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Good News Agency

monthly, year 14th, no. 221 –  14 February 2014


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


International legislation


New DR Congo amnesty law welcomed by UN envoys

February 5 - Senior United Nations officials today welcomed parliamentary approval of an amnesty law covering acts of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) dating back to mid-2000 as “the next step in bringing sustainable peace.” The adopted law grants amnesty for acts of insurgency, acts of war and political offenses. The Envoys commend the new law for excluding amnesty for crimes such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The peace agreement also called on all other armed groups in the country to lay down their weapons and join the political process. Signed a year ago under the UN auspices by 11 nations, the Framework is seen as a comprehensive approach to sustainable peace in the region.



CARE applauds Senate passage of the Farm Bill that includes lifesaving reforms to U.S. Food Aid

February 4, Washington - CARE applauds the Senate approval of reforms to the U.S. international food assistance program contained in the 2014 Farm Bill. For more than two years, CARE has fought for provisions in the current Farm Bill that include significant, common-sense, lifesaving reforms to the U.S. International Food Assistance Program. The U.S. government will be able to reach hundreds of thousands more hungry people.



New Constitution a defining moment for democracy in Tunisia

an article by Inter-Parliamentary Union Press Briefing Note

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) has today [January 27] congratulated Tunisia on the adoption of the country’s new Constitution which enshrines freedom of belief and equality between men and women. (...) The new Constitution, adopted by an overwhelming majority (200 votes out of 216), was not only agreed by consensus but also represents the diverse groups and beliefs in Tunisian society. (...)

Since the political changes that began in Tunisia late in 2011, IPU has actively engaged with authorities, women politicians and non- governmental organizations to ensure a new legal framework that would clearly reaffirm the principles of freedom of conscience and belief and gender equality. (...) IPU stands by to provide any support and assistance Tunisia may require to make this widely supported Constitution a reality for all the Tunisian people.




Human rights


On World Radio Day, UN stresses need to promote women's voices over the air waves

New York, February 13 - United Nations officials have marked World Radio Day by calling for harnessing the enduring power of this vital medium to promote gender equality and women's empowerment and to amplify the voice of women over the air waves.  "Without the voices of more than half the world's population, how can we understand the whole story?" Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said in her <"http://unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0022/002260/226021e.pdf ">  message for the Day.

In 2011, the UNESCO General Conference proclaimed 13 February as World Radio Day, the day United Nations Radio was established in 1946. Radio is the most prevalent mass medium, with the ability to reach up to 95 per cent of the world's population. World Radio Day aims to celebrate radio as a medium; to improve international cooperation between broadcasters; and to encourage major networks and community radio alike to promote access to information, freedom of expression and gender equality over the airwaves. This year, the Day has a dual theme: to promote the voice of women over the air waves and to enhance the role of women within broadcast organizations.



World’s most comprehensive compilation on civil society rights released by global ngo

21 January, Johannesburg - Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS, has released a revised version of what is probably the world’s most comprehensive compilation of commitments made by governments on civil society rights.

Originally released in 2008, and now fully updated, the compendium consolidates various international standards and commitments made by governments at the regional and global levels to protect civil society and ensure participation in public processes.  

In addition to collating relevant portions of major UN documents, the compendium also includes commitments made by regional bodies such as the Arab League and select groupings like the Commonwealth. It supports CIVICUS’ efforts to constantly strive for new and innovative means to enhance the ability and reach of the civil society sector. The document is available to download for free at  http://civicus.org/resources/reports-and-publications/the-compendium



Economy and development


The Youth Assembly at the UN - Youth Employment and Social Entrepreneurship 

February 5-6, 2014 will be the dates for this Winter's Youth Assembly at the United Nations, focused on Youth Employment and Social Entrepreneurship. The Youth Assembly at the United Nations is a unique platform designed to empower youth to become active participants in the success of the UN Millennium Development Goals as well as toward the transition to the UN's Post 2015 Development Agenda.

 500 young professionals and youth delegates, representing more than 40 countries, will be welcomed at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City by UN High officials, private sector and civil society leaders. They will discuss and discover new ways of exploring social entrepreneurship and tackle youth unemployment in the framework of the UNs Post-2015 Development Agenda.



