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

monthly, year 16th, no. 245 –  15 April 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


Selecting a new UN Secretary-General: a job interview in front of the whole world

8 April – The selection process for a new United Nations Secretary-General, traditionally decided behind closed-doors by a few powerful countries, will for the first time in history involve public discussions with each candidate campaigning for the world’s top diplomatic post.

Each of the current eight candidates will be formally introduced to the General Assembly – which includes representatives from all 193 Member States, and Observers, the State of Palestine and the Holy See – in three days of informal dialogues beginning on Tuesday. The general public can ask questions through civil society members and social media.

While on the surface, informal public discussions do not seem revolutionary, for a 70-year-old Organization that has until now had only eight Secretaries-General, all of whom were selected in a relatively closed process by the 15-member UN Security Council, this is unchartered territory. Each candidate will have a televised and webcast two-hour timeslot, starting with a short oral presentation. In addition, each candidate has already submitted, or will submit, a written statement layout out his or her vision for 2017 and beyond. Following these introductory remarks, Member States will have either two or three minutes to ask questions on behalf of their countries or geographic grouping.



San Francisco becomes first US city to mandate fully paid parental leave

5 April, San Francisco - San Francisco has become the first US municipality to mandate that employers offer fully paid parental leave, and activists hope the progressive new law will pave the way for policies across the country. The US is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee paid maternity or parental leave to workers. San Francisco’s legislation, adopted on Tuesday, is an important step forward in a long campaign to bring the country up to speed with all other industrialized nations that have paid leave laws, which experts say carry tremendous health benefits for parents and children.



Ban welcomes joint China-US pledge to sign Paris climate accord in April

1 April – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended the joint presidential statement on climate change by China and the United States announcing that both countries will sign the Paris Agreement at a special ceremony at UN Headquarters on 22 April, the first day the accord is open for signature. In a statement issued by his spokesperson, Mr. Ban further welcomed the announcement that both countries will take necessary domestic steps to formally join the Agreement as early as possible this year. He also welcomed that they urged other countries to do the same so that the Paris Agreement can enter into force as early as possible.

The 22 April signature ceremony will build on the strong political momentum from Paris for urgent global climate action by all countries, which is essential for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and creating a more prosperous, equitable and livable future for all people.

The climate pact will enter into force after 55 countries that account for at least 55 per cent of global emissions have deposited their instruments of ratification.




Human rights


World Humanitarian Summit - Istanbul, Turkey, May 23 – 24

We are currently facing humanitarian needs on a massive scale. In our rapidly changing world, we must continually seek better ways to meet the needs of millions of people affected by conflicts and disasters.

An initiative of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, managed by UN OCHA, the first World Humanitarian Summit will be held in Istanbul on 23 and 24 May 2016 and will bring together governments, humanitarian organizations, people affected by humanitarian crises and new partners including the private sector to propose solutions to our most pressing challenges and set an agenda to keep humanitarian action fit for the future. The Summit has three main goals:

1. Reaffirm our commitment to humanity and humanitarian principles

2. Initiate actions and commitments which enable countries and communities to prepare for and respond to crises and be more resilient to shocks.

3. Share best practices which help save lives around the world, placing affected people at the centre of humanitarian action and alleviating suffering.

At the Summit, world leaders from Government, business and civil society will announce commitments to deliver on the Agenda for Humanity, and launch new initiatives to address pressing needs that were identified during the consultation process.



UN radio podcast: actress Gillian Anderson presents film at UN on human trafficking

11 April  – “Film can change the world,” said actress Gillian Anderson in a recent interview at the United Nations about the movie SOLD, the story of a 13-year-old Nepalese girl's journey into sexual slavery and eventual emancipation.

In the latest episode of the UN Radio podcast series The Lid is On, Ms. Anderson – best-known for her role in the television's X-Files – said the project is a shining example of the impact film can have.

“When I started working on this I had no idea what the truth of the situation as it stands right now globally, the amount of children that are trafficked, the amount of humans that are trafficked into slavery, I was completely naïve about it and I was also shocked by the degree of my naivety as somebody who is quite active in various organizations and charities and has been for many years,” Ms. Anderson told UN Radio producer Matthew Wells.She added that combating sex trafficking of young women and girls has now become her number one priority when it comes to advocacy.



Zambia - How to encourage girls to study and avoid early marriages

7 April, Lusaka - Zambia has one of the highest rates of child marriage in the world. More than 4 out of 10 women, aged between 20 and 24, get married when they are only 16. A destiny "already decided" for many young girls, which deprives them the opportunity to choose freely. To cope with the phenomenon, the Centre for Cooperation and Development Onlus has started a school dropout prevention program for girls, which deals with the fight against early marriages and premature pregnancies. The goal is to carry out a pilot program in 2 rural schools and 5 secondary schools in the city of Chipata, involving not only the students, but also all those who surround them and influence their future.



