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Good News Agency

In spite of everything, a culture of peace is emerging in all fields of human endeavour

monthly, year 15th, no. 236 –  12 June 2015


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


The Friends of Nukes are losing

By Gunnar Westberg, TFF Board

Lund, Sweden, May 29 - The 2015 Review conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) ended Friday May 22 in New York without a final document being accepted. Up till the very end it seemed that the conference would produce a non-committal final document. The outcome which a majority of the states desired, a plan for a total ban on nuclear weapons, as there is for chemical and bacteriological weapons, was unacceptable to the nuclear weapon states. (...)

This would all seem like a great disappointment. But the important outcome of the conference was just the opposite: There is more hope today for a ban on nuclear weapons than we have seen for twenty years. No less than 159 states agreed that the humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons would be so catastrophic that they must be abolished. Even more important, 107 countries asked for legal measures for a prohibition of nuclear weapons – use, threat, production, storage.

Read the speeches by South Africa, or Costa Rica, in Xanthe Hall's exellent account,  referring to the three humanitarian conferences held in the last two years, which offer hope where NPT fails (...)



UN rights office welcomes Nebraska as latest US state to abolish death penalty

29 May – Welcoming Nebraska as the nineteenth state in the United States to abolish the death penalty, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) today urged the Federal Government to engage with those states retaining the policy towards achieving a nationwide moratorium as a first step to abolition.

“We welcome the abolition of the death penalty in the state of Nebraska on Wednesday,” said OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani, who added that Nebraska has not executed any inmates since 1997.

States, such as Colorado, Delaware, Montana and Kansas, whose legislative bodies are currently debating the abolition of the death penalty, are encouraged to follow Nebraska’s lead, Ms. Shamdasani said.

OHCHR also called on the US Federal Government, at the recommendation of the Human Rights Committee in March 2014, to establish a federal level moratorium on the death penalty, while engaging “retentionist states with a view to achieving a nationwide moratorium,” as a first step towards abolition.



Nigeria bans Female Genital Mutilation

Silvia Swinden

29 May - Goodluck Jonathan signed the ban into law as one of his final acts as president before handing power over to Muhammadu Buhari, who was sworn into office last Friday.

“According to 2014 U.N. data, a quarter of Nigerian women have undergone FGM — the partial or total removal of external genitalia which can cause physical and psychological problems. Although some of Nigeria’s 36 states already prohibit the ritual, this week’s new federal law brings in a nationwide ban.

“The law, which was passed by the Senate on May 5, also prohibits men from abandoning their wives or children without economic support, according to the Nigeria Stability and Reconciliation Programme, a Lagos-based thinktank.” reported Reuters

Many have expressed worries about how the ban will be enforced, in particular in rural communities where such practices are very entrenched and considered to be part of tradition and culture. However it is indeed a step forward that may encourage other African countries to follow Nigeria’s example.



South Africa ratifies the Convention on Cluster Munitions

28 May  – South Africa is the 92nd State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The instrument of ratification was submitted to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, at the UN Headquarters in New York, on 28 May 2015.             

Authorities have reported that South Africa possesses “a relatively small stockpile of obsolete cluster munitions”, which must now be destroyed. The country is not known to have cluster munition remnants contamination on its territory.

The vast majority of sub-Saharan African states have joined the Convention, but 16 still need to ratify it to become full States Parties. A small number are still outside the Convention: Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Mauritius, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe.

The Convention will enter into force for South Africa on 1 November 2015.




Human rights


Thousands march against femicide in Argentina

By Ashoka Jegroo 

Thousands of protesters marched on June 3 in Buenos Aires and dozens of other cities across Argentina against violence towards women. Shortly before 5 p.m. on Wednesday, massive crowds of protesters gathered in the Dos Congresos square outside of the National Congress in Buenos Aires. Almost 200,000 people, according to Argentine news agency Telam, participated in the march. The protesters demanded an end to gender violence in the country, and the organizers asked politicians in attendance to sign a five-point promise to put an end to femicide. (...)The march in Buenos Aires was joined by protests in over 70 cities across Argentina, as well as solidarity protests in Santiago, Chile, Montevideo, Uruguay, and Miami, Florida under the hashtag #NiUnaMenos (Not One Woman Less). (...)

There are no official statistics kept on the number of femicides in Argentina, but according to counts done by women’s rights group La Casa del Encuentro, a woman is killed every 31 hours by a family member, a partner or a former partner. (...)



3-day Oslo conference to stop genocide in Burma

On 26 May, a high-profile international conference will be held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen to bring the Norwegian and EU publics closer to the reality of the Rohingyas. This Muslim minority in Myanmar (Burma) has been so systematically persecuted that they would rather risk lives – including those of their infants and children – than die a slow, collective death. At the conference, a team of researchers from the International State Crime Initiative, Queen Mary University of London will be presenting their latest findings.

The 3-day conference is sponsored by the Oxford University Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), the Harvard University Global Equality Initiative, Parliament of the World’s Religions, Burma Task Force USA, Justice for All, Refugees International, and the International State Crime Initiative at Queen Mary University of London.