USAID program promotes natural pest control in Vietnam: ants help farmers fight cocoa pests

February 4, Lam Dong – K’s Dim, a K’Ho ethnic minority farmer in Vietnam’s Lam Dong province, has formed an alliance with a new partner: Dolichoderus thoracicus, black ants. The mutually beneficial relationship was arranged through the USAID-funded Sustainable Cocoa for Farmers project in Vietnam.

Cocoa is a relatively new crop in Vietnam, but it has thrived in the country’s tropical climate and production has grown significantly in recent years. But as production has grown, farmers have seen an increase in cocoa pests (Helopeltis).Fortunately, ACDI/VOCA’s team had a solution. One of the more interesting—and environmentally friendly—approaches is the use of biological controls such as black ants to control Helopeltis. K’s Dim’s cocoa grove was one of the places where the Sustainable Cocoa for Farmers project helped him deploy black ants to combat the pest. Results have been promising. ACDI/VOCA delivered 40 nets filled with black ants, and K’s Dim hung them up around the garden to attack the Helopeltis insects.

After three months, the proportion of cocoa pods affected by Helopeltis decreased by 65% and the total number of pods increased by 35%. The ants helped increase productivity without harming the environment, and K’s Dim did not have to spend anything on insecticides.



Russia helps WFP support food-insecure families in Kyrgyzstan

February 3, Bishkek – The Government of the Russian Federation has announced its renewed commitment to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), contributing US$3 million to support the most food-insecure families in the KyrgyzRepublic through community projects. The grant will fund WFP’s food-for-assets projects that assist rural communities to revitalize infrastructure, improve agricultural production, diversify rural incomes and mitigate the impact of natural disasters.

Since WFP launched a food-for-assets programme in Kyrgyzstan in 2010, 295,000 people across the country have benefited from projects. As WFP’s principal donor in the KyrgyzRepublic, Russia has contributed a total of US$31 million, enabling critical humanitarian interventions and support to hundreds of thousands of Kyrgyzstan’s poorest people.



UN and partners launch 3-year humanitarian plan to help Africa's Sahel region

February 3, Rome - The United Nations and humanitarian partners launched a three-year Regional Strategic Response Plan to provide aid to millions of people in nine countries in Africa's Sahel region. The plan seeks to mobilize an initial US$2 billion from international donors in 2014. The strategy comprises country plans for Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal. It emphasizes strong partnerships with Governments and development partners, a regional perspective and multi-year time frame to better address the chronic causes of the crises.



IFAD loans US$43.8 million to China to develop Smallholder Agribusiness in Hubei Province

January 30, Rome -  The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide a loan of US$43.8 million to the People’s Republic of China to finance the Shiyan Smallholder Agribusiness Development Project in Hubei Province. The project aims to sustainably improve the incomes and reduce the vulnerability of 255,000 households (approximately 1.02 million people); in addition, employment opportunities will be generated for approximately 26,000 people.

The project goal is sustainable rural poverty reduction and improved livelihoods for small farmers involved in agricultural value chains in targeted areas. Its objectives are to empower the rural poor to participate in commercial farming, and to increase farm family incomes while decreasing income variability in target areas.

With this new programme, IFAD will have financed 27 programmes and projects in China since 1981 for a total IFAD investment of US$775.1 million, benefiting 5.255 million households.



Angola, Brazil and FAO sign South-South Cooperation agreement: $2.2 million project to strengthen agriculture and veterinary research

January 24, Rome – Angola, Brazil and FAO are to work closely together to strengthen food security in the Southern African country by boosting its agricultural and veterinary research.
Under a new South-South Cooperation agreement, Angolan researchers will receive technical assistance and short-term training from the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA), which played a key role in Brazil’s successful domestic programme to drastically reduce hunger.

Facilitated by FAO, the two-year project will be co-financed by Angola and Brazil, with Angola covering the $2.2 million financial costs and Brazil providing an in-kind contribution of $875 000 through the work of EMBRAPA experts. The project will formulate a national strategy for agricultural innovation in addition to training some 60 researchers from Angola’s Agricultural Research Institute and 45 from its Veterinary Research Institute.



