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Good News Agency

Monthly – year 14th, number 219 – 13 December 2013


A culture of peace is emerging in all fields of human endeavour


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 1,500 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 It is a supporter of the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace. In the final report of the Decade for a Culture of Peace project (2001-2010) provided to the UN Secretary-General for presentation to the UN General Assembly, Good News Agency is included among the three NGOs that have been playing an active role in the field of Information through Internet.* 




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education

UN Secretary-General's message on Human Rights Day, 10 December


International legislation


Employment and social inclusion: European Commission welcomes Council adoption of €920 million EaSI programme

December 5 - The European Commission welcomes today's adoption of the new EU programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) by the EU's Council of Ministers. EaSI will make €920 million available for the 2014-2020 period. It will support innovative social policies and promote labour mobility, as well as facilitate access to microcredits and encourage social entrepreneurship. The European Parliament formally adopted the new EaSI Regulation on 21 November 2013, so the programme is now ready to be launched on 1 January 2014.

EaSI integrates and extends the coverage of three existing financial instruments: Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity (Progress), the European network of Public Employment Services EURES and the European Progress Microfinance Facility.



Thousands of civilian lives being saved by the convention on cluster munitions.

December 3 - Thousands of civilian lives are being saved by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions since it opened for signature five years ago today, said the Cluster Munition Coalition.

Five years on from the signing conference of the convention in Oslo on 3 December 2008, more half the world’s nations have already joined the treaty, creating a powerful global stigma against the use of this indiscriminate weapon. In 2012, more than 59,171 unexploded submunitions were destroyed during clearance of almost 78km2 of land, 40% more land than the previous year.



Ban welcomes successful second round of municipal elections in Kosovo

December 2 - Welcoming the peaceful conduct of local Kosovo elections, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today called on all actors to build on the success of the polls and to continue to constructively in the European Union-facilitated dialogue on normalizing relations between Belgrade and Pristina. In a statement issued by his spokesperson in New York, the UN chief welcomed the peaceful conduct of the second round of local elections on Kosovo on 1 December. The Secretary-General in his statement called on actors at all levels to build upon the success of these elections.




Human rights


UNHCR project helps ethnic minority in Fergana Valley get Kyrgyz nationality

Jany-Kyshtak, Kyrgyzstan, December 5 – The minority Lyuli people have been living in Jany-Kyshtak and other villages of the fertile FerganaValley for more than 200 years.  The UN refugee agency is trying to help the Lyuli regain an identity as part of a wider project to assist thousands of people in the country whose nationality is undetermined. They are at risk of statelessness because they are completely undocumented, which means they face particular difficulties establishing that they qualify for Kyrgyz nationality. The six-month project in Jany-Kyshtak village represents just a small fraction of UNHCR's efforts in Kyrgyzstan to help more than 20,000 people of all ethnic groups, including Uzbeks and Tajiks, gain proper identity documents and prevent statelessness. In the first nine months of this year, more than 9,360 people handed in their expired Soviet passports and were given Kyrgyz ones. In Jany-Kyshtak, 330 villagers have received free legal assistance which helped 106 of them obtain birth certificates or passports.



Africare says farewell to its Honorary Chairman Nelson Mandela (1918 - 2013)

The Africare family extends its heartfelt condolences to the Mandela family and the people of South Africa in this time of great loss. We honor his memory by recalling the words he spoke during his opening statement while on trial for his life in 1964 for acts of sabotage against South Africa’s apartheid government:

“During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

President Mandela personified Africare’s mission by giving his voice, heart and time to the eradication of poverty and elimination of preventable disease. He worked tirelessly to secure more opportunities for South Africans and in 1994, accepted Africare’s Bishop John T. Walker Humanitarian Service Award. President Mandela envisioned a future of peace and prosperity for all Africans – especially its youth. His lifelong efforts resulted in some of the most important humanitarian accomplishments of our time.

“Madiba” will be missed, but his legacy of social justice and building peace will endure.




Economy and development


UK provides food and cash for Malawi’s vulnerable families during lean season

December 6, Lilongwe - The United Kingdom has contributed US$22 million) to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to assist Malawian families who are unable to meet their basic food needs. This contribution will enable WFP to provide food assistance to some 910,000 people for several months of the ‘lean season’, between now and March when the next harvest is due. The full extent of the situation has recently been confirmed by an updated report from the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) which found that more than 1.85 million people will need food assistance between now and March 2014: this is a 27% increase on an earlier estimate of 1.46 million people.

As part of its Purchase for Progress initiative, WFP will use the UKaid funds where possible to buy food from local smallholder farmers; additionally, UK funds will provide protection and support to the most vulnerable (including young children and pregnant and nursing mothers) through school feeding and treatment of moderate acute malnutrition. UKaid has also contributed US$ 3 million to ensure WFP school meals are provided for up to 800,000 students during the lean season and US$ 2 million to expand treatment for malnutrition in food-insecure areas for up to 18,000 malnourished children, pregnant women and nursing women..