The Oslo conference is the culmination of a series of conferences – the two previous ones were held at the London School of Economics and HarvardUniversity in 2014 – designed to call attention to the plight of Rohingyas and their decades-long persecution by successive governments in Myanmar.




Economy and development


WFP investment in Ugandan smallholder farmers shows results

June 8, KampalaInvestments by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to improve the agricultural practices and business potential of smallholder farmers in Uganda are showing impressive results, the organization said today. WFP has invested over US$32 million in infrastructure and training to assist smallholder farmer groups in Uganda since 2009.

Agriculture and market support are among WFP’s priorities in Uganda and complement government initiatives to improve grain quality and increase production. WFP has been working with farmers and the private sector to improve storage facilities and provide modern grain processing equipment to clean and bag the grain and ensure farmers can access markets beyond the farm gate.



China signs $50 million South-South Cooperation agreement with FAO

June 7, Rome - China andFAO today signed a $50 million agreement to support developing countries in building sustainable food systems and inclusive agricultural value chains, recognizing the growing importance of collaboration between Southern countries in the fight against extreme hunger and poverty. China's new contribution to the FAO-China South-South Cooperation Trust Fund will support the exchange of Chinese agricultural experts with countries in the global South, particularly in low-income food-deficit areas of Asia and the Pacific, Africa and Latin America, over a period of five years.

South-South Cooperation has gained prominence in recent years as an innovative approach to development assistance that complements traditional models of development assistance.



International consultancy firm “cites Ecuador as an example” of economic management in times of crisis, President Correa points out

Quito, May 30 (Andes).- The Swedish consultancy firm Kreab presented its report “Ecuador y la Revolucion Ciudadana, un camino hacia el buen vivr” (Ecuador and its Citizen Revolution, a path towards the good living) which describes the country as “a phenomenon that cannot go unnoticed,” President Rafael Correa explained during his weekly report from the province of Azuay.

In the document presented in Spain, policies implemented by the Ecuadorian government are being analyzed “achieving its goal of the good living, improving life conditions, increasing equality and reducing poverty,” according to a video released during the 426 Citizen Link. Moreover, it describes how the country has faced the drop in oil prices (main export product) how it has diversified its sources of finance and the actions the government has taken to transform the Ecuadorian production machine.

The 46 page report also mentions the challenges that the country has to face to “position Ecuador as a knowledge and sustainable innovation oriented nation.”



At UN Asia-Pacific policy forum, leaders discuss post-2015 agenda, financing and partnerships

28 May – The 71st session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) opened its ministerial session today in Bangkok, as region’s leaders meet to discuss the integration and implementation of economic, social and environmental development with focus on financing and partnership.

The theme for this year’s session is ‘Balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development: from integration to implementation,’ with emphasis on balancing and integrating the economic, environmental and social aspects of development. Climate change, natural disasters, economic growth, and issues related to small island developing States have also been discussed in the forum. Over 550 participants from 50 MemberStates and associate members are attending the 71st Commission session this week, making it the largest attendance of Pacific Heads of State and Government in recent history.



World hunger falls to under 800 million, eradication is next goal

May 27, Rome - In the developing regions, the prevalence of undernourishment – which measures the proportion of people who are unable to consume enough food for an active and healthy life - has declined to 12.9% of the population, down from 23.3% a quarter of a century ago reports SOFI 2015, published today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

A majority - 72 out of 129 – of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the prevalence of undernourishment by 2015, with developing regions as a whole missing the target by a small margin. In addition, 29 countries have met the more ambitious goal laid out at the World Food Summit in 1996, when governments committed to halving the absolute number of undernourished people by 2015.



Qatar Charity and WFP join forces to engage the Private Sector in the fight against hunger

May 21, Rome and Doha - Qatar Charity, Qatar’s largest NGO, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) have signed a partnership agreement that will allow Qatar-based companies and individuals to support WFP in building a world with zero hunger.

Through this agreement, Qatar Charity will facilitate the official authorization of initiatives led by local companies and branches of multinationals operating in Qatar that seek to support WFP’s food assistance programmes in the Middle East and around the world, including cash contributions and fundraising and advocacy campaigns and events.

By investing in hunger solutions, companies can help people in developing countries increase lifetime earnings by up to 46% , workforces increase productivity by 20% and countries boost GDP, or gross domestic product, by up to 16.5% , according to recent studies.






$50 million gift to build mental-health center in San Francisco

5 June – The University of California at San Francisco's recently opened hospital in the city's MissionBay district has received an anonymous $50 million contribution to support construction of a mental-health research and treatment center, reports San Francisco Business Times.

The donation includes a parcel of land and construction funds for the planned 140,000-square-foot facility, for which the university needs to raise an additional $100 million.

The MissionBay complex, which opened in February, has received several major gifts. The mental-health center will be located on the site of a similar proposed project that went through early development stages in 2007 and was referred to in planning documents as the PritzkerCenter at UCSF. Sources familiar with the property named billionaire investor John Pritzker as the likely source of the new gift, but the university refused to comment on the donor's identity.