The World Farmers’ Organisation General Assembly - Buenos Aires, 25-29 March 2014  

About 100 national farmers’ organizations from 80 countries will participate in the event

WFO General Assembly, an annual meeting that brings farmers’ organizations from all over the world, will take place in Buenos Aires from 25 to 29 March 2014. Argentina agricultural organization, Sociedad Rural Argentina (SRA) was designated as the host of the event during the WFO’s General Assembly that took place in April 2013 inNiigata, Japan. The meeting will be opened by a series of workshops featuring themes of great relevance and concerns for world agriculture: sustainable livestock production, improvements in contract farming, innovation process and climate services. The General Assembly will be officially opened on March 26.

The World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) is an international organization whose mandate is to bring together farmers’ organizations and agricultural cooperatives from all over the world. Its mission is to represent and advocate on behalf of nano, small, medium an large-scale farmers in global policy fora, proposing and facilitating the creation of conditions for the adoption of policies aimed at improving the economic environment and livelihood of producers, their families and rural communities. The World Farmers’ Organisation was founded in 2011, its headquarters are in Rome and it  currently counts 60 members from 45 different countries.





Grupo Comidas donates $260,000 to fight against hunger in Honduras

February 7, Tegucigalpa - Grupo Comidas Especializadas, through its brands Pizza Hut, KFC and Denny’s and their customers’ support—donated US$260,000 to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) as part of the global campaign From Hunger to Hope.

The aim of the campaign is to raise funds to support thousands of Honduran children suffering from malnutrition. Since WFPs and Grupo Comidas collaboration in 2010 more than 20,000 people have received support. Grupo Comidas with the support of its customers has raised more than US$728,000. Their efforts have helped to improve the health and nutritional status of children under 5, pregnant and nursing women.



Prompt action saves hundreds of lives as Cyclone Ian batters Tonga

February 5 - When Cyclone Ian made landfall in Tonga on 10 January, it caused widespread destruction in the Ha’apai Islands. The cyclone was one of the most powerful tropical storms to have struck the Pacific nation, bringing 289km per hour winds.

Despite the damage to evacuation centres, hundreds of lives were saved. The IFRC has been working with the Tonga Red Cross Society training emergency response teams and prepositioning disaster relief supplies in preparation for events like Cyclone Ian. From their stocks, the society is providing temporary shelter material to affected families.

Tonga has a strong community support network and families are already helping each other. Fifty Red Cross volunteers involved in the assessments are from the most affected villages and Ha’apai branch Emergency Response Teams are working closely with government agencies. Shelter, household items such as cooking equipment lighting, water and health are the immediate priorities.



Warm clothes for Gaza flood victims

February 4, Gaza – Jackets, along with sweaters, hats, gloves, socks and woolen neck scarves have been distributed to Gaza families who had to evacuate their homes during the December floods. UMCOR funded this post-disaster program, though which ANERA was able to distribute warm clothing to more than 1,400 children, aged 5 to 12.

Thousands of Gaza families fled their homes with little more than the clothes they were wearing. When they returned home they discovered that most of their belongings had been ruined. In its initial response, ANERA also delivered more than 500 cleaning and hygiene kits for flood victims.



Rotary receives $1.85 million from San Diego business leader

Evanston, Ill., USA, January 15 - San Diego businessman and Rotary club member Terrence Caster and his wife Barbara have donated $1.85 million to Rotary in support of the humanitarian service group’s polio eradication and peace studies programs. The donation, announced during an annual conference of Rotary leaders in San Diego, is among the largest single gifts ever made to the organization by an individual Rotary club member.

The largest share of the gift, $1.1 million, will go to Rotary’s PolioPlus program, which works to immunize children in the developing world against this disabling infectious disease. Rotary is a founding partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, launched in 1988 by Rotary, the World Health Organization, UNICEF and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A more recent partner in the initiative is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which will match two-to-one every dollar Rotary commits to polio eradication through 2018, thus growing the Caster gift to $3.3 million in new money to fight the disease.

The remainder of the gift, $750,000, will go to the endowment fund of Rotary’s Peace Centers program, which offers master’s degree-level fellowships in peace studies and conflict resolution at six major universities in five countries. Specifically, the Caster donation will fully endow one Rotary Peace Fellowship every other year.




Peace and security


Mine action capacity building program in Libya

February 5 - In January 2014, ITF has initiated implementation of mine action capacity building program in Libya that is being funded by the Office of Weapons Removal and Abatement in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. The overall goal of the 12-month project is to support Libyan state institutions to exercise effective control over conventional weapons and ammunitions, to minimize the risk of the illicit spread of conventional weapons and ammunition, and to manage the security related consequences of the Libyan armed conflict.