Farmer-to-farmer program helps smallholders organize and improve productivity

Bigger harvests and higher profits strengthen rural community in Ghana’s Ashanti region

December 5 – 2013 has been a big year for farmers in in Twapease, Ghana. The Dekaworwor Rice Growers’ Association has seen a dramatic increase in rice yields and nearly doubling of income.

Profits have been plowed right back into the community. They are used to extend credit to association members and expand educational opportunities for local children. All primary school-aged children now attend school because their fees are covered by the association. The farmers are also paying for promising teenagers to attend junior high and trade school.

How was this group able to achieve such a transformation? The answer is hard work and support from the Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program implemented by ACDI/VOCA. F2F is a USAID-funded program that sends U.S. agricultural experts to developing and transitional countries where they voluntarily share their knowledge with local farmers and businesses.



IFAD and FAO combine their expertise for better management of projects in fragile states: US$2 million IFAD grant to FAO for capacity development

December 5, Rome – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide a grant of US$2 million to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for enhanced management and implementation of agricultural development programmes. The pilot project will improve planning capacity of developing countries. The activities spelled out in the grant will initially be implemented in ten fragile countries and low-income countries not designated (by the World Bank) as fragile, but in which agricultural institutions are weak. The grant aims to provide capacity development support for better governance, project management and implementation, along with knowledge sharing. In order to maximize synergies and impact, the grant activities will be delivered in a coordinated way through a specific Accelerated Capacity-Development Plan (ACDP).



US$ 23 million IFAD loan and grant to increase agriculture in Viet Nam

November 27, Rome - The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide a loan of US$22.5 million and a grant of $500,000 to the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam to finance the Sustainable Rural Development for the Poor Project in Ha Tinh and Quang Binh Provinces. Of the total project cost of US $46.24 million,  US $10 million will come from the Spanish Food Security Cofinancing Facility. The project aims to sustainably improve the incomes and reduce the vulnerability of 40,600 poor and near poor households in the upland areas of Ha Tinh and 20,600 poor households in Quang Binh. Poverty levels are high in the upland areas, especially amongst ethnic minorities; land degradation is a serious threat to their livelihoods.

Viet Nam is a role model for many developing countries for its success in reducing poverty by accelerating development of its smallholder agricultural sector. However, more needs to be done to ensure that extremely poor rural households are included in market-based agricultural production and businesses. Poor farmers need the tools and knowledge so that their surplus products are bought by high-value supermarket chains and not just sold locally.

The project aims to invest in socially equitable and profitable rural development that promotes pro-poor market linkages and value chains for more competitive rural businesses.






U.S. contribution helps WFP feed newly displaced and other vulnerable people in Sudan

December 3, Khartoum - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), through its Emergency Food Security Programme, today confirmed its contribution of US$9 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in Sudan. WFP will use the contribution to buy cereals from markets in Gedaref and other areas for distribution to more than 240,000 displaced people in Darfur and another 12,000 inSouth Kordofan state.  The contribution will also be used to support WFP’s cash and vouchers programme in Darfur and in North Kordofan for around 150,000 displaced people.

In 2013, the United States has contributed a total of US$168 million, making it the single largest donor to WFP Sudan, covering approximately 42% of the organization’s operations in the country. Sudan remains one of WFP’s largest and most complex operations.  In 2013, WFP plans to reach 3.9 million people across Sudan, 2.9 million of whom are in Darfur.  Since January this year, the nature of the 10-year conflict in Darfur has changed, with inter- and intra-tribal clashes intensifying, causing the displacement of more than 300,000 people in the region and creating a further demand on WFP. The USAID contribution will enable WFP to provide a timely response to these new needs.



Pop superstar Katy Perry lends voice to UNICEF to improve lives of world’s children

December 3 – Global pop superstar Katy Perry was appointed today by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as its newest Goodwill Ambassador, with a special focus on engaging young people in efforts to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children and adolescents.

Ms. Perry will work to engage young people in speaking out about the issues they believe are most important in their own lives and enlisting them more directly in coming up with solutions to those challenges. Recently, she has called on her massive social media following to support UNICEF’s emergency relief efforts for children, including those affected by Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in early November.



41,000 children compete in world's largest youth marathon, raise awareness of Save the Children Programs

Westport, Conn., USA, December 2 - Forty one thousand children have participated in Save the Children's 2013 World Marathon Challenge, a global relay in which teams of children from around the world banded together to complete a full marathon distance of 26.2 miles. The students raced one another to attempt to break the world marathon record of 2 hours, 3 minutes and 23 seconds, while raising funds and awareness for Save the Children's programs focused on child survival and well-being.

In the United States, 124 World Marathon Challenge engagement events were held in 15 States, including Washington, D.C. Participating children laced up their sneakers and raised more than $88,000 to be used by Save the Children to provide child-focused interventions, ranging from offering newborn care advice to diagnosing and treating preventable diseases like diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria. In addition to running in the race, students across America were advocates for other kids by urging Congress to protect programs that help children in the United States and around the world survive and thrive.



