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Good News Agency

Monthly – year 13th, number 209 – 11th January 2013


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 10,000 media and editorial journalists in 54 countries and to 3,000 NGOs and 1,600 high schools, colleges and universities.

It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, an educational charity associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. In the final report of the Decade for a Culture of Peace project (2001-2010) presented to the UN General Assembly, Good News Agency is included among the three NGOs that have been playing a major role in the field of Information via Internet*.




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education


International legislation


Poland ratifies the Mine Ban Treaty

28 December - Poland has become the 161st nation to join the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which comprehensively bans the use, production, trade, and stockpiling of antipersonnel landmines. Poland deposited its instrument of ratification at the United Nations in New York on 27 December 2012. Poland signed the Mine Ban Treaty in 1997 when it opened for signature, but it took 15 years to ratify the instrument, one of the last two signatory states to do so. During this time, it has fulfilled most of its obligations under the treaty, including destruction of close to one million of its stockpiled mines.

As a result of the Second World War Poland was considered to be one of the most heavily mine-affected countries in the world. Today there are no remaining minefields in Poland. With Poland's ratification, all of the European Union is on board the treaty and all of NATO, with the exception of the United States. (…).The Mine Ban Treaty will enter into force for Poland on 1 June 2013.



Argentina: Military-era sentences another historic step towards justice

by Alejandro Pagni

20 December - The first sentence against a civilian for human rights abuses committed during Argentina’s military rule is another historic step towards justice, said Amnesty International today. Former minister Jaime Smart and 22 former military officials were on Wednesday found guilty for their involvement in the kidnapping, murder and torture of social activists at six illegal detention centres in Buenos Aires. Smart, who was Minister of Interior of the state of Buenos Aires between 1976 and 1979, was sentenced to life in prison. “These convictions are yet another sign that Argentina is dealing with it’s tragic past and bringing truth and justice to society,” said Mariela Belski, Executive Director at Amnesty International Argentina. (…)

In their ruling, the Tribunal also requested that the sexual abuses perpetrated by officials is considered torture and that the police stations that functioned as secret detention centers be turned into sites of memory. (...)




Human rights


USA - Filipino teachers win battle against exploitation

21 December (source: Radio Labour) - Earlier this week, a U.S. federal court in Los Angeles ordered a recruitment agency to pay US$4.5 million in damages to 350 Filipino teachers. The teachers, recruited as part of a guest worker programme, had been forced into exploitive contracts after arriving in the United States. The verdict in the class-action lawsuit followed a two-week trial in a U.S. federal court in Los Angeles, where the recruitment agency, Universal Placement International, is registered. The case was filed on behalf of the teachers by the American Federation of Teachers, one of Education International's affiliates in the United States, and the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit civil rights organisation dedicated to seeking justice for the most vulnerable members of society.

The teachers began arriving in the United States in 2007 as part of a guest worker programme, which permits foreign nationals with special skills to work in the United States for up to six years. Most teachers paid the agency a fee of about US $16,000 - several times the average household income in the Philippines - to obtain their jobs. "This groundbreaking verdict affirms the principle that all teachers working in our public schools must be treated fairly, regardless of what country they may come from," said AFT President, Randi Weingarten.



Ban welcomes UN General Assembly resolutions eliminating female genital mutilation

21 December –Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed today the passing of an “historic” United Nations resolution calling on countries to eliminate female genital mutilation, adding that the move was an important step towards a world free from violence against women. Pointing to diverse initiatives – such as the COMMIT launched by UN Women and the Secretary-General’s own UNiTE to End Violence against Women, which works in collaboration with governments and civil society to advance legislation and social mobilization – the statement further noted that ending violence against women remained a priority for the Secretary-General during his second term mandate.

At a news conference held yesterday to mark the resolutions’ passing at UN Headquarters in New York, the representative of Burkina Faso, Der Kogda, acknowledged that the resolution, “strengthening the global effort to eradicate female genital mutilation,” had been adopted by consensus. Sponsored by two thirds of the Member States, including the Group of African States, the text condemns the practice, recognizing it as harmful to women and girls and a serious threat to their health. States were also urged to condemn female genital mutilation to protect women against all forms of violence.



Writers honored for commitment to free expression

20 December -Forty-one writers from 19 countries have received 2012 Hellman/Hammett grants for their commitment to free expression and their courage in the face of persecution. The award-winners have faced persecution for their work, generally by government authorities seeking to prevent them from publishing information and opinions.  Those honored include journalists, bloggers, essayists, novelists, poets, and playwrights.