Early marriage banned in the Pankisi Gorge, Georgia

4 April, Georgia - Religious leaders in the Pankisi Gorge will no longer endorse marriage for those under the age of 18. Pankisi is located in the eastern part of Georgia (Kakheti region) and is mostly populated by ethnic Kists. The decision was made by imams from traditional Islamic mosques, together with the Council of Elders in the Gorge.



Iraq: training on humanitarian norms for members of the Shia Popular Mobilization Units

30 March, Iraq – Geneva Call held its first training sessions on international humanitarian law (IHL) for fighters, officers and members of the Iraqi Shia armed actor, the Popular Mobilization Units – Saraya Ashura. The meeting took place on 27 February 2016 in Baghdad. Officers involved in the planning of military operations raised the issue of the violations of IHL perpetrated by the Islamic State group (ISg) and they asked whether these norms applied to the ISg and also asked questions about the legality of targeting a military hospital where wounded enemy officers or fighters are hosted. The trainer explained that military hospitals—just like civilian ones—are protected by IHL. There was also a debate on the minimum recruitment age. Geneva Call’s trainer explained that the organization advocates for the total prohibition of using children under 18 in combat-related activities, in line with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.




Economy and development


UN food aid reaches besieged Syrian city of Deir Ezzor by air

10 April – In a boost to international humanitarian efforts in Syria, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today delivered aid by air for hungry people trapped in the besieged eastern city of Deir Ezzor, an area controlled by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da'esh).

WFP food assistance has reached besieged parts of the city for the first time since March 2014. A total of 20 metric tons of urgently needed food supplies – mainly beans, chickpeas and rice, and enough to feed 2,500 people for one month – were dropped from high altitude by a WFP-chartered aircraft, the agency said in a  press release. Out of 26 pallets loaded with food contained in platforms attached to high altitude parachutes – 22 pallets were collected by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent (SARC), WFP's partner in the city. WFP is working to find out what happened to the four other pallets.

WFP is working closely with partners on the ground organizing food distributions, which should take place immediately after every drop. More airdrops are planned for the coming days to meet food and other humanitarian needs for the besieged population.



FAO regional conference boosts Africa Solidarity Trust Fund

April 8, Abidjan - Results achieved through Africa Solidarity Trust Fund (ASTF) financed projects are adding momentum to the vision of Africa-Africa cooperation to achieve food security across the continent. The fund, which was set up in 2012, is widely seen as an innovative mechanism for mobilizing resources from one African country for the benefit of another, promoting intra-Africa collaboration, also known as South-South Cooperation. Since 2013, contributions have reached $40 million, with Equatorial Guinea and Angola being the major financial contributors. To-date, the fund has allocated $ 34.5 million to 15 regional programmes and national projects which are being implemented in 36 countries to boost efforts to eradicate hunger and reduce malnutrition and poverty.

During a side-event at the Regional Conference it was announced that three more countries will benefit from the fund. These include the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Gambia, and Swaziland. In addition to country-level projects, the renewed Trust Fund will also aim to support the establishment of an African Centre of best practices, capacity development and South-South Cooperation (SSC).



High-level UN forum on development cooperation paves way for ‘leaving no one behind’

7 April – Following a day of fruitful discussions in workshops and informal meetings, the United Nations Development Cooperation Forum (DCF) High-level Symposium officially opened today in Brussels, Belgium. Under the title ‘Rethinking development cooperation for the Sustainable Development Goals: country-level perspectives and lessons,’ the Symposium is focusing the range of actors on how development cooperation can be made a better fit for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) particularly in least developed countries and other vulnerable contexts. Further, the forum looks at how best to adapt development cooperation institutions to the recently adopted 2030 Agenda.

The symposium serves as the final preparatory event for the high-level meeting of the Development Cooperation Forum to be convened at UN Headquarters in New York on 21-22 July 2016.



PROFIT+ partners with Zambian Commodity Exchange

6 April, Zambia – The USAID Feed the Future Production, Finance, and Improved Technology Plus (PROFIT+) project in Zambia has partnered with the Zambian Commodity Exchange (ZAMACE). The partnership will deliver the first organized electronic market system solution to Zambia’s agricultural sector. It will allow farmers to make more informed decisions about commodity sales. The Commodity Exchange allows farmers to trade certified crops on stock markets and use the warehouse receipts as Negotiable Instruments. This reduces the financial pressure on farmers, thereby eliminating the need for them to sell their crops at low prices to meet their short-term needs, such as school fees, medical costs, and improved agricultural inputs. With support from PROFIT+, ZAMACE will roll out the ZAMACE MIS platform, based on an electronic information flow system. ZAMACE will collect, compile, and analyze agricultural commodity prices and stock markets, and supply-and-demand statistics for selected crops.