Morgan Stanley employees contribute over 8,000 hours to strategy development for nine nonprofit organizations in U.S. strategy challenge

New York, June 4 - Morgan Stanley today announced the completion of the seventh annual U.S. Strategy Challenge, a ten-week program in which top-performing Morgan Stanley employees provide pro-bono strategic advice to nonprofit organizations on mission critical challenges. This year, nine nonprofits participated in the program and Morgan Stanley teams presented final strategic recommendations for each nonprofit in a competition at Morgan Stanley’s New York headquarters on June 3.

At the Strategy Challenge final event, each team had 15 minutes to present their work to a mixed panel consisting of a senior Managing Director from Morgan Stanley, a partner from The Bridgespan Group, and an Executive Director from a past nonprofit participant. The New YorkCenter for AutismCharterSchool was the runner up and the Grace Institute received third place. The top three nonprofits won cash grants of $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000, respectively. The six remaining organizations received grants of $5,000 each.



South Sudan - Caritas keeps hope alive in contested border region of Abyei

3 June – Unlike many other conflict zones around the world, Abyei is not filled with non-governmental organizations providing assistance to the population. Many NGOs are afraid that working in Abyei will anger government officials in Khartoum, who could then deny them access to Darfur and other troubled areas.

That leaves Caritas South Sudan and the local Catholic parish to provide much of what is needed. With funding from the international Caritas network, the church has accompanied the people returning to their burned villages. The church is drilling new wells to replace those that were destroyed by the north when it withdrew. It has swept up the ashes and rebuilt clinics in villages like Mading Achueng to which people are hesitantly returning. It is providing seeds and farming tools so that people can feed themselves. It is training teachers for the schools that are slowly reopening, a critical task given the transition from teaching in Arabic (the language of Sudan) to English (the language of South Sudan).



Sri Lanka - Post-conflict shelter programme helps 55,000 people build a brighter future for themselves and their community

By Mahieash Johnney and Zafran Packeerally, IFRC

2 June – Red Cross Society, supported by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and funded by the Indian Government, has completed over 11,100 permanent houses with 55,000 people moving into new homes following the 30 year conflict. In 2010, the Red Cross began its mission to aid the people who were returning from the conflict by commissioning 300 new houses. However within a few years the society, alongside with IFRC, increased the support to over 3,500 houses. Later on, with funding from the Indian Government, the programme was increased to 17,900 houses. (…)

From the planned 17,500 houses the Red Cross has managed to complete 11,165 so far and have handed the keys over to the beneficiaries who can then begin turning the houses into homes. (...)



Vodafone supports WFP’s School Feeding Programme in Upper Egypt for the third year

May 27, Cairo -The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed today a US$1.2 million contribution from Vodafone Egypt Foundation that will benefit thousands of children, their families and teachers through WFP’s school feeding programme in Upper Egypt.

The Vodafone Egypt Foundation contribution will benefit 67,000 people in the poorest and most remote areas of Assiut, Fayoum and Beni Suef governorates. WFP will use the funds to provide nutritious daily snacks and monthly food rations to school children and their families as well as nutrition awareness training for 300 teachers. This agreement builds on the existing partnership WFP and Vodafone Egypt Foundation have established since 2011.

Families whose children maintain an attendance rate above 80% receive a monthly food ration that compensates for the wage a child would earn if sent to work instead of school.



Take Care Nepal: one month since earthquake in Nepal, ADRA responds to community needs

By Logan Meltzer

Kathmandu, 27 May  — It has been one month since the Gorkha earthquake hit Nepal and almost three weeks since a second quake rocked the country. ADRA continues to provide urgent care and relief to the hundreds of thousands afflicted by this catastrophe. (...) With the monsoon season rapidly approaching, however, local staff is working night and day to ensure that the people of Nepal have the necessities they need for survival. On top of the food, water and shelter contributions, ADRA has also set up seven mobile medical tents, and water and sanitation activities in 10 schools plus awareness training in 19 more to ensure safe consumption practices and curb any outbreak of water or food borne disease.

In the last week, the Nepali government and the United Nations have both called for more direct emergency aid for food, clean water, and shelter. Current ADRA programs include an initiative that works to empower individuals and communities through programs in family planning, economic development, adolescent and youth activity and literacy, and public health, and the Family Health Project, through which ADRA provided health services from training to check-ups.



Red Cross Red Crescent Mediterranean Platform on Migration calls to stop labelling people on the move as ‘illegal’

San Marino/Geneva, 26 May - National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from Mediterranean countries gathered in San Marino today for the annual meeting of the platform on migration, organized by the Red Cross of the Republic of San Marino, Centre for the Cooperation in the Mediterranean, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The aim of the meeting was to coordinate and strengthen the humanitarian response to the critical needs of migrants in countries of origin, transit and destination.

Red Cross Red Crescent participants at the meeting emphasized that people arrive at international borders for multiple reasons and with different vulnerabilities, and they should always be treated with humanity, regardless of their legal status. Arrivals of migrants usually spike in the spring and summer months because of the favourable weather in the Mediterranean but the numbers are increasing dramatically due to the several protracted crises affecting the region.

