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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 16th, no. 243 –  19 February 2016


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 United Arab Emirates create the "Ministry for happiness and tolerance"

February 10, Abu Dhabi - The rulers of the United Arab Emirates have decided to create a "Ministry for happiness and tolerance".

The mission of the new ministry is to ensure the government's policies are aligned to create social good and satisfaction among the country's citizens. For this purpose - added Prime Minister Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktum - the new department "has been created to promote tolerance as a fundamental value in UAE society".


New presidential decree to support media freedom in Afghanistan

February 5, Paris, Brussels -  A new presidential decree that should facilitate media activity and the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against journalists has been issued in Afghanistan.

Issued by President Ashraf Ghani on 31 January, the decree clearly states: “Neither the public prosecutor nor any other state institution may prosecute media or journalists for a possible crime without consulting the Media Commission.”

Established by the new media law, this commission consists of representatives of the media, journalists’ associations and government. Its job is to receive and verify complaints against media outlets prior to any prosecution.

“We hope that this time, after the president’s decree, the fight against impunity will be pursued to the end because the victims and the Afghan people have a right to truth and justice,” said Reza Moini, the head of Reporter Without Border’s Afghanistan desk.



Europe is disintegrating while its citizens watch indifferent

By Roberto Savio

This important article outlines the present difficult situation. We do not include passages of it because we think our readers would prefer to read it in its entirety. The good news is that, with a careful analysis, the article can evoke a knowledgeable and constructive stream of thought.




Human rights


International Women's Day 2016

The 2016 theme for International Women’s Day is “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality”. The United Nations observance on 8 March will reflect on how to accelerate the  2030 Agenda, building momentum for the effective implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals. It will equally focus on new commitments under UN Women’s Step It Up initiative, and other existing commitments on gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.

Increasingly, International Women’s Day is a time to reflect on progress made, to call for change and to celebrate acts of courage and determination by ordinary women who have played an extraordinary role in the history of their countries and communities.  The growing international women’s movement, which has been strengthened by four global United Nations women’s conferences, has helped make the commemoration a rallying point to build support for women’s rights and participation in the political and economic arenas.



Caritas promotes manual to eradicate extreme poverty

By Floriana Polito, Humanitarian Policy Officer with Caritas Internationalis

10 February – (...) Franciscans International and ADT Quart Monde have produced a document called “Making Human Rights Work for People Living in Extreme Poverty: a Handbook for Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights” which Caritas Internationalis supports and will promote for use among its member organisations to eradicate extreme poverty at all levels.

The handbook translates the legal language of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights and makes them  more accessible to a wider audience so these global policy guidelines reach the grassroots and give people practical tools to reclaim and access their human rights  (eg. to adequate housing, food, education, access to health care and legal services, to mention but a few). The manual can be used by social workers, teachers, legal advisors, religious institutions, policy makers or anyone who works with people living in poverty to ensure that public policies reach the most vulnerable and marginalised of the society. (…) Caritas member organisations will have the opportunity to attend workshops organised by Franciscans International/ADT Quart Monde in various parts of the world. The first will be in Senegal on 1-4 March.

The handbook can be accessed in Spanish, French and English here.



Colombia ACIP lauded for efforts to foster diversity

Project Shares Hiring and Workplace Best Practices

8 February, Colombia – ACDI/VOCA’s Internal Diversity Task Force reached out to field staff to learn how their projects ensure staff diversity. The task force launched the Diversity Lessons Learned contest in September 2015 to share best practices among HQ and project staff: Colombia ACIP’s submission has been selected the winner. The five-year, USAID-funded Afro-Colombian and Indigenous Program (ACIP) is working to improve the social status and increase the incomes of Afro-Colombian and indigenous peoples. At ACDI/VOCA, diversity means “the inclusion of people who are qualified, capable, and motivated without regard to race, ethnicity, tribe, age, family responsibilities, color, marital status, gender, personal appearance, sexual orientation, gender identify, political affiliation, national origin, religion, and/or disability.”

ACIP recruits qualified candidates of diverse backgrounds and creates a respectful environment by providing a thorough induction process, teambuilding assistance, one-on-one mentoring, and support for professional growth. ACIP was admitted to The Order of the Democracy Simon Bolivar, one of the highest civilian distinctions awarded by the Colombian Congress in May 2015.



International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation

5 February - With 6 February marking International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), UN Women unveils the story of Assétou Touré, a survivor of FGM from Mali who is working to eradicate the harmful practice in her country. Touré's story is part of our new series "From where I stand", which captures the unique and powerful experiences of women across the globe.



