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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 18th, no. 265 – 16th February 2018


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 media and editorial journalists, NGOs, service associations and high schools and colleges around the world.

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


Sweden and WFP sign landmark agreement bringing hope to millions in forgotten crises

2 February 2018 - The Swedish Government and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement, with Sweden making a historic commitment of approximately US$370 million in flexible funds to WFP over the next four years (2018 to 2021). The contribution is the largest ever made by a donor within a WFP Strategic Partnership Agreement.



Weah orders review of Liberia's concession agreements

February 2018- Liberia’s new President George Weah has ordered a review of concessions entered into by previous administrations, the presidency said in a statement on Wednesday. The nine-member panel will also determine if the government’s partners in those agreements had been fully implemented and met their performance requirements. During the 12-year rule of Weah’s predecessor, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the government attracted around $15 billion in foreign investment, according to a finance ministry report.



Hong Kong ivory ban is now law: WWF says it’s time to close all Asian illegal wildlife markets

31 January 2018, Hong Kong – A ban on the domestic ivory trade with no compensation by 2021 and an increase in the maximum penalty for wildlife crime offences to 10 years was approved today by the Legislative Council.WWF welcomes the new legislation and would like to thank all the supporters.“ A ban on ivory sales with heavier penalties in Hong Kong shows a clear commitment towards the future of African elephants. This will help reverse the trend of elephant poaching and illegal ivory trafficking” said Cheryl Lo, Manager, Wildlife Crime. Hong Kong is the largest ivory city market in the world and a major transit hub for illegal wildlife trade due to low fines and sentences for traffickers and zero prosecutions of the criminal kingpins.  China closed its legal ivory market at the end of 2017. All ivory trade in the country is now illegal, which may intensify Hong Kong’s position as a preferred market for illegal ivory under the cover of remaining legal traders. The Hong Kong ban will help blunt this trend. Gavin Edwards, Conservation Director said, “This is the time to increase rather than to relax our efforts. With stronger sentences in Hong Kong, law enforcement should take a greater role in joint efforts to investigate and prosecute criminal wildlife syndicates(…)” Since 2015, WWF-Hong Kong has been campaigning for a ban on the ivory trade and making wildlife crime a serious crime in Hong Kong. WWF’s report, The Hard Truth, revealed several legal loopholes in Hong Kong’s ivory regulations and published a Feasibility Study on the Ban of Hong Kong’s Ivory Trade in 2016. Through these in-depth studies on the ivory trade in Hong Kong and various community engagement campaigns, we received enormous public support with 91,643 Hongkongers signing a petition in support of a ban. In response to calls from WWF and other NGOs, the government moved forward with the proposed five-year timetable to end the ivory trade.



Human rights


Africa: Human Rights Declaration still relevant - UN

13 February 2018 - The United Nations is embarked on a year-long campaign to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the U.N. General Assembly on December 10, 1948. Campaigners say the declaration is as relevant today as it was when drafted seven decades ago.The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was drafted in Paris in 1948 by a diverse group of countries under the leadership of former first lady of the United States, Eleanor Roosevelt. The Declaration was designed to prevent the repetition of the horrific human rights violations that were committed during World War II. The common thread in the Universal Declaration is that of anti-discrimination; the belief that everyone is equal and everyone has the same rights.



Gaithersburg- Sodexo Recognized by Bloomberg for Gender Equality

12 February 2018 - The Bloomberg GEI comprises a global universe of companies from all sectors with a market capitalization of USD 1B or greater and have at least one security trading on a U.S. exchange. Companies that earn a Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index score at or above a globally established threshold is featured as an annual member of the index. The 2018 GEI features 104 companies from 24 countries and regions. Sodexo, a food services and facilities management company, announced today that it has been named to Bloomberg’s 2018 Gender-Equality Index (GEI) for its advancement in gender equality. Sodexo USA is an American business that is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Delivering more than 100 services across North America that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life, Sodexo is a leading provider of sustainable, integrated facilities management and food service operations. It employs 123,000 Americans at 12,500 sites across the country and indirectly supports tens of thousands of additional U.S. jobs through its annual purchases of $9.2 billion in goods and services from small to large American businesses. 



Boko Haram releases 3 varsity professers and 10 policewomen - Nigeria govt

11 February 2018 - Boko Haram freed 13 hostages, Nigeria’s presidency said on Saturday, after authorities negotiated their release with the Islamist militants. The kidnappings were part of a campaign of attacks last year by the jihadist group whose bid to create an Islamic state in the northeast has killed at least 20,000 people and forced some 2.7 million to flee their homes since 2009.Three of the hostages were lecturers from the University of Maiduguri who were abducted while on an oil exploration trip in Magumeri, in the northeastern Borno state, in July 2017. The other 10 were women police officers kidnapped in a raid on a convoy the previous month.