ADRA aids thousands of families in the Philippines

by Natalia López-Thismón, ADRA International

November 25 – ADRA's efforts in the Philippines continue this week in response to Typhoon Haiyan. ADRA has provided more than 3,500 families with emergency food kits in Cebu and Iloilo and is currently distributing food kits to an additional 2,400 families in Roxas.

ADRA's primary hub of emergency response activity has moved from Cebu to RoxasCity in CapizProvince, where the water supply and the ability to pump water has been disrupted due to loss of electricity. The ADRA team is in the process of installing four water purification systems - one of which has already been set up in Dao, CapizProvince.

ADRA's team is providing 15,000 liters of drinkable water for 3,000 people each day. Safe water will be transported to surrounding communities near Roxas, and will be provided to the DistrictHospital, which treats 100 to 150 outpatients and 50 inpatients daily.



South Africa sends first batch of maize to crisis hit Lesotho

November 22, Inizio modulo

Cape Town - Lesotho, currently experiencing severe food shortages is reportedly set to receive the first consignment of maize from South Africa, which has responded with a R180m donation to the country’s appeal for aid. This follows an agreement reached with the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to buy maize from South African smallholder farmers as part of a R180m South African humanitarian donation to Lesotho (Bernama National News Agency).

The transportation of a total of 4 920 bags of maize meal, each weighing 25kg is set to begin on Friday, with several more trips expected be made in January, Spokesperson for the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Palesa Mokomele said.



UN extends food assistance to Syrian Armenians

November 20, Yerevan—The UN World Food Program (WFP) began this week providing assistance to 5,000 Syrian Armenians displaced from Syria who have sought protection in Armenia. The 6-month-assistance project is funded by the government of the Russian Federation.

This WFP operation was put in place upon a request from the Ministry of Diaspora, responsible for the overall coordination of assistance to Syrian Armenians. Following the signing of a memorandum of understanding between WPF and the Ministry, WFP will provide assistance to the Syrian Armenian population during the current transition period, as the Government of Armenia continues its efforts in integrating the Syrian population of Armenian descent.

Preparations for project implementation were done in collaboration with the Ministry of Diaspora, WFP and its UN partners, primarily the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), as well as civil organizations such as the Center for the Coordination of Syrian Armenian Issues, Mission Armenia, the Armenian Relief Society and others



Rotary clubs take action for typhoon-ravaged Philippines

By Ryan Hyland – Rotary News

15 November – Rotary clubs around the world are pledging emergency aid to communities in central Philippines after last week’s massive typhoon flattened entire coastal towns and villages, killed thousands of people, and displaced nearly 600,000 more.

The situation remains dire as widespread destruction has made food, water, and medicine scarce in remote areas affected by Typhoon Haiyan, the strongest storm to make landfall on record.

Rotary President Ron Burton is urging our 34,000 clubs worldwide to continue to assist storm victims. (...) Rotary partner ShelterBox has committed aid for 4,000 families in the form of emergency shelter and other relief assistance.

Such disasters are “exactly why we entered into our partnership with ShelterBox,” says Burton. “It gives Rotary members worldwide the opportunity to respond immediately and in a very meaningful way to the life-threatening conditions faced by the people of the Philippines.”(...)

For nearly 100 years, Rotary clubs in the Philippines have been creating positive change in their communities. The first Philippine Rotary club was formed in Manila in 1919. Today, more than 800 Rotary clubs throughout the Philippines give members the chance to make a difference at home and around the globe.(...) Clubs in Rotary District 3860, which covers the area that sustained the most damage, created a relief fund for victims.




Peace and security


Thousands of civilian lives being saved by the Convention on Cluster Munitions

London, December 3 – Thousands of civilian lives are being saved by the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions since it opened for signature five years ago today, said the Cluster Munition Coalition. Five years on from the signing conference of the convention in Oslo on 3 December 2008, more half the world’s nations have already joined the treaty, creating a powerful global stigma against the use of this indiscriminate weapon.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions is the result of a partnership of like-minded governments, civil society, UN agencies and international organisations. A total of 113 countries have now signed or acceded to the convention and seven signatories have ratified in the past year, including two countries where cluster munitions have been used (Chad and Iraq) and one cluster munition stockpiler (Peru). Most of the remaining 29 signatories are in the process of ratifying. Two countries have also acceded to the treaty in 2013. States Parties have collectively destroyed 71% of their stockpiled cluster munitions since the Convention became international law just over three years ago and last year destroyed a total of 173,973 cluster munitions and 27 million submunitions—the most in a year since the convention’s adoption.



Dramatic drop in landmine casualties, lives saved as clearance and funding reach new peaks; yet antipersonnel mine use by Yemen and a small number of states and armed groups must be urgently addressed

Geneva, 28 November - Records were set in 2012 for the lowest number of new reported casualties, largest amount of landmine-contaminated land cleared, and highest level of global funding for mine action, according to Landmine Monitor 2013, the latest annual report of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, released today in Geneva.

