Good News Agency – Year IX, n° 3



Weekly - Year IX, number 3 – 22nd February 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. 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 4,000 media in 49 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



The European Commission presents policy priorities for 2009

Brussels, 13 February - The Commission has today presented its Annual Policy Strategy setting out its political priorities for 2009. It outlines the Commission's policy objectives in five priority areas: growth and jobs, climate change and sustainable Europe, making a reality of the common immigration policy, putting the citizen first, and Europe as a world partner. The Commission will seek to gain approval for its legislative initiatives and also look forward by stimulating debate on the internal market, social agenda and budget reviews. (…)

During 2009, the Commission will maintain its focus on delivering results for the benefit of citizens and businesses. Growth and jobs remain a major policy priority for the Union, backed up by further efforts to tackle climate change and to meet the energy needs of the Union. The Commission will follow up on the Single Market review and on the revised Social Agenda. The Commission will also look forward, laying the foundations for the years ahead. On of the main highlights will be the work on the budget review, based on the consultation now underway, which will pave the way for the preparation of the next financial perspectives.

The development of a common immigration policy will be a fundamental priority in order to meet the challenges and harness the opportunities provided by migration in an era of globalisation. Initiatives will be put forward to simplify the life of citizens and ensure their security. Negotiations with candidate countries will be pursued on the basis of the renewed consensus on enlargement. Work to develop closer political and economic ties with partners around the world will continue to intensify, and new partnerships with African countries will be implemented in the context of the Africa/EU strategy. The Commission will also continue to deliver on its better regulation agenda, to focus on the proper enforcement of EU legislation and to ensure the sound management of financial programmes. (...)



Human rights



20 February : World Day of Social Justice

Évora (Portugal): Conference on MDGs. Organizers: Évora University, Institute for Development Studies and UNRIC.

Minsk (Belarus): The role of health systems in chemical safety for EECCA countries  

Organizer: WHO Regional Office for Europe (Till 22 February)

Monaco: Tenth special session of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Governing Council / Global Ministerial Environment Forum. The theme for the meeting is Mobilizing Finance for the Climate Challenge. (Till 22 February)


UN refugee agency aids 55,000 Congolese returning to Katanga

The distribution areas in central Katanga can only be reached by boat

15 February - The United Nations refugee agency is distributing supplies to some 55,000 displaced people who have returned to their homes in the southern province of Katanga in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Roger Hollo, a protection officer with the UN High Commissioner for Refguees (UNHCR) in the provincial capital, Lubumbashi, said the initiative is part of the agency’s programme of assistance and protection for people displaced in northern and central Katanga. “Some 11,000 households, or 55,000 people, will benefit”, he said after the distribution began in central Katanga’s Kilumbe district on Tuesday. The exercise, expected to take up to three weeks to complete, involves handing out kitchen utensils, blankets, jerry cans, mosquito nets, plastic sheeting, buckets and soap to each returnee family. The refugee agency and a local partner will also distribute string, nails and hammers to help the former internally displaced people (IDP) construct homes. The World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) are also assisting the group. “I am very happy and grateful for this gesture. I was lost, I had nothing left”, said an old woman, who, like others at the distribution, fled her home three years ago to escape fighting between government forces and the Mai-Mai militia. This final distribution of food and supplies is being conducted in three isolated villages close to the town of Bukama in central Katanga’s Kilumbe district. (…)


Colombia and UN food agency join forces to help over half a million displaced

14 February - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has launched a $157 million joint operation with the Colombian Government to provide food and other humanitarian assistance to more than 530,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the South American country over the next three years. Starting in April, the programme will provide assistance through a series of projects, including school feeding, food for training, food for work and food assistance for both vulnerable communities at high risk of displacement and for host communities for IDPs. WFP is already helping over 500,000 people across Colombia each year, drawing on its network of 10 field offices to support families and individuals who been forced to flee their homes because of long-running fighting between Government forces, rebels and paramilitary groups or attacks against civilians by armed groups. The agency said in a press statement issued in Bogotá today that the new programme will be the largest international cooperation scheme for IDPs ever developed by a UN agency in Colombia. Praveen Agrawal, the agency’s country director in Colombia, said “the unanimous support for the implementation of these activities is not only the result of the excellent relationship between WFP and the Colombian Government, but also testament to the positive results WFP has achieved in the country during the last few years.”


UN readies to provide more lasting help for Chadian refugees in Cameroon

12 February - United Nations aid officials in Cameroon are preparing plans to deliver protection and assistance for some months to as many as 20,000 Chadian refugees who fled their homeland last week because of deadly fighting between Government forces and armed opposition groups.

An estimated 30,000 refugees are currently in Kousséri, in north-eastern Cameroon, and UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) local representative Jacques Franquin said that after handling the group’s immediate life-saving needs, the agency expects about two thirds will not return to Chad in the coming weeks. (…)

This weekend UNHCR and its aid partners will start officially registering the new refugees and offering some of them transport to a camp near the town of Maltam, about 32 kilometres from Kousséri.

Silvia Luciani, the acting representative in Cameroon of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said vaccinations against measles and polio will start tomorrow for up to 44,000 children among the refugees and the local host communities.

UNICEF has also been providing 48,000 litres of drinking water to the refugees each day since Saturday, when the World Food Programme (WFP) began systematic distributions of food. The Chadians will also receive blankets, soaps, buckets and jerry cans. (…)



Economy and development



Despite constraints, FAO helping Gaza farmers

Projects target herders, fishers, horticulture

Rome, 21 February - Despite restrictions which make it hard to import essential inputs, FAO is helping restore agricultural production and improve farmers’ livelihoods in the Gaza Strip through a series of emergency projects. Eighty percent of Gaza’s population is currently dependent on food aid and locally-grown produce is a vital source of fresh food.

FAO currently has 14 projects running in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, with the bulk of activities (85 percent) involving the West Bank. But according to experts the most serious area of humanitarian concern is Gaza, where agriculture and fisheries have been badly hit by the lack of inputs, constraints on farm exports and restrictions on fishing areas. The lower volume of assistance going to Gaza largely stems from the fact that getting international goods and equipment into the area is almost impossible.

Governments and organizations funding the projects – to the tune of some US$10 million – include Italy, Spain, Japan, Norway, the European Commission and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. (…)  The projects are aimed at boosting agricultural production capacity and securing livelihood improvements for farmers, shepherds, small ruminant rearers and fishers.