Ethiopian women and girls see “remarkable results” in ending child marriage

8 February 2018 – Kolla Tembein, Ethiopia – Not long ago, the sight of a 10-year-old bride was a common occurrence in Ethiopia’s Kolla Tembein District, said Daniel Hagos, the district’s chief administrator.  But the community’s women and girls are mobilizing to change things – and they are seeing enormous success.

Child marriage is a global phenomenon, one that leaves girls vulnerable to abuse and health problems, including potentially deadly pregnancy complications . In Kolla Tembein, the practice is deep-rooted, with many people believing that girls should marry while they are young and “pure”. But three years ago, community groups began working with UNFPA to raise awareness of the harms of child marriage. Then through the UNFPA-UNICEF Global Programme to Accelerate Action to End Child Marriage, efforts were targeted towards three localities in the district where child marriage was most prevalent. Central to their approach is empowering women and girls to stand up and take action themselves.



Registration now open for World Press Freedom Day 2018 in Accra

8 February 2018 - UNESCO will lead the 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2018. Registration is now open for the main event, which will take place in Accra, Ghana on 2–3 May. This year’s global theme is ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law’. From 2 to 3 May, the WPFD 2018 international conference in Accra will encourage discussion and promote understanding and awareness about current challenges for freedom of expression. These include the role of media in elections, the independence and media literacy of the judicial system, and the accountability of state institutions towards the public. The Day will also examine contemporary challenges of threats to press freedom online. Across the globe, recent political, technological and economic transformations have placed new strains on press freedom. Within the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals making up its 2030 Agenda, the contribution of journalists and media workers is linked to SDG 16 on peace, justice and strong institutions.In order to reach this goal, effective, accountable and transparent institutions at all levels must be developed, and press freedom. Essential to this is the right of all people in general, and journalists in particular, to use media platforms for public communication.



Canada’s funding commitment to ending violence against children an encouraging sign ahead of G7, says World Vision

25 January  2018 –Standing alongside education activist Malala Yousafzai, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today effectively doubled Canada’s annual commitment to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE).The Government of Canada’s $180 million investment from 2018-2020 is a welcome and encouraging step for the millions of children around the world, particularly girls caught in conflict and uncertainty, who dream of going to school.Investing in education is a critical step towards alleviating chronic poverty and violence and giving them a path to a hopeful future.With Canada hosting the G7 Summit in June, World Vision is looking ahead to Charlevoix as an opportunity for Canada to demonstrate leadership in education on the global stage. World Vision is asking the Canadian Prime Minister to lead a signature policy initiative at the upcoming G7 to bring urgent political attention to a severely neglected issue – girls’ education in crises. “Canada’s commitment to global education today is a vital step towards preventing a lost generation of children – especially girls – caught up in conflict and uncertainty,” says World Vision Canada’s Jamie McIntosh. “Every child everywhere, deserves a quality education. Education programmes have proven to protect kids from violence today while giving them a chance to pursue a better life tomorrow.”




Economy and development


IFAD and Sudan invest US$47.5 million to raise incomes and resilience to climate change

15 February 2018, Rome– The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Sudan signed a financing agreement today to improve household incomes and resilience to climate change in the States of Sinnar, North Kordofan, South Dordofan and West Kordofan, the Integrated Agricultural and Marketing Development Project (IAMDP). The total cost of the project is US$47.5 including a $26.01 grant from IFAD. The project will be co-financed by the Government of Sudan, members of the private sector and the beneficiaries themselves. It will be implemented over six years.Two thirds of Sudan’s population (36.2 million people) live in rural areas and nearly half rely on agriculture and agro-processing industries for their livelihoods, making agriculture vital to Sudan’s economy. In recent years, climate change has had a major impact on Sudan’s fragile environment, particularly in rain-fed areas, affecting the livelihoods of many who live there. The IFAD-supported project will target farmers in rain-fed areas who engage in traditional agriculture (crop production and animal husbandry) and forest-based activities (mainly gum Arabic). It encompass 129 villages and reach 27,000 smallholder households, targeting small producers, rural women and youth with farm sizes of less than 6.3 hectares.