Kuwait: Progress on domestic workers rights

Laws encroach on free speech; death penalty returns

February 2 - Kuwait’s government passed legislation in 2015 that improved protections for migrant domestic workers, Human Rights Watch said today, as it released its World Report 2016. However, another law, which increased the government’s ability to encroach on freedom of speech, should be amended to bring it in line with international human rights standards.  While 2015 represented an improvement with fewer speech prosecutions and no citizenship revocations – as Kuwait has done in previous years – resorting to the death penalty is a serious step backward for human rights in Kuwait.



Human Rights conference in Central Asia

27 January - Navigating the United Nations human rights system can be a challenge, particularly for countries that are relatively new to the process. To help these countries find the best path through the forest of recommendations and principles associated with implementing human rights laws, the UN Human Rights Office organized a regional conference in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. Government representatives from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and the Kyrgyz Republic, along with members of NGOs (also from Turkmenistan)  discussed best practices from various  countries on the establishment of national human rights mechanisms for reporting and following up on UN human recommendations,  the development of national human rights action plans and databases.



World Council of Churches/UN conference calls for coordinated action on refugee crisis

A World Council of Churches/UN high level conference on the refugee crisis in Europe, took place at the Ecumenical Center Geneva on Jan. 18-19. Afterwards they issued a joint statement entitled "Europe's Response to the Refuge Crisis, From Origin to Transit, Reception and Refuge, A Call for Shared Responsibility and Coordinated Action." The statement was issued jointly by the World Council of Churches; UNICEF, the United Nations Children's Fund; UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund; and UNHCR, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. 

The conference aimed to promote principled, human rights-based and coordinated responses to refugees and migrants in Europe and to the root causes of their displacement. The conference provided an opportunity for participating faith-based organizations to apply faith principles (especially the belief that every human being is created in the image and likeness of God) in putting at the centre of the responses the human dignity and rights of all those affected.


Economy and development


In Guinea, a cooperative empowers rural women

9 February - In the Katfoura village on the Tristao Islands in Guinea, one civil society organization is providing rural women with new opportunities to generate income and improve community life. This video produced for UN Women, illustrates how Partenariat Recherches Environnement Medias (PREM) has helped empower rural women. Through a grant from UN Women’s Fund for Gender Equality, PREM has helped rural women form several cooperatives and taught its members how to plant a vitamin-rich tree called Moringa and how to clean, dry and sell its leaves with the help of solar technology. Used as medicine or a dietary supplement by societies around the world, Moringa also supports biodiversity and prevents soil erosion.



Increasing food security through improved seed quality in Bangladesh

New BCtA member Lal Teer to engage 5 million smallholder farmers to meet national needs

8 February, New York - Lal Teer Seed Limited, a Bangladesh-based research company involved in the development and production of high-quality seeds, has joined the Business Call to Action (BCtA) with a commitment to increase the quality and quantity of seeds produced for domestic use. The company is committed to providing 30 percent of the quality seeds needed to secure Bangladesh’s food supply by 2020.  In addition to developing and distributing new breeds of high-yield, open-pollinated and hybrid seeds, Lal Teer’s inclusive business model calls for integrating an additional 5 million smallholder farmers into the country’s value chain, and innovating new packaging and distribution methods. Bangladesh is a sub-tropical country with 70 percent of its population engaged in agriculture. Major crops include rice, potatoes, vegetables, maize, wheat, oil and pulses, and fruits. Due to an inadequate supply of quality seeds, crop production is lower than that of developed countries. In 1995, Bangladesh’s Government began encouraging private-sector involvement in both seed production and there are now a handful domestic companies – including Lal Teer – investing in seed research and production.  http://www.csrwire.com/press_releases/38692-Increasing-Food-Security-Through-Improved-Seed-Quality-in-Bangladesh


UN to build the resilience of communities in Karamoja

February 5, Kampala - Three United Nations agencies in Uganda are implementing a new multi-year resilience strategy to help transform the lives of vulnerable people in the Karamoja region of North Eastern Uganda. FAO, UNICEF and WFP are combining their efforts to empower households and communities and to strengthen government capacities. Together, they will work to enable the people of Karamoja to recover, reorganize themselves and move forward after experiencing external stresses and disturbances, including droughts or floods.

The Joint Resilience Strategy for Karamoja Region will focus on four areas: diversifying livelihood strategies and intensifying production in order to increase household income and improve food security; improving basic social services to strengthen vulnerable households’ human capital; establishing predictable safety nets; and strengthening disaster risk management support.

Each of the three agencies has more than 20 years’ experience working with communities in Karamoja. Together, they represent 90 percent of the United Nations’ activities in the region.



UN agency to build climate resilience among pastoralists in Tajikistan

February 3, Rome– The Republic of Tajikistan and the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed an agreement today to finance the Livestock and Pasture Development Project II (LPDP), an initiative that aims to reduce the vulnerability of pastoral communities to climate change threats. The total cost of the project is estimated at US $24.2 million.