Free expression is a central human right, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. On July 21, 2011, the Human Rights Committee, the expert body established under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, reiterated the central importance of freedom of opinion and expression,

A distinguished selection committee awards the cash grants to honor and assist writers whose work and activities have been suppressed by repressive government policies. A concentration of grantees in certain countries points to especially severe repression of free expression by those governments. Twelve of this year’s grantees come from the People’s Republic of China; four of them are Tibetan and remain anonymous for security reasons. Five grantees are from Vietnam, four from Ethiopia, and three from Iran.




Economy and development


Pact’s new Myanmar partners to offer loans to 45,000 farmers and women in country’s most isolated communities

Washington, December 24 - Five Myanmar-based civil society organizations will soon begin lending more than US$3 million to farmers and women in rural and isolated communities, thanks to training and counsel from Pact Global Microfinance Fund, Myanmar’s largest nonprofit lender, and to LIFT, a multi-donor fund managed by the United Nations Office for Project Services that is financially supporting the initiative.

On December 24, the first two of the five new local lenders formalized documents that allowed Pact to transfer funds to them. All of them are expected to start making loans the first week of February. Next year, Pact will work with another four community groups to qualify them as microfinance lenders under Myanmar’s new microfinance regulations.

In all, the project known as MARC – Myanmar Access to Rural Credit – will empower the 9 new microfinance institutions to make about 27,000 agricultural loans and nearly 18000 additional loans specifically targeted to women to let them expand non-agricultural activities or start new enterprises. It will cover about 900 villages in the Delta and Dry Zone regions.



FAO helps Darfur farmers and herders live in peace

December 20, Kebkabiya, Sudan - A new project funded by the second phase of the Darfur Community Peace and Stability Fund (DCPSF) has brought peaceful coexistence for farmers and herders in Kebkabiya this cropping season. Under the project, the Food and Agriculture Organization worked in partnership with the Kebkabiya Smallholder Charitable Society (KSCS) to support a local committee to negotiate shared land access during and after the harvest months. The committee is made up of leaders from the local tribes as well as farmers' and herders' groups.

 FAO's project team estimates that about 2 500 farming households had their food security protected under the project, and about 600 metric tonnes of cereals were harvested. Local trust and collaboration have also been strengthened, which are vital building blocks for the second stage of FAO's DCPSF-funded activities.



U.S. contributes $7.9 million to the UN World Food Programme’s Agriculture and Market Access Programs

December 20, Kampala - The U.S. Mission in Uganda today announced a contribution of $7.9 million toward agriculture and market access activities of the UN World Food Programme (WFP). The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, will deliver the funding on behalf of the American people.

The United States is the largest funder of WFP’s humanitarian and development programs. Feed the Future seeks to coordinate the resources of partners including the international community, the private sector, civil society, and multilateral institutions such as WFP to address immediate and longer-term impacts of hunger in the most effective way possible.



IFAD grant of US$20.28 million to boost rice and vegetable productivity in The Gambia

December 20, Rome -  The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide a US$20.28 million grant to the Republic of The Gambia to help improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers with a particular attention to rural women and youth in the country. The financing agreement for the National Agriculture Land and Water Management Development Project was signed today. The project aims to transform the Gambian agricultural sector from simply subsistence farming to an increasingly efficient market system. Cofinanced by the government of The Gambia and the Islamic Development Bank, the project will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture of The Gambia. About 22,000 poor rural households, including 660 young rural women and men will directly benefit from the project.



Mobile money helps WFP to address food shortages in Malawi

December 18, Lilongwe - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has joined forces with the Government of Malawi and mobile telecommunications company Airtel to launch an innovative cash transfer programme to help more than 100,000 people affected by food shortages in central and southern Malawi. Funding for the initiative is being provided by UKaid.

As planned, during the final week of November, WFP and its partners disbursed cash transfers to more than 67,000 beneficiaries in five traditional authorities in three districts. The number of people receiving cash transfers will increase as the lean season progresses, peaking at some 108,000 beneficiaries between January and March. Working with the Government, WFP and its non-governmental partners are assisting more than 1.9 million people in southern Malawi who have been identified as food insecure due to drought and high food prices.



Japan contributes over $3 million in food assistance for vulnerable people in South Sudan

December 14, Juba - The Government of Japan and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) have signed a new agreement for food assistance amounting to approximately US$3.125 million to benefit the most vulnerable people in the Republic of South Sudan. The contribution will be used to purchase food needed for WFP programmes in South Sudan, where the agency is responding to the urgent humanitarian needs of various vulnerable and food insecure people across the country, including South Sudanese returnees and refugees fleeing conflict in neighboring countries.