New York - IMPACT2030 partners with better world leadership to advance non-profit board service for businesses to advance the achievement of the Global Goals

13 February 2018 -  IMPACT2030 announces a partnership with Better World Leadership (BWL) to develop human capital for a sustainable world. In a recent study, BWL provided evidence that nonprofit board service is an effective pathway for companies seeking to grow shareholder value by advancing diversity and inclusion, developing human capital for innovation, and fostering economic development to achieve the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). BWL is conducting further studies in 2018, presenting webinars, and convening global companies seeking to establish, enhance, and expand their nonprofit board service programs worldwide.  The Better World Leadership study was conducted by Alice Korngold, Korngold Consulting LLC, with the support and participation of American Express, Dow Chemical, HP, Johnson Controls, PIMCO, Symantec, Datamaran, and the World Environment Center. Anchored by SDG 17, Partnerships for the Goals, IMPACT2030 is a private sector-led organization, in collaboration with the United Nations, social and public sectors, and academia, with the unique mission to activate human capital investments through employee volunteer programs to advance the achievement of the SDGs.



ITALIA - Ferrero releases 8th Corporate Social Responsibility Report

13 February 2018 - The Ferrero Group releases its 8th Corporate Social Responsibility Report, marking 70 years of global care for the People and the Planet . Ferrero’s approach to sustainability is currently based on the company’s social responsibility strategy: “Sharing values to create value”. For Ferrero the creation of shared value is a practice that involves all stages of the value chain. It is implemented every day through our commitment to consumers, which results in the highest quality products, innovation and transparent communication, caring for the people who have made and continue to make the history of the Group, the support of local communities, the promotion of active lifestyles among youths and their families, all the way to its strong commitment to sustainable farming practices and safeguarding and protecting the environment.   Furthermore, the Group has strengthened its efforts in women empowerment by increasing its number of women senior managers and launching a hazelnut farming programme for women in Turkey. Ferrero has also enhanced its strong commitment to responsible cocoa sourcing, with the aim to work side by side with cocoa farmers to improve community livelihoods, protect children’s rights and prevent deforestation. In addition to confirming all the commitments of its corporate social responsibility strategy for 2020, this year Ferrero has connected all its Group business themes to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), to support the accomplishment of the SDGs by 2030.



IFAD technical assistance agreement to help boost agriculture production and food security in Saudi Arabia

13 February 2018, RomeSaudi Arabia and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) signed a Reimbursable Technical Assistance (RTA) agreement today to boost agriculture production and food security in Saudi Arabia's Jizan Region. The three-year agreement was signed on the sidelines of IFAD's 41st Governing Council in Rome.This collaboration is expected to enhance the productivity, profitability and climate change resilience of an estimated 30,000 smallholder farmers and their farmer-based organizations. The RTA will focus on coffee and mango value chain development, new technologies to create improved products and access to new markets. The RTA will be implemented by the Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture, which has also been working to step up the contribution of the non-oil sector, including agriculture, to the economy under Saudi's National Transformation Plan (NTP). In this regard, the newly signed RTA will focus on contributing to sustainable food security; optimizing the use of renewable water resources for agricultural purposes; and developing sustainable, highly efficient production systems for plants and livestock.



IFAD and Bangladesh invest US$92.4 million to improve livelihoods for poorest rural households in flood-prone areas

13 February 2018, Rome – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Bangladesh signed a financing agreement today to sustainably improve incomes and promote resilience to extreme weather conditions for 303,000 rural households in six flood-prone districts in northern Bangladesh, the Promoting Resilience of Vulnerable through Access to Infrastructure, Improved Skills and Information Project. The total cost of the project is US$92.4 million, including a $63.2 million loan and a $1.2 million grant from IFAD. The government will contribute $27.9 million.The project aims to improve rural peoples’ resilience in 25 flood-prone upazilas, or townships, through building weatherproofed infrastructure, creating off-farm employment opportunities, and strengthening communities’ ability to adapt to climate change related risks. The project will put in place an early warning system managed by the communities themselves, with the scope of scaling up this technique to other communities outside the target area. The project will be implemented over six years and in six districts: Gaibandha, Jamalpur, Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, and Rangpur. These districts are often flooded due to overflows of the Jamuna and Teesta rivers.






Funding for Lebanon response in 2017 amounts to USD 1.68 billion

12 February 2018- Beirut - International funding for Lebanon in 2017 amounted to USD 1.68 billion, as shown by the funding update released by the Office of the United Nations Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon. UN agencies and NGOs reported a total of USD 1.24 billion received under the Lebanon Crisis Response Plan (LCRP) framework in 2017. The consolidated data shows a continued high-level donor support to Lebanon in 2017 in response to the impact of the Syrian crisis. Moreover, donors have also reported an additional amount of around USD 650 million committed for 2018 and beyond. The generous support enabled partners to provide access to safe water to more than 1.3 million individuals, support more than 870,000 people to buy food in local shops and markets, and enroll more than 400,000 children in public schools. UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Lebanon, Mr. Philippe Lazzarini reiterated that the support has not been enough to turn the tide of refugees’ deepening poverty and vulnerabilities affecting both Lebanese host communities and refugees. “The situation is gradually eroding, and humanitarian and development needs are growing: 76% of Syrian refugee households live below the poverty line and more than 50% of Syrian households live in extreme poverty. And we should not forget that 1.5 million Lebanese live below the poverty line,”