In 2012, casualties caused by mines, victim-activated improvised explosive devices, cluster munition remnants, and other explosive remnants of war (ERW) decreased to a global total of 3,628 compared with 4,474 in 2011, marking the lowest level since 1999.

The use of antipersonnel mines has also dramatically declined as a result of the Mine Ban Treaty, but has not abated completely. Most disturbing is new evidence in 2013 that forces loyal to the government of Yemen—a Mine Ban Treaty member state—laid thousands of antipersonnel mines in 2011. Government forces in two states not party to the treaty—Syria and Myanmar—used antipersonnel mines in 2012 and 2013. Non-state armed groups (NSAGs) in Afghanistan, Colombia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Syria, Thailand, Tunisia, and Yemen used antipersonnel mines in 2013, the highest number of countries with NSAG use in the past five years.



Peace in Central African Republic: an archbishop, an imam and a pastor join forces

26 November – Religious leaders have come together to try to bring peace in the Central African Republic. They face enormous challenges but have faith they can succeed.

The country has been described by the United Nations as a ‘tinderbox’. France has gone further, saying it’s “on the verge of genocide”. In March 2013, a coalition of local and Chadian and Sudanese fighters called Seleka overthrew the government, seized the capital and plunged the country into anarchy. Seleka fighters have identified themselves with Islam, have targeted churches and tried to stoke interreligious tensions. Militias, sprung up to defend the local populations, have launched wider attacks, including against Muslim communities.

Caritas is supporting national interreligious peacebuilding body which includes Catholic, Protestant and Muslim leaders. Catholic Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga of Bangui, national Muslim leader Imam Oumar Kobine Layama and national Evangelical leader Pastor Nicolas Guerékoyame Gbangou discuss their initiative. (…)



“Good Water Neighbors" annual regional conference

EcoPeace / FoEME's annual "Good Water Neighbors" (GWN) conference, held this year on the occasion of the UN International Year of Water Cooperation, brought together more than 300 Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian political officials, international diplomats, municipal representatives, water experts, local residents and civil society representatives in Herzliya, Israel, on November 13-14.

Against the background of the renewed Israeli / Palestinian peace talks, the conference was designed to highlight the urgency and opportunities for all sides of addressing the unresolved cross-border water and sanitation issues. Conference panels gave stage to high officials from Israel, the PA and Jordan as well as representatives of the international community.

FoEME staff also gave updates on advances made on last year’s selection of concrete cross border projects called ‘Priority Projects’ and following community level participation released a new publication "Community Based Problem Solving on Water Issues: Cross Border Priority Initiatives of the Good Water Neighbors Project" that details a new set of target water and sanitation priority projects.





The man who kicked polio out of Africa

Another reason the children of the world will always be grateful to Nelson Mandela

6 December – The Global Polio Eradication Initiative joins the millions around the world who mourn Nelson Mandela’s passing and give thanks for his life and his gift to future generations – the gift of a world without apartheid. The children of the world have another reason to be grateful to Mandela: he was a great champion of polio eradication, not only in his own country, but across the African continent.

“Madiba”, as he was reverentially known, was instrumental in kicking off South Africa’s polio eradication efforts in the mid-1990s. On World Health Day in April 1995, he announced that South Africa was throwing its support behind the notion of a world without polio. The following year, he was there to launch the ‘Kick Polio out of Africa’ campaign. Commending the efforts of health workers across Africa for the work they had done in reducing polio case numbers, he urged them to keep going until polio is defeated: The ‘Kick Polio out of Africa’ campaign is still going strong. Today South Africa is polio-free. Only one country in all of Africa remains polio-endemic. And with every passing year, the dream of a polio-free Africa moves closer to reality – thanks in part to the father of the South African nation. 



Democratic Republic of Congo: MSF continues with vaccinations and distributions despite volatile conditions

MSF vaccinates more than 26,000 children against measles and provides water and basic supplies to displaced persons

5 December – Working in a highly volatile security context, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has vaccinated 26,125 children against measles in South Irumu in November. Violent fighting between government forces (FARDC) and the militia of the Front for Patriotic Resistance of Ituri (FRPI) has ravaged this region of northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since late August 2013. This situation has affected more than 100,000 people forced to flee their homes.

Medical staff and logistics teams performed the vaccinations at four sites where displaced persons have gathered—two in the town of Geti and two others in the outlying communities of Munobi and Kakado. Throughout the campaign, MSF treated a steady stream of parents, aware of the risks of measles, who had brought their children to be vaccinated. Some walked nearly 20 kilometers to reach a vaccination site. (…)



Baby number 100 born at Red Cross field hospital

By Gwen Eamer, Canadian Red Cross

5 December – The delivery ward is an exciting place in any hospital, but in the Red Cross emergency response unit field hospital in Ormoc, Philippines, delivering 100 babies in the first 10 days since opening has kept the team of midwives on their toes.