WFP in South Sudan has supported 2.5 million people since the beginning of the year through a variety of food assistance activities. Japan is currently WFP’s fourth largest individual donor, with over US$ 140 million contributions for WFP operations globally in 2012. In South Sudan, Japan has provided nearly US$ 14 million to support WFP activities in the world’s newest country since independence.






Dow helps to rebuild communities devastated by hurricane Sandy

Philadelphia, December 20  - In the wake of the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, The Dow Chemical Company (NYSE: DOW) today announced the organizations that will receive $150,000 in community grants for relief and revitalization efforts in devastated communities in New York and along the New Jersey coastline.  This donation is one component of Dow’s $500,000 multi-faceted Hurricane Sandy response plan announced in November.

The organizations selected for support have mobilized volunteers, built partnerships and provided shelter, meals and essential supplies to meet immediate and long-term needs exacerbated by Hurricane Sandy.



Caritas Turkey supporting Syrian refugees

20 December – Caritas is launching a programme in the New Year to help Syrian refugees who have fled over the border to Turkey.  Official figures show there are over 120,000 Syrians in refugee camps in south and southeastern Turkey, but tens of thousands more have not been registered yet. Camps are filled to capacity and the number of people living outside them is increasing. Thousands of people are waiting every day to cross over the border from Syria.

Caritas is appealing for €1.406.801 (US$1.9 million) for a 12-month programme that will start on 1st January 2013. Its work will be focused on the border area districts of Kilis and Reyhanlı in Hatay province. The main focus of Caritas’ work will be to provide 2000 families with food and hygiene items, but to also help them get through the winter by providing things such as blankets and heaters. Other services that will be provided by Caritas in Turkey will include medical assistance, counseling and information provision which will help Syrians make informed decisions.



Japan donates US$7 million to WFP to help feed Yemen’s hungry poor

December 18, Sana’a - The Government of Japan and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) have signed a new agreement that will provide US$7.1 million in emergency food assistance for almost half a million Yemenis. WFP will use the Japanese donation to purchase more than 10,000 metric tons of wheat for its emergency safety net programme, under which monthly rations are delivered to food insecure households during the six months of Yemen’s “hunger season” between May and October.

A WFP Comprehensive Food Security Survey earlier this year found that more than 10 million Yemenis – almost 45 percent of the population – are food insecure. Out of those, more than 5 million Yemenis were found to be severely food insecure – a level of need that means they are unable to produce or buy the food they need and require food assistance. WFP has scaled up its operations in Yemen to reach 5.5 million people this year and plans to assist a similar number in 2013.



IFAD grant of US$17.28 million to boost national food security in Eritrea

December 14, Rome - The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide a US$17.28 million grant to the State of Eritrea to help improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers with a particular focus on women in the country. The financing agreement for the National Agriculture Project was signed today. The new IFAD supported project will contribute to improve household food security and alleviate poverty in rural areas of 34 districts of the country’s 6 provinces and in 3 agroecological zones. It also aims to increase smallholder agricultural production and productivity and reduce the country’s dependence on food imports through the intensification of irrigated and rainfed crop production, and the provision of fertilizer and improved seeds to the smallholder farmers.

Cofinanced by the government of Eritrea, the project will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the private sector. About 81,000 poor rural households, including 16,258 women headed households will directly benefit from the project. Households headed by women will be given priority in land allocation in new irrigated areas.



New partnership boosts global development efforts of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies and Japan International Cooperation Agency

Tokyo, 13 December  - A landmark partnership agreement between the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will bring new impetus to humanitarian interventions and sustainable development programmes benefitting vulnerable people in high-risk countries around the world.

Among the areas for potential cooperation are disaster management and local capacity building for disaster risk reduction, climate change, food insecurity and health and community care. There will also be an emphasis on peace-building and youth- and gender-related activities.

In the MoU, the IFRC and JICA stress the importance of ‘country and regional ownership’ and the sustainability of the programmes they put in place to help the most vulnerable.

JICA has offices in nearly 100 countries and areas, while the IFRC represents 187 national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies worldwide.



Mobility helps students

December -  PMRS (Palestinian Medical  Relief Society) received a donation of 550 wheelchairs from Free Wheelchair Mission through ANERA. The wheelchairs have changed the lives of hundreds of kids and adults alike, by making mobility less of a daily struggle.

Established in 2002, the PMRS center serves the entire Hebron area, including surrounding villages and communities, some of which are threatened by the Israeli settlement expansion. The center offers physical therapy for all ages and makes use of PMRS’s drugs and ointments to treat conditions resulting from physical disabilities. Workers are often accompanied by medical doctors through PMRS’s mobile clinics, to provide primary health care to certain cases that are unable to reach the center. The center’s goal is to turn disabled persons into fully-independent individuals.