UN meeting ends with call for increased agricultural investment for rural poor

15 February - The annual meeting of the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has wrapped up with participants issuing a call for stepped-up investment to help poor rural farmers. At the two-day IFAD Governing Council meeting in Rome, delegates from the agency’s 164 Member States recognized the impact of climate change and soaring food prices on poverty-stricken smallholders in developing countries. Attendees suggested measures to ease the burden on the rural poor, including reducing transportation costs, establishing safety nets for those who purchase more food than they grow and increasing productivity through research and micro-credit programmes. “The major donor countries have not yet fully realized that the root cause of many social ills - youth unemployment, migration, urban slums and immigration, stem from the lack of investment in rural space”, IFAD President Lennart Båge told reporters. He appealed for more fund to support agriculture, since the vast majority of the world’s poorest reside in rural areas. Currently, only 3 per cent of all international aid is directed towards farming.


Tea prices to maintain upward trend in 2008       

Output in Viet Nam increases 28 percent, another record crop in China

Rome, 14 February - In 2008, world tea prices are expected to maintain their upward trend as a result of a tight supply on the world market exacerbated by a projected 10 percent decrease in Kenyan production due to civil unrest, according to an FAO report on current and future trends in the tea market prepared for the Global Dubai Tea Forum 2008 (February 19-20).  This follows a review of the world tea market for 2006 which indicated an improvement in the fundamental oversupply situation that had persisted for many years. Indeed, the FAO Composite Price, as a world indicator price for tea, increased by 11.6 percent to reach US$1.83 per kg in 2006. The market fundamentals for 2007 suggest that this trend is likely to continue as the FAO Index has increased a further 6.5 percent to US$1.95 per kg in 2007. World tea production grew by more than 3 percent to reach an estimated 3.6 million tonnes in 2006, according to latest available figures cited by the report. The expansion was due to another record crop in China with 1.05 million tonnes - an increase of 9.5 percent over the record established in 2005 - and a record 28 percent increase in output in Viet Nam which pulled its production up to 133 000 tonnes.

A rehabilitation and expansion programme implemented by Viet Nam explains the impressive growth in output as tea bushes reached optimum yields. In China, government policies to increase rural household incomes and major rationalization of the farming systems including the replacement of low yielding bushes also boosted production.

An increase was also recorded in India, the second larger producer, where harvests were 3 percent higher, totalling 945 000 tonnes for 2006. The increases in China, India and Viet Nam should offset declines in major producing countries, according to the report. (…)


Significant increase in world cereal production forecast for 2008, but prices remain high

New FAO web portal tracks market trends

Rome, 13 February - Early prospects point to the possibility of a significant increase in world cereal production in 2008, but international prices of most cereals remain at record high levels and some are still on the increase, FAO said today.

The forecast increase in production follows expansion of winter grain plantings and good weather among major producers in Europe and in the United States, coupled with a generally satisfactory outlook elsewhere, according to FAO’s latest Crop Prospects and Food Situation report. With dwindling stocks, continuing strong demand for cereals is keeping upward pressure on international prices, despite a record world harvest last season, the report said. International wheat prices in January 2008 were 83 percent up from a year earlier. Although prices are high, total world trade in cereals is expected to peak in 2007/08, driven in great part by a sharp rise in demand for coarse grains, especially for feed use in the European Union, according the report. (…)

An even higher increase is anticipated for Africa. Prices of basic foods have also increased in many countries worldwide, affecting the vulnerable populations most, the report said.

In order to limit the impact of rising cereal prices on domestic food consumption, governments from both cereal importing and exporting countries have taken a range of policy measures, including lowering import tariffs, raising food subsidies, and banning or imposing duties on basic food exports. (…)


ACDI/VOCA sponsors kickoff for Asia Society’s Development Series

5 February - On February 5 ACDI/VOCA, together with BearingPoint, sponsored the Asia Society Development Series kickoff luncheon at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. U.S. Agency for International Development Assistant Administrator Kent Hill, pinch-hitting as featured luncheon speaker for USAID Administrator Henrietta Fore who was unavailable due to illness, spoke on “Building Partnerships in Asia”.

He said the Global Development Alliance mechanism under which 600 public-private alliances have been formed to date has reversed a historic trend: so far, this program has received $2.1 million from USAID and $5.8 billion from partners.

Hill mentioned ACDI/VOCA’s SUCCESS Alliance project in partnership with Mars, Inc., as an example of a good public-private partnership. Mars is a leader in the industry’s global effort for cocoa sustainability, and ACDI/VOCA is expert in strengthening the smallholder link in the cocoa value chain in Ecuador, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Vice President of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Charles Sethness provided an update on this relatively new program, which is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom and investments in people. Countries are selected to receive assistance under MCC based on their performance in these areas. (...)

ACDI/VOCA has so far won MCC awards in Honduras, Armenia and Madagascar.


Cadbury, UNDP team up for sustainable cocoa farming

Accra, Ghana, 28 January - (…) Cadbury, the world’s leading confectionery company, announced in Accra, Ghana, today the establishment of the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership together with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Ghanaian Government and other partners, in an initiative designed to secure the sustainable livelihoods of a million farmers in cocoa-growing communities across Ghana, India, Indonesia and the Caribbean. Cadbury is to invest seed funding of US$2 million (£1 million) in 2008 to establish the Partnership, with annual funding levels rising to US$10 million (£5 million) by 2010. Seventy percent of the funds will be invested in small farming communities in Ghana, which provides the cocoa beans for Cadbury’s UK chocolate including Cadbury Dairy Milk, Wispa, Flake, Creme Egg and Buttons. The announcement marks the centenary of Cadbury Brothers’ trading partnership with Ghana.

With current cocoa yields hitting only 40 percent of their potential in the African country, the Cadbury Cocoa Partnership is designed to improve the income of cocoa farmers by helping them increase their yields and produce top quality beans, introduce new sources of rural income through microfinance and business support, and invest in community-led development from schools and libraries to biodiversity protection projects and wells for clean water. The pioneering public-private model will be led from the grassroots up, with farmers, non-governmental organisations, governments and international agencies including the United Nations working together to determine how best to spend the money and turn plans into sustainable action. (…)


Nandani Co-op signs MOU with Radhakrishna Foodland

28 January - ACDI/VOCA’s Growth-oriented Microenterprise Development Program (GMED) helped broker the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in India between Radhakrishna Foodland, a major food exporter and retailer, and the Nandani Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Cooperative Society on January 23. The MOU is a landmark agreement that will connect the large Indian food retailer - India’s equivalent of Wal-Mart - with smallholder farmers.

Under the partnership, the Nandani Cooperative’s 5,400 smallholder farmer co-op members will sell fresh fruits and vegetables to Foodland. This market supply chain linkage will increase the members’ profits and ensure a reliable supply of high-quality fresh produce to Foodland. The supply chain will be managed with the help of Infosys, an information technology services provider that developed software to manage the flow of goods between the retailer and the co-op.

 “The aim of the project is to bring small-scale farmers into the retail supply chain. This is a pilot project, and we want it to be sustainable so that when our program ends in September 2008, it will run without us,” GMED Chief of Party Don Taylor said. (…)


African Statistical Commission

UNECA hosts high-level dialogue on scaling up statistical development

Addis Ababa, 19 January - The first session of the Statistical Commission for Africa (Statcom-Africa) was held in UNECA headquarters in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia on Monday, 21 January. This is an historic event for the African statistical community and also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the establishment of UNECA.