Russia supports WFP operations in Sudan

February 3, Karthoum - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed a US$2 million contribution from the Russian Federation that will support WFP’s food distributions in Sudan. The donation will be used to provide food assistance to 70,000 beneficiaries for two months.

In 2014, WFP plans to reach close to 4 million people across Sudan, more than 3 million of whom are in Darfur.  In addition, WFP is concerned with supporting those who have been newly displaced following recent conflict in Darfur and South Kordofan, North Kordofan and Blue Nile states. Sudan remains one of WFP’s largest and most complex operations, providing food assistance to people suffering from conflict, displacement and chronic under-nourishment in Darfur, as well as in the east and border areas to the south.



UN action in South Sudan has saved thousands of lives, says peacekeeping chief

February 3, Juba - The United Nations decision to shelter 85,000 civilians on its peacekeeping bases in South Sudan during recent fighting saved thousands or even tens of thousands of lives, the UN peacekeeping chief stressed today, citing it as an example of what the world body stands for. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and 825,000 have been driven from their homes since fighting erupted between President Salva Kiir’s forces and those of former deputy president Riek Machar in mid-December.



WFP welcomes Japan contribution to assist Zimbabwe’s poor & hungry families

January 31, Masvingo – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) thanked the Ambassador of Japan, Yonezo Fukuda, for his country’s donation of US$4.2 million to boost food and nutrition security among some of the poorest families in Zimbabwe. 

Japan’s donation is in response to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) Rural Livelihoods Report 2013, according to which, some 2.2 million people are unlikely to be able to meet their daily food needs between January and March 2014, due to an unusually poor harvest in 2012/13. Japan’s contribution  will help to fund various WFP initiatives including current programmes to assist vulnerable rural families until the next harvest, in addition to supporting malnourished HIV/TB patients, and women and children.

WFP requires US$80 million to implement its operations for the next six months in Zimbabwe, of which US$60 million has yet to be  resourced. In the past decade, Japan has contributed more than US$35 million to WFP’s operations in Zimbabwe.



"Zone of Peace" secured in Latin America and Caribbean countries

On January 28 and 29, 2014 Latin American and Caribbean heads of state adopted a landmark agreement pledging to make the region a "zone of peace." A segment of the Havana Declaration also states that they declare, "The promotion in the region of a culture of peace based, inter alia, on the principles of the United Nations Declaration on a Culture of Peace." Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury, (Former UN Under-Secretary-General) shared this great news with us, showing how the Declaration on a Culture of Peace is gaining greater recognition and implementation.  

Leaders from the 33-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac) signed the Havana Declaration, promising not to intervene in other countries' internal affairs and resolve disputes peacefully. The agreement followed the two-day Celac summit and recognized "the inalienable right of every state to choose its political, economic, social and cultural system". It put in writing the need to resolve differences "through dialogue and negotiation or other forms of peaceful settlement established in international law." The declaration also reiterated the need for total global nuclear disarmament and highlighted the ongoing importance of the 1967 Tlatelolco Treaty, which established the region as a nuclear-free zone. Attending leaders have called the summit an attempt to seek unity amid diversity. (full article here).

Pathways to Peace (www.pathwaystopeace.org) newsletter, 3 Feb. 2014 - info@cultureofpeace.org


Iraq: Bringing urgently needed help to civilians in Fallujah

January 28, Baghdad - Thousands of people in Anbar province have been forced by the recent wave of violence to flee their homes, sometimes for other cities, in search of safety. People who have decided to stay often face harsh conditions and lack basic necessities. In the past four days, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has delivered vital aid to more than 3,000 people in the centre of Fallujah. Food, blankets, hygiene products, kitchen sets and other items were distributed to displaced residents of Fallujah and more food will reach in the coming days.

The ICRC is reiterating its call to all the parties in Fallujah and elsewhere in Anbar province to spare civilians and to allow medical personnel to carry out their duties in safety. Since the most recent upsurge of violence began in Anbar on 30 December, the ICRC has delivered vitally important supplies in the areas of Salaheddin, Karbala, Babel, Ramadi and Fallujah to more than 20,000 people who had to flee their homes.