The 100th delivery – a baby girl called Gwendolen – was born at noon December 1. Her mother Joanne, 25, gave birth in the maternity tent of the field hospital while father Benito waited outside. They named their daughter after one of the hospital’s personnel. Since opening, the facility has carried out 21 life-saving caesarian sections, and delivered three sets of twins.

Anette Huitfeldt and Hanna Oommen, midwives from the Norwegian Red Cross, are with one of the first medical teams to have arrived in the Philippines after many regions were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan. After helping to build the field hospital in only 48 hours, Anette and Hanna got straight to work.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 12,000 babies are expected to be born each month in the areas of the Philippines that were hit hardest by Typhoon Haiyan. (...) Volunteers from the Philippine Red Cross have been providing a much-needed boost to care at the field hospital. Ten volunteer nurses support clinical work in the pediatric and postpartum wards, while psychosocial support volunteers – recently trained by the emergency response unit – help pediatric patients and their accompanying siblings to process their experiences of Typhoon Haiyan through drawing, role playing, and other child-focussed activities. (…)



Health gaps between most countries could close by 2035

Washington, December 3 - The gap in health standards between the world’s poorest countries and the more advanced middle-income nations could close by the year 2035, according to a major new report published Tuesday by Britain’s The Lancet medical journal.

Written by a group of 25 of the world’s top global-health experts and international economists, Global Health 2035: A World Converging Within a Generation makes the case for the international community, governments and key donors, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to increase investments in health to meet the target.

“Now, for the first time in human history, we are on the verge of being able to achieve a milestone for humanity: eliminating major health inequalities, particularly inequalities in maternal and child health, so that every person on earth has an equal chance at a healthy and productive life,” according to Harvard University professor and former U.S. Treasury Secretary, Lawrence Summers. “The powerful drugs and vaccines now available make reaching this milestone affordable. It is our generation’s unique opportunity to invest in making this vision real,” said Summers, who 20 years oversaw the preparation of the only ‘World Development Report’ (WDR) devoted to global health when he served as the World Bank’s chief economist.



Red Cross and EU conduct public campaign on safer access to health care

Geneva (ICRC) / Brussels (EU) – The European Union, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and seven national Red Cross societies are carrying out an outdoor campaign between 1 and 22 December to mobilize public opinion on the need to respect health-care providers and facilities in armed-conflict situations. A series of posters illustrating the idea that it is possible to give the wounded and the sick timely access to health care, even in the midst of violence, is on display in Amsterdam, Berlin, Brussels, London, Madrid, Paris and Warsaw.

The citizens of these capitals are discovering posters in the street, at bus stops and inside metro stations that feature, for example, a boy who survived a life-threatening injury because the ambulance taking him to hospital was sent to the front of the queue at a checkpoint, or a woman who gave birth to a healthy baby in a military hospital because the doctors there provided care without discrimination. Measures that should be taken include giving ambulances and other medical vehicles priority at checkpoints and providing first-aid workers unhindered access to those in need of help, along with proper training and equipment.



Polio news

December 2013 - Countries across the Middle East are launching special campaigns to vaccinate 23 million children in response to the polio outbreak in Syria, while cases have tapered off in the Horn of Africa; and progress has continued in the three polio-endemic countries, providing an incredible opportunity to turn off the polio tap at the source. Between them, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan have seen an almost 40% reduction in cases compared to this time last year, and wild poliovirus type 3 hasn’t been spotted anywhere in the world in more than 12 months. As the Polio Oversight Board stated recently: “The upcoming low transmission season (November to April) in countries currently affected by polio transmission will be crucial, and we agreed that endemic country plans could be further refined to capitalize on this unprecedented opportunity.” –



Ride to End Polio raises $730,000

By Arnold R. Grahl - Rotary News

December 4 -For the past five years, Rotary members around Tucson, Arizona, USA, have bicycled as many as 111 miles in a day to raise money for polio eradication. This year’s team of 70 cyclists and their supporters raised $730,000 in the Ride to End Polio, which, after matched two-to-one by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, will make $2.1 million available for polio eradication.

“With every penny going to end polio, we’ve immunized an awful lot of kids against this horrible disease,” says Gary Hirsch, a member of the Rotary Club of Tucson and a ride organizer.

The Ride to End Polio is part of the annual El Tour de Tucson bike event. This year’s ride, which took place 23 November, was dedicated to Rotary General Secretary John Hewko, who once again participated. The honor was given in recognition of his contributions to the bicycling community and the global eradication of polio. Hewko has raised more money than any other rider in a single El Tour event: over $243,000 in 2012. (...)