LPDP II is the second phase of an already successful project which aims to reach an additional  38,000 rural households in five districts of the Khatlon region. It will mainly target smallholder livestock farmers, private veterinary service providers, woman-headed households as well as women belonging to poor households. LPDP-II will continue to emphasize the role of women in agriculture while working to move them beyond subsistence farming into higher-value, market-oriented production.



Benin and IFAD work together to boost food and nutrition security while creating jobs for young people

February 1, Rome – The Republic of Benin and the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed an agreement today to finance the Market Gardening Development Support Project (PADMAR), an initiative that will create some 3,000 new jobs, particularly for young women and men, and improve food and nutrition security in 27 municipalities of seven departments in southern Benin The total project investment is US $49.2 million.

The new project’s activities will help boost the incomes of vegetable producers while strengthening their resilience to the effects of climate change. It will build the capacity of all the sectors involved in vegetable production, processing and marketing. It will also develop tools to help producers get information related to markets and price, provide extension services and create job for young people. More than 120 km of rural roads will be repaired to facilitate access to the garden plots.

Implemented by the Ministry in Charge of Agriculture, the new project will benefit 17,000 market gardening households cultivating plots of just one-eighth of a hectare.


Landless women farmers receive land tenancy for the first time in Pakistan

29 January  - UN Women Pakistan, in collaboration with local partners Baanhn Beli and Gorakh Foundation, is working with 1,214 vulnerable rural women farmers, to acquire land tenancy rights from their feudal and tribal landholders. These landless women farmers were trained and mentored to prepare tenancy agreements and landholding maps with their male landlords. In the process, they have gained a viable livelihood option that could take them out of poverty and enable their upward social mobility.



United Nations agency provides US$33.8 million to boost agriculture sector in the Democratic Republic of Congo

January 28, Rome– The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed an agreement today to finance the North Kivu Agriculture Sector Support project (PASA-NK). Targeting poor farmers and women-headed households, the project aims at raising incomes while boosting the country’s food security. The total cost of the project is estimated at just under US$53 million.

Project activities will focus on building the capacity of farmers, farmer’s organizations and provincial agricultural services involved in maize, rice, potato and Arabica coffee value chains. It will ensure that the agricultural services farmers receive from producers’ organizations are adequate and meet their needs. Furthermore, the project will improve smallholder farmers’ access to agricultural inputs, such as fertilizers and certified seeds, and their access to markets. It will assist farmers' organizations in building storage facilities and warehouses to assist farmers in selling their products at a higher price.

Project activities, implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, are expected to benefit some 28,400 rural households in the province.



WFP opens logistics hub for humanitarian assistance in Horn of Africa

January 20, Djibouti - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) with the Government of Djibouti has officially opened a new humanitarian logistics base that will support assistance operations across the Horn of Africa by improving storage and transport of relief goods.

About one quarter of the people that WFP assists worldwide live in countries supported by the Djibouti hub. In 2015, WFP moved about 500,000 metric tons of food through the Djibouti port. The port is the main gateway for food entering Ethiopia, and is also an important trans-shipment point for WFP emergency operations in South Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia.

The Government of Canada contributed more than US$18 million to support the establishment of the hub. The United States contributed US$1.6 million towards the facility, while Finland and Norway provided US$1.3 million and US$300,000 respectively to enable the first phase of construction to be finalized. While the hub is already functional, WFP requires an additional US$7.6 million to complete works that will bring it up to its full operational capacity.



WFP boosts food security by connecting smallholder farmers to global markets

January 20, Davos - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today announced an important agreement which is the next step towards unlocking opportunities for smallholder farmers in the developing world. Together with a consortium of leading public and private sector organizations, the Patient Procurement Platform (PPP) will make it possible for farmers to plant, harvest and sell enough high-quality crops to boost their income and increase food security. The platform will offer farmers access not only to quality seeds and other inputs but also insurance and financing as well as a predictable market.

Consortium members who signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Davos today include: AGRA, Bayer, GrowAfrica, the International Finance Corporation, Rabobank, Syngenta, WFP, and Yara International. The consortium will also include local members across the agricultural value chain, including commodity buyers, in each of the 25 countries where it will be active.

The platform was introduced late last year and is now operating in three African markets.






New law requires French supermarkets to donate surplus food to charity

10 February – A new law in France will require supermarkets to donate unsold food to charities and food banks, The Guardian reports, and large grocery stores will be banned from disposing of surplus food before it's "best-before" date. French shoppers, anti-poverty and anti-food-waste advocates led a grass-roots campaign to push for the bill's passage. They hope to persuade other European Union member states to adopt similar legislation. According to the leader of a network of French food banks, even a 15 percent increase in donations from supermarkets would provide 10 million meals a year. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month, the Rockefeller Foundation announced it was committing $130 million to cutting waste all along the global food-production chain.