Papua New Guinea: essential aid for 2,000 people affected by violence

January 24, Port Moresby - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Papua New Guinea Red Cross Society today began distributing household materials, construction tools and hygiene items to 2,000 people displaced by clan fighting in SuguValley, Kagua Erave District, Southern Highlands Province. Recent inter-communal violence in the Kagua-Erave area has left at least 40 people dead and 30 wounded. The aid distributed today will help ensure the displaced families are able to meet their basic needs.

"We are particularly concerned about access to health-care facilities for people injured in clan fighting across the Highlands," said Gauthier Lefèvre, head of the ICRC’s mission in Papua New Guinea. "Many wounded people are afraid to travel to health centres for fear of attack by enemy fighters. A number of health centres in the area have been destroyed or abandoned after years of fighting, and appropriate care is often only available in provincial capitals far removed from the site of clashes."



WFP and Government of Lao PDR assist food insecure communities in Saravane Province

January 21, Vientiane – The United Nations World Food Programme has provided 223 metric tonnes of rice donated by the Government of Japan through the APTERR (ASEAN plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve) to assist severely food insecure communities still recovering from the September 2013 floods in the Khongxedone district of Saravane Province.

The Government of Lao PDR requested WFP to provide critical food assistance, consisting of APTERR rice complemented by WFP vegetable oil to some 14,800 villagers to mitigate their risk of food insecurity and enhance their resilience capacity during the most critical time of the lean season. The floods which occurred in September 2013 affected 53 villages, where 2,231 families lost all of their crops as a result of the damage. Those affected by the disaster continue to remain seriously food insecure and greatly in need of food assistance. WFP Lao PDR is currently mobilizing resources to work together with the government and development partners.

WFP’s Emergency Preparedness and Response programme receives generous support from ASEAN, the Government of Australia, and ECHO.



UN Women For Peace: 2nd annual March In March to end violence against women

Friday, March 7, 2014. United Nations Headquarters, New York City

UN Women for Peace (UNWFP),founded in 2008, under the patronage of H.E. Mrs. Ban Soon-taek, aims at promoting and advancing the goals of UN agencies whose missions are to provide opportunities for women through social, cultural, educational and empowerment programs while partaking in a global peace building process. UNWFP is focused on supporting and funding UN humanitarian programs for women in developing countries and countries in conflict and providing scholarships to benefit underprivileged women to study at the University for Peace.

UNWomen for Peace also supports scholarships to benefit underprivileged women to study at the University For Peace in Costa Rica. The university was established in December 1980 as a Treaty Organization by the UN General Assembly through the adoption of UN Resolution 35/55. The mission of the University for Peace is to provide higher education with the aim of promoting peace among all human beings, teaching through understanding, tolerance and peaceful coexistence, and stimulating cooperation among peoples to help lessen obstacles and threats to world peace and progress. The UNWFP has presented twelve scholarships to date.





CVS Caremark to stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products

February 5, Woonsocket, R.I., USA - CVS Caremark  announced that it will stop selling cigarettes and other tobacco products at its more than 7,600 CVS/pharmacy stores across the U.S. by October 1, 2014, making CVS/pharmacy the first national pharmacy chain to take this step in support of the health and well-being of its patients and customers.

Smoking is the leading cause of premature disease and death in the United States with more than 480,000 deaths annually. While the prevalence of cigarette smoking has decreased from approximately 42% of adults in 1965 to 18% today, the rate of reduction in smoking prevalence has stalled in the past decade. More interventions, such as reducing the availability of cigarettes, are needed.



U.S. commits $205 million to polio eradication

By Dan Nixon, Rotary News

January 31- President Barack Obama signed an omnibus appropriations bill in January that provides $205 million to support polio eradication in 2014, through the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U. S. Agency for International Development.

The largest government donor to polio eradication, the U.S. has contributed more than $2.3 billion since the mid-1980s, when 125 countries were polio endemic and the disease afflicted 350,000 people annually. Today, only Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria are endemic, and in 2013, the combined incidence of polio in those countries fell to a record-low 157 cases. Last month, India reached a three-year milestone without polio, paving the way for the entire Southeast Asia region to be certified free of the disease. (...)

One of Rotary's chief responsibilities in the GPEI is advocacy. In addition to contributing more than $1.2 billion to the initiative, Rotary has helped secure over $9 billion from donor governments since the GPEI was launched in 1988.