Energy and safety


New coconut-fired biomass plant set for Thailand

David Appleyard, Contributing Editor, RenewableEnergyWorld.com

Bangkok, Thailand, 5 December -- A 9.5-MW power station that will be fired using coconut waste is to be developed in Thailand. Under the terms of a deal recently inked between biomass and waste-to-energy provider DP Cleantech and the Mahachai Green Power project, the company will develop a high pressure, high temperature plant on an EPC (engineering, procurement, construction) basis. (...) The new design has been adapted especially for coconut waste to ensure efficient fuel consumption as well as the flexibility to mix several kinds of fuels in various sizes. The system will also include flue gas cleaning systems to lower emissions below regulatory standards. (...)

Power generated by the plant will be fed into the public PEA grid, and will benefit from Thailand’s strong biomass feed-in-tariffs. Any remaining ashes will be used as fertilizer for farming or filler material for construction. The project is also expected to create a substantial amount of local employment as well as in creating value for local farmer’s coconut waste. (…)



IKEA plugs-in 4 electric vehicle charging stations in Atlanta; 11th IKEA store in U.S. to complete installation of units

Atlanta, USA, December 5 - IKEA, the world’s leading home furnishings retailer, today officially plugged-in four Blink® electric vehicle charging stations at its Atlanta, Georgia store as part of its partnership with Car Charging Group, Inc. (OTCQB: CCGI), the new owner of the Blink Network and Blink charging stations, and the largest provider of EV charging services with more than 13,430 charging points in 35 states and three countries.

This initiative represents the 11th such U.S. project for IKEA, with installation underway at other locations. In all, installation of units currently planned will bring the number of Blink charging stations available at IKEA locations to 55.

IKEA evaluates locations regularly for conservation opportunities, integrates innovative materials into product design, works to maintain sustainable resources and flat-packs goods for efficient distribution. Specific U.S. sustainable efforts include: recycling waste material; incorporating energy-efficient HVAC and lighting systems, recycled construction materials, skylights in warehouse areas and water-conserving restrooms.



Citizen groups reopen lawsuit to stop zombie coal plant

New York, NY, December 5, - Earthjustice, Sierra Club, and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) are moving to revive an earlier lawsuit to ensure that one of New York state’s oldest and dirtiest coal plants, which has been shut down since October 2012, doesn’t reopen under new ownership. The Danskammer Plant, located along the shore of the Hudson River in the town of Newburgh, New York, has been responsible for more toxic pollution than nearly all of the total 646 industrial sites in the state and numerous violations of federal air quality standards. According to EPA data, in 2009, the Danskammer plant dumped more than 1.5 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Newburgh’s air, land, and water. 



Obama Administration expands better buildings challenge to multifamily housing, launches new programs to boost U.S. energy efficiency

Washington D.C., December – Building on $2 billion in financing commitments from the private sector for energy efficiency updates to commercial buildings under the President’s Better Buildings Challenge, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Housing and Urban Development today expanded the Challenge to multifamily housing such as apartments and condominiums and launched the Better Buildings Accelerators to support state- and local government-led efforts to cut energy waste and eliminate market and technical barriers to greater building efficiency. The Obama Administration also announced it will challenge Federal agencies to further expand their use of performance-based contracts through 2016 to upgrade the energy efficiency of Federal buildings at no cost to taxpayers – helping the Federal Government save money and further reduce energy use.




Environment and wildlife


A West Bank village celebrates its new park

December 5 – About 50 preschoolers impatiently wait for permission from their teachers to go play in their brand new park. Meanwhile, a troop of boy scouts slowly approaches the park with fluttering Palestinian flags, big drums and proud, broad smiles. The large crowd of villagers and schools kids with balloons gathered next to the park welcomes them with applause.

This is how the people of Abu Falah celebrate the construction of the first family park in their village — with a community festival. Village dignitaries, elders, guests and friends, have all come together to show gratitude to those who made it possible.

The park in Abu Falah is one of four in the West Bank constructed with funding from project partners: Bank of Palestine, ANERA, Muna and Basem Hishmeh and United Holy Land Fund. ANERA turns hazardous, rubble-filled lands into safe play areas, where the entire family can unwind and spend time together. Bayyara, which means citrus grove in Arabic, is the name given to this series of parks to be built in the West Bank and Gaza.



Leaders commit to conservation measures at Polar Bear Forum

Moscow, Russia, 4 December - Ministers and other national representatives made commitments today at the International Forum on Polar Bear Conservation that will help polar bears persist across their Arctic range. The commitments were made at a forum in Russia supported by WWF. Another key commitment made in the Forum Declaration is that the five states responsible for polar bear populations - Canada, Norway, Denmark and Greenland, Russia and the United States - will work on managing the polar bears’ home in ways that will take into account the Arctic’s shrinking ice, and increasing industrial interest.

While the Forum commitments will help with managing polar bear habitat and with direct threats to the bears, these can only go so far. At the current rate of warming, climate change will ultimately erode the sea ice habitat on which the bears rely. Addressing this longer-term threat will require investment from the range states and beyond in renewable energy.