Helping homeless youth begin again with clear vision

Heather Mangrum, Helen Keller International

9 February, USA – For more than 20 years, HKI’s ChildSight® program has provided in-school vision screenings and free prescription glasses to children in some of the poorest communities in the United States. Runaway homeless youth face numerous barriers to accessing health services and face higher rates of chronic health problems than their peers. The new ChildSight program is providing free onsite vision screenings and prescription eyeglasses for young people in need at Covenant House in Times Square and the Ali Forney Center in Harlem.  Early data from this ChildSight pilot indicates a much higher need among homeless youth for these services. Typically one in four children in the U.S. will be prescribed prescription glasses for common issues like nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.



US supports School meals for thousands of children to help build Ivory Coast's future

February 8, Abidjan - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed US$35.6 million from the U.S. Government’s McGovern–Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program to enable WFP to maintain its sustainable School Meals Programme in Ivory Coast for the next five years.

The McGovern-Dole Program (MGD) donation, through the U.S. Department of Agriculture, allows WFP to continue provision of a daily hot meal to 125,000 children in 613 public primary schools in the country’s most vulnerable regions (Cavally, Bafing, Bagoue, Poro, Tchologo, Bounkani, Gontougo). It will also help build the capacity of, and strengthen collaboration with, women farmers who are supplying food for the school meals programme.

The MGD donation contributes to achieving the country’s national goals of improving enrollment and retention rates of both girls and boys, and also to reach the strategic goals set by the MGD: improving literacy and primary education, especially for girls, as well as health and dietary practices.



YourCause grows total 2015 donations processed by 156%; total recipient charities increases by 22%.

8 February, Carrollton, Tx, USA - YourCause LLC, provider of CSRconnect Employee Engagement Platform, saw a 156% growth in the total dollars processed to qualified and approved non-profit organizations from 2014 to 2015. In 2015, YourCause also grew the total number of corporate enterprises licensing the CSRconnect Employee Engagement Platform by nearly 40%, resulting in increased overall usage of the offered payroll deduction, matching gifts, credit card donations, and related charitable incentive programs. YourCause’s 2015 Performance Review was created as a high-level evaluation of four key business areas: overall employee engagement platform performance, volunteering, giving activity, and company demographics.

YourCause, LLC (“YourCause”) is a Dallas, TX based Software as a Service (“SaaS”) provider of the CSRconnect Employee Engagement Platform (“CSRconnect”) that provides a fully hosted and managed solution for employee philanthropy, volunteering, sustainability, and general engagement programs.



Unprecedented German contribution to WFP brings hope to millions in Syria crisis

February 4, London - At the Supporting Syria and the Region conference today, the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), Ertharin Cousin, personally thanked German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her government’s landmark contribution to WFP of €570 million from the German Federal Foreign Office (GFFO) and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The contribution, which brings Germany’s total contributions to WFP during the Syria crisis to close to €760 million, will be crucial for the WFP Syria crisis response throughout the continuing winter period in the region. WFP currently supports an average 4 million Syrians per month inside the country and 1.3 million refugees in neighbouring countries.



New boots help refugees in Lebanon face winter

3 February, Lebanon – Heavy rains and cold weather are making life even more miserable for refugees in Lebanon. In Nahr El Bared refugee camp and nearby makeshift shelters, young children are often seen playing in streets barefoot or in broken sandals and summer clothes. ANERA is helping hundreds of refugee families there to better cope with the cold by delivering new TOMS winter boots.

The TOMS distribution is part of ANERA’s ongoing efforts to help refugees in Lebanon living in the most vulnerable and isolated communities. ANERA has delivered 7,000 pairs of TOMS winter boots in Lebanon, prioritizing the barracks on the edge of Nahr el Bared. This is the fourth year of ANERA’s collaboration with TOMS Giving.



Emirates Red Crescent contribution helps WFP save lives in Northern Mali

January 19, Bamako - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomed the Emirates Red Crescent (ERC)’s contribution of US$1 million to help nearly 30,000 malnourished children and women in the regions of Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, where the nutritional situation is alarming. The last three years have been particularly difficult for the population living in northern Mali which has been battling both severe drought and continued conflict. Despite a generally good harvest in 2015, poverty still prevents nearly a quarter of Mali's people from being able to obtain enough food for themselves and their families.

In 2016, with support from the ERC and other partners, WFP plans to implement malnutrition treatment activities for about 420,000 people through the 1,222 health centers across the country, and through mobile health teams reaching communities living in remote areas.



ShareTheMeal App hits first target, now raises funds for children, mothers and mums-to-be in Syria

January 14, Rome - Two months after its global launch, the United Nations World Food Programme’s ShareTheMeal app has fulfilled its goal of ensuring 20,000 Syrian refugee children in Jordan will have vital nutrition at school for one year.