Among other recommendations emerging from this meeting, participants urged African countries to mainstream statistics into national planning and to design an NSDS and recognised the donors' key role in funding statistical development.

The next session of Statcom-Africa is scheduled for 18-22 January 2010 in Addis-Ababa


US$175 million secured for The Gambia’s fight against poverty

London - The Gambia’s main development partners pledged financial support of US $ 175 million over the next three years to back up the country’s poverty reduction strategy. These contributions were announced at the end of a Round Table Conference in London, 5-6 February, attended by representatives of 27 bilateral, multilateral and other donor agencies including Bretton Woods institutions. In addition to the pledges, there are strong prospects for substantial additional funding from debt relief, grants and other financial resources. In this regard, an appeal was made for non-Paris Club creditors and non-Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative agencies to provide debt relief on terms comparable to the Paris Club creditors. Development partners attending the conference unanimously commended the government of The Gambia for having become eligible for full debt relief since the reforms undertaken and the country’s track record of good performance made it reach the so-called “completion point” under the Enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative. They were also satisfied that the government’s second poverty reduction strategy paper (PRSP II) provided a sound basis for addressing poverty in The Gambia. (…) This seventh Round Table Conference (RTC) for The Gambia was organized with the support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (…)






UN Rwanda responds quickly to earthquake emergency needs

Kigali, 13 February - The UN agencies in Rwanda join forces to assist in meeting the immediate needs caused by the earthquake that struck the Western Province on Sunday 3rd February. (…)

The UN responded immediately by supplying tents, plastic sheeting, medicines and family kits. ‘We’re now preparing for further support for water purification, medicines, family kits and temporary shelter for affected families, school children and hospital patients,’ says Moustapha Soumaré UN Resident Coordinator. On Monday 4th February the Government sent a Ministerial Team to the area for an assessment and to quickly establish an assistance mechanism. The UN Country Team joined the Government mission to assess best ways for UN support. (…) ‘The UN is well equipped to assist the Government in responding to this Emergency situation’ says Moustapha Soumaré. ‘Working to deliver as One helps us quickly design a support package based on each of the agencies comparitive advantage’, he adds. ‘It is important that after a quick assessment of needs and response, UN agencies and partners assist on organizing a deeper assessment to identify areas and people with specific needs, find out additional risk such as emergent epidemic prone diseases due to the earthquake, by strengthening the surveillance system and support in the elaboration of an advocacy document for the immediate, middle and long term period’ says Dr Mamadou Malifa Balde, Officer in Charge of WHO.

“In an emergency situation, children and women bear the blunt of the impact. In this emergency more than 30,000 primary school children and more than 2,000 secondary school children are missing school. While the psychological stress experienced is difficult to assess, the UN and other partners are working with the Government to ensure a quick return to school in a safer environment for the children” says Dr Joseph Foumbi, UNICEF Representative. (…)


New community centre - a place for all generations

by Catherine Dennis/ ACT-Caritas

Dereig Camp, South Darfur, Sudan, 12 February - Under the shade of a straw roof, the space is alive with chatter. Children play outside while women gather in groups to practice newly learnt skills that include making pasta and traditional mat weaving.

In a place where life is hard, this second community centre has just opened to become a source of strength for the people of Dereig, particularly for the women of the camp. (…) With the addition of the second community centre, more women will be able to benefit from adult literacy classes, group and individual counselling sessions, as well as workshops raising awareness in human rights, peacebuilding, gender-based violence and conflict resolution. The centres are also vital meeting places where women have space (a precious commodity in camps such as Dereig) to meet, to share, talk and laugh. Men also gather here at certain times as members of peace committees or to take part in building stoves or weaving traditional baskets. (…)

DanChurchAid is a member of ACT International - a global alliance of churches and related agencies working to save lives and support communities in emergencies.


Uganda Red Cross helps Kenyan refugees

by Lawrence Lutaaya, Uganda Red Cross Society

12 February - The Uganda Red Cross Society (URCS) is working tirelessly to help more than a thousand refugees who have fled neighbouring Kenya following post-election violence.

The URCS has taken a lead role in the response at the request of the Ugandan government, which recently relocated the Kenyan refugees to Mulanda camp in the Tororo district to ensure their safety and provide a better quality of life for them.

During his visit to the site, Acting Secretary General Mr Michael Nataka said that URCS will continue to work with other humanitarian agencies such as the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure that the refugees get basic necessities for safe livelihood while in the camp.  

URCS has been trying to ease the plight of Kenyan refugees left homeless by the post-election crisis since late December 2007, and initially managed the transit camps in Busia and Malaba before the move to a large central camp in Tororo. (…)

The local Red Cross has also distributed relief items to the refugees with the support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and with contributions from the Kenyan community in Uganda. (...)


Red Cross efforts continue after storms

by Katie Lawson, Staff Writer, 

11 February - A line of thunderstorms and tornadoes swept across the midsection of the United States last week, killing more than 50 people, injuring scores of others, and destroying dozens of homes and buildings.

Red Cross chapters responded immediately during the night, opening shelters and providing comfort to those forced from their homes. Almost a week following the storms, the Red Cross relief effort begins to switch focus.

To date, the Red Cross has opened 14 shelters, welcomed 492 overnight guests, and served 9,263 meals. While many of the shelters have since closed their doors, information is still available on a blog ( dedicated to the tornado relief effort.

While the majority of Red Cross disaster assessment has been completed, Red Cross volunteers will remain hard at work in the region to assure that everyone who needs support can receive it. Several Red Cross service centers are open throughout the affected areas of Tennessee for individuals and families who need assistance. (...)


Save the Children assists children suffering through Tajikistan’s extreme winter

Westport, Conn., USA, 7 February - Save the Children has initiated a rapid response to meet the immediate needs of children and families in Tajikistan, which is enduring its coldest winter in decades and faces widespread food and fuel scarcity. Extreme winter temperatures, depleting food and fuel stocks, probable, prolonged blackouts at the national level beginning mid-February, and limited access to water is pushing the entire population of Tajikistan (an estimated 7 million people) into humanitarian crisis. (…)

Save the Children - in coordination with the Tajik government and other agencies - will focus its relief activities in rural areas where it currently implements long-term development programs, including the districts of Jomi, Khuroson, Vakhsh, Vose, Kulob, Baljuvon and Khovaling in the Khatlon Region. The agency plans to reach 10,000 children with lifesaving assistance. (...)