In 2012, ANERA delivered more than 1,100 donated wheelchairs to the West Bank.



Rotary District Governor Dick Stevens present Henry and Estelle Ebert the prestigious Rotary Visionary Award

November 8 - Henry and Estelle Eberts have worked over the years to support Gift of Life International's efforts in Uganda, El Salvador and Jamaica. Due to their efforts, essential equipment and supplies have been acquired for these programs. Gift of Life International is pleased to recognize the many contribution of the Eberts, and deeply gratified that they have helped to save so many lives.

There are now 71 Gift of Life programs throughout the world and we have treated children from 71 countries on 5 continents. Click here to view a list of all countries served by GOLI.

Gift of Life was founded by Rotary District 7250 (New York) with the collaboration of Rotary Districts and clubs around the world. The 71 GOL Programs and their respective members have treated and saved the lives of more than 15,000 children from 68 countries on 5 continents.




Peace and security


UN peacekeeping mission ends operations as Timor-Leste continues on path to ‘brighter’ future

31 December – The United Nations peacekeeping mission in Timor-Leste today ended its operations, in line with the expiration of its mandate and amidst significant progress made in establishing peace and security in the country.

The south-east Asian nation has endured a long and often violent journey towards independence and democracy since it formally broke away from Indonesia in 2002, and since it first appeared on the agenda of the UN Security Council 37 years ago. Following another outbreak of deadly fighting in 2006, the UN Security Council established UNMIT – it replaced earlier peacekeeping and political missions there, and provided interim law enforcement and public security until Timor-Leste’s national police could be reconstituted and resume its roles.

Since then, the country has progressed on the path to democracy. This year, Timor-Leste celebrated the 10th anniversary of its independence, elected a new president and held parliamentary elections, which were largely peaceful and held in an orderly manner – and which prompted UNMIT’s expected and definitive withdrawal.



UNICEF supports emergency evacuation of vulnerable children in the Central African Republic

18 Decenber - Following a rebel attack in the Northeast of the Central African Republic and threats of more in surrounding areas, UNICEF and partners evacuated 64 children who had been released from armed groups but would be at risk of being re-recruited. The children were living in transit centres in the towns of N’dele and Bria. The centres, which provide temporary shelter, care, support, and reintegration programmes to children released from armed groups, became too dangerous for the children to remain in as the risk that advancing rebels would re-recruit them was very high.  

UNICEF staff are on site to provide technical and programmatic guidance to make sure that the children continue to receive healthcare, psychosocial support and have access to education and vocational opportunities. As the security situation remains fluid in the communities that originally hosted these children, UNICEF is working with partners to identify longer-term support in Bangui until the children can be safely reunified with their families.



13,000 children victims of conflict in Somalia and DRC to benefit from EU Nobel Peace Prize money granted to Save the Children and Norwegian Refugee Council

Brussels, December 18 - Thirteen thousand children who have fled from conflict in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) will benefit from the European Union's Nobel Peace prize money, granted to Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

The announcement was made in Brussels by ECHO, the European Community Humanitarian Office, following the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union. The joint initiative between Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council received nearly $1.2 million, and was one of four proposals to receive a total of $2.6 million, made up of Nobel Peace Prize money matched by the European Union. Save the Children will provide education to 4,000 Somali children living in refugee camps in the border town of Dollo Ado in Ethiopia. NRC will focus on 9,000 children affected by the conflict in Petit Nord Kivu, DRC.



Fixing damaged schools

December - In the wake of the recent bombings in Gaza, ANERA has been making urgent repairs to damaged preschools to make them safe again for Gaza youngsters. At the Visually Impaired Preschool, broken windows, doors and rooftops were fixed after an ANERA team checked the extent of the damage. The Visually Impaired preschool, which is home for some 40 blind students, was renovated as part of ANERA’s Milk for Preschoolers program, which also provided nutritious snacks to more than 140 preschools across Gaza.  The children of the Visually Impaired preschool now have happily returned to their regular routine of learning, playing and singing inside a much warmer environment.

The Friends Society of Visually Impaired Rehabilitation was established in 1995. The non-profit offers education, rehabilitation, social and medical services for visually impaired students. The society also offers classes in Braille for their parents.



The 1st International Rotary Youth and Young Adults Peace Conference

"Rotary - Lead to Peace" - 15th -20th March 2013, Israel - The six day conference will host 200 young people from around the world at a picturesque youth village on the outskirts of Tel-Aviv

The conference, organized by Rotary International District 2490 (Israel) will include:

- Lectures, workshops and master classes in arts, music and ecology based on a multicultural and multi-faith perspective. - Discussions and debates on shared values in different cultures and faiths. - A 'Peace Through Service' project to be developed during the conference and subsequently implemented globally among the different communities of the participants. - Excursions to various ethnic and religious communities in Israel and day trips around Israel.