Products from the global South reaching the bistros of Autogrill

April 5, Rome - Bolivian quinoa, spices from Cambodia and cocoa from Ecuador are but a few of the products coming sourced from small farmers in the global South that will now be sold in the bistros of the Italian and French roadside eatery chain Autogrill, thanks to a partnership with FAO. The partnership agreement with Autogrill is part of FAO's efforts to find new marketing opportunities as a way to support small farmers and cooperatives that have already been involved in FAO projects and that have already shown capacity to export to the European Union.

The agreement with Autogrill is an example of FAO's attention towards partnerships. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has now signed over 80 agreements with a wide range of different stakeholders, including the private sector, civil society, non-governmental organizations, cooperatives and academia. 



FAO and China launch new South-South Cooperation Program in Democratic Republic of Congo

April 4, Rome- FAO, China and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have signed a two-year agreement worth almost $ 1.5 million aimed at increasing food and nutrition security in the conflict-ravaged African nation. The deal establishes a new South-South Cooperation (SSC) partnership which will make Chinese technical advice and expertise available to the country's agriculture sector. It was developed via the FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC) Programme, which was created in 2009 and an additional funding boost from China last year.

SSC projects help developing countries share and transfer knowledge and expertise among themselves, so that innovations and good practices that have been tried and tested elsewhere in the global South can benefit other countries facing similar challenges. The new FAO-China effort in the DRC will not only help farmers to increase production, improve the quality of their produce, but also assist them in moving from a subsistence level to selling surplus at market.



UN Agency to provide $51 million to reduce poverty for vulnerable tribal groups in India

March 22, Rome - The UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the government of India signed a financial agreement recently that will aim to reduce poverty and improve livelihoods and food and nutrition security for over 62,000 rural households in the country’s central eastern region.

IFAD is providing a US $51.2 million loan towards the $130 million Odisha Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups Empowerment and Livelihoods Improvement Programme. It will focus on reducing poverty and improving living conditions for some of the most vulnerable tribal groups in Odisha's heavily forested Eastern Ghats and Northern Plateau regions

The programme adopts an integrated approach, supporting improved access to land, natural resources, agricultural technologies, financial services, markets, productive and social infrastructure, and essential social services. Given the extremely severe malnutrition situation in targeted villages, it incorporates “nutrition-sensitive” agricultural activities across all the programme components



Philippines MinPACT supports coconut, cocoa, and coffee sectors

March 17, Philippines - The four-year USDA Food for Progress Mindanao Productivity in Agricultural Commerce and Trade (MinPACT) project increases the incomes of smallholder cocoa, coconut, and coffee farming families in southern and western Mindanao. ACDI/VOCA has made grants this week to two organizations building the coconut and cocoa sectors. The first went to the Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao, Inc. (CIDAMi), and will boost the association’s sustainability and develop its capacity. With CIDAMi, MinPACT is encouraging the inter-cropping of coconut and cacao trees, which makes better use of the land and diversifies farmers’ incomes. The second grant ACDI/VOCA signed into reality this week is to the Davao Region Coconut Industry Cluster, Inc. (DRCICI), to establish its long-term viability as the go-to the development of the coconut industry. Thirty-two coffee stakeholders, including six coffee farmer organizations, participated in a three-day specialty coffee training of trainers workshop in Mindanao.






Recent contributions allow WFP in Uganda to assist a record 400'000 refugees

April 8, Kampala - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed four recent contributions totalling nearly US$30 million, enabling more refugees in Uganda to receive food assistance than ever before. New support from the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO), Japan and the United States of America, as well as the United Nations Emergency Response Fund (UN CERF) will allow WFP – working in close partnership with UNHCR – to continue assisting more than 400,000 refugees who depend on international support in Uganda.

In February and March, WFP received the following contributions to support refugee assistance in Uganda (in alphabetical order by donor): US$2.2 million from ECHO, US$3.5 million from Japan, US$5.5 million from the UN CERF, and US$18.4 million from the United States.

WFP offers a choice between food and cash for refugees who have been in the country longer and are thus better able to support themselves, and who are living in settlements with functioning markets.



USAID provides US$ 1 million for WFP to support basic food needs of refugees from Bhutan

April 8, Kathmandu - The United States has confirmed a US$1 million contribution for the World Food Programme (WFP) to provide food assistance to refugees from Bhutan living in Nepal. The contribution from the United States will help WFP provide basic food such as rice, pulses and vegetable oil for nearly 17,000 refugees.

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has been the largest supporter of WFP’s refugee operation in Nepal and has contributed every year for the past ten years.

In the first quarter of 2016, WFP distributed some 730 metric tons of food to refugees.