Save the Children has worked in Tajikistan since 1994. The agency has programs to combat hunger and malnutrition, protect vulnerable children, improve the quality of preschool and primary education, and improve family health and community health services, especially in rural areas. (…)


Fill the cup: turning hunger into hope for millions of children

AC Milan and Brazil soccer star footballer Kaka’, WFP Ambassador Against Hunger and the face of the “Fill the Cup” campaign in Italy.

Milan, 7 February - A major international fundraising and awareness initiative to benefit millions of hungry school children worldwide was announced today by the world’s largest humanitarian agency - the United Nations World Food Programme. “Fill the Cup” aims, literally, to fill a cup with food for all of the 59 million children who go to school hungry throughout developing countries around the world - boosting their chances for health, education and a more promising future. (…) President John Agyekum Kufuor said school feeding has helped Ghana to stay on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, the first of which is to halve hunger and poverty by 2015. “Every nation’s future rests on food and education,” said Kufuor. WFP is leading the way in seeking to raise funding from governments, from companies and from individuals. WFP estimates that it would cost about US$3 billion per year to feed all 59 million children worldwide; US$1.2 billion would provide meals for the 23 million children in 45 of the neediest African countries.(…) WFP is partnering with the city of Milan, which has made world hunger one of the key elements of its campaign to secure the World Expo. It was agreed that the Red Cup presentation be made first in Italy, before expanding it to other G8 countries and beyond. (…)


WFP helicopter starts relief flights to flood victims in Mozambique

Johannesburg, 22 January - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began relief flights today to provide vital humanitarian assistance to tens of thousands of people affected by the extensive flooding along the Zambezi valley in central Mozambique. Around 76,000 people have been displaced by the current floods. Based in the town of Caia, WFP’s Mi8 helicopter flew its first missions this morning - carrying 2.5 mt of cereals and pulses on each flight to Goligoli, where over 13,000 people have been displaced by the floods and are in need of food assistance. WFP is planning to deliver 74 mt of food to Goligoli, which should take the helicopter around 4-5 days. The helicopter will deliver food and non-food supplies on a priority basis on behalf of the entire humanitarian community to displaced people in inaccessible resettlement areas. All flight and cargo decisions will be taken in consultation with the government’s National Institute for Disaster Management (INGC) and other partners. A second helicopter is on stand-by for deployment to Caia to enhance the humanitarian response. (…)


World Water Day 2008 – The Tap Project will run from March 16 to 22 in 15 cities in USA

Volunteers needed

The Water & Sanitation Rotarian Action Group (WASRAG) is excited to partner with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF on the highly successful Tap Project, originally launched in New York City by the U.S. Fund last year and which is expanding in 2008 to involve restaurants across the U.S.  We need your help to make this project a success!

On World Water Day 2007, nearly 300 restaurants in New York City invited diners to pay $1 for the tap water they normally enjoy for free to be donated towards UNICEF programs improving drinking water for children around the world.  Insufficient access to clean drinking water is the second largest killer of children under the age of five, and the Tap Project raises funds for providing safe water and sanitation facilities, and promoting safe hygiene practices. 

This year, the Tap Project will run throughout World Water Week, March 16-22, which is a UN initiative intended to confront the global water crisis.  In 15 cities across the U.S., leading advertising agencies, all donating their services to create a unique Tap branded experience in their own city, will garner restaurant and diner participation while educating the public about those who struggle to survive without adequate drinking water. 

For every dollar raised, a child will have clean drinking water for 40 days.

With WASRAG members’ deep understanding of the global water crisis that those in the developing world face, your voice and actions as a Tap Project Volunteer will encourage restaurants to participate in Tap and advocate for the issue within your local community.  Volunteers will be provided materials and guidance and will be joining one of the most exciting national campaigns for child survival in history. 

To learn more and to register as a volunteer, please visit



Peace and security



Kenya: Ban Ki-moon welcomes advances in political talks

Displaced Kenyans at police station in Tigoni, 30 kilometres from Nairobi

15 February - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has lauded the progress made towards ending the political crisis that has gripped Kenya since contested elections were held in the East African nation last December. The parties to the Kenya National Dialogue and Reconciliation process, which includes the planned creation of an independent review of the electoral process, announced today that their talks are advancing. In a statement, Mr. Ban said that he “hopes these understandings will contribute immediately to reduced levels of violence in the country” where some 1,000 people have lost their lives and more than 310,000 others displaced since the December elections in which President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner over opposition leader Raila Odinga. The Secretary-General expressed his concern for the safety of civilians, urging the full respect of human rights in the country and applauding “all those Kenyans who in these trying times have reached out to their neighbours irrespective of ethnic differences”. To heal the country’s rifts, he said it was essential for its leaders to be open to compromise and reconciliation. Mr. Ban also expressed his full and ongoing support for the mediation efforts of the Panel of Eminent African Personalities led by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.


Giving peace a chance: Rotary announces new class of World Peace Fellows

Evanston, Ill, USA, 14 February - Amid daily headlines of war, suicide bombings, ethnic and religious violence and social unrest emerges some welcome positive news: The Rotary Foundation has named a new class of World Peace Fellows to study peacemaking and conflict resolution at the six Rotary Centers for International Studies located at leading universities in England, Japan, Australia, Argentina, and the United States.

Launched in 2002, this innovative approach to world peace is a master's level program aimed at equipping the next generation of global and community leaders with skills needed to reduce the threat of war and violence. The Rotary World Peace Fellows are selected every year in a globally competitive process that begins when they apply through their local Rotary clubs. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to peace and international understanding through their personal and community service activities or academic and professional achievements.

Like the members of the classes preceding them, the 60 students in the 2008-10 class are a diverse group, representing 33 countries and an array of professional and cultural backgrounds. Their interests and areas of expertise include public health, education, international law, economic development, psychology, journalism, and social justice.

Rotary is the world's largest privately-funded source of international scholarships and has more than 30,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographic regions. For more information about the Rotary Centers for International Studies, please visit

Interested in becoming a Rotary World Peace Fellow? Contact a Rotary Club in your area or send an email to 


One year contract with AECI to mine action activities in Eastern Congo

12 February - DanChurchAid (DCA) Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA) program in DR Congo has signed a one year contract with the AECI, Spanish Agency for International Cooperation under the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for an amount of 554.713 Euros to finance Mine Action activities in Eastern Congo.

The contract started on the 1st of December 2007 and will end on the 30th of November 2008.

The action is entitled “Humanitarian Mine Action Programme for internally displaced, returning refugees and war affected communities in South-Kivu Province, Democratic Republic of Congo.”

Through the deployment of two survey/MRE/HIV-AIDS teams and one EOD team in South-Kivu Province the main objectives of DCA, supported by AECI, are the following:

·                     To reduce the risks of accidents caused by landmines and Unexploded Ordnance.

·                     To reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS (HIV/AIDS awareness is an integrated component of DCA HMA Programme).

·                     To give the population (war affected local people, IDPs and Refugees) access to agricultural lands, water and basic social services.