Rotary International believes that young people throughout the world play a key role in ensuring a better future for us all and must join forces to put an end to conflict and enhance the cause of peace. Therefore Rotary Israel's contribution to the 2013 Rotary "Peace Through Service" year is to hold a Peace Conference to promote direct multi-cultural and multi-faith dialogue among young people from around the globe. Among the distinguished guests honoring the opening plenary of the Peace Camp will be: Israel President Shimon Peres, Rotary International President Sakuji Tanaka, the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Minister of Education (Israel) professor Yuly Tamir, the American Ambassador, the Romanian Ambassador.

For further information: PDG Yael Lazarus, yaki44@gmail.com






First new tuberculosis drug in 50 years

New York/Geneva, 31 December  – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) welcomed the approval by the US Food and Drug Administration of bedaquiline, the first new drug active against tuberculosis (TB) to be registered since 1963. “The first new drug to treat TB in 50 years is an immense milestone,” said Dr Manica Balasegaram, Executive Director of the MSF Access Campaign. “The fact that the drug is active against drug-resistant forms of the disease makes it a potential game changer.”   Today’s treatment for multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) is a two-year course of up to 20 different pills per day and around eight months of daily injections. Patients are subjected to excruciating side effects, ranging from permanent deafness and persistent nausea to psychosis. Globally, only 48 per cent of people who start treatment for DR-TB are cured. In MSF programmes, the cure rate is slightly better – 53 per cent - but still unacceptably low.

“Ministries of health and drug regulators need to work together to make sure people with MDR-TB benefit from this important medical advance as soon as possible,” said Dr Balasegaram.



Renowned US doctor appointed to support UN efforts to eliminate cholera in Haiti

28 December - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed renowned United States physician Paul Farmer to help galvanize support to eliminate cholera in Haiti, where the disease has already claimed over 7,750 lives. The naming of the Special Advisor for Community-Based Medicine and Lessons from Haiti comes just weeks after Mr. Ban launched a new initiative to help eliminate cholera in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, the two nations that make up the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. The initiative will invest in prevention, treatment, and education, and focus on the extension of clean drinking water and sanitation systems as well as the use of an oral vaccine to combat cholera, an acute intestinal infection caused by consuming contaminated food or water. Dr. Farmer served as the UN Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti from 2009 to 2012, during which he assisted in advancing the country’s economic and social development. He will use the data gathered from that experience to advise on lessons learned and how those can be applied in Haiti and other settings, according to the announcement of his appointment.



Free eye glasses distributed to school children with difficulty in Ha Dong

Ha Dong district, Hanoi, Vietnam, December 25 – Learning just got a whole lot easier for 174 students in Ha Dong District today, as they received new eyeglasses as part of ChildSight®, a school based vision care program of Helen Keller International Vietnam (HKI-VN). Funded by the Starr Foundation, the program is implemented by HKI Vietnam in collaboration with the Hanoi Department of Health and Hanoi Department of Education and Training

To date, over 4,700 out of 6,000 secondary students in the pilot program in Ha Dong have received eye care services with around 700 pairs of eyeglasses planned to be provided to students who need them.



Celebrating a win: LGA ranks first in Kano state in vaccinating children against polio

14 December –The Local Government Area (LGA) of Sumaila, in KanoState, was among the worst-performing when it came to vaccinating children against polio. When the Governor of Kano put out his July ranking of LGAs, Sumaila came 23rd out of 44. During the Lot Quality Assurance Sampling (LQAS) – a statistical method to determine the proportion of children remaining unvaccinated after a campaign – 13 children were found without the requisite marked fingers. By November, however, Sumaila made giant strides in its programme to reach children – not a single unmarked finger was found, and the LGA came first in the ranking, winning the Governor’s Award.

Sumaila has over 61,000 children under five years of age, the target group for polio vaccination.



Making it better: Indian surgeons perform corrective surgeries for 400 children with polio

7 December – A 24-member surgical team made up of Indian physicians, surgeons, and support volunteers – all Rotary members – are working with their Nigerian Rotary hosts to perform corrective surgeries on about 400 polio victims ages 14 and younger at two sites in the city of Abuja through Dec. 13.