Indigenous Colombians revive traditional healthcare practices: USAID-funded project empowers ethnic minorities

January 24, Cauca – For historical and social reasons, indigenous peoples in South America often are marginalized and have little access to government resources or support. That’s changing in Colombia. The Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Program (ACIP) is working with the Misak indigenous council to design its Indigenous Traditional Health System, which will benefit more than 21,000 people.

The Misak, who mainly live in the Silvia, Caldono, Piendamó and Cajibio municipalities of Cauca, are working to recover and systemize their traditional health practices. The health designers are taking a holistic approach, incorporating some elements of Western medicine with traditional practices to meet the healthcare needs of their community.

Funded by USAID, ACIP takes an integrated approach to improving the lives of Afro-Colombian and indigenous people as a way to address their marginalization and social problems.



The Netherlands and WFP support Bangladesh to scale up rice fortification

January 21, Dhaka – Rice fortified with essential vitamins and minerals will be made available to 500,000 men, women and children to fight micronutrient deficiencies amongst the poorest in Bangladesh, thanks to a contribution of close to US$5 million from the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The programme is a joint initiative between WFP and the Government of Bangladesh, supported by Global Science Company Royal DSM. Currently, fortified rice is distributed on a trial basis to 3,000 ultra-poor women and their families and 6,000 disaster-affected families : by 2016, more than 250,000 women, children, and men who rely on these government safety net programmes will receive fortified rice. In addition, the programme will cover 25,000 schoolchildren who receive cooked school meals.

Low dietary diversity remains a challenge in Bangladesh and deficiencies in Vitamin A, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin B12 and folate are wide-spread, with the poorest people most affected. Fortified rice kernels developed by DSM are enhanced with essential micronutrients, but look, taste and cook like ordinary rice.



Energy and safety



USA: Energy Department awards new ARPA-E Solar projects

The Energy Department on February 6 announced $30 million in funding to 12 ARPA-E projects to develop transformational hybrid solar energy technologies that deliver cost-effective power even when the sun is not shining. These projects—in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington—will help advance solar energy beyond current photovoltaic (PV) and concentrated solar power (CSP) technologies to drive lower-cost, reliable solar energy deployment.

The Energy Department awarded funding through ARPA-E’s Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight (FOCUS) program, which is aimed at developing new hybrid solar energy converters and hybrid energy storage systems that can deliver low-cost, high-efficiency solar energy on demand.

See the Energy Department news release, the complete project list, and the ARPA-E website.


USA: Energy Department announces $12 million for technologies to produce renewable carbon fiber from biomass

February 3 - The Energy Department today announced up to $12 million in funding to advance the production of cost-competitive, high-performance carbon fiber material from renewable non-food-based feedstocks such as agricultural residues and woody biomass. Carbon fiber derived from biomass may be less costly to manufacture and offer greater environmental benefits than traditional carbon fiber produced from natural gas or petroleum.

Carbon fiber is a strong, lightweight material that can replace steel and other heavier metals to lower the cost and improve performance of many technologies, including fuel-efficient vehicles and renewable energy systems. In addition to its uses in fuel-efficient vehicles, carbon fiber can also improve other clean energy technologies including wind turbine blades, pressurized hydrogen storage vessels for fuel cells and insulation materials for energy efficient buildings.




Environment and wildlife


WWF honours Bolivia for designation of world’s largest protected wetland

February 3, La Paz – Global conservation organization WWF has recognized the Bolivian government’s commitment to nature conservation for designating a 6.9 million-hectare area of protected wetlands in the Llanos de Moxos (Moxos Plains), a tropical ecoregion of northern Bolivia in the lowlands of the Amazon basin, with a WWF Gift to the Earth Award, the organization’s most prestigious award.

Under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, an intergovernmental treaty for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources, Llanos de Moxos is now the largest area of Wetlands of International Importance in the world.

In total, Bolivia has committed to designate 15 million hectares of its wetland area as Ramsar sites, demonstrating the government’s political support for freshwater conservation – while contributing significantly to the conservation of the wider Amazon basin.



Critically endangered turtle makes surprise appearance

January 22, Karachi, Pakistan - A hawksbill sea turtle has been recorded for the first time in the waters of Pakistan. The turtle was found entangled in a net by local fishermen and was later confirmed to be a hawksbill by WWF-Pakistan.