Families fleeing fighting in Nineveh receive Red Crescent assistance in Erbil

By Mohammed Khuzai, Iraqi Red Crescent Society

7 April, Iraq – Recent fierce clashes in Iraq’s northern governorate of Nineveh have left at least 50 people dead, and led to a growing number of people fleeing the region to safer parts of the country. In the first days, more than 360 families found refuge in Al Makhmour city in Erbil province. The journey for these families was not easy, with many walking long distances to reach safety. (…) Iraqi Red Crescent Society had plans in place to respond to the expected wave of displacement, including how to manage large numbers of families coming in to Erbil. Shelter was arranged in schools and other public places dedicated for this purpose, and Red Crescent volunteers provided relief items and health services to those in need.(…)



Mexico - Award to "Las Patronas": recognition for solidarity with migrants

5 April, Veracruz  - The historian Jean Meyer Barth, Bishop Raul Vera Lopez and "Las Patronas", a group of women who provide food and assistance to migrants crossing the center of Veracruz, will receive the Medal of Merit of the Universidad Veracruzana ( UV), as the central event of the International Fair of the University Book (FILU) 2016, which will take place from April 22 to May 1.

Las Patronas are a group of women volunteers of the community La Patrona, municipality of Amatlán de los Reyes. Since 1995 they have been offering food and assistance to migrants on their way through the state.



U.S. wheat shipment arrives in Yemen port to help WFP provide critical food assistance

April 4, San'a - A shipment of wheat from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) – sufficient for nearly 2 million people for two months – berthed in the Yemeni port of Hodeidah last Wednesday and offloaded its cargo over the weekend.

The Liberty Glory is the second vessel to deliver a U.S. wheat contribution since WFP began its emergency operation in Yemen a year ago. The ship carries 30,000 metric tons of wheat, from a US$45 million contribution from the U.S. to WFP in December 2015. Since March 2015, USAID has contributed a total of US$123 million.

USAID is the largest donor of food assistance in both the world and in Yemen.



UN agency launches school meals programme for Lebanese and Syrian children

4 April – A carton of milk or juice, locally-baked snacks and a piece of fruit are included in a school lunch that some children in Lebanon are receiving, as part of a meals programme launched by the United Nations food relief agency. Some 10,000 vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee children received the schools meals in March, the UN World Food Programme announced, allowing them energy to focus more on their studies. Over the past five years, more than one million Syrian refugees have attended Lebanon’s public schools. In response, more than 250 public schools have introduced a double shirt system, to allow the enrolment of additional students.

The WFP school meals programme is funded by the Italian Development Cooperation, and is being carried out in close coordination with the Ministry of Education and Higher Education and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In addition, WFP assists 600,000 Syrian refugees across Lebanon with monthly food vouchers useable at local markets.



Japan contribution helps WFP support displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees in Iraq

March 27, Baghdad - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) welcomes a contribution of US$6 million from the Government of Japan towards its emergency food assistance programmes supporting displaced Iraqis and Syrian refugees inside Iraq.

Japan’s timely contribution arrives as the conflict in Iraq continues to drive people out of their homes with the number of internally displaced people exceeding three million across the country. Also compounding the situation, is the presence of nearly 250,000 Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in the northern Kurdistan region of Iraq.

Japan’s contribution will allow WFP to support close to 500,000 internally displaced Iraqis and 35,000 Syrian refugees for the next nine months. Internally displaced Iraqi families will receive food parcels that contain staple food items like wheat flour, pulses, sugar, salt and vegetable oil, while the Syrian refugees who have access to local Iraqi markets will receive monthly electronic food vouchers.

To date, Japan has contributed more than US$31 million to WFP’s emergency operations in Iraq.



Japan donates US$10 Million to support WFP food assistance in Yemen

March 27, Sana'a - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a contribution of US$10 million from the Government of Japan for emergency food assistance to support 200,000 displaced and vulnerable people in Yemen for three months.

Japan’s donation will also help WFP assist host communities which have been overstretched by the arrival of nearly 2.5 million internally displaced people. WFP has been providing monthly food assistance to nearly 3 million people across Yemen since the beginning of this year. This latest contribution comes as the conflict in Yemen intensifies, exacerbating the country’s already poor food security situation. It is now estimated that 7.6 million people in Yemen are severely food insecure.

In 2015, Japan contributed almost US$15 million to WFP’s operations in Yemen.



Japanese contribution helps WFP provide food assistance to vulnerable Palestinians

March 24, Ramallah - The World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a new contribution of US$1.3 million from the Government of Japan that will enable WFP to provide food assistance to 146,000 food insecure people in Gaza and the West Bank. The funds will be used to provide 89,000 people in Gaza with fortified wheat flour for a month and an half, a key component of WFP’s food basket regularly provided to poor families. The contribution will also cover the value of electronic vouchers for one month for 57,000 people in the West Bank.

At a time where Palestinians are facing increasing political, security and economic instabilities in the West Bank and Gaza, Japan’s contribution is crucial to allow WFP to continue implementing its food assistance activities through national safety nets programmes in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Affairs of the Palestinian Government. Over the past ten years, Japan has donated more than US$40 million to WFP programmes in Palestine, becoming one of the top three donors to WFP in Palestine.