India, once considered the epicenter of the disease, has gone nearly two years without a new case and was removed from the list of polio-endemic countries in February. The surgery project is the latest example of India exporting its best-practices to help the remaining polio-endemic countries: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. In addition to bettering the lives of polio victims, the surgeries also help build trust in the immunization program so that more parents ensure their children to receive the oral polio vaccine. In India, the approach helped increase the numbers of parents seeking vaccination for their children.




Energy and safety


US Energy Dept. awards $10 million to develop advanced biofuels and bio-based products

January 3 - As part of the Obama Administration's all-of-the-above strategy to develop every available source of American energy, the U.S. Department of Energy today announced more than $10 million to five projects in California, Washington, Maryland, and Texas that will develop new technologies to convert biomass into advanced biofuels and bioproducts like plastics and chemical intermediates. These projects use innovative synthetic biological and chemical techniques to convert biomass into processable sugars that can be transformed into bioproducts and drop-in biofuels for cars, trucks, and planes. The awards announced today will support projects led by collaborative teams, including universities, national laboratories and private industry.

The five projects support the Energy Department's broader biomass portfolio which focuses on research, development and demonstration efforts to achieve affordable, scalable and sustainable advanced biofuels. Two of these projects will develop cost-effective ways to produce intermediates from the deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass, while three projects will propose new conversion techniques to transform biomass intermediates into advanced biofuels and bioproducts.



China's ambitious aim: a windy future

23 December - China’s ambitions in wind power rival those of many IEA member countries: it plans to use turbines both on- and offshore to generate 8.4% of the country’s electricity by 2030 and then double that share just 20 years later. To reach those levels, a “roadmap” developed with the IEA sees China adding about 15 gigawatts (GW) of wind power each year to its 2010 base of 31GW, leaping from 1.3% of electricity production to 5% by 2020. The roadmap was the result of a joint effort led by the Chinese National Development and Reform Commission’s Energy Research Institute (NDRC ERI) with close technical support from the IEA. It not only set the expectations for developing wind power but also assessed the country’s strengths, obstacles and priorities for fulfilling the roadmap.

The roadmap plans for wind power to make up 15% of all installed capacity by 2030 and 26% by 2050. China’s track record so far lends credence to these ambitions: the country’s proportion of newly installed capacity worldwide increased from less than 10% in 2006 to 49% in 2010.



Syria: ICRC helps provide clean water for 10 million people

December 17 – As the situation in Syria continues to deteriorate, the needs of hundreds of thousands of people in terms of water, food and medical assistance continue to grow. The ICRC and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent are doing their best to reach those in need.

As a result of the constant escalation of violence, Syria's infrastructure has been considerably degraded. Essential public services such as the supply of water are severely affected.

"Millions of people are at risk of not having enough clean drinking water," said Sameer Putros, who is in charge of the ICRC's water and habitat activities in Syria. "Security constraints, and shortages of the products required to treat water, make it difficult for local water boards to provide clean water for residents and displaced people."



IAEA, Fukushima Prefecture sign cooperation memorandum

15 December - The Memorandum, signed on the sidelines of the three-day Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, includes arrangements to promote cooperation in two key areas: one on radiation monitoring and remediation between the IAEA and FukushimaPrefecture, and the other on human health between the IAEA and FukushimaMedicalUniversity.

The Memorandum also highlights plans for a training centre in FukushimaPrefecture to help reinforce emergency preparedness and response activities, supported by the Government of Japan and FukushimaPrefecture. An IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET) Capacity Building Centre will be designated, with IAEA radiation monitoring equipment to be deployed in case of need, and to provide training in emergency preparedness and response in Japan and the Asia Pacific region.




Environment and wildlife


UN agency welcomes General Assembly’s adoption of resolution on ecotourism

New York, 3 January – The United Nations tourism agency today welcomed the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution late last year which recognized ecotourism as key in the fight against poverty, the protection of the environment and the promotion of sustainable development.

The resolution, adopted on 21 December and entitled ‘Promotion of ecotourism for poverty eradication and environment protection’, calls on UN Member States to adopt policies that promote ecotourism, highlighting its “positive impact on income generation, job creation and education, and thus on the fight against poverty and hunger.”

It also encourages Member States to promote investment in ecotourism, in accordance with their national legislation, including creating small and medium-sized enterprises, promoting cooperatives and facilitating access to finance through inclusive financial services such as microcredit initiatives for the poor, local and indigenous communities, in areas of ecotourism potential and rural areas.



Nepal - From Community Learning Action Center to saving and credit co-operative

27 December - The Hariyo Ban Program is working in Karnali (west) corridor since 2011 establishing and promoting participation in Community Learning Action Centers (CLACs). The participants of CLACs discuss various issues including biodiversity conservation, provisions for Community Forestry Development Program, regularity of Community Forest User Group (CFUG) meetings and general assembly, forest product distribution systems, forest patrolling, allocation of CFUG funds for pro-poor activities, Community Forest Operational Plan (CFOP) renewal etc. 

