joint communiqué states: “Peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims should be based on their equal participation and shared responsibility towards society and each other. This includes recognizing and respecting one another’s religious and civil rights, and taking a common stand whenever the rights of religious communities are violated and whenever irresponsible media try to present a distorted image of any particular religion, offending its symbols and followers.” (...)



Culture and education



Nomination of Josep Borrell as President of the European University Institute in Florence, Italy

12 December - On Friday 12 December Josep Borrell Fontelles was appointed President of the European University Institute (EUI) by unanimous vote of all Member States of the EUI. Former President of the European Parliament, Josep Borrell’s nomination was confirmed at the conclusion of a selection procedure involving top-class candidates from Europe and beyond.

Borrell will bring to the EUI his vast experience in both academic and political fields: Professor of Mathematical Economics at the Complutense University of Madrid, founder of the Spanish School of Public Finance, he has held various other academic positions and is author of numerous publications. Josep Borrell began his political career as Spanish Secretary of State for Finance in the Eighties, subsequently nominated Minister for Public Works, Transport and Environment. Member of the Spanish Parliament, from 2004, he was elected Member of the European Parliament (EP). Later the same year, he was appointed President of the European Parliament. He is currently President of the Development Committee of the EP.

Josep Borrell will take up his position at the head of the European University Institute in January 2010, at the conclusion of the mandate of the President in office, Yves Mény. (...)


Walking among the planets

by Peter Schmidtke 

Rotary International News - 12 December - In Anchorage, Alaska, USA, you don’t need a telescope to look at the planets - you can walk to them. The secret is a scale-model planet walk created by the Rotary Club of Anchorage and amateur astronomer Eli Menaker. Interested trekkers start in downtown Anchorage at a 3-ton model of the sun and encounter each of the planets along a 10-mile route ending at a ski chalet. Every step equals 186,000 miles, and heading to Jupiter from Earth is a little more than a half-hour stroll.

Menaker introduced the idea for a temporary walk to city officials in 2003 while a student at Service High School in Anchorage. Before heading off to Middlebury College in Vermont, he was approached by Anchorage Rotarians with the idea of making permanent planet displays, as part of the club’s centennial project. “We ended up drawing from people in different walks of life. We had fundraisers, we had engineers and people with science backgrounds,” says club member Julius Brecht, an attorney and former NASA physicist. The Anchorage club raised more than $620,000 to enhance Menaker’s plan.

Menaker says his original Sun was a circular tarp covered with yellow adhesive tape. “I quickly realized we had to step that up,” he said. A local artist used over 2,400 ceramic tiles to craft a 12-foot-by-6-foot hemispherical model of the sun and sculpted sunspots to scale. Menaker wrote text describing the planets and consulted with an artist and a contractor to configure the planet kiosks. Brecht and others worked to create a digital display for the Sun station at the start of the walk. “I told our committee that what would really add some zing would be to make it interactive,” says Brecht. Rotarians designed the three-sided, 9-foot-tall Sun station with three screens on which participants can view Native American sun stories and NASA images. (…)


Entrepreneurship education funding for Arab States

12 December - Young people and educational leaders will benefit from new funding to improve entrepreneurship education in the Arab states. UNESCO-UNEVOC’s International Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training will sign a funds-in-trust agreement with the StratREAL Foundation for a $275,000 four-year project to develop policies and programmes that integrate entrepreneurship education into learning systems in Arab States. (…) UNEVOC is UNESCO’s specialist international centre for technical and vocational education and training and leads UNESCO’s work with Member States on improvements to skills development to increase the life chances of young people in developing countries, countries in transition and countries emerging from conflict. (…)


Great Lakes media conference adopts resolutions on press freedom

Copenhagen, 12 December - A number of resolutions addressing press freedom and media development issues will be presented to the foreign ministers of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) member states later this month. The resolutions came out of a conference held in Kigali, Rwanda, from 24 to 26 November that brought together more than 100 representatives of the ICGLR of 10 of the 11 member states (...) According to Ambassador Liberata Mulamula, executive secretary of the ICGLR, the role of the media in the region is crucial. “Our region is still facing enormous security challenges in Eastern DRC, Darfur, Central African Republic and in northern Uganda. The media has to play an important role complementing regional and international efforts aimed at resolving conflicts in our region,” she said. (…) Freedom of expression, independent and pluralistic media are the centre of this formula,” said Mogens Schmidt, UNESCO’s Deputy Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information. (…)


Culture Programme Conference “Culture in Motion” - 12 December 2008

Brussels, 11 December - The first Conference on the EU’s flagship funding programme in the area of culture, the Culture Programme 2007 - 2013, takes place on Friday, 12 December. The Conference will present past and on-going project results from the current and previous EU Culture Programmes. The aim of the event is to enable an exchange of experience and good practices between cultural operators and programme beneficiaries.

The Conference consists of plenary sessions as well as a complimentary exhibition where 35 projects will be showcased. Those projects focus on 5 themes (...). Through the Culture Programme 2007-2013, the European Commission encourages cooperation between cultural operators within Europe, aiming to enhance the development of cross-border cultural cooperation between creators, cultural players and cultural institutions of the participating countries. A total amount of € 400 million is available for the Culture Programme over the period 2007-2013, and 264 projects were funded through the Programme in 2008. (...)


“Mobility Matters” study offers a panorama on the mobility of artists and Cultural Professionals in Europe

10 December - “Mobility Matters”: Programmes and Schemes to Support the Mobility of Artists and Cultural Professionals in Europe. Study directed by the ERICarts Institute for the European Commission. Following an open invitation to tender launched in early 2008, the European Commission selected the European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (the ERICarts Institute) to carry out a study. To this end, this institute has worked together with a group of six key experts and 38 national correspondents. (…)


Rwanda: Training in humanitarian principles and values

Kigali, 8 December (ICRC) - In partnership with the national centre developing ways to introduce humanitarian principles and values into new school programmes, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is organizing a training course on the Exploring Humanitarian Law (EHL) educational programme for 25 of the centre’s senior staff. The course will be held in Kigali from 8 to 12 December.

The objective of this course is to familiarize the 25 participants, all of whom are involved in programme development at the national centre, with the content and teaching methods of EHL,” explained Tobias Epprecht, the head of the ICRC delegation in Kigali. Experts from the Seychelles will lead plenary and group sessions where participants will be able to discuss which methods are most effective in teaching humanitarian values in schools. The participants will later be given the task of transferring what they have learned to teachers of political education courses that include units based on EHL. (...)


British children’s author named Artist for Peace by UNESCO


5 December - The prize-winning British children’s author and illustrator Lauren Child has been selected as the latest Artist for Peace by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the agency announced today.

The author’s appointment comes in recognition of her commitment and support of Programme for the Education of Children in Need and she will be formally inducted to the post by UNESCO Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura at a ceremony in Paris on 12 December. Under a partnership launched earlier in the year, Ms. Child and her publisher, Hachette Children’s Books, agreed to donate three years of royalties from her best-selling book That Pesky Rat to UNESCO’s Programme for the Education of Children in Need. The funds will finance various UNESCO-supported projects for children in need, such as those of the Renacimiento Foundation, which works for street children in Mexico City. (...)



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Next issue: 16 January 2009.



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Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next. Past issues are available at . Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.

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