·                     To develop a national competence to ensure the sustainability of Humanitarian Mine Action Activities.

·                     Feeding of the information on mines and UXO into IMSMA (Information Management System for Mine Action) compatible format as well as starting the post-clearance assessments. (…)


Nepal: Parliamentary support for the Mine Ban Treaty

31 January - Members of the Nepalese parliament participating in a seminar organized by the Nepal Campaign to Ban Landmines (NCBL) expressed strong support for a ban on antipersonnel mines and vowed to actively promote Nepal’s accession to the Mine Ban Treaty through their political activities.

The seminar, focusing on the role of parliamentarians in promoting accession to the Mine Ban Treaty and mine action, was held in Kathmandu on 27 January and was attended by the Speaker of the Interim Legislative Parliament, Subhash Chandra Nembang, as well as representatives from all the main political parties in the country. Other guests included representatives from the Canadian Embassy in Kathmandu and the Nepal Army. (...)

Seminar participants stressed the need for effective policies on victim assistance, and for the inclusion of landmine survivors in existing provisions for victims of conflict and disabled people. They also identified the need for mine risk education nationwide as well as for increased human, technical and financial resources for mine clearance.


New IPB book: Whose Priorities? - A guide for campaigners on military and social spending

by Colin Archer, IPB Secretary-General

This book is a follow-up to IPB's earlier volume Warfare or Welfare? Disarmament for Development in the 21st Century.While that work attempted to describe the nature of the problems facing us, the new publication sketches out some approaches to campaigning in opposition to militarism, and offers summary accounts of 18 projects undertaken by civil society groups around the world. Full text available here. Published 2007, 76pp, A4 format, illustrated. ISBN: 92-95006-04-6. German translation here.

The International Peace Bureau is dedicated to the vision of a World Without War. We are a Nobel Peace Laureate (1910) and over the years 13 of our officers have been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Our 300 member organisations in 70 countries, and individual members, form a global network bringing together expertise and campaigning experience in a common cause. Our current main programme centres on Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable Development. We welcome your participation. For a detailed overview of IPB's recent work please have a look at our: Activity Report for 2006-2007






Valentine’s Day art auction raises over $40 million for UN-backed Global Fund

15 February - At a Valentine’s Day art auction in New York yesterday to benefit the United Nations-backed Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, more than $40 million was raised to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. The contemporary art auction was part of the (RED) campaign, which, since being launched in 2006 by Bono and Bobby Shriver, has become one of the largest consumer-based fundraising efforts by the private sector for an international humanitarian issue. Yesterday’s event “is yet more confidence expressed in the work of the Global Fund and those thousands of health workers who turn the money into lives saved”, said Michel Kazatchkine, the Fund’s Executive Director. With support from its partners - the Gap, Hallmark, Apple, Motorola, Emporio Armani, American Express, Converse, Microsoft and Dell - the Global Fund takes no overhead so that all (RED) money is sent directly to the Fund to be invested in HIV/AIDS programmes in Africa. To date, funds generated by (RED) have already provided anti-retroviral treatments to nearly 30,000 people and reached over one million women and children through counselling, HIV testing and other services. Since its creation in 2002, the Global Fund has contributed more than $10 billion to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria through 550 programmes in 136 countries.


Volunteers travel across the globe to battle polio in remaining strongholds

World on the verge of eradicating second disease after smallpox

Evanston, Ill., USA, 14 February - More than 100 volunteers from the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe will travel to India and the West African country of Nigeria to immunize children against polio - a crippling and potentially fatal disease that still threatens children in parts of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.   These volunteers - all members of Rotary, a humanitarian service organization that has made polio eradication its top philanthropic goal - will work with local authorities and Rotary members to help administer the drops of oral polio vaccine to every child under the age of five, deliver the vaccine to remote villages and educate families on the importance of protecting children against polio. 

India and Nigeria are the major strongholds of polio and among just four countries (including Pakistan and Afghanistan) where the wild poliovirus has never been stopped. World health experts say that a polio-free world now hinges on these four countries. 

Rotary's commitment to end polio represents the largest private-sector support of a global health initiative ever.  Since 1985, Rotary has contributed more than US$650 million, a figure that will increase to $850 million by the time polio is eradicated.  Besides raising and contributing funds, over one million men and women of Rotary have volunteered their time and personal resources to help immunize more than 2 billion children in 122 countries.

With its community-based network worldwide, Rotary is the volunteer arm of a global partnership dedicated to eradicating polio.  Since the 1988 launch of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, when 125 countries were polio-endemic and more than 350,000 children paralyzed by the disease each year, polio cases have been slashed by 99 percent. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

For further information visit email  or visit


MSF treats more than 4,000 for cholera in DRC’s Katanga province

13 February - Cholera cases are still on the rise in Katanga province, in the southwest of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). (...) Since late September, a total of 4,029 cases have been reported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) emergency teams in the cities of Lubumbashi, the economic capital, and Likasi, a city of 350,000 people. At least 97 patients have died.

“MSF can now treat patients adequately in two cholera treatment centers in Lubumbashi and in a third center installed in Likasi,” says Bertrand Perrochet, coordinator of MSF’s DRC emergency pool. “However, it seems that we have not yet reached the peak of the outbreak, as the number of patients is still increasing in the two cities”. (...)

In Likasi, located at about 60 miles north of Lubumbashi, MSF has admitted 1,486 patients to its cholera treatment center since late December. Forty-eight patients have died, with nearly half of these deaths occurring over the last week. Epidemiological data confirm an increasing trend: cases have gone from 275 in the third week of January to 404 in the first week of February. There continues to be many new admissions - about 60 new cases per day - with an average of 160 patients hospitalized at the clinic at any given time.


Red Cross responds to avian influenza outbreak in eastern India

Amit Kumar, International Federation, New Delhi

12 February - Indian Red Cross Society (IRCS) volunteers and staff in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal are working around the clock to distribute information about the potentially deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza, as authorities continue efforts to cull 2.8 million birds. (...)

The West Bengal state branch of the IRCS has distributed avian influenza information brochures (which were produced at the IRCS National Headquarters in 11 languages) written in the local Bengali language to all affected districts. (…)

Trained disaster management volunteers have also started an awareness campaign. In coordination with local governments, they are visiting communities and explaining to the unwilling and at times angry villagers about the pandemic and urging them to hand over poultry to the culling teams.

In the West Bengal district of Murshidabad, teams of IRCS volunteers are working around the clock to raise community awareness about the disease and to convince villagers to part with their chickens. However, beyond this, the volunteers are also training community members to be able to distribute information themselves. Using this grassroots method, about 15,000 villagers in 110 villages have been reached by the awareness campaign.