Sweden and WFP sign landmark agreement bringing hope to millions in forgotten crises

2 February 2018, Stockholm - The Swedish Government and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement, with Sweden making a historic commitment of approximately US$370 million in flexible funds to WFP over the next four years (2018 to 2021). The contribution is the largest ever made by a donor within a WFP Strategic Partnership Agreement. The Swedish contribution comes at a moment of unprecedented needs. The world is facing the worst humanitarian crisis since the end of World War II, with multiple large-scale hunger emergencies occurring across the planet. For the first time in a decade, the number of hungry people in the world is increasing. Today, the majority of world’s hungry people live in countries affected by conflict, with ten of the thirteen largest food crises driven mainly by conflict. For nearly a decade, Sweden has been the largest donor of flexible – or unearmarked – funds to WFP. Sweden’s leadership in providing flexible funding stands out at a time when more than 90% of government contributions to WFP are earmarked for specific operations or activities.



EU contributed over €1 billion to WFP in the fight against hunger in 2017

31 January 2018, Brussels - Last year, the European Commission contributed over €1 billion to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), making it the second-largest donor to the agency in 2017. Millions of people across 48 countries had better access to lifesaving and nutritious food thanks to the European Union’s (EU) commitment to fight hunger worldwide. A record €650 million  went to the Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) programme in Turkey. The ground-breaking programme provides monthly cash-assistance to more than one million refugees – mostly Syrians – living in Turkey.  Over €116 million in EU funding last year was critical in fighting famine where conflict and severe drought threatened millions of lives in Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and north-eastern Nigeria. EU funding has also been crucial to create a better and healthier future for children, particularly by helping WFP to provide nutrition support for pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as children under five. EU-financed school meals helped thousands of children to stay in school and grow healthy and strong. Air and logistics support funded by the EU helped WFP and other relief agencies reach people even in the most remote places.Overall, the EU and its Member States combined constitute WFP’s largest donor, contributing over €2.7 billion in 2017.



The U.S. Government and the World Food Programme partner to defeat malnutrition in Tajikistan

29 January 2018, Khatlon Province, Tajikistan - Staff from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) joined United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) Deputy Country Director Mariko Kawabata in a visit to Balkhi district in Khatlon to review the progress of the recently launched project for the prevention and treatment of moderate acute malnutrition in Tajikistan. The Prevention and Treatment of Moderate Acute Malnutrition Project funded by USAID supports the Government of Tajikistan in improving nutrition and healthcare in the Balkhi, Shahritus, Kulob and Dusti districts of Khatlon and the Ayni district of Sughd. Through USAID support over the next four years, the World Food Programme plans to provide specialized nutritious food to over 24,000 malnourished children aged 6-59 months in more than 300 national primary health centers in targeted districts. Malnutrition rates in Tajikistan are the highest in Central Asia, with 29.4% of children anaemic and stunting rates at 26% nationwide. For the last 25 years, WFP has been providing life-saving assistance in Tajikistan while building and consolidating a national social protection system for food security and nutrition. WFP has also been working to improve the resilience of rural communities that are vulnerable to recurrent natural and economic shocks.



Her Royal Highness, Princess Haya, launches new fund to support immediate response to global emergency

21 January 2018, Dubai - Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein, a stalwart supporter of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Messenger of Peace, has contributed to the launch of a special fund to allow the rapid purchase and transportation of high energy biscuits in response to sudden onset emergencies. The highly fortified biscuits provide people caught in the immediate aftermath of natural disasters, or conflict, with an immediate source of nutritious food that is packed with energy. Time is of the essence in response to emergencies. When crisis hits, WFP needs to deploy immediate food assistance to people who may have lost everything, including access to markets and food. Most recently, high energy biscuits were delivered to respond to the immediate needs of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar and crossing into Bangladesh. The new fund will be managed through WFP’s Global Commodity Management Facility, which works to reduce the lead time from the moment WFP receives funding through to distribution of food assistance. Princess Haya’s support for the new fund will allow WFP to procure and pre-position high energy biscuits at the UN Humanitarian Response Depot, located in Dubai for its strategic location that can further reduce emergency response time. In 2015, Princess Haya received the WFP Hunger Hero Award at the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland.