It is estimated that there are less than 50,000 hawksbill turtles remaining worldwide. The global population has declined 80% over the last century and the IUCN Red List classifies the species as critically endangered. The rescue demonstrates the positive impact that the training of ship's crews can have on the protection of marine diversity. WWF has run a program to train marine monitors in Pakistan since 2012.




Religion and spirituality


World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014

Since HM King Abdullah II of Jordan introduced a World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Plenary Session of the 65th UN General Assembly and the resolution was adopted by the UN on October 20, 2010, the first week of February, every year, has been declared a UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. Worldwide hundreds of events are being planned, both big and small, to underline the importance of inter religious cooperation.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative. This initiative, which started in 2007, called for Muslim and Christian leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour, without nevertheless compromising any of their own religious tenets. The Two commandments are at the heart of the three Monotheistic religions and therefore provide the most solid theological ground possible. The World Interfaith Harmony Week extends the Two Commandments by adding ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbour’. This formula includes all people of goodwill. It includes those of other faiths, and those with no faith.

The World Interfaith Harmony Week provides a platform—one week in a year—when all interfaith groups and other groups of goodwill can show the world what a powerful movement they are.




Culture and education


Tech giants commit $750-million to wired-schools effort

February 5, Adelphi, MD, USA – Apple, Microsoft, and other major technology companies have pledged goods and services worth $750-million to a White House initiative to close what President Obama termed the “technology gap” in the nation’s classrooms, the Associated Press reports.

Apple will provide $100-million in iPads and other hardware and Microsoft is offering free and discounted software as part of the effort announced by Mr. Obama. In addition, Verizon is donating up to $100-million in cash and in-kind contributions, and AT&T and Sprint will offer free Internet service.

The president announced a goal last year of bringing high-speed Internet to 99% of students within five years. “In a country where we expect free Wi-Fi with our coffee, we should definitely demand it in our schools,” he said.



Getting children back to school after Typhoon Haiyan

By Kate Marshall, IFRC

February 4, Tacloban – When Typhoon Haiyan struck the Visayas region of central Philippines, the Red Cross Society of China was quick to reach out to affected communities.(...)

The typhoon damaged more than 3,200 schools across the region, leaving teachers and students with no supplies and no classrooms from which to work. In an effort to get students back into education, the Red Cross Society of China agreed to partner with the Philippine Red Cross in building temporary classrooms for more than 8,500 students across Leyte province. (...) Wang Ping, director of society’s relief and health department, was tasked with the job of overseeing the initial construction phase of 166 temporary classrooms in 20 schools. (...) By the third week of January – interrupted by frequent heavy downpours that hampered construction – the team of 35 Chinese engineers and volunteer construction workers from Philippine Red Cross were putting the finishing touches to the last of the classrooms. (...)

For the Red Cross Society of China, the next phase of the project will be to equip the classrooms with badly needed furniture and supplies.



Former ‘Post’ owner starts $25-million college fund for illegal immigrants

February 4, Washington – Former Washington Post owner Donald E. Graham is launching a $25-million fund aimed at providing access to higher education to students who were brought into the country illegally as children, the Post writes.

The Dream.US plans to award full-tuition scholarships to 1,000 such students, a group that has become known as “dreamers,” in the next academic year. These students are not eligible for Pell grants and other federal college aid. Mr. Graham and his brother, Bill, have made undisclosed donations to the fund, which has also received grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and other donors. The organization will focus on students who want to pursue nursing, teaching, computer science, and business.



Save the Children and UNICEF receive $13.6 million from IKEA Soft Toy Campaign for Education Programs in Africa, Asia and Central and Eastern Europe

January 30, Westport, Conn., USA - IKEA customers and co-workers have partnered with the IKEA Foundation on a $13.6 million (€10.1 million) gift for UNICEF and Save the Children projects to help realize every child's right to a quality education.

The IKEA Soft Toys for Education annual campaign ran from Nov. 10, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014. For every soft toy and children's book sold, IKEA donated one euro to UNICEF and Save the Children to give children in developing countries access to a quality education. Since the campaign launch in 2003, the IKEA Foundation has donated €67 million to help improve the educational opportunities of more than 11 million children in 46 countries. (…)

Thanks to this year's donation, the IKEA Foundation will support 19 UNICEF and Save the Children projects in 18 countries.