This is not the first time that the IRCS has had to respond to an outbreak of avian influenza. In 2006, volunteers and staffed distributed more than half a million information brochures in response to an outbreak of the disease in a few districts of Maharashtra. (…)


Hands up for polio eradication

7 February - More than 41 million children under five years old were targeted for an additional dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) last week in Nigeria’s first national round of vaccination in 2008. Tens of thousands of health workers, community mobilizers, independent monitors and volunteers spread out across the country to ensure no child was missed.

In Lagos, Nigeria’s largest city,  Her Excellency the First Lady of Lagos State, Mrs Amimbola Fashola, rallied mothers to vaccinate their children. Traditional and religious leaders and other state and local government officials were also on hand to ensure the round got of to a flying start.

Strengthened ownership from government at all levels and support from traditional and religious leaders is improving coverage, crucial to protect the impressive gains made against polio in 2007.

A second National Immunization Plus Day (NIPD) is scheduled for February 23-26. Preparations are currently under way to strengthen  micro-plans, maps and vaccinator knowledge particularly in the highest-risk areas.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awards $2.6 million to International Medical Corps for emergency response in Kenya

Los Angeles, 5 February - International Medical Corps (IMC) today announced a $2.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support its emergency response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis following Kenya’s contested presidential election last month. With thousands lacking medical care, housing, and income, the foundation’s support will be used to expand IMC’s outreach among the estimated half million Kenyans now in need of immediate assistance. 

The funds will support primary health care and mental health services delivered through International Medical Corps’ mobile clinics in Nairobi’s Kibera slum as well as in Rift Valley Province.  These clinics treat several hundred people per day, particularly women and children suffering from diarrhea due to poor water and sanitation, upper respiratory tract infections as a result of insufficient shelter, and malaria. In addition, the grant will provide for improved water and sanitation and the distribution of food and material support to displaced and vulnerable persons. (…)

International Medical Corps will also use grant funds to enhance its existing HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis programs to focus on preventing patients from defaulting on their medications and to ensure adequate nutrition to patients on antiretroviral and antibiotic treatment. (…)



Energy and safety



Hydrogen powered cell phone battery - a reality

17 February - Offering twice the run-time of batteries and with recharge times on the order of 10 minutes, Angstrom’s EverOn capability promises to supplant the lithium ion batteries commonly used in today’s portable electronic devices.

Angstrom has announced a global first with the completion of a six-month test of fully integrated fuel cell-powered mobile devices. This revolutionary power platform was successfully integrated into MOTOSLVR L7 handsets for the trial, with no modification to the outside dimensions of the devices. The trial devices did not rely on the use of any battery - instead, they drew power from Angstrom’s Micro Hydrogen platform, which is comprised of a novel fuel cell architecture, innovative micro-fluidics and a revolutionary refillable hydrogen storage tank. Angstrom has demonstrated research results showing twice the talk-time of the equivalent batterypowered devices in side-by-side testing.

Angstrom is currently collaborating with world-leading battery manufacturers, portable electronic device makers and mobile service providers towards the commercialization of its Micro Hydrogen technology. (...)


Three major banks sign The Carbon Principles

by Anne Moore Odell

With the help of environmental groups and power companies, Citi, JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley outline carbon risk management for banks.

13 February - If banks are serious about managing their carbon footprints, they must go beyond simply greening up their own companies’ use of electricity to examining the projects they help finance. Three of the largest US banks have created a carbon risk management protocol for their investment portfolios with the drafting of The Carbon Principles.

At the beginning of February, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, and Citi signed The Carbon Principles, which lays out guidelines for climate change risk management and the financing of building new electricity power plants. The financial institutions conceived the Principles with input from power companies, including American Electric Power, CMS Energy, DTE Energy, NRG Energy, PSEG, Sempra and Southern Company, and the non-governmental organizations, Environmental Defense and the Natural Resources Defense Council. (…)

The banks to address carbon risks around the construction of new coal burning power plants also created an Enhanced Diligence framework attached to The Carbon Principles. The Enhanced Diligence framework evaluates the carbon risks associated with heavy carbon producing plants, mainly coal plants, by looking at the potential risks of future carbon litigation, carbon storage, etc.

The three Carbon Principles embraced by the banks are energy efficiency; renewable and low carbon distributed energy technologies; and conventional and advanced generation. Under conventional and advanced generation, the Principles include natural gas, coal and nuclear power. (…) The Carbon Principles are the first time that US banks have come together to construct guidelines for investing in new electricity generating plants and the greenhouse gases (GHG) emitted during power production. The three original signatories invite other organizations and banks to sign onto The Carbon Principles. (…)


Global partners for emergency communications

The Vodafone Group Foundation and United Nations Foundation Technology Partnership joins World Food Programme to improve communications during humanitarian crises

Barcelona, 13 February - The World Food Programme (WFP), The Vodafone Group Foundation, and the United Nations Foundation announced today a ground-breaking ‘global partnership for emergency. Over the next three years, this partnership will help contribute to our work to help save millions of lives. The partnership will increase the effectiveness of information and communications technology (ICT) response to major emergencies and disasters around the world. The partnership - which includes a $4.3 million commitment from The Vodafone Group Foundation-United Nations Foundation Technology Partnership as well as a further $1.8 million contribution from the WFP - will develop the first-ever ICT training programme which will be open to the global community of humanitarian relief organisations. (…) The focus of the partnership will be to standardise ICT solutions used by global aid organisations to improve the speed with which critical communications networks can be established in the immediate aftermath of a humanitarian crisis. (…)


International Energy Agency

11 February - The IEA has updated its Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency policies databases, with the assistance of governments. With records dating back to 1999, these databases arguably represent the most comprehensive collection of national policies on renewable energy and energy efficiency for IEA member countries as well as some non-member countries. Go to: Renewable Energy database or Energy Efficiency database.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) acts as energy policy advisor to 27 member countries in their effort to ensure reliable, affordable and clean energy for their citizens. Founded during the oil crisis of 1973-74, the IEA’s initial role was to co-ordinate measures in times of oil supply emergencies. As energy markets have changed, so has the IEA. Its mandate has broadened to incorporate the “Three E’s” of balanced energy policy making: energy security, economic development and environmental protection.


FAO unveils new bioenergy assessment tool

Weighs impact on food security

Rome, 8 February - A decision-support tool developed by FAO will help ensure that countries can enter the rapidly growing field of bioenergy industry to produce benefits for the poor without jeopardizing their food security. The tool, an “analytical framework” designed by a team of economists from FAO, Utrecht University’s Copernicus Institute and Darmstadt’s Oeko-Institut, was unveiled at a two-day experts’ meeting of FAO’s Bioenergy and Food Security (BEFS) project. The three-year project, funded by Germany, is aimed at making sure that bioenergy does not impair global food security.

The analytical framework allows governments interested in entering the bioenergy sector to calculate the effect of their policy decisions on the food security of their populations. Bioenergy can affect food prices and rural incomes and thus has important implications - both positive and negative - for food security.