Four USAID-funded mobile cranes arrive at Yemen's largest Red Sea port

15 January 2018, Sana'a -  A ship carrying four mobile cranes purchased by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has arrived in Yemen’s Hodeidah Port to allow faster delivery of relief items for Yemeni families in the grips of the world’s biggest hunger crisis. The cranes, which will be operational immediately, are urgently needed to boost the capacity of Hodeidah Port, which handles around 70% of Yemen’s imports, including critically-needed food and humanitarian supplies. With each of the mobile cranes able to handle up to 60 tons, they will significantly boost the discharge of humanitarian cargo and other relief items. More than 22 million people in Yemen need humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million who are in acute need – an increase of more than one million people since March 2017. WFP has been providing monthly food assistance to nearly seven million people in Yemen since August 2017 – double the number it was able to assist in the first half of 2017. In January, WFP hopes to reach 7 million people, though as in previous months and due to financial constraints only about half of these people are receiving full food rations, the remainder will receive a smaller ration that covers 60% of their needs.




Peace and security


NPA re-commences mine action activities in and around Mosul

9February 2018 – As the first NGO to return to working on IED clearance in the area, NPA's Non-Technical Survey Teams recommenced its survey operations around Mosul on the 6th February 2018. Following the Kurdish referendum and the movement of Peshmerga controlled lines, the management of Mine Action shifters from IKMAA of Kurdistan to DMA of Iraq. The primary task of the survey is to identify suspected and confirmed hazardous areas, contaminated with "Improvised landmines", "Explosive Remnants of War" (ERW) and "Improvised Explosive Devices" (IED’s). NPA has been tasked by the Regional Mine Action Centre North (RMAC N) to conduct survey of all of Hamdanyia District, east of Mosul City. NPA is the only organization to be formally tasked by RMAC N to conduct this activity resulting in the creation of new, or cancelation and reduction of existing "Suspected" and "Confirmed Hazardous Areas". Following the identification of these areas, RMAC N will be in a position to task organizations and companies to clear the remaining hazards through a coordinated effort.



More than 300 child soldiers released by armed groups in South Sudan – UN mission

7 February 2018 - Some 300 child soldiers, including 87 girls, were formally released by armed groups in South Sudan, the United Nations mission in the country reported on Wednesday, calling on all stakeholders to support the young people on the journey back to their communities and help them build a future for themselves.



Eight locations in BIH handed back to the local community

1 February 2018 – Eight locations in BIH were recently cleared and returned to the local population. This success is attributed to the assistance of the government of Japan which donated 314,787 EUR through ITF in order to conduct demining activities and technical surveys in the areas of Ilijaš and Busovača. Since the inception of ITF, the government of Japan has provided a total of 3 million EUR for various demining activities in BIH. With their generous donations, a total of 2 million square meters of land in BIH has been cleared, eliminating 157 mines and 206 UXO. In this most recent project, 19 mines and 79 UXO were found in an area totalling 295,638 square meters, which is now safely available to the local population. In order to have a more holistic approach, the demining activities and technical surveys in Ilijaš and Busovača had multiple goals. Not only to create a safe environment for the local population, but to create the opportunity for agriculture and livestock breeding while simultaneously developing the possibility of a lumber industry. In addition to economic benefits, there is also the social impact as returnees are able to rebuild their community.



FAO and IOM boost cooperation on migration

24 January 2018, Rome/Geneva - The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have signed a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). The new agreement will serve as a basis for FAO and IOM to mainstream a development approach in global initiatives and fora on migration, highlighting the importance of agricultural and rural development in the context of migration. It will also enable strengthened collaboration in strategic advocacy, generating and sharing knowledge, and advice on the design, implementation and monitoring of programmes countries adopt to include migration into their national development policies. Closer ties are crucial in view of intergovernmental negotiations leading to the adoption of the Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration (GCM) by the end of 2018. The Global Compacts to be crafted this year - one for migration and a separate one for refugees - will be the product of a country-led process and will provide a comprehensive set of common principles and approaches to improve, complement and reinforce policy frameworks at the national, regional and global level. IOM's focus lies on improving migration governance, through its worldwide network of field offices working on policy and technical assistance, capacity building and emergency response. FAO has a strong focus on addressing the drivers of irregular migration, and harnessing the development potential of migration by investing in job creation in rural areas of origin and increasing the stability and resilience of rural households. Both organizations call for explicit recognition of migration - both its causes and its potential - in national policies on climate change as well as rural development.



In Bogotá, UN Secretary-General Guterres expresses full support for peace process in Colombia

13 January 2018 - The purpose of Mr. Guterres' visit is to take stock of achievements that followed a peace agreement between the Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia-People's Army (FARC-EP) in November 2016, which ended 50 years of conflict. The UN chief also seeks to reinvigorate the implementation of the peace deal, including the process of reintegrating former rebel combatants into society, and ensure that Colombians are committed to stay the course.