Most of the National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in the Mediterranean work 24/7 to provide protection and assistance to people on the move. They will scale up their response to adapt to the growing needs, taking also into account the importance and specific needs of host communities.



European Union helps treat malnutrition among Sudan’s most vulnerable

May 25, Khartoum - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed a contribution of €9 million from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) to its emergency operations in Sudan. The funds will help WFP prevent hunger and treat malnutrition among the most vulnerable people in Sudan.

In 2015, WFP plans to assist 3.7 million people across Sudan, of whom 2.7 million live in the conflict-affected region of Darfur, internally displaced people in Blue Nile and South Kordofan, refugees in Kassala state and other food insecure vulnerable groups elswhere in the country.




Peace and security


In Geneva, UN envoy meets Syria stakeholders amid ongoing consultations

10 June– The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria is continuing a series of critical meetings with Syrian and international stakeholders as part of the ongoing Geneva Consultations and in an effort to find a political solution to the country's five-year long conflict.

According to a spokesperson for the Organization, Staffan de Mistura – who has been engaged since 5 May with representatives of the Syrian Government, the Syrian opposition Coalition and 39 Syrian political and civil society groups – will continue the consultation process into the month of July with the “sincere hope and belief that guns will fall silent one day.”

During Syria's tragic five-year arc of conflict, 220,000 people have been killed, more than one million have been injured, 7.6 million have been displaced and four million people have sought refuge in neighbouring countries, according to UN estimates. In the statement, the spokesperson said Mr. de Mistura stressed the existence of a “general consensus” that there cannot be a military solution to the Syrian tragedy and that the continued use of force “will only create further suffering, destruction and grievances.” “An inclusive and Syrian-led and owned political solution is urgently needed,” the statement added. “Only such a solution can address the aspirations of the Syrian people and end the conflict in a sustainable manner.”



New German funding for Bosnia and Hezegovina in 2015

Sarajevo, 5 June  – Dr. Christian Hellbach, Ambassador of Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in BiH, and Ambassador Damjan Bergant, ITF Enhancing Human Security director, signed the first 2015 Agreement in amount of 400.000,00 EUR, for continuation of FR Germany support to Bosnia and Herzegovina in mine action programme for 6 projects of clearance and technical survey, in Municipalities of Konjic, Maglaj and Lukavac, in total project size of 414.879 m2, which will be implemented through ITF Enhancing Human Security.

ITF Enhancing Human Security and Federal Republic of Germany through Embassy in Sarajevo, thus, continue strenghtened strategic partnership also in 2015.



Peace symposium speaker wants world to spend more on education, less on war

Former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias, a Nobel Peace Laureate, delivered the keynote address on 4 June at the 2015 Rotary World Peace Symposium in São Paulo, Brazil.

Ryan Hyland, Rotary International

When former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias was eight years old, his country abolished its military and turned its focus instead to human rights and peace. Now, the Nobel Peace laureate believes the world can gain just as much by following his country’s example. Speaking at the Rotary Peace Symposium, Arias recounted how his country traded in its tanks and heavy artillery to invest instead in economic reform and social justice. (...) Arias, who served as president of Costa Rica from 1986 to 1990 and again from 2006 to 2010, addressed 250 Rotary Peace Fellows, alumni, Rotary members, and guests at the peace symposium. The two-day meeting celebrates Rotary’s work in peace and conflict prevention. (...)

Arias received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work to bring the countries of Central America together to sign a peace accord that ended the military conflicts that then plagued the region. The conflicts were challenging Costa Rica’s culture of peace. As president, Arias was pressured by other governments to take up arms against the Sandinista government in Nicaragua and even threatened with sanctions. He stood firm in maintaining his country’s neutrality. “This enabled my little country to become the platform for the peace accords that gradually ended the unrest in our part of the world,” he said.

Arias noted that the $1.77 trillion the world spends on the military could easily eliminate preventable diseases like malaria and provide basic education for children worldwide. (...)



37 countries start process of protecting schools and universities during conflict

29 May – From 28 to 29 May 2015, Geneva Call participated in a conference hosted by the Norwegian Foreign Affairs Ministry. 37 countries joined an international Safe Schools Declaration that commits them to protect education from attack. In situations of conflict, widespread attacks on schools and universities, their students and staff, as well as the use of school buildings by armed parties is denying education to many thousands of people – with devastating results for individuals and their communities, the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) said.

By joining the Declaration, countries agree to endorse and use new Guidelines for ProtectingSchools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict, which call for armed parties to avoid using educational buildings or making them targets of attack.  The Declaration also requires countries to record casualties from attacks on education, assist victims, and support humanitarian programming that promotes the continuation of education during armed conflict.



Women in the Spotlight: Graciela Tapia

Graciela Tapia is one of seven women experts in mediation and elections profiled this month on the website of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA).

DPA plays a central role in United Nations efforts to prevent and resolve conflict, and contributes directly to the organization’s work to promote peace and support democratic processes, including through supporting conflict mediation processes and coordinating UN electoral assistance activities.

As the UN prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary this year, DPA is highlighting the work of these women experts in places ranging from Afghanistan to Guinea and Yemen in support of conflict mediation and electoral processes.