Mahila Utthan, Chure Samrakshan and Jagaran are three CLACs in the Karnali corridor with only women members, of whom the majority are Dalits. Each CLAC has 25 women from Trishakti, Birendra and Janakalyan CFUGs respectively. In addition to holding regular discussions on key issues, they are doing something very innovative to help CLAC members as well as other groups support their livelihoods. Monthly they are each saving NRs. 20 and the groups are lending this money at a minimum interest rate of 1-2% per annum to members interested in starting small enterprises. They initiated this practice since the start of the CLACs in March, 2012 in Karnali. At present they have saved a total of NRs 90,000.



Promoting conservation through art

27 December - "Art has been used for hundreds of years to illustrate spirituality, to raise awareness about environmental issues and evoke emotions. Art can engage people in a very deep and personal way, and stir them into action. The natural environment can have similar effects on our emotions – moving us when we see a beautiful sunset or a tree with sunlight on its new leaves," says Judy Oglethorpe, Chief of Party, Hariyo Ban Program. 

The Hariyo Ban Program supported the Second Kathmandu International Art Festival organized by the Siddhartha Art Foundation. This festival happens every three years and is one of the biggest art events of South Asia that uses art as a tool for social change. This year the theme of the festival was “EARTH, BODY and MIND” that explored human links with the environment and the issue of climate change. A total of 95 artists from 31 countries together with 25 Nepali artists exhibited their art at various venues around the KathmanduValley for a month.
The Hariyo Ban Program sponsored two art works: the Naga – or water serpent – by Leang Seckon, and an interactive installation on renewable energy called Moon Ride by Assocreation. 



New agreement between South Africa and Viet Nam - A turning point in tackling rhino poaching crisis, say WWF, TRAFFIC

Ha Noi, Viet Nam, 10 December — A pivotal moment in efforts to tackle the current rhino poaching crisis took place today as the governments of South Africa and Viet Nam signed a Memorandum of Understanding to improve co-operation between the two states on biodiversity conservation and protection including tackling illegal wildlife trafficking.

The main elements of co-operation outlined in the MoU include the field of biodiversity management, conservation, protection, law enforcement, compliance with CITES and other relevant legislation and Conventions. Based on equality and mutual benefit it comes into force on the date of signature and notes specifically that illegal wildlife trafficking remains a global challenge. (…)

Although the MoU between South Africa and Viet Nam refers only in general terms to addressing illegal wildlife smuggling, there are clear indications that rhino horn trafficking will be top of the new agenda on co-operation between the two nations.




Religion and spirituality


U.S. House of Representatives resolution condemns Iran's persecution of Baha'is

WashingtonD.C.,January 3 - The United States Congress has called on Iran to release Baha'is imprisoned solely for their religious beliefs. In a resolution passed on 1 January, the House of Representatives expressed its condemnation of Iran's "state-sponsored persecution" of Baha'is.

"Ordinary Iranian citizens who belong to the Baha'i Faith are disproportionately targeted, interrogated, and detained under the pretext of national security," said the resolution, which was the 12th such measure approved by the US Congress since 1982.

Sponsored by Representatives Robert J. Dold, Daniel Lipinski, and Brad Sherman, the bill took note of Iran's wrongful imprisonment of seven former Baha'i leaders, each currently serving 20-year prison terms. It also condemned the unjust arrest and incarceration of Baha'i educators and administrators of an informal community effort to provide for Baha'i youth who are otherwise excluded from higher education.

More specifically, the resolution urged President Obama and his Secretary of State to utilize measures approved in 2010 to "sanction officials of the Government of Iran and other individuals directly responsible for egregious human rights violations in Iran, including against the Baha'i community."




Culture and education


New Suicide Prevention Series

The Injury Control Research Center for Suicide Prevention (ICRC-S), developed by the University of Rochester Medical Center and EDC, is launching a series of monthly webinars and conference calls. The first webinar January 9th from 2-3 p.m. ET will explore the public health and collaboration for suicide prevention and suicide research. A follow-up conference call is set for January 16th from 2-3 p.m. ET.



Outreach centers keep Honduran youth off the street

2 January  - Rotarians from seven clubs in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa joined together to fund two outreach centers for young people in some of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. The centers are thriving because of startup funding from Rotary clubs and additional support from Regional Youth Alliance, a project of USAID, and the nonprofit Save the Children. They opened in 2009 in Buenas Nuevas and Villafranca, which have a combined population of 22,000. Rotarians chose these locations because they are some of the poorest areas in the city.