ShareTheMeal’s new funding goal is to support more than 2,000 pregnant women, nursing mothers and their young children for an entire year at the Aoun Distribution Centre in Homs, Syria. At the centre, mothers receive vouchers from WFP to buy fresh produce, which is vital to improving dietary diversity. Through the app, smartphone users can donate to selected WFP programmes. The suggested donations start at US$0.50, which is WFP’s global average for providing vital daily nutrition during emergencies. So far, close to 400,000 users worldwide have provided the equivalent of almost 4 million meals.




Peace and security


UN envoy for Libya welcomes 'major breakthrough' on formation of unity government

15 February – Welcoming the announcement by the Libyan Presidency Council on the formation of the Government of National Accord, the United Nations envoy there called today on the House of Representatives “to do what is right for Libya and its people” and endorse the nomination of the national unity government.

While congratulating on the Presidency Council on the nomination of a unity government that promises “a new beginning for Libya,” Mr. Kobler urged all members of the House under its speaker Agila Saleh, to assume their responsibilities set forth in the Libyan Political Agreement, and to “do what is right for Libya and its people” by endorsing the proposed unity government.



NPA successfully clears two 305kg bombs in Tanganyka province, DRC

4 February, Congo- The first week of operations in January 2016 started out well for Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with survey and clearance operations of areas contaminated with unexploded ordnance (UXO). In Kabalo territory, NPA operations resulted in the cancellation of two suspected hazardous areas (SHAs) through non-technical survey, in addition to the identification of two artisanal aircraft bombs with an explosive weight of 305kg in Nkende village.

Thanks to the generous support of the Government of Japan, NPA was able to deploy a multi task team and destroy the two bombs during the last week of January 2015. NPA teams are due to complete their tasks in eastern DRC in March 2016 and redeploy to western DRC where they will continue technical survey and clearance of suspect hazardous areas, helping accurately determine where contamination exists, and to release land free of contamination safely back to the local communites.



First mine cleared in Western Sahara

4 February, Morocco -  NPA is pleased to announce the discovery and destruction of its first mine in Western Sahara, having recently started survey and clearance operations. The TMA4 anti-tank mine was found on 30 January 2016, in what is hoped to be the first of many such demolitions of items of unexploded ordinance, which remain a deadly legacy in Western Sahara resulting from the fighting between Moroccan and Polisario forces. NPA’s Humanitarian Disarmament department first started working in Western Sahara in 1998, when it established a Mine Risk Education (MRE) project to sensitize Western Sahara refugees living in camps in Algeria close to the Western Sahara border to the threat of landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW).



Rotary International - Presidential conference explores routes to peace

Hosted by Rotary districts in California and attended by more than 1,500 people

The two-day Rotary World Peace Conference on 15-16 January brought together experts from around the world to explore ideas and solutions to violence and conflict. More than 150 leaders in the fields of peace, education, business, law, and health care led over 100 breakout sessions and workshops. Topics ranged from how to achieve peace through education to combating human trafficking to the role the media has in eliminating conflict. Hosted by Rotary districts in California and attended by more than 1,500 people, the conference is an example of how Rotary members are taking peace into their own hands, said RI President K.R. Ravindran.

Rotary’s most formidable weapon against war, violence, and intolerance is its Rotary Peace Centers program. Through study and field work, peace fellows at the centers become catalysts for peace and conflict resolution in their communities and around the globe. Dozens of Rotary peace fellows attended the conference to promote the program, learn about other peace initiatives, and help Rotary clubs understand the role they can play.






Iraq introduces inactivated poliovirus vaccine

11 February 11 – Iraq has become the 156th country to introduce the inactivated poliovirus vaccine (IPV) into its routine immunization schedule, a laudable achievement given the country’s current situation. IPV will be given to children when they are 2, 4 and 6 months old, in a combination vaccine which also infers protection against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough, hepatitis B and Haemophilus influenzae type B. Iraq reported its last case of indigenous wild poliovirus in 2000, but suffered an outbreak in 2014, related to a strain isolated in Syria. The outbreak was successfully bought to a close, with the second and final case of the outbreak reported in April 2014. While IPV introduction marks promising progress for Iraq, more work needs to be done. Routine immunization coverage has fallen over the last few years, from a high of 80% in 2011 to an estimate 63% in 2014. Surveillance for Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) – one of the signs of polio – remains strong nationally, but gaps persist in areas of the country.



Nigeria - Learning from experience

29 January – It has been 18 months since Nigeria saw a child paralysed by wild poliovirus. After this tremendous achievement  now is the time to build resilience against the virus and to seize the opportunity to plan for how the polio infrastructure can make a sustainable difference to the health of some of the most vulnerable communities long into the future. In February, Ministers of Health from across Africa will gather at the first Ministerial Conference on Immunization to find solutions to the challenges facing their routine immunization systems.