Take action to Orange your day

The UN Secretary-General’s  UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign, managed by UN Women, has proclaimed every 25th of the month as “Orange Day” – a day to take action to raise awareness and prevent violence against women and girls. Initiated and led by the UNiTE campaign Global Youth Network, Orange Day calls upon activists, governments and UN partners to mobilize people and highlight issues relevant to preventing and ending violence against women and girls, not only once a year, on 25 November (International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women), but every month.

The year 2015 marks the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive road map to gender equality. World leaders will meet in March at the United Nations 59th Commission on the Status of Women to take stock of the progress made and commit to take actions to close the gaps that are holding women and girls back. This is also the year when a new development framework will come in to replace the Millennium Development Goals. The elimination of violence against women and girls must be a centrepiece of the new development agenda.






Gates Foundation commits $776 million for work on Hunger

4 June – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation unveiled plans Thursday to spend $776 million over the next six years to tackle world hunger, doubling its existing commitments on the issue, the Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

Announcing the pledge at a meeting in Brussels, Melinda Gates called on European leaders to prioritize fighting malnutrition in women and children, a major factor in deaths before the age of 5.

The additional Gates spending will focus on better nutrition for women and girls before they get pregnant, a key to improving maternal and child health, and promoting fortified food, breastfeeding, and other ways to raise nutrition levels. The commitment by the world's largest philanthropy also unlocks $180 million in matching funds from the U.K. Department for International Development.



Progress on stunting prevention in Malawi

June 4, LilongweAn innovative stunting-prevention programme in Malawi is showing signs of positive results, according to a progress review taking place this week. The programme was launched in January 2014 as a pilot in Ntchisi district. It targets the first 1,000 days of life - from conception to the age of two - which is a critical period in a child’s development during which stunting can be prevented. Malawi has one of the highest rates of stunting in Africa, affecting 42% of children. Anecdotal evidence indicates that since the programme started, fewer children are falling into malnutrition in Ntchisi district.

The programme is managed by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in close collaboration with the Government of Malawi and other members of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in Malawi. The review comes on the heels of the recent launch of theCost of Hunger in Africa study which found that Malawi experiences annual losses of nearly US$600 million due to the associated costs of child undernutrition. The data underscores that stunting is not just a health issue, but a social and economic issue and the solution must lie in diverse, high-impact nutrition interventions.



Flash of Insight: Mobile app tests for anemia with camera flash

June 4 – Do you remember your reaction when you learned a phone could access the internet or take pictures? Well, Africare/Tanzania is now researching if mobile phones can perform instant blood tests.

“Hb Meter,” a new mobile app field-tested by Africare’s Mwanzo Bora Nutrition Program, is the first non-invasive test for anemia, meaning no pricking or bleeding necessary. A mother places her finger or her child’s finger on the phone’s built-in camera flash, and about 10 seconds later she has an anemia diagnosis.

 “Hb Meter” bloodlessly detects hemoglobin levels using a mobile phone’s camera flash and uploads the test data to a central database. The standard invasive anemia test secures a small blood sample (pricking the end of a finger) and uses a hemo-control machine to analyze the blood. Right now, Africare/Tanzania is using USAID funding to compare “Hb Meter” test results with standard method results to see if the methods are equally accurate. “Hb Meter” is expected to make it much more likely that people will volunteer for anemia testing, and the app should reduce the cost and risk of infection associated with the invasive test.



Italy: MSF provides psychological first aid to survivors of fatal sea crossing

3 June – On Sunday 31 May, a team from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) provided emergency psychological support at the port of Augusta to 18 out of 454 migrants who had been rescued at sea trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya over the weekend. The 18 people receiving counselling from MSF’s psychological first aid team were deeply traumatized by having witnessed the deaths of their friends and family members during the journey.

The support provided was the first intervention of a new MSF psychological first aid team, composed of cultural mediators and a psychologist, which is on standby to be deployed to different landing ports in Italy within 72 hours after receiving any alert.



Nepal: Psychological first aid helps Nepalese rebuild their lives

1st June  – High in the mountains of northwestern and eastern Nepal, teams from Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) are running mental health activities to people affected by the two devastating earthquakes. MSF psychologist Kamini Deshmukh explains that one of the main activities she does is ‘psychological first aid’. Its aim, she says, is to enhance people’s coping mechanisms in the face of the trauma they have experienced, and to help them deal with their fears and anxieties. Kamini also conducts group sessions for men, women and children that are tailored to their specific needs.

In Kathmandu, an MSF mental health team is conducting group sessions in Chuchepati camp, which provides shelter for people whose homes were destroyed or are no longer safe to live in, as well as people who are too fearful to return home.

Most people in Nepal have been affected, in one way or another, by the two earthquakes. Yet despite all of this, there is a remarkable sense of resilience, says MSF psychologist, Renata Bernis.



World Health Assembly adopts landmark resolution to finish polio once and for all

22May – Reviewing latest global epidemiology and impact of emergency outbreak plans, the WHA noted in particular the strong progress across Africa, which has not seen a case due to wild poliovirus since last August, and in stopping a devastating outbreak affecting the Middle East despite conflict and large-scale population movements affecting the region. Delegates commended the unwavering commitment of governments, health workers, humanitarian organizations, NGOs and civil society across the region, underscoring what successes could be achieved in the spirit of global solidarity.