Rotary grant brings clean water to thousands in Ghana

From Rotary News

22 March - Worldwide, more than 748 million people live without access to clean water and at least 3,000 children die each day from diarrheal diseases caused by unsafe water. Rotary is working to change that. For example, members used a Rotary grant to drill more than 20 clean-water wells and to repair another 30 in villages across Ghana. The project also included education about and treatment of Buruli ulcer, a debilitating infection that if untreated can lead to disability and death. Nearly 70,000 people will benefit from this initiative.



ShareTheMeal app wins SXSW Interactive Innovation Award

March 17, Rome - The ShareTheMeal app, developed by the United Nations World Food Programme, won an Interactive Innovation Award in the “New Economy” category at this year’s South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas. The award honours the most inspiring and creative innovations in the digital world, and ShareTheMeal was chosen among hundreds of submissions within the category by a panel of industry peers and experts.

ShareTheMeal is WFP’s first fundraising and awareness-raising app. Free to download, it makes donating more “social” and more effective. ShareTheMeal was launched globally in November 2015. 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 500,000 users worldwide have provided the equivalent of almost 5 million meals.



WFP launches Food Voucher Programme for families in Yemen

March 16, Sana'a - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing food vouchers to assist close to 120,000 people living in Sana’a city with plans to reach one million people across Yemen in this way by the end of 2016.

The voucher scheme will speed up the delivery of food assistance in Yemen, enabling WFP to reach vulnerable people faster through a local retailer who will supply food commodities to families in exchange for WFP vouchers. This new form of assistance will also help revive commercial activities and markets in Yemen. Each voucher provides a family of six with a one-month supply of wheat grain, pulses, vegetable oil, salt and sugar as well as Wheat Soya Blend (WSB) – a protein-rich blended food provided by WFP through the local supplier. The Government of the United Kingdom has contributed £5.9 million (US$8.6 million), through UKaid, to fund the programme. WFP will gradually replace conventional food distributions with voucher assistance in areas where markets are functioning.

WFP is assisting up to 3 million people across Yemen every month, including both internally displaced people and vulnerable families in host communities.  According to the UN’s 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 7.6 million people in Yemen are severely food insecure – a level of need that requires urgent, external, food assistance.




Peace and security


Libya: UN development programme launches initiative to support country’s stabilization

12 April – At a high-level meeting in Tunis, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched an initiative to assist with the stabilization of Libya and its new unity Government, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) said today. The initiative, called the Stabilization Facility for Libya, is an undertaking of the Libyan Government of National Accord, supported by UNDP and the international community, UNSMIL said in a statement.

“The Stabilization Facility for Libya aims to support the Libyan Government of National Accord providing very visible and tangible quick-wins to the population at the local level,” UNSMIL said.

The rehabilitation of critical infrastructure destroyed by conflict will directly improve basic service delivery, the Mission noted. The Stabilization Facility will be Libyan-led, with the Prime Minister or his representative chairing the board jointly with the UN.



Next round of Intra-Syrian talks planned for 13 April – UN envoy

7 April – The United Nations mediator on the crisis in Syria said today that the next round of the peace talks will likely begin on Wednesday, 13 April, and is intended to be a concrete discussion leading to “a real beginning of a political transition.” Speaking to the media today, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura said that between now and then, he plans to visit Damascus and Teheran – and perhaps Amman and Beirut on the way– as well as to meet some Turkish and Saudi authorities in Europe.

“Frankly the next round of the intra-Syrian talks need to be quite concrete in the direction of a political process leading to a real beginning of a political transition,” he said, adding: “Now since this is real stuff, I need to verify the international and regional stakeholders' position in order to see how is the level of positive critical mass leading to concrete results in the next round of talks.”



Cuba bans cluster munitions

6 April, Cuba – Cuba is the 99th State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The instrument of accession was submitted to the UN Secretary-General on 6 April 2016. With Cuba’s accession, 119 states have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions: 99 states parties and 20 signatories. The CMC congratulates Cuba on its accession and encourages it to promote the universalization of the Convention by inviting others to join the Convention, in particular Latin American and Caribbean countries that have not yet renounced cluster munitions. Cuba is not known to have used, produced, or exported cluster munitions. According to the Cluster Munition Monitor Cuba has a stockpile of cluster munitions: the CMC hopes that Cuba will report on its stockpile and y undertake the destruction of any remaining stocks.



Mark 4 April: finish the job by 2025

4 April – Today the International Campaign to Ban Landmines and its members mark 4 April the day for International Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action. All over the world are taking actions such as: lobbying meetings with decision makers; letters to Ministers, Parliamentarians and Presidents; conducting media work and publishing press releases; briefing diplomats or supporters of the campaign; organizing public events (workshops, round tables, raising awareness among students, concerts or a flash-mobs); staging photo exhibitions; blogging; launching petitions or social media campaigns to advance implementation and universalization of the Mine Ban Treaty and to achieve a mine free world by 2025. Landmines are still a global problem and support is needed from the international community until the job is done.