The polio programs in countries like Nigeria have important lessons to offer routine immunization across the region; from ensuring equitable access to vaccines and engaging communities even in the most remote places, to the role of political leadership and accountability in protecting children against vaccine-preventable diseases.  In 2012, 122 children were paralysed by polio in Nigeria. The tide changed when the Government of Nigeria took ownership of the program, setting up the National Polio Emergency Operations Centre to bring together the expertise of partners, ensure accountability and coordination, and to introduce data-driven, innovative solutions.



France: Measles vaccination campaign launched in Calais and Grande-Synthe camps

29 January, Calais – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is to take part in a vaccination campaign against the disease in camps in Calais and Dunkirk. The campaign is being organised by the French Regional Health Agency, assisted by organisations including MSF, Médecins Du Monde (MDM), the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Agency (EPRUS), and HANDS International.

Measles is a highly infectious disease which carries the risk of serious complications. Teams launched an awareness-raising campaign on 26 January to alert refugees to the importance of being vaccinated . Vaccinations will be voluntary, and available to adults and children aged six months and over. The campaign will take place at four sites around the Calais camp, home to some 4,000 people. Next week the campaign will be extended to Grande-Synthe, Dunkirk, where some 2,500 people are living.



Rotary gives US$35 million to end polio worldwide

13 January, Evanston, Ill., USA - Rotary announces $35 million in grants to support the global effort to end polio. In 2015, the world saw historic progress against the paralyzing disease, with just two countries – Afghanistan and Pakistan – reporting a single strain of the wild virus. Nigeria – the last polio-endemic country in Africa – was removed from the World Health Organization's list of endemic countries in September. Pakistan, which continues to report the majority of the world's polio cases, reduced its caseload by 82 percent in 2015 over the previous year. To sustain this progress, and protect all children from polio, experts say $1.5 billion is urgently needed. Without full funding and political commitment, the disease could return to previously polio-free countries. Rotary's funds will support efforts to end polio in Pakistan ($11.4 million) and Afghanistan ($6 million). Additional funds will support efforts to keep other at-risk countries polio-free: Nigeria ($5.5), Cameroon ($1.6 million), Chad ($2 million); Ethiopia ($4.1 million), Somalia ($1.8 million), Iraq ($1.6 million) and India ($618,000).

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world's most pressing humanitarian challenges. Rotary connects 1.2 million members of more than 34,000 Rotary clubs in over 200 countries and geographical areas.




Energy and safety



15th Annual Wall Street Green Summit announced for March 14 in New York

February 15 - The Wall Street Green Summit XV (WSGS), the longest running environmental market event in the industry, today announced it will return to New York on March 14, 2016 for its 15th consecutive year. Focused on the convergence of renewable energy and finance as well as impact investing, the Summit will provide executives with the latest developments and networking opportunities on global environmental financial markets.

The Wall Street Green Summit continually sets the agenda for topics, speakers, and insights with leading experts in sustainable finance, renewable energy, and impact investing.  Speakers include Cornerstone Capital Group’s Erika Karp, Clean Energy Advisors’ Scott Hill, and other leading authorities and experts in the world of sustainable investing. The recent Congressional passage of extensions for both solar and wind tax credits  will be even more timely and examined by experts at the Summit for investment opportunities, business development and networking.



USA: Energy Department announces $21 million to lower solar energy deployment barriers

February 8 - The U.S. Department of Energy today announced $21 million in new funding to lower solar energy deployment barriers and expand access to solar energy to all Americans. The Department is making $13 million available to help states take advantage of falling solar prices and maximize the benefits of solar electricity through energy and economic strategic planning. This new program will offer technical and analytical support in the development and implementation of solar energy deployment plans. An additional $8 million under this funding opportunity will support research on solar energy innovation and technology adoption patterns in order to increase understanding of solar deployment barriers and other "soft costs."




Environment and wildlife


New radio programme to raise awareness of the dangers of climate change

February 2, Bogota, Brussels - The Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (REPAM) is launching a new programme: an educational radio programme, which allows you to know, understand and find solutions to environmental, social and ecological, cultural and political problems.

The note sent to Fides by REPAM informs that the radio series "Laudato Sì" is a popular version of Pope Francis’ encyclical, in a language that is understood by all. It develops the core idea that climate change is destroying Mother Earth and its consequences bring terrible damage to all living beings, especially to men and women. It consists of about 20 programmes of 10 minutes each. All have the same goal: to raise awareness of what "ecological citizenship" means. The programme is aimed at students, teachers, catechists, journalists and families; it can be heard and discussed at home and in social groups.



Ja REEACH II Supports Beekeeping Activities in Jamaica

Farmer and Youth Groups Poised to Profit from New Endeavors

1 February – The USAID-funded Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II) project works to protect rural lives, livelihoods, and ecosystems through interventions that lessen the impact of climate change and strengthen the capacity of vulnerable communities to adapt. Two apiculture activities have emerged through Ja REEACH II support that offer participants new opportunities to make money and build greater community cooperation. The Golden Valley Jamaica Agricultural Society (GVJAS) started out largely as a group of subsistence farmers. Now, thanks to Ja REEACH II support, they have blossomed into business-savvy apiculturalists. GVJAS plans on using a part of revenues to improve existing facilities, develop labels for their products, and create and package beeswax products.