Delegates also noted the tremendous efforts being undertaken this year in Pakistan, which last year accounted for 85% of all new polio cases worldwide. In particular, new emergency efforts resulted this year in reaching children in previously inaccessible areas. Delegates also noted the strong progress being made, in close coordination with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, towards preparing for the phased withdrawal of oral polio vaccines (OPV), and urged all countries to ensure global readiness for the coordinated global switch from trivalent OPV to bivalent OPV in early 2016.

Rotary International provided an impassioned plea for all stakeholders to redouble their efforts, while reiterating the unwavering commitment of Rotarians worldwide.



Project HOPE announces health alliance in partnership with AstraZeneca and ten industry leaders to reverse growing trend of chronic respiratory diseases in China

Millwood, VA, May 20 – Project HOPE, a global health education and humanitarian organization, is teaming up with leading companies and organizations from the pharmaceutical and health care industries, to establish the China Alliance of Respiratory Diseases Prevention and Treatment (CARD) program aiming to improve the lives of the more than 100 million people who suffer from respiratory diseases in China.

With a shared vision and commitment to Chinese patients, AstraZeneca China has partnered with Project HOPE, lending the company’s legacy of scientific knowledge and research capabilities to CARD. Together, AstraZeneca and Project HOPE will work to raise awareness of chronic respiratory diseases among health professionals, ultimately improving the lives of patients in China. In addition to receiving strong support from AstraZeneca, CARD will also collaborate with other companies and organizations in the health care industry, medical professionals and specialists in respiratory medicine, governmental agencies for disease prevention and control, and public health experts. 




Energy and safety



EUR 50 million Lilongwe water investment programme gets European backing

12 June - European financial and technical support for investment to alleviate critical water shortages in Malawi’s largest city was confirmed today by the signature of finance agreements confirming a new EUR 24 million loan from the European Investment Bank to support the new EUR 49.2 million investment programme to be implemented by Lilongwe Water Board. The European Investment Bank is the world’s largest lender for the water sector and owned directly by the 28 European Union member states.

New water investment is essential as the population of Lilongwe is expected to double in the next 20 years. Crucial upgrading and improvements to the city’s water infrastructure will be managed by the Lilongwe Water Board over the next four years and increase water supply in low-income areas where services are currently limited as well as reducing water leakage. In this way the new investment will ensure efficient use of the existing water network and scarce water sources, as the city is dependent on water from the Lilongwe River. The project will both improve reliable water supply for customers and share water management best practice staff of the Lilongwe Water Board under a dedicated technical assistance programme.



International protocol for the human right to water and sanitation

The Campaign Water Human Right Treaty aims at ensuring by 2020 the human right to water and sanitation for all, implementing the recognition of the Human right to water by the UN Resolution of July 2010. The instrument to ensure this essential right is an International Law Treaty, signed by States, which defines on the substantial and the procedural levels, how to achieve the right.

The goal of the Campaign is to identify, through the mobilization of citizens and membership of international networks, of social movements, NGOs and associations, a group of States and Institutions willing to open negotiations for a Second Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights defining the mode of realization of a “human right to water and sanitation”.

 Binding our States to support and subscribe such a Protocol is a responsibility to be taken on by each of us, as member of Humanity, as world citizens, as holder of the right to life. Each of us and organized group of citizens (committees, associations) must implement all actions of mobilization and advocacy towards our own governments and international organizations and communities.




Environment and wildlife


Pope Francis endorses Catholic Climate Petition

Pope Francis endorsed the Catholic Climate Petition, an initiative of the Global Catholic Climate Movement, aimed at collecting signatures from Catholics all over the world to raise a strong voice demanding bold climate action. The petition signatures will be presented to world leaders in December 2015, when they will meet for the United Nations climate summit in Paris with the goal of signing a treaty to tackle climate change. Pax Christi International is supporting this initiative.


In December 2015, world leaders will meet in the U.N. climate summit at Paris with the goal of signing a treaty to tackle climate change. Through this petition we urge our political leaders to commit to ambitious climate action and solve this urgent crisis, with the goal of keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5 degree Celsius (aligned with the Catholic Bishops’ 2014 Lima statement). In partnership with the interfaith coalition Our Voices, we aim to raise a strong Catholic voice supporting Pope Francis’ words: “On climate change, there is a clear, definitive and ineluctable ethical imperative to act.”


Investing in climate change adaptation boosts small farmers’ household incomes, says IFAD

June 9 – Rural development projects which fund adaptation to climate change can increase small farmers’ household incomes by up to 50% , according to a new study carried out in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The study revealed that “climate smart” investments, such as agroforestry, water resources management and crop diversification were more conducive to raising incomes than other types of investments that do not take future climate trends into account.