Applying the analytical framework will enable national policy makers to minimize negative consequences while maximizing positive outcomes. A prerequisite for running the framework is the establishment of a bioenergy development scenario, a process in which FAO helps government clearly define their bioenergy policy options and the various possible strategies to achieve those options. The analytical framework then makes it possible, through five steps, to assess: technical biomass potential; biomass production costs; the economic bioenergy potential; macro-economic consequences; national and household-level impact and consequences on food security. (…)


FAO - Bioenergy: Can it fuel a rural renaissance?

The State of Food and Agriculture 2008

Biomass was the first energy source harnessed by humans and remains the main source of energy for the 2 billion people in the world who lack access to electricity, liquid fuels and other modern energy services. In recent years liquid biofuels have attracted renewed interest in response to volatile and rising petroleum prices, global climate change and rural development concerns. Concerns have mounted, however, regarding their effectiveness in meeting these challenges and their potential for negative environmental and social consequences. The State of Food and Agriculture 2008 examines bioenergy, especially liquid biofuels, and asks whether it can fuel a rural renaissance. The report addresses the biophysical and economic potential of 1st and 2nd generation biofuels, global and local environmental impacts, agricultural commodity price impacts, and implications for poverty and hunger. It also explores policy options to ensure positive outcomes for people and the environment.



Environment and wildlife



Celebrities show their true colours at Global Green USA’s annual Pre-Oscar Party 

14 February - In a show of solidarity for Global Green USA’s initiatives, celebrities use their star power to fight against global warming and poverty at the 5th annual Pre-Oscar Party on Wednesday, February 20. In the words of Salma Hayek, actress and devoted Green Cross supporter: “As the world struggles to combat poverty and global warming, Global Green is proving we can find solutions that benefit communities and reduce global warming”.

With an exclusive performance by Michelle Branch and surprise musical guests, Hollywood’s most visible personalities will gather to promote environmental awareness and advocacy, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Orlando Bloom, Penelope Cruz, Edward Norton, Charlize Theron and others.

As celebrities and musical guests prepare for the red carpet at the Oscar ceremony, they will also support Global Green USA’s numerous innovative programmes, particularly recent initiatives to promote sustainable architecture (the Sustainable Design Competition) and green policy-making (Green Housing Initiative) in the movement to reconstruct New Orleans in sustainable ways in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Another initiative is the Global Solar Fund to promote investment in photovoltaic energy. (...)


HP joins WWF Climate Savers program, pledges further reductions

13 February - HP has joined the WWF Climate Savers program, a group of leading corporations from around the world that are working with World Wildlife Fund to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, WWF and HP announced today.

At a Climate Savers summit held this week in Tokyo, HP officials pledged to reduce emissions from operations and the use of its products by six million tons below 2005 levels by 2010. In addition, the company committed to reduce energy consumption by 15 percent in its operations from 2005 levels, while achieving a 25 percent reduction in the energy used by its products and operations combined below 2005 levels by 2010. (…)

HP’s announcement comes as companies from around the world gathered to discuss business strategies to reduce climate change at the Climate Savers Tokyo Summit. During the summit, HP said it will sign the Tokyo Declaration - a call to action and renewed commitment on global warming.

HP officials said the company has already made great strides in reducing its emissions through operational efficiency and product recycling. In 2007, HP announced it would reduce energy use from its products and operations by 20 percent over 2005 levels by the end of 2010. But by the end of October 2007, HP had already reached a 19.2 percent reduction, so it strengthened the goal further to 25 percent. (…)


Congo Wetlands reserve to be world’s second largest

2 February - WWF has welcomed the World Wetlands Day announcement of the world’s second largest internationally recognized and protected significant wetlands reserve in the Congo “as a clear sign of the world’s increasing interest in the green heart of Africa”. (…)

Around 300,000 people live in the 5,908,074 hectare Grand Affluents RAMSAR wetland, with the four major tributaries to the Congo flowing through it being the origin of its name as well as making the area an important transport network.

The world’s largest RAMSAR wetland is the 6,278,200 ha Queen Maude Gulf Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Canada.

Other Congo area RAMSAR sites declared on World Wetlands Day included wetlands on major Congo tributaries such as the Libenga and the Sangha in The Cameroons and two coastal wetland reserves important to migrating birds at Cayo-Loufoualeba and Conkouati-Douli. (…)

World Wetlands Day commemorates the signing of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea.



Religion and spirituality



Kobia sees changing landscape

14 February - New expressions of Christianity. The growing prominence of the global South. The impact of globalization. Increasing religious diversity. These factors and others are contributing to a “rapidly changing ecclesial context,” one that World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia addressed in his comprehensive report to the Central Committee on Thursday.

The WCC will only continue to function as a privileged instrument of the wider ecumenical movement if ... openness to change is shown, and concrete steps for greater clarity of roles and improved cooperation between different actors in the ecumenical movement are taken,” Kobia said.

Amid that changing landscape, Kobia - who is undergoing evaluation by the Executive Committee and Central Committee this week as his contract is up for renewal - said the WCC stood amid a number of tensions in its present and future. It must deepen the fellowship of existing member churches while at the same time reaching out to broaden the ecumenical movement. Calls for the WCC to do more come as its governing bodies are urging it to focus more narrowly and make the most of its resources. At the same time, differing understandings of biblical truth are testing the bonds of Christian unity. (...)


Baha’i International Community issues statement on poverty eradication

New York, 15 February - A new statement from the Baha’i International Community calls for a coherent, principle-based approach to the eradication of global poverty. BIC representatives introduced the statement, “Eradicating Poverty: Moving Forward as One,” yesterday at a luncheon held at their offices across from the United Nations. About 40 representatives from various non-governmental organizations and UN agencies gathered for the presentation.

Tahirih Naylor, a representative of the BIC to the United Nations, said the statement was released to coincide with the 46th Commission for Social Development at the United Nations, which runs 6-15 February 2008. (...)

As part of that process, the BIC contacted selected members of the Baha’i community around the world and asked them to organize discussions on poverty and human rights involving individuals from the local level. These discussions took place in six countries - Brazil, Guyana, Haiti, India, Namibia and Turkey - and the consultations there provided first-hand experiences and impressions from individuals who are most affected by poverty.


Cardinal to host meeting with Muslims on next step in dialogue

Vatican City, 7 February - Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, will host a meeting with Muslim representatives in early March to plan a meeting with Pope Benedict XVI and the next step in their dialogue. Sohail Nakhooda, editor in chief of Islamica Magazine in Jordan, said the meeting with Cardinal Tauran was scheduled for March 3-4. Nakhooda was one of the 138 Muslim scholars who wrote to Pope Benedict and other Christian leaders in October proposing new efforts at Christian-Muslim dialogue based on the shared belief in the existence of one God, in God’s love for humanity and in people’s obligation to love one another. Pope Benedict responded in November by inviting a group of the Muslim scholars to meet with him and to hold a broader working session with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and with representatives of the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies and the Pontifical Gregorian University. Five of the 138 scholars, including Nakhooda, will participate in the March meeting.