Wetlands conservation milestone for WWF

1 February, Gland, Switzerland– The designation of wetlands for conservation with WWF support reached over 100 million hectares worldwide with the declaration of seven sites in Zimbabwe under the Ramsar convention.  The news comes just ahead of World Wetlands Day on 2 February and following the identification of water crises as one of the top three global risks, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2016.

With this year’s World Wetlands Day focusing on wetlands and livelihoods, a number of sites such as Lake Chivero, the primary water supply for Zimbabwe’s capital city Harare, are of particular significance. WWF has been working closely with Ramsar and the government of Zimbabwe for the protection of these sites, the first to be protected in Zimbabwe, including the world’s largest waterfall Victoria Falls and urban wetland Monavale Vlei.



Women of Faith visit the Lower Jordan River

February - This month, EcoPeace staff gave a presentation and then a tour of the Lower Jordan River for a group of Jewish, Muslim and Christian women involved in the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development Women's Faith & Ecology program. The importance of the rehabilitation of the River Jordan was presented in a multi-faith perspective as part of EcoPeace's efforts to advance the creation of larger stakeholder circles supporting the rehabilitation of the Lower Jordan River.

Participants eagerly endorsed the Jordan River Covenant, a visionary document which both highlights the degradation of the valley and expresses our vision of a healthy, living river.





Religion and spirituality


The Fuji Declaration at the United Nations in honor of World Interfaith Harmony Week

February 3 - Mrs. Saionji joined other distinguished government and U.N. speakers, religious, and heads of international organizations to discuss the importance of interfaith solidarity in ensuring the achievement of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals. The event was organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations in partnership with the Committee of Religious NGOs at the United Nations.

As one of the organizers of the event, The High Representative of the Alliance of Civilizations, H.E. Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, invited Mrs. Saionji to join other distinguished speakers to offer innovative approaches to developing a spirit of partnerships among religious communities and the United Nations. The first of two panels addressed interfaith harmony as key to implementing the Sustainable Development Goals. Remarks were offered by representatives from the Permanent Mission of Jordan, the Observer Mission of the Holy See, UNESCO, American Jewish World Service, and the Ifa Heritage Institute in Nigeria. These speakers offered diverse cultural perspectives, setting the stage for Mrs. Saionji, introduced as the Chairperson of three organizations: The World Peace Prayer Society, Byakko Shinko Kai and The Goi Peace Foundation.



World Interfaith Harmony Week  1 - 7 February 2016

World Interfaith Harmony Week was proclaimed by the General Assembly in resolution A/RES/65/  adopted on 20 October 2010. In the resolution, the General Assembly, points out that mutual understanding and interreligious dialogue constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace and establishes World Interfaith Harmony Week as a way to promote harmony between all people regardless of their faith.

Recognizing the imperative need for dialogue among different faiths and religions to enhance mutual understanding, harmony and cooperation among people, the General Assembly encourages all States to support during that week the spread of the message of interfaith harmony and goodwill in the world’s churches, mosques, synagogues, temples and other places of worship, on a voluntary basis and according to their own religious traditions or convictions.



Morocco - Two hundred and fifty Islamic scholars sign the Marrakech Declaration calling for religious freedom for all 

Rabat, 28 January – An appeal to develop an Islamic jurisprudence on the concept of citizenship, that is inclusive of all groups, was signed on January 27 by 250 leading Islamic scholars gathered in Marrakech, at the invitation of the Ministry of Promotion and Islamic Business of Morocco and the Forum for the Promotion of Peace in Islamic societies, based in the United Arab Emirates. (...)

Besides asking scholars and Muslim intellectuals to develop the concept of citizenship in Islamic jurisprudence, it launches an appeal to educational institutions for "a courageous review of educational curricula, to eliminate any topic that incites aggression and extremism, bringing war and chaos"; and to politicians to "establish a constitutional contractual relationship among its citizens". (...)

At the meeting in Marrakech fifty leaders of other religions were present who expressed their gratitude for the Declaration. (LM - Agenzia Fides)



Nonviolence and Just Peace, April 2016

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International will convene an international conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to the Catholic Understanding of and Commitment to Nonviolence, to be held in Rome, Italy, 11-13 April, 2016. 

The invited participants represent a broad spectrum of Church experiences in peacebuilding and creative nonviolence in the face of violence and war.