As a result of this treaty, so many lives and limbs have been saved; thirty countries have become landmine free; over 49 million stockpiled landmines have been destroyed; production and transfer of landmines have virtually ceased and over eighty percent of the world has joined the treaty.



South Sudan - UNMISS and UNMAS conduct conflict management and mine awareness education workshop in Pibor

31 March, Pibor - The United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) Civil Affairs conducted a two-day community-based conflict management workshop in Pibor on 30-31 March. The Civil Affairs section was joined by the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) team to deliver mine awareness education. The workshop was held in the area adjacent to UNMISS Pibor Team Site where civilians had sought refuge following recent hostilities. Debora Schein, the Head of UNMISS Field Office in Bor, Jonglei said the workshop was an important activity that UNMISS undertook in Pibor, and also urged the local population in Jonglei to report to UNMAS or UNMISS if they see any UXOs. This workshop has been held ahead of the International Mine Awareness Day, as a part of the awareness strategy to enable civil population to protect themselves from mines.



ANAMA disarmed 701 UXOs and three mines in March

March, Baku – APA. Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) inspected 1,762,402 sqm area, disarming 701 unexploded ordinances (UXO) and 2 antitank mines, 1 antipersonnel mine, ANAMA’s press service told APA. 507 specialists and 126 assistants, 6 mine clearing vehicles and 39 mine-detection dogs were involved in the operations. 320,443,366 sqm area has been cleared of mines and UXOs by ANAMA up to now. 716,307 mines and UXOs have been disarmed. The agency is carrying out mine clearing operations in Absheron, Aghdam, Aghstafa, Fuzuli, Ganja, Goranboy, Gadabay, Gazakh, Terter, Tovuz, Samukh, as well as in Guzdek settlement of Garadagh district.






Zambia: Largest ever oral cholera vaccination campaign underway in Lusaka

9 April, Lusaka–A large cholera vaccination campaign has  commenced in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. Over half a million people are planned to receive the oral cholera vaccine in an effort to curb an outbreak that began in February in the city’s overcrowded township areas. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is working in collaboration with the Zambian Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization to carry out the vaccination campaign in the next two weeks. In Lusaka, around 1.2 million are at risk of cholera each rainy season. The campaign is targeting 578,000 people. Eight MSF international staff, 19 Zambian Ministry of Health staff and 1,135 community volunteers will carry out the campaign at 39 sites in four of the most affected townships of Lusaka – Kanyama, Bauleni, George and Chawama. In parallel, the Ministry of Health will continue to care for patients in cholera treatment centres, improving sanitation and hygiene conditions by disinfecting homes, carrying out health education and distributing chlorine solution.



Global synchronisation and the switch

8April – Between 17 April and 1 May, approximately 150 countries will switch from the trivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (tOPV) to bivalent oral poliovirus vaccine (bOPV). This represents the largest withdrawal of one vaccine, and associated roll out of another vaccine in history. Polio is a debilitating and crippling disease, which can result in incurable, lifelong paralysis. The extensive use of trivalent OPV around the world has been largely responsible for reducing the number of cases of wild poliovirus from over 350,000 in 1988 to just 74 in 2015. In the same period, the number of countries endemic to polio has decreased from 125 to just 2. The trivalent oral polio vaccine contains live,weakened virus of all three serotypes, and is administered orally.



Safe water & health awareness needed to protect Gaza children

8 April, Gaza – With funds from Islamic Relief USA and community of committed donors, ANERA has been able to connect residents of the Zarqa area in Gaza City to a reliable source of clean water. ANERA also has implemented valuable health awareness sessions to provide lessons on personal hygiene and other health tips. The impact of the Gaza water project, from water connections and classes to the distribution of hygiene kits, is evident almost immediately. ANERA’s health officer says the goal of the awareness program is to prevent children from falling ill in the first place.



ICRC and Novartis launch partnership to improve access to healthcare in fragile countries

6 April – Following the ICRC's Global Partnerships for Impact and Innovation (GPHI2) event in Lausanne, the ICRC and Novartis launched a partnership, focusing on improving care and treatment to the most vulnerable populations in Lebanon (Syrian refugees, underserved Lebanese and Palestinian patients), suffering from non-communicable diseases (NCDs,chronic diseases). NCDs represent the first cause of mortality and morbidity in Lebanon and it’s also a reason for competition between host and refugee communities for health services. Therefore the ICRC has made it its priority to support NCD healthcare by increasing access to proper diagnosis, treatment and follow-up for patients affected by common NCDs in the catchment areas of the ICRC-supported health facilities. Novartis Access focuses on affordability and availability of 15 on- and off-patent medicines addressing key NCDs – cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, respiratory illnesses and breast.