IFRC releases emergency funds to fight influenza in DPRK

12 February 2018-Beijing / Kuala Lumpur / Geneva– The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has released 303,779 Swiss francs from its Disaster Response Emergency Fund to support the Red Cross of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) fight an outbreak of influenza A (H1N1).“Initial government figures point to a rapidly developing outbreak, affecting more than 178,000 people and causing four deaths between 1 December and 23 January,” says Gwendolyn Pang, acting head of IFRC’s country office in the DPRK. The Red Cross will improve basic hygiene by providing frontline health workers in 500 health facilities with disposable gloves and masks, surveillance in high risk communities, training volunteers and going door-to-door to spread health messages about the risks of influenza and how to prevent it. Older people visiting clinics will also be reached. Children in nurseries, kindergartens and schools are more vulnerable to influenza because they are in close contact with each other and may not use recommended coughing etiquette or have access to handwashing facilities. The Red Cross will provide 300 schools with soap and advice on handwashing.



Zambia: encouraging new results further demonstrate effectiveness of the single dose oral cholera vaccine

9February 2018 – In another promising development for people affected by large-scale cholera epidemics, recent data from Zambia’s 2016 cholera epidemic has highlighted that just one dose of oral vaccine provides effective short-term protection against the disease during an outbreak, similar to that of the currently recommended two doses. The results of the study – conducted by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the organization’s research arm, Epicentre, the Zambian Ministry Of Health (MOH), the Pasteur Institute and the World Health Organization (WHO) - were published in the 8 February edition of The New England Journal of Medicine. Previous studies have already shown the effectiveness of one dose of oral cholera vaccine, however they were conducted in countries that had recently experienced cholera. At the time of the 2016 outbreak, Zambia had not reported a case of cholera in four years. The results for children under five however, are still not clear, as there were few occurrences of the disease in children in the 2016 epidemic.  In April 2016, the Zambian MOH, supported by MSF and the WHO, implemented an emergency single-dose vaccination campaign in Lusaka. It targeted more than half a million people.  A global shortage of vaccines at the time led to the decision to provide one dose only, therefore allowing more people to be protected. 



Mother leaders strengthen village health in Burkina Faso

8February 2018 – Messages of health are spreading in Koulogho village, found in the Center-North region of Burkina Faso. Abibou Ouedraogo, 26, is raising her three young children there. While all of them are healthy, her youngest child is thriving the most, thanks to recently adopted health, hygiene, and nutrition best practices. Mothers in this and many parts of the country often don’t see the value in prenatal care and have little confidence in the recommended early childhood feeding practices. Instead, they are more likely to follow the practices they learned from their own mothers and community members. Many mothers in the village stopped exclusively breastfeeding their children before the crucial six-month period following birth and introduced solid foods too early. Because of these factors, their infants and children suffered from malnutrition and stunting, leading to damaging long-term effects. In 2015, Abibou started learning about health and nutrition from the Victory Against Malnutrition Project (ViM). This project, funded by USAID’s Office of Food for Peace and implemented by ACDI/VOCA and Save the Children, is reducing food insecurity in the Sanmatenga province of Burkina Faso by improving farmers’ incomes and household health and nutrition. After taking part in trainings offered by ViM, Abibou became one of 18 mother leaders in her village, and even trained her own group of seven women on practices like exclusive breastfeeding, enriching baby food with legumes, and seeking care for health, nutrition, and vaccinations for newborns.



Rotary gives $53.5 million to help eradicate polio

25 January 2018- Evanston, Illinois — With 22 confirmed cases in 2017 to date, and just one case in 2018, the world is on the brink of eradicating polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year. Rotary is giving $53.5 million in grants to support immunization and surveillance activities led by the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). More than half of the funds will support efforts to end polio in two of the three countries where polio remains endemic. Further funding will support efforts to keep 10 vulnerable countries polio-free. An additional $731,338 will fund research to be conducted by the World Health Organization (WHO), and another $518,000 will go toward technical assistance in West and Central Africa. Polio remains a threat in hard-to-reach and underserved areas and conflict zones. Despite a historically low case count, as long as a single child has polio, all children are at risk, which underscores the need for continued funding and political commitment to eradication. Rotary has committed to raising $150 million over the next three years, which will be matched 2-to-1 by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, yielding $450 million for polio eradication activities, including immunization and surveillance. Rotary started its polio eradication program PolioPlus in 1985, and in 1988 became a partner in the GPEI, along with WHO, UNICEF, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation later became a partner.