WWF applauds country initiatives against harmful fisheries subsidies

Bali, Indonesia, 4 December - Global environmental organisation WWF has applauded an initiative from more than a dozen countries to freeze subsidies that encourage overfishing, hoping it will spur action by other governments and help speed progress on the more than a decade of negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In a joint release at the 9th WTO Ministerial Conference, trade ministers for Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Iceland, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines and the United States committed their countries not to introduce any new subsidies that contribute to overfishing or the overcapacity of fishing fleets, and to refrain from extending any existing programs that might do so. The countries, known collectively as the “Friends of Fish”, also jointly called for swift completion of talks to adopt new WTO rules banning harmful fisheries subsidies.

WWF has worked for over a decade to end subsidies that are contrary to sustainable fisheries management. But experts estimate that fishing subsidies equivalent to tens of billions of dollars are still used annually in the fisheries sector without attention to their impacts on sustainability. The Friends of Fish have been instrumental in pushing for binding new WTO rules to prohibit the most dangerous fisheries subsidies and to subject the rest to strict environmental criteria.



Key agreement in South-Eastern Europe puts natural capital at the heart of economic development

Budva, Montenegro, 2 December – Representatives of the governments of eight countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo*, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia – have endorsed today a key agreement for the protection of the environment in the Adria region in South-Eastern Europe. WWF, the global conservation organisation, welcomes this historic milestone. Today's agreement sees the Adria countries formally commit to strengthen regional cooperation in conservation and sustainable development, and the establishment of a first trilateral transboundary protected area between Albania, Kosovo* and Macedonia. The first two marine protected areas in Montenegro were also approved for creation.

This agreement increases the eight countries' protected territory by more than 13 per cent and is endorsing the creation of two new national parks, 10 protected landscapes, and three marine protected areas. The eight countries have committed to assess the economic value of their natural capital, while integrating nature conservation goals into economic development plans for fisheries, forestry, agriculture, energy, spatial planning, and cross-sectoral cooperation.



Jamaican youth prepare to be climate change action agents

Youth assist in climate change community action projects through Ja REEACH

November 23 – Youth may train to become athletes, farmers, teachers or entrepreneurs. In Jamaica some train to become climate change action agents. In Kingston, 98 young people recently graduated from the Climate Change Action Training program, organized by Jamaica 4-H Clubs in collaboration with ACDI/VOCA’s Ja REEACH project. The graduation was the culmination of a comprehensive training program to certify and equip Jamaican youth to be leaders in climate-smart approaches. The students participated in climate change information exchange sessions and learned proposal writing and project implementation.

The training program grew out of the need posed by Jamaica’s vulnerability to the effects of global climate change. The Jamaican government, USAID, ACDI/VOCA and other entities have begun a series of initiatives to increase climate change awareness, encourage effective mitigation and adaptation strategies, and help Jamaican communities become resilient. (…)




Religion and spirituality


Caritas to launch global wave of prayer to end hunger

29 November – The Caritas confederation will launch a global “wave of prayer” to promote an end to world hunger on 10th December. It marks the beginning of the Caritas anti-hunger campaign, One Human Family, Food For All. The wave starts on the island of Samoa and will sweep across the globe involving Caritas organisations and many other people on all continents.  In a video message, Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga, president of Caritas Internationalis said, “There is enough food to feed the planet. We believe that with your help, we can end hunger by 2025.”

Pope Francis also offers his blessing and support to the campaign in a five-minute video message which will be released on the day of the launch.

Caritas says that governments guaranteeing the right to food in their national laws is an essential step in guaranteeing food for all. The right to food protects the right of all human beings to live in dignity, free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.

Beyond international advocacy to governments and the United Nations, the One human family, food for all campaign will see Caritas organisations adopting national goals aimed at improving food security. There will also be an emphasis on personal change regarding food waste and attitudes towards how and what we eat.




Culture and education


Nutrition education is key - WFP and IFPRI reveal first evidence on most effective safety net transfers

Dhaka, 3 December – The two year study, which will conclude mid 2014, seeks to determine the benefits of five different types and combinations of transfers – including cash, food, and nutrition education – with regard to three critical outcomes: household income, food security, and child nutrition. Mid-term findings suggest that nutrition education is critical in leveraging the benefits delivered from food and cash transfers. All participants emphasized that the monthly transfers helped them to feed their families and improve family welfare, but households who participate in nutrition education sessions consumed more -- and more diverse -- foods than those who only received food, cash or both. Participating households in the north-west of the country even showed a significant reduction of chronic child undernutrition (stunting), with those households performing best which have received the intensive nutrition education.



Inspired by United Nations, New York museum takes unique look at tackling global challenges

25 November – On the spot in Queens, New York where the United Nations General Assembly met during the late 1940s, a Mexican artist is testing his hypothesis that ordinary people, through creative approaches, can find solutions to the challenges the world body is tackling today.