Jordan: MSF opens new clinic treating chronic diseases close to Syrian border

31 March, Amman – Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) opened a new health centre in Jordanian town of Al Ramtha on 31 March 2016, aimed at meeting some of the chronic health needs of Syrian refugees and vulnerable Jordanians in the town. Jordan is host to around 660,000 registered refugees with many more who are without registration. Around 100,000 Syrians live in camps; for those living outside camps, getting diagnosis and treatment for chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma and hypertension can be difficult because of the cost of treatment.

With the agreement of Jordanian Ministry of Health, the clinic aims to relieve some of the burden of healthcare for Syrian refugees on their host population. The clinic in Al Ramtha will provide medical consultations, laboratory tests, and treatment to Syrian refugees and Jordanians who are not covered by health insurance. The clinic opens five days a week and offers all services free of charge.



Cognitive development interventions gain momentum in health delivery settings in East and Southern Africa

By Lisa Bohmer

17 March – Brain development is at its most rapid during the first 1,000 days of life, when early experiences fundamentally shape brain architecture and future potential. (…). UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) have developed a package for health systems that is designed to teach caregivers about responsive care and stimulation practices for their infants and young children, from birth through age two. The package, called Care for Child Development (CCD), has been successfully implemented in both community and clinical settings. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation provides support for training using this package given that skills building for parents and caregivers is a focus of our Children Affected by HIV and AIDS Strategic Initiative. (…) Organizations working in East and Southern Africa—including PATH offsite link, the Aga Khan Development Network offsite link and UNICEF offsite link— (…) begin to scale-up this package:(…) decided to share (…) experiences using the package, to align efforts, develop a harmonized approach and promote a community of practice to include new organizations interested in using the tools. (…)




Energy and safety



Google Funds to expand nonprofit pushing renewable energy

8April – Google announced Thursday that it is investing in sustainability nonprofit the Center for Resource Solutions to help it launch operations in Asia, TechCrunch reports. The San Francisco-based center runs one of North America's largest renewable-energy certification programs and recently announced plans to do similar work in other parts of the world. The nonprofit's first Asian program will be in Taiwan, one of two countries on the continent where Google has a data center. The Silicon Valley giant has pledged to be fully powered by renewable energy within a decade, a goal certifications in Asian countries will make easier to achieve, TechCrunch writes.



Renewable energy investments: major milestones reached, new world record set

Frankfurt / Nairobi, 24 March - Coal and gas-fired electricity generation last year drew less than half the record investment made in solar, wind and other renewables capacity - one of several important firsts for green energy announced today in a UN-backed report.

Global Trends in Renewable Energy Investment 2016, the 10th edition of the UN Environment Programme's (UNEP's) annual publication, launched today by the Frankfurt School-UNEP Collaborating Centre for Climate & Sustainable Energy Finance and Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), says the annual global investment in new renewables capacity, at $266 billion, was more than double the estimated $130 billion invested in coal and gas power stations in 2015.

All investments in renewables, including early-stage technology and research and development as well as spending on new capacity, totalled $286 billion in 2015, some 3 per cent higher than the previous record in 2011. Since 2004, the world has invested $2.3 trillion in renewable energy (unadjusted for inflation).

(All figures for renewables in this release include wind, solar, biomass and waste-to-energy, biofuels, geothermal, marine and small hydro, but exclude large hydro-electric projects of more than 50 megawatts).



Environment and wildlife


500 companies planting 2000 trees - Get involved

6 April, Shelburne, Vt.,USA - One Tree Planted announced today the launch of the Million Tree Challenge. The goal is to recruit 500 companies to commit to planting 2000 trees per year. For every $1.00 dollar donated by a company, one tree will be planted to help with reforestation projects throughout the United States, in collaboration with the United States Forestry Service.(…) The Million Tree Challenge will help provide funding for micro-reforestation projects throughout the United States that have been affected from forest fires, floods, and epidemics like the pine beetle. These micro-projects often fly under the radar and do not receive funding from the Federal or State level because they are deemed too small in scope. A micro-project typically needs anywhere from 500 to 25,000 trees to be planted in order to reforest, improve watershed management and help restore wildlife habitat.



World's most endangered cat grows to over 400 individuals

4 April, Madrid – WWF welcomes the 2015 Iberian lynx census released today by the government of Andalusia. The survey shows an increase in population with the Iberian lynx reaching the highest number since the species was found to be the most endangered cat in the world in 2002.The latest population figure of 404 individuals is up from the 327 recorded in 2014. The survey identified 120 breeding females divided into five areas of the Iberian Peninsula including four in Spain – Doñana, Sierra Morena, Montes de Toledo, Valley Matachel – as well as Portugal’s Vale do Guadiana. Despite the rebound in population, the Iberian lynx is still threatened by losses in the population of rabbits, their main prey: it is essential that all competent authorities take action on the threats to rabbits and begin to implement better monitoring plans and actions for species recovery. The survey also shows high lynx mortality caused by road accidents with a total of 51 lynx killed on the roads over the past three years. Without serious efforts to tackle the threat of vehicular traffic and the falling rabbit population, gains in the numbers of Iberian lynx could reverse.