Afghanistan expands environmental surveillance

22January 2018– Afghanistan is increasing the drive to track and understand the movement of the polio virus by expanding environmental surveillance to all regions. At the end of 2017, a new environmental sampling site became operational in Kunduz province, becoming the 20th site since the collection and testing of sewage samples for poliovirus began in Afghanistan in 2013, with WHO support. In 2017, 317 sewage samples were collected from all sites, and 30 of these showed that the poliovirus was present. This insight means that the polio eradication team knows where the virus is, without relying on the identification of paralysed children. A sensitive surveillance system remains the cornerstone of polio eradication efforts. Environmental surveillance complements acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance which currently consists of a network of over 28 000 reporting volunteers and focal points, including health workers, teachers, religious leaders and traditional healers. Volunteers detect and report children showing signs of polio, such as floppy or weakened limbs with rapid-onset of paralysis. Finding and stopping every last strain of the poliovirus requires both sensitive AFP and environmental surveillance. Afghanistan is closer than ever to stopping poliovirus transmission as the virus is currently cornered into small, security-challenged parts of the country.




Energy and safety



Smart new method to manufacture organic solar cells

8 February 2018 - The ability to use cheap materials and simple manufacturing methods are two huge advantages of printed organic solar cells. Olle Inganas, professor at Linkoping University, is head of a research group that has now developed an even simpler method to manufacture solar cell modules. The results have been published in the scientific journal npj Flexible Electronics.



Driverless electric trucks to enter Sweden’s roads later this year

5 February  2018 - Founded in 2016, Einride has developed the T-pod, an electric truck that is not just able to operate autonomously, but does not even feature a driver’s seat. Without the cabin, more space is left for the drivetrain and freight. Powered by a 200 KWh battery, it can cover approximately 125 miles or 200 km on a single charge. Over that distance, it has space for 15 standard pallets, equal to 160 sq ft or 15 m2. Its maximum weight will be around 20 tons, and it will be sold at roughly $150,000 per unit.



Game over for coal: scientists nail down pesky perovskite solar cell problem

1 February  2018 - Remember back when plastic was a new and exciting thing? That’s more or less where we are with that other p-word, perovskites. Legions of scientists around the world have been trying to tease a durable solar cell out of this optically-promising but fussy material, and it looks like a team from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put its finger on the solution. (…) Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) created an environmentally stable, high-efficiency perovskite solar cell, bringing the emerging technology a step closer to commercial deployment. Do tell! The research team successfully tested a perovskite solar cell in ambient conditions without protection for 1,000 hours, and it retained 94% of its conversion efficiency.



Eco Marine Power testing solar sails for ocean going cargo ships

31 January 2018 - Japanese company Eco Marine Power is moving ahead with plans to equip ocean-going cargo ships with rigid sails embedded with solar panels. Called Energy sails, they will allow the ships to take advantage of both wind and solar power at sea and while in port to provide emissions-free loading and unloading energy capability. The EnergySails can be stowed during rough weather to avoid damage from wind and waves.




Environment and wildlife


Reaching an important milestone in reducing dangerous “ghost gear”

9 February 2018, Rome - In a historic decision, countries today agreed on a set of draft Voluntary Guidelines on Marking Fishing Gear taking a big step forward towards cleaner seas and safer navigation. It is expected that the guidelines will receive final endorsement by FAO's Committee on Fisheries (COFI) in July 2018. Made predominantly of plastic, fishing gear, when abandoned, lost or discarded at sea, is a significant component of marine debris and has been a concern of FAO Members for decades. Approximately eight million tonnes of plastic litter, up to ten percent of which is estimated to come from the fisheries sector, ends up in our oceans every year. These guidelines will help countries to develop effective systems for marking fishing gear so that it can be traced back to its original owner. Doing so will support efforts to reduce marine debris and its harmful impacts on the marine environment, fish stocks, and safe navigation. It will also allow local authorities to monitor how fishing gear is being used in their waters and who is using it, which makes them an efficient tool in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Over time, fishing nets left in the ocean may break down into micro-plastic pieces, which become accessible to a wide range of organisms including small fish and plankton, and may cause serious toxicological harm to marine wildlife. Considering the unacceptable levels of fishing gear debris in oceans, the global fishing industry and governments have recognized the urgency to address the issue across all relevant sectors, including the environment, fishery management and regulation. The Guidelines are global in scope, but countries recognize that making them work for small-scale fisheries in developing countries will require additional support to meet the new standards.



New Mark Z. Jacobson Study Draws A Roadmap To 100% Renewable Energy

8 February 2018 - Last August, Mark Jacobson, a renewable energy expert and senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University, was the leader of a study that identified how 139 countries around the world could obtain 100% of their energy from renewable sources by 2050. (…) They are now back with a new report they believe thoroughly addresses the concerns brought up by skeptics of the first report. It begins by breaking those 139 counties into 20 regions and proposing energy storage solutions uniquely suited to each region.