Culture and education


2016 Winter Youth Assembly at the United Nations - UN Headquarters, 17-18 February

Transforming Our World:The Role of Youth in the Implementation of the SDGs

The Youth Assembly at the United Nations (YA) is a unique platform created to foster dialogue and generate partnerships between exceptional youth, UN high officials and staff, private sector, and civil society. The 2016 Winter edition will focus on the role of youth leaders and professionals in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

During two days of plenary sessions and interactive workshops, we will look into where youth stand in all of these efforts–with emphasis on social ventures and innovation–amidst youth challenges such unemployment, lack of opportunities, and education. Youth delegates will have the unique opportunity to voice their commitments to social change and network with organizations such as UN Women, UN Foundation, Amnesty International, The Huffington Post, among many others.



James Franco and Hollywood Charity team up on nonprofit studio

11 February – Actor-director James Franco and a charity backed by numerous Hollywood celebrities have jointly formed a nonprofit production house to make student and professional films, Variety reports. All proceeds generated by Elysium Bandini Studios will support the Art of Elysium, which brings artists and performers together with hospitalized children, the homeless, other people in need to collaborate on creative projects.

Mr. Franco has volunteered for more than a decade with the Art of Elysium, also a favorite cause of Eva Mendes, Johnny Depp, and other A-list industry figures. The new studio, operated by the charity and Mr. Franco's production company, Rabbit Bandini, has completed 14 films, most directed by students at university film schools where Mr. Franco has taught.



AEGEE-Europe launches ‘Faces of Europe’ project

1 February – Inspired by the famous Humans of New York, AEGEE-Europe (Association des États Généraux des Étudiants de l’Europe, one of Europe’s biggest interdisciplinary student NGO organisations) launched on January 7th Faces of Europe, a photoblog that aims at making Europe more personal and exploring the human diversity of our continent: it wants to collect and spread the faces and voices of people from different social, cultural and national backgrounds and to find out what ‘Europe’ means to them. Five “faces of Europe” coming from the Netherlands, Italy, Ireland, Germany and Finland have been already published so far, including the story of Mamdouh, a Syrian refugee forced to move to Erfurt. 16 young reporters from different parts of Europe have been recruited and will share their encounters with fellow Europeans in both word and image. Due to the success of its first publications, the Faces of Europe team is currently looking for more photojournalists.




Over 12 Million children have better educational opportunities through Ikea Foundation, Save the Children and Unicef Partnership

15 January, Conshohocken, Penn., USA - More than 12 million children in over 46 countries have better schools, teachers and learning materials, thanks to a 13 year partnership between the IKEA Foundation, Save the Children and UNICEF. Since 2003, the IKEA Foundation's "Soft Toys for Education" campaign has contributed $97.7 million to Save the Children and UNICEF, helping to increase school attendance for some of the world's most marginalized and vulnerable children. Funds have also helped train teachers, provide educational materials and improve child protection systems in schools and communities.

In Ethiopia, funds from the IKEA Foundation have helped UNICEF reach children in rural farming communities with basic education. In China, IKEA Foundation funding helped develop early-childhood development centers for disadvantaged children living in selected rural communities. In Bangladesh, the Philippines and Vietnam, Save the Children has, together with education authorities and civil society organizations, supported policy reform and practices to ensure that children from minority groups learn in a language they understand.

Although the Soft Toys for Education campaign has ended its successful run, the IKEA Foundation will continue its commitment to UNICEF and Save the Children through ongoing grants in Eastern Europe, sub-Saharan Africa and Asia in the areas of education, early-childhood care and development, child protection, adolescence and humanitarian response.



Providing education for ethnic minorities in Myanmar

10 January, Myanmar-  Among Myanmar's ethnic minorities, few speak Burmese. NPA partner Mon National Education Committee (MNEC) provides education for the Mon minority, preventing minority students from falling behind. When civil war was raging in Mon state, MNEC started running primary schools in so-called black areas, areas where civilians were legal targets for Burmese soldiers. As the central government wouldn’t send teachers to these areas, the government schools closed down. 

With many conflict affected villages without schools, MNEC started in 1972 to provide education in the monasteries around the villages. From teaching in monasteries, now most schools have school buildings. While in the beginning primary students did not have the chance to go to Middle school, Mon students can now go all the way to high school in the MNEC system or between MNEC and government school at any level, as the Mon schools follow the government curriculum closely. From relying mostly on community support, MNEC is now officially recognized and able to reach international donors.




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Next issue: 18 March 2016.


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), Community of Living Ethics, Isabella Strippoli, Elisa Minelli. Webmaster, media and NGO coverage: Simone Frassanito (simone.frassanito@goodnewsagency.org


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* http://decade-culture-of-peace.org/2010_civil_society_report.pdf - In section A - International Organizations, page 12, the Report says: ”Diffusion and exchange of culture of peace information via the Internet has become the major instrument for several international organizations, notably the Culture of Peace News Network, the Good News Agency and the Education for Peace Globalnet.”

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