Kenya - Subukia: a story of transformation through tree planting

29 March - It all started in 1983 at the Subukia National Shrine in Nakuru, Kenya, when the missionary Hermann Borg, OFM started to plant and motivate Subukia locals to embrace tree planting initiatives. At that time, Subukia was a barren ground with no tree cover. It was full of dust and bare rocks.

Now, after 30 years of tree planting efforts, the situation is different. The hills are green with trees. Rivers are flowing back. Livestock have fodder on which to feed. Crops are doing well. This is an example of what can happen when grassroots communities are encouraged to mitigate climate change effects with tree planting. - You can download the full-size presentation in PowerPoint or PDF format.




Religion and spirituality


New Franciscan fraternity in Turkey

6 April, Istanbul - To witness the Gospel, promoting ecumenical and interreligious dialogue and dialogue with culture, in specific ways, through Francis of Assisi’s example: this is the spirit with which the Friars Minor opened a new Franciscan fraternity in Smirne (Izmir), in west-central Turkey. We are talking about international fraternities, composed of friars from all over the world. “The dimension of evangelization - explain the Franciscans in Istanbul - is primarily lived in the development of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. Among the various annual activities, there are: the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, exchange and visits to Muslims brothers during Ramadan, a permanent formation course on ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, which has reached its 12th edition (the one in 2016 will be held in Istanbul from October 13 to 28), an interfaith prayer meeting in the spirit of Assisi, as well as various activities in the local Church".



The Weekly Shot: France and Brazil connect through interfaith youth tour

4 April, Rio de Janeiro, - Movement Inter Religious Rio de Janeiro (MIR) Cooperation Circle in Rio de Janeiro recently hosted a group of guests from France who were traveling internationally as part of the Interfaith Tour II from Coexister Cooperation Circle.

This group consisted of four young people, between 20 and 28 years old, of different traditions: atheist, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim. The group has traveled to 32 countries over the course of 10 months, studying interfaith initiatives and connecting with interfaith groups.



Religious leaders together for peace against terrorism

30 March, Lahore - Christian and Muslim leaders came together to pray for peace and to reaffirm their common commitment against terrorism, in the aftermath of the Easter massacre, which took place in Lahore: as Fides learns, the meeting was organized in the complex of Santa Maria church in Lahore by the "Council for interreligious dialogue". Participants lit candles to remember the dead, offering prayers for their souls, and expressed solidarity with the families of all the victims.




Culture and education


Conrad N. Hilton Foundation awards more than $20 million in grants in the first quarter of 2016

5 April, Los Angeles– The board of directors of the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation announced today that it approved $20.56 million in grants during the first quarter of 2016, including a $5.44 million grant to the UCLA WORLD Policy Analysis Center (WORLD) for the creation of an initiative that will train the next generation of world leaders and thinkers, and a $2.5 million grant to City of Hope to launch a cancer prevention initiative that will target poor diet and obesity as key risk factors for disease. Grantmaking in the first quarter of 2016 spans across the Hilton Foundation’s priority areas, awarding funds to organizations serving the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people both in the U.S. and internationally.



WFP launches school meals programme to support both Lebanese and Syrian children

April 4, Beirut - In March, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) launched a school meals programme, which supports both Lebanese and Syrian children attending public primary schools across Lebanon. The meals include a carton of milk or juice, locally-baked snacks and a piece of fruit, providing the energy students need to concentrate on - and benefit from - their lessons.

The arrival of more than one million Syrian refugees over the past five years has stretched Lebanon’s public services, including the education sector. To address this, more than 250 public schools have introduced a double shift system, permitting the enrolment of additional students. This programme, funded by the Italian Development Cooperation, currently allows WFP to provide daily nutritious meals for 10,000 vulnerable Lebanese and Syrian refugee children attending 13 primary schools. The selected schools are located in the most vulnerable communities across Lebanon as identified by UNICEF and UNHCR.

Every month, WFP assists 600,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees across Lebanon through electronic food vouchers so they can purchase their food from local markets.



ADRA concludes successful family planning project in Nepal

21 March – ADRA has marked the end of their Technical Integration for Coverage and Access (TICA) project in Nepal. Supported by the United States for International Development (USAID), it was a two-year family planning (FP) innovative project. TICA’s goal was to increase demand for and access to FP services in response to high unmet need in the targeted areas and the Government of Nepal’s priorities. TICA specifically focused on: increased knowledge and interest; improved access to services and the quality of services and education. To increase knowledge and interest in FP, TICA worked with youth and adolescents; women’s groups; men’s groups; and community sessions. Through 100 peer educators, TICA delivered training on FP, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and gender discrimination to 3,682 young people. 4,192 women were trained through 60 DEEP entrepreneurial groups, with the theme of “managed and planned family size, happy and prosperous family life”




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Next issue: 13 May 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


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 26,000 Rotarians in the world.


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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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