“These two neighborhoods are high-risk, where gangs and drug organizations work,” says Rotarian Guillermo Enrique Valle, who coordinated the project for the Rotary clubs of Tegucigalpa and the Rotary Action Group for Population Growth and Sustainable Development. “For young people, instead of going to school or learning vocational training, they are recruited into gangs and drugs - it’s a vicious cycle which is hard to leave.”



In Afghanistan, a popular project combines skateboarding with education - with great success

By Rudina Vojvoda

New York, 26 December - In 2007, Oliver Percovich landed in Kabul with nothing more than a couple of skateboards. Having learned to skate when he was 6 years old. But Mr. Percovich never thought that this passion would lead to the creation of one of the most beloved projects in Afghanistan – Skateistan, a place where girls and boys go to skate and receive an education.

Since its inception, Skateistan has combined skateboarding and education in programmes that inspire cross-cultural interaction and opportunities for personal empowerment for the most marginalized children. Currently, there are 400 students involved in the organization, of whom half are street working children and 40 per cent are girls. (...)

Attracting girl students to skate and participate in the classes has not been easy in Afghanistan. Traditional customs forbid girls to associate with men in public after they hit adolescence at the age of 12. To address the issue, the Skateistan team has built a state-of-art indoor skate park and designed female-only classes. The team has also gone door to door explaining to families and community leaders the importance of girls’ education. (...)



Kenya: Teachers plan to secure 47 county representative seats for women

20 December  - The Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT), one of Education International’s )national affiliates, is planning to have 47 county representative positions taken up by female teachers. KNUT President Wilson Sossion has announced that his union will also support women teachers going for other political seats.



150 Cameroonian schools selected for new integrated feeding program

By Jennifer Brookland

December 20 - Eighty parents, teachers and local officials from across Northern Cameroon convened to identify the 150 schools that will benefit from Counterpart International’s new school feeding and literacy program. The global nonprofit received more than 400 applications from primary schools in the four divisions of Cameroon’s North Region. The workshop, held Dec. 12 in the regional capital of Garoua, brought together state education officials, school inspectors, mayors, PTA chairpersons,and representatives of partner organizations. Counterpart held the workshop to provide a general project overview to relevant stakeholders and to discuss with them the criteria for selecting the schools to include.

The three-year project, supported by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s McGovern- Dole International Food for Education Program, seeks to improve food security and education for more than 74,000 children through food distribution, community-run gardens and school construction projects.



Bayer USA foundation awards more than $600,000 in grants for science and environmental education, sustainability initiatives

Pittsburgh, December 19 - The Bayer USA Foundation today announced that it will award $635,000 in grants over the next few years to nonprofit organizations across the U.S. to support programs that foster STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and environmental education, and sustainable development.

The Bayer USA Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Bayer Corporation, the U.S. subsidiary of Bayer AG, an international health care, nutrition and high-tech materials group based in Leverkusen, Germany.




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Next issue: 8 February 2013.



Good News Agencyis published monthly (except August) in English, Italian and Portuguese. Past issues are available at www.goodnewsagency.org . Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi (sergio.tripi@goodnewsagency.org). Editorial research by Fabio Gatti (fabio.gatti@goodnewsagency.org), Chiara Bartoletti, Elisa Minelli, Isabella Strippoli. Webmaster, media & NGO coverage: Simone Frassanito (simone.frassanito@goodnewsagency.org


Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to 10,000 media and editorial journalists of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations in 54 countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Caribbean Islands, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Oceania, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA. It is also distributed free of charge to 3,000 NGOs, 1,600 high schools, colleges and universities, as well as 23,000 Rotarians in the world.


It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered educational charity chartered in Italy in 1979 The Association operates for the development of consciousness and promotes a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective based on unity in diversity and on sharing. It is based in Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy.

The Association is a member of the World Association of Non Governmental Organizations.


*In the final report of the Decade for a Culture of Peace project (2001-2010) presented to the UN General Assembly (http://decade-culture-of-peace.org/2010_civil_society_report.pdf), Good News Agency is included among the three NGOs that have been playing a major role in the field of Information.  In section A - International Organizations, the Report says:

"Participatory Communication and Free Flow of Information and Knowledge has been advanced largely through use of the Internet by civil society corresponding to para 6 in the 1999 Programme of Action calling for the promotion of a culture of peace through sharing of information among actors in the global movement for a culture of peace (p.7). Diffusion and exchange of culture of peace information via the Internet has become the major instrument for several international organizations, notably the Culture of Peace News Network, the Good News Agency and the Education for Peace Globalnet (p.12). 

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