More drought, later rains and increased storm intensities due to climate change are all expected to make agriculture more difficult for Mexican small farmers. Presently, Oaxaca’s major export is high-quality Arabica coffee, but as temperatures rise, production is expected to be negatively affected, with a 30 to 40% decline in crop suitability if no adaptation measures are taken.

Presently, IFAD is investing in sustainable forest management in Oaxaca state, but aims to fully mainstream climate smart approaches throughout its investment portfolio by 2018.



Second snow leopard successfully collared with satellite-GPS technology in Nepal

5 June, Kathmandu – Little over one month after a devastating earthquake rocked the Himalayan nation, conservationists in Nepal announced that they had successfully collared a snow leopard in the shadow of Kangchenjunga, the world’s second highest mountain. This announcement delivers a powerful positive message as the nation’s rebuilding efforts continue, and takes on even greater significance on World Environment Day.

The collaring expedition was led by the Government of Nepal in partnership with WWF, National Trust for Nature Conservation, Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Project, Kangchenjunga Conservation Area Management Council and citizen scientists from the local Snow Leopard Conservation Committee. The latter were especially vital in helping identify snow leopard hotspots and managing local logistics.



139 bizarre and beautiful new species discovered in Greater Mekong region

Bangkok, 26 May –A bat with nightmarish fangs, a stealthy wolf snake, a ‘dementor’ wasp and the world’s second longest insect are among the 139 new species discovered by scientists in Southeast Asia’s Greater Mekong region in 2014. Many are already at risk, according to a new report by WWF.

In total, 90 plants, 23 reptiles, 16 amphibians, nine fish, and one mammal are detailed in the report, Magical Mekong. They include a feathered coral whose nearest relatives live in Africa, four moths named after Thai princesses and a colour-changing thorny frog.

This brings the total new species discovered in the Greater Mekong,  which includes Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, to 2,216 between 1997 and 2014 – an average of three new species a week.

http://wwf.panda.org/wwf_news/?247352/MAGICAL-MEKONG-NEW-SPECIES- DISCOVERIES-2014



Religion and spirituality


Religious leaders at forefront of fight against intolerance, says UN chief

10 June – Religious leaders have a pivotal role to play in times of turmoil, during which they can provide a values-based glue to hold communities together and provide common ground for peace-making and problem solving, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today at a conference in Kazakhstan.

“You can do so by fostering dialogue; by using spiritual authority to encourage individuals to act humanely; and by promoting shared values – as enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – and as reflected in the teachings of all world religions,” Mr. Ban said in his remarks to the Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, held in Almaty.

In his opening remarks to a dialogue to promote peace and prosperity in turbulent times – which echoed the UN General Assembly thematic debate on "Promoting Tolerance and Reconciliation” held in April – the Secretary-General reminded religious leaders, both traditional and non-traditional, of their obligation to speak out when “so-called adherents of their faith” commit crimes in its name.



The Parliament of the World’s Religions awards three of Burma’s leading monks at Norway’s Nobel Institute

2 June - Three Buddhist monks returned home to Burma last week from the Nobel Institute with World Harmony Awards, presented by the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik of the Christian Democratic Party joined Imam Malik Mujahid, Chair of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, in awarding the monks at the opening of the Oslo Conference to Stop the Systematic Persecution of Burma’s Rohingya. The World Harmony Awards recognized acts of “fostering compassion, kindness, and harmony among faith communities in Myanmar,” where more than one thousand Rohingya Muslims survived violence by being protected inside of Buddhist monasteries.

The Parliament was a co-sponsor of the meetings held at the prestigious Norwegian Nobel Institute and VoksenaasenConferenceCenter in Oslo, Norway. Participants from 16 different countries, including Rohingya activists, Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar converged with genocide scholars to adopt a statement pressing for immediate international action.



Pax Christi International celebrates with gratitude the memory of Bishop Martyr Oscar Romero from El Salvador

Pax Christi International Rejoices With The Beatification Of Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and celebrates in solidarity with the people of El Salvador and the peoples of the world who recognize in Msgr. Romero a witness of a peace which is the fruit of justice. Msgr. Romero’s legacy is the persistent search for truth, justice and reconciliation; his journey was marked by a unique coherence between his values and faith and his practice.

Pax Christi International considers Msgr. Oscar Romero a prophet of justice and peace. He is an inspiration for our peace movement and we hope that his beatification will renew the courage of peace workers and human rights defenders – especially from younger generations – who endure threats, harassment, attacks, and death for their commitment in favor of those who are oppressed and whose voices are frequently ignored.




Culture and education


A Teachers’ Code for fair recruitment

A new Code, backed by the American Federation of Teachers, will help ensure that international recruitment and employment of teachers in the United States is ethical, fair and transparent.

5 June – In 2009, The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) published a landmark study, “Importing Educators: Causes and Consequences of International Teacher Recruitment,” that revealed a pattern of problems for migrant teachers.  These problems include alien smuggling, visa fraud, contract “twinning,” domestic servitude, breakage fees, high housing charges, indefinite at-will status, bureaucratic challenges, and culture shock.