One-hundred-ninety-five New Yorkers who are immigrants from or have family connections to the 193 UN Member States and two observers - State of Palestine and the Holy See – participated this weekend in ‘The People’s United Nations p(UN)’ event at the newly reopened QueensMuseum. The artist, Mr. Reyes, is hoping to evoke the Organization’s history for the installation, which according to its Facebook, included instruction to delegates such as: ‘Imagine in a perfect world, you open the newspaper and see an ideal headline from your country. Write that headline.’

Over the course of two days, the experimental group used theater games, group therapy, and techniques from social science to grapple with a set of surprising and provocative proposals as well as real-life problems, according to the Museum website.



Partnership agreement to promote the arts and creativity in China

Washington, 7November – The International Child Art Foundation signed an Agreement with AKD Education Consulting (Beijing) Inc., authorizing AKD to represent the ICAF and to organize the Arts Olympiad in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The ICAF will also support development of annual art contests throughout China and to bring its “Innovation in Education” conference to China.

AKD will have exclusive license to organize the Arts Olympiad in China and to  select the winners from each province, who will represent their respective provinces at the 5th World Children’s Festival to be held in Washington, DC in June 2015.

“With 260 million schoolchildren in China, the ICAF has a deep responsibility and we are pleased that AKD will help us fulfill this responsibility,” said Dr. Ashfaq Ishaq, ICAF Executive Chairman.

“We are delighted to be working with the ICAF to nurture the creativity of Chinese children. Creative education for children is the call of the twenty-first century,” said Dr. Francis Pang, Chairman of AKD and the Canadian International School of Beijing.



New Schools & Health Features

www.schoolsandhealth.org was recently re-launched by the Partnership for Child Development​ (PCD) to further the reach of high quality School Health and Nutrition (SHN) documents, resources and news to the SHN community. “Improving the way news and information on the health, nutrition and education of school-age children around the world is disseminated remains as vital as ever,” said PCD’s Executive Director, Lesley Drake. She continued, “The new website allows quality assured, academically reviewed SHN resources, data and information to be distinguished from the multitude of information now available online; ensuring the SHN community has easy access to what they are looking for.”

Developed in 1998 in collaboration between PCD, World Bank, World Food Programme, World Health Organization, UNICEF and other partners, the Schools & Health website responded to a demand for a global online portal making SHN resources easily accessible to the SHN community and particularly to SHN policy makers and practitioners.

The re-launched website now hosts a revitalised Documents and Resource Centre​, which holds over an impressive 670 resources - twice as many relevant SHN relevant resources as were previously displayed. These resources range in topic from: examples of good programming practice and policy, case studies, technical reviews, toolkits and guidelines, reports, surveys, advocacy tools and international declarations.




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New York, 10 December 2013 - UN Secretary-General's message on Human Rights Day


Human Rights Day marks the anniversary of the adoption by the General Assembly of the landmark Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  This year’s observance also marks 20 years since a bold step forward in the struggle to make rights a reality for all: the adoption by the World Conference on Human Rights of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.  Drawing on the participation of more than 800 non-governmental organizations, national institutions, treaty bodies and academics, Member States adopted a far-reaching vision and created the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) – thereby realizing one of the international community’s long-held dreams.


In OHCHR’s two decades of existence, five dedicated High Commissioners have spearheaded the work of the United Nations to further human rights globally.  Through a wide range of norms and mechanisms, OHCHR advocates for victims, presses States to live up to their obligations, supports human rights experts and bodies, and -- through presences in 61 countries -- helps States to develop their human rights capacity.


Promoting human rights is one of the core purposes of the United Nations, and the Organization has pursued this mission since its founding.  Then, as now, the key to success is the political will of Member States. It is States, in the first instance, that are obliged to protect human rights and prevent violations at a national level, and to stand up when other States fail to live up to their commitments.  This is not always easy, and over the past 20 years we have seen genocide and many other appalling and large-scale violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.


Improving how the UN system prevents and reacts to impending catastrophes is at the heart of a new initiative, the Rights Up Front Action Plan. It aims to ensure the UN system and all staff recognize the central place of human rights in the Organization’s collective responsibilities.  Above all, it seeks to strengthen our responses to widespread abuses and prevent such situations from arising in the first place through an emphasis on rights-based early warning and action. 


On Human Rights Day, I call on States to fulfil the promises they made at the Vienna Conference.  I reiterate the commitment of the UN Secretariat, funds and programmes to vigilance and courage in the face of human rights violations.  Finally, I pay tribute to one of the great symbols of human rights of our time: Nelson Mandela, whose passing has plunged the world into sorrow but whose lifelong commitment to human dignity, equality, justice and compassion will forever remain an inspiration as we continue to build a world of all human rights for all.





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Next issue: 17 January 2014.


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, Elisabetta Pacifici, Isabella Strippoli. Webmaster and media and NGO coverage: Simone Frassanito (simone.frassanito@goodnewsagency.org


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* http://decade-culture-of-peace.org/2010_civil_society_report.pdf - In section A - International Organizations, page 12, the Report says: ”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.”

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