The donations will help UNICEF and Save the Children train teachers in child-friendly teaching methods, improve child protection systems, supply educational materials in the schools, help rebuild schools, provide better water and toilet facilities, and increase school attendance rates.



Buick and GMC surprise local schools with much-needed supplies for students in need

January 30, Miami, USA - Buick and GMC have partnered with CBS EcoMedia Inc. through its innovative EducationAd advertising program to fund free backpacks filled with school supplies for Lakeview Elementary and Earlington Heights Elementary in Miami.

The donation, provided by Buick and GMC, will help take the burden off of families within the community who are unable to purchase school supplies and the teachers who, too often, purchase supplies with their own money. This generous donation will impact a total of 933 students from low-income families.

The funding for the supplies was a part of Buick and GMC’s EducationAd advertising on CBS, a program which enables advertisers to support community projects across the country, such as the distribution of school supplies.



The Millennium Project ranked 6th best think tank in the world for new ideas and paradigms

January 29 - Some 2000 experts polled by the University of Pennsylvania rated think tanks throughout the world in various categories to produce the 2013 “Global Go To Think Tanks Index.” The millennium project was rated 6th in the Special Achievement Category IV for “Best New Idea or Paradigm Developed by a Think Tank.”

Most think tanks focus on a specific issue, country, or ideology. The Millennium Project connects futurists around the world to explore prospects for humanity as-a-whole. This should not be confused with the UN Millennium Project that produced scholarly papers to address the eight UN Millennium Development goals. Although born from a three-year feasibility study from 1992-1995 funded by the UN University, US EPA, UNDP, and UNESCO, it is an independent, international think tank with 50 Nodes (groups of institutions and individuals) around the world that connect global and local perspectives, producing new approaches to build a better future.



Kindergartens in West Bank: a leap forward

January 28 – When ANERA launched its early childhood development program (ECD) in the West Bank in 2010 there were hundreds of private facilities but only two run by the Palestinian Authority (PA). ANERA helped train teachers at the two schools, located in Bethlehem and Nablus, and in two dilapidated private schools in refugee camps in the same areas.

Four years later, the world of ECD has dramatically changed: the Ministry of Education is launching a one-year preparatory program for children aged 4½ – 5½, which should begin with the 2014-2015 school terms at eight government schools in Hebron, Jericho and Jenin. This is the first-of-its-kind initiative in Palestine. The new preschools will be free of charge and serve remote marginalized towns and villages that have no childcare facilities. ANERA will renovate two of the eight preschools in Anab Al-Kabir and Beit Mirsim, thanks to a generous $70,000 donation from Kuwait. (…)



Ministry of Education calls on Israeli high schools to participate in Givat Haviva's Face-to-Face Program

The Israeli Ministry of Education has issued a call to high school principles and educators nationwide encouraging their participation in Givat Haviva's renowned Face-to-Face program.  Face-to-Face facilitates encounters between groups of Jewish and Arab high school students and their teachers in two-day intensive seminars designed to create greater understanding of one another, reduce feelings of fear and hatred, and forge a preliminary basis for dialogue between the two populations.

 The program is being run with support from the Society & Youth Department of the Ministry of Education, implemented in the framework of the national Citizenship Program.  Supporting the values and educational principles on which Face-to-Face is based, the Ministry encourages school leadership to integrate the program as part of a larger educational process supporting peace education and coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel.



Building Bridges - the MEUS program

For nearly twenty years, the Building Bridges MEUS (Middle East, U.S.) program has brought young Israeli, Palestinian and American women together to build relationships with each other, and to gain communication and leadership skills that will enable them to bring about more just, inclusive societies.

Building Bridges MEUS lasts for two years, including two residential summer intensives, monthly meetings in participants’ home communities, and two overnight retreats during each school year. In the first year, participants explore their own identities and personal narratives through sharing those with others. In the second year, participants deepen their relationships with one another, and begin to think about how to share what they’ve learned with others. Participants are young women entering 10th -11th grade, and committed to learning about their community and others around the world. The next cohort of Building Bridges MEUS will begin in Summer 2015.




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Next issue: 14 March 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), Elisa Minelli, Isabella Strippoli. Webmaster and media and 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,  to 3,000 NGOs, 1,500 high schools, colleges and universities, as well as over 24,000 Rotarians in the world.


It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered, not-for-profit 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.


* 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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