With funding from the MacArthur Foundation, a Task Force on the Ethical International Recruitment and Employment of Teachers was established that included teacher unions, recruiters, foreign-educated teachers, and employers. A series of Task Force meetings—where stakeholders discussed their pain points and needs—led to the development of The Teachers’ Code of Ethical International Recruitment and Employment Practices. Education International senior coordinator Dennis Sinyolo has collaborated in the drafting of the document.

The Code is based upon the belief that individuals have a right to migrate in pursuit of improved working conditions and to expand their professional opportunities. Because the migration of teachers is often facilitated by active international recruitment, the Code seeks to maximize the benefits and minimize potential harm for all parties involved in the international recruitment process.



Getting back to normality as schools reopen in Nepal

By Lucy Keating, IFRC

June 3 – In crisp clean uniforms, children pick their way through the rubble on their way to school. The town of Bhaktapur was badly damaged in the two earthquakes that struck Nepal, where many people died and in some areas all of the houses have been destroyed. But one month on, the schools are now reopening. There is a lot of change to deal with. Most of the children have lost their homes; many have lost family members. But the start of the school term means a return to some sort of normality. (…)

More than 4,000 school buildings across the country were damaged in the earthquakes and many lessons will have to be held under canvas tents. Principal Binod is eager to tell the students that the building has been checked by the municipality and is safe. At this stage it is all about reassurance.

Claire Groves, a psychosocial support delegate with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) says: “Children are very resilient but many of them have been through a very traumatic time.   Re-engaging in school helps to re-establish structure and a familiar routine that gives children a sense of safety and security.  Being at school also provides an opportunity to be around peers, receive support and it gives parents time to focus on the task of rebuilding their lives.”

For now the children do seem happy to be back – there are lots of giggling and chatting and smiling; they are with their friends, and together they will build their futures.



Rebuilding Amjad Preschool: giving hope to Gaza children

June 2 – “It’s like heaven in the ruins.” That’s how Gaza preschool teacher Boshra Hamad described her feelings when she saw her preschool that ANERA rebuilt after the Gaza war of 2014.  Amjad preschool had been destroyed during the war, like the neighborhood around it in the northern town of Beit Hanoun. Some 150 preschool children were left without a safe place to take refuge or recapture some normalcy in their lives.  But as soon as the bombs stopped falling, ANERA partnered with other educational institutions to organize a psychosocial gathering in a vacant plot of land next to the school ruins so children could get together, play and express their emotions through drawings, songs, therapeutic arts and storytelling.

Thanks to funds from the Ajram Family Foundation, the government of Kuwait, and private donors, after 45 days of hard work and dedication, ANERA was able to rebuild the preschool and make their dreams come true. As Boshra looked through the old photographs of the preschool before the reconstruction, she said parents now call it “Amjad mansion” and are eager to enroll their children in the new facility.



At UN forum, Ban urges leaders aim to set global education roadmap until 2030

19 May – Education is not a privilege but rather a birthright that secures human rights and fights violent extremism, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in Incheon, Republic of Korea, as he opened the World Education Forum 2015 which aims to set the roadmap for global education until 2030. The Declaration on Education 2030, the expected outcome of the Forum, aims to mobilize countries to implement the new agenda, and propose ways for its financing.

According to UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics, there were 76 million fewer out-of-school children and adolescents in 2012 than in 2000. During the same period, around 67 million more children received pre-primary education and approximately 50 million more enrolled in primary school.

The Forum brings together more than 130 government ministers, along with high-level government officials, Nobel Prize Laureates, heads of international and non-governmental organizations, academics, representatives of the private sector, researchers and other key stakeholders.



WFP and OCHA join forces to make data more accessible

May 14, Rome/New York - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) have teamed up to provide access to global data on hunger and food insecurity. The data can be used to understand the type of food available in certain markets, how families cope in the face of food insecurity and how WFP provides food assistance in emergencies to those in need.

The data is being made available through OCHA’s Humanitarian Data Exchange (HDX), an open platform for sharing crisis data. The collaboration between WFP and OCHA began at the height of the Ebola crisis when WFP shared its data on food market prices in affected countries in West Africa. With funding from the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, WFP has since been able to make large amounts of its data available dynamically, making it easier to integrate with other systems, including HDX.From there, HDX built an interactive visualization for Food Prices data that allows a range of users, from the general public to a data scientist, to explore the data in insightful ways. The same visualization is also available on the WFP VAM Shop.



EU - The Lorenzo Natali media prize

This year’s Lorenzo Natali Media Prize is launched under the motto 'Today's stories can change our tomorrow' and coincides with the 2015 European Year for Development.  In December, the European Commission will once again award journalists for their outstanding reporting on development and poverty eradication. The competition is open to professional journalists working for all different media types. New to the 2015 competition, amateur journalists, including bloggers, can also apply for the Prize.

A grand jury will reward one professional and one amateur journalist from each of the following regions: Africa, the Arab world and the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Europe. The selected winners will receive trophies and cash prizes of €5000. Furthermore, the winners are qualified to win additional €5000 Grand Prize during an award ceremony in December 2015.




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Next issue: 10 July 2015.


Good News Agency is 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), Isabella Strippoli, Elisa Minelli. Webmaster, 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 27,000 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 and of the Union of International Associations.


* 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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