Decade of interreligious dialogue and cooperation for peace

Geneva, 1 February - In the beautiful Geneva countryside at the Bossey Chateau, from the 8-11 January 2008, a group of people from the interfaith movement as well as Civil Society from around the world, met to discuss the proposal for a Decade of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation for Peace. The Brahma Kumaris (BKWSU) were present together with other organizations including: CPWR, IARF, URI, WCRP, Temple of Understanding, 3HO, Minorities of Europe, Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies - Jordan, Arya Samaj, SG/USG, CONGO, CONGO’s CSVGC-Geneva, Interfaith International, LGWPF, WWSF, The Bahai’s, Muslim, Orthodox, WV, LWF,WARC.

A group of people had already been working on this project prior to this meeting in order to create a dialogue within and between the different religions for the improvement of peace between communities and nations.

One of the purposes of this meeting was to work on a draft proposal for a resolution to be submitted and approved by the General Assembly during its 63rd session (2008-2009). As well as developing an institutional arrangement for mechanisms to facilitate successful implementation.

The objectives of the meeting were met and work will be carried on to the next phase; involving relationships with countries and networking with more faith based organisations.



Culture and education



Translating findings into action: “Education for All” regional policy reviews

Have existing policies been effective in realizing Education for All? What policies and strategies are needed to ensure the right to education for the un-reached?

UNESCO, Paris, 18 February - Two policy review conferences are taking place this month to identify policy gaps and develop strategies to meet the Education for All goals by 2015 

The South-East Asia EFA Mid-Term Policy Review Conference will take place from 18-21 February 2008 in Jomtien, Thailand.

In parallel, the EFA Medium Term Review for the Arab States will review the challenges for the Arab Region from 19-21 February 2008 in Doha, Qatar.

The aim of these policy review conferences is to translate the findings of the national EFA Mid-Decade Assessment and the 2008 EFA Global Monitoring Report into concrete actions for the region. Contacts:


EI and Australian teachers welcome official apology to Aborigines

13 February - EI and Australian teachers are wholeheartedly applauding the new federal government’s formal apology to indigenous Aboriginal people for past injustices and human rights violations.

On 13 February, the first day of taking office, newly-elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd rose in the Parliament and apologised in an emotional and magnificent speech to all Aborigines for past laws and policies that “inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss”. (...)

In a statement signed by AEU Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos and Federal Secretary and EI Vice-President Susan Hopgood, the Australian Education Union called the apology “a significant moment in Australia’s history.” (…) The AEU statement urged the government to go beyond today’s apology: It said “all levels of Australian governments must further acknowledge and urgently act to redress the significant and unacceptable gap between the educational outcomes of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.”

The union also welcomed the government’s announced commitment to prioritise provision of early childhood education for Indigenous children. (…)

The apology comes in advance of the World Indigenous Peoples Conference, slated to be held on the traditional lands of the Kulin Nation in Melbourne, Australia from 7-11 December 2008. Education is the theme of this year’s conference (...).


Free Online Access to Training Courses

UNU Launches OpenCourseWare Portal

4 February - The United Nations University OpenCourseWare Portal makes course material used by the university’s Research & Training Centres and Programmes available on the web free of charge to anyone. With the opening of the site, the UNU joins a select group of over one hundred leading universities from around the world committed to supporting the growth of free and open digital publication of high quality educational materials. Initially the UNU OpenCourseWare Portal offers open access to about a dozen courses developed by three of the university’s centres (in Canada, Macao, and the Netherlands) and the Tokyo-based UNU Media Studio. Expressing his support for this initiative, UNU Rector Konrad Osterwalder said, “This signifies our commitment to broadening access to high-quality educational materials and will contribute to the United Nations University’s core mission, which seeks to further the generation and sharing of knowledge in order to strengthen individual and institutional capacities to resolve pressing global problems”. The topics currently covered include e-governance, economic development and innovation, mangrove biodiversity and integrated watershed management. More courses are in production and in 2008, additional UNU units will participate in this initiative which promotes open sharing and global benefits for self-learners and educators.


Human Rights in Education and Health

Essay competition for high schools students of the Province of Cagliari (Sardinia, Italy) promoted by the Rotary Club of Cagliari in accord with Good News Agency in the context of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (10 December 1948 – 10 December 2008)

Cagliari, 1 February - The Rotary Club of Cagliari has launched an essay competition for the high schools students of the Province of Cagliari, which begins in the current school year and will be concluded by the end of December 2008. The students, either individually or in group, will have to deal with the subject “Human Rights in Education and in Health”. The essays can be supported by multimedial instruments and accompanied by drawings, tables, pieces of research, films, CD-rom, etc. The participating schools will receive regularly and free of charge the e-newsletter Good News Agency, which can be a valid means of knowing projects being carried out by international institutions and civil society  in the field of human rights.

The competition foresees the following prizes: Rotary prize of 1,000 euros given to the best essay; Rotary prize of 500 euros to be given to the second best; Rotary prize to 250 euros for the third best; Good News Agency’s prize of 250 euros to the essay that best indicates the connection between human rights, training and information.

The announcement of the competition has already been sent by the General Direction of the Regional School Office to the  Schools Directors. For further information, please contact Dr. Maria Luigia Muroni, tel. +39 070 490848; mob. +39 347 8590788; e-mail:


Art Exhibit Melting Ice / A Hot Topic: Envisioning Change will travel to Monaco

25 January - The Natural World Museum (NWM) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) have revealed plans to bring their innovative and highly celebrated art exhibit, “Melting Ice / A Hot Topic: Envisioning Change”, to the Principality of Monaco in honor of the official programming for the Tenth Special Session of UNEP’s Governing Council/Global Ministerial Environment Forum on Globalization and Environment: Financing the Climate Challenge. This forum is the largest gathering of environmental leaders from across the globe. “UNEP and NWM have joined forces to generate environmental awareness through the Art for the Environment initiative” said Achim Steiner, Under Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNEP. “Science informs the mind, music and the heart but art connects with the human spirit. We urgently need to empower all three of these essential human elements if we are to rise to the challenge and seize the opportunities for economic, environmental and social renewal glimpsed through the lens of climate change.”  The international exhibit on climate change will be hosted by the Office of Cultural Affairs in Monaco (DAC) from 20 February - 16 March 2008. UNEP and NWM have been partners since 2005 through the global “Art for the Environment” initiative, a curatorial programme that utilizes the universal language of art to unite people into action and thought on a broad spectrum of environmental topics. (…)


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Next issue: 14 March 2008.


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