AEP’s clean energy strategy will achieve significant future carbon dioxide reductions

6 February 2018 -Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 06 /CSRwire/ - American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP) today released a report outlining the company’s strategy for a clean energy future. The strategy includes new carbon dioxide emission reduction goals and investments in renewable resources and advanced technologies to enhance the efficiency of the power grid. (…)AEP outlines a business strategy that will lead to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions from its power plants of 60 percent from 2000 levels by 2030 and 80 percent from 2000 levels by 2050. AEP expects to achieve its carbon dioxide emission reductions through a variety of actions including investments in renewable generation and advanced technologies; investment in transmission and distribution systems to enhance efficiency; increased use of natural gas generation; and expanded demand response and energy efficiency programs. (…) AEP’s resource plans include adding 3,065 megawatts (MW) of solar generation and 5,295 MW of wind generation to the portfolio serving its regulated utility customers by 2030. AEP’s largest planned renewable energy investment is the $4.5 billion, 2,000-megawatt Wind Catcher Energy Connection project in Oklahoma. If approved, Wind Catcher will be the largest contiguous wind farm in the U.S. and will deliver nearly 9 million megawatt-hours of low-cost wind energy annually to AEP customers in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas(…)



Agroforestry publication helps farmers decide which trees, where, for what purpose

3 February 2018 - In India, a new book published by the Central Agroforestry Research Institute of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, and the World Agroforestry Centre, will help farmers and planners know where to plant which trees. The publication compiles characteristics of useful trees to complement agroforestry policy and speed up its adoption throughout India. The book identifies 25 agroforestry species based on their usefulness for timber, fuel, fodder, fruit, biofuel, raw material for industrial use and medicinal ingredients.





Religion and spirituality


ASIA/LEBANON - Christian and Muslim leaders discuss the bill against early marriages

14 February 2018 – Kaslik (Agenzia Fides) - The different religious communities are called to confront themselves and to promote a reflection to review their own customs and community rules if they want to concretely contribute to overcoming the social practice of "early marriages". This is the perspective that emerged in the conference promoted Wednesday, February 13 at the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik (USEK), entitled "Protecting children from early marriages". The debate took its cue from the bill for the "protection of children from early marriage", presented to Parliament in March 2017 by MP Élie Keyrouz, that aims to establish the minimum age of marriage at 18. 



Asia/Turkey - A decree provides for the complete restitution of 30 ecclesiastical assets to the Syriac Orthodox Church

13 February 2018 - Mardin (Agenzia Fides) - A decree has ordered the full restitution of ecclesiastical assets scattered in the Mardin region to the Syriac Orthodox Church and that in 2017 had been placed under the control of Turkish public institutions. The attorney of the Foundation of the Monastery of Mor Gabriel, announced that the matter was the subject of a decree. 30 ecclesiastical assets will be returned to the foundations and to the organisms linked to the Syriac-Orthodox Church which previously belonged to them. Among the assets that will definitively be returned to the control of the Syriac Orthodox Church there are the three monasteries of Mor Melki, Mor Yakup and Mor Dimet.



Tabatinga/Brazil - New LaSallian community in the heart of the Amazon: "a return to the roots, with the poorest among the poor"

12 February 2018 - Tabatinga (Agenzia Fides) - The Brothers of the Christian Schools have opened a community in the heart of the Amazon, where they will be at the service, with their educational charisma, of mainly fishermen and indigenous peoples of mixed races. The initiative responds to the invitation of Pope Francis to be a "Church that goes forth", and to "a need of our general chapter of 2014, which asked each region to open a community in a 'border' place or 'suburb' ", as brother Cláudio Da Silva explained (…).

The Latin American region therefore coordinated the opening of the house in Tabatinga, at the invitation of the local Bishop, Mgr. Adolfo Zon, sending four brothers already resident in the region: a Venezuelan, Brazilian and two Colombians. The community was inaugurated on January 12th. After the first weeks the four LaSallian missionaries participated in a formation course on the Amazonian reality organized in Manaus by the Pan-Amazon Ecclesial Network (Repam), together with other religious who recently arrived in the area.

http://www.fides.org/en/news/63735-AMERICA_BRAZIL_New_LaSallian_community_in_the_heart_of_the_Amazon: a_return_to_the_roots_with the_poorest_among_the_poor


Evangelicals Join Interfaith Leaders in Washington to Promote Religious Tolerance

8 February 2018 - As hundreds of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders from the United States and abroad descended on Washington for a conference on religious tolerance this week, attendees were quick to note an unexpectedly large delegation from one particular religious group: evangelical Christians. Speakers at the “Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good” repeatedly highlighted their surprise and delight over the noticeable contingent of evangelicals among the more than 400 attendees at the glitzy, three-day series of discussions and speeches. The presence of so many evangelicals, a group often associated with a negative view of Islam, provided a welcome backdrop for an event aimed at championing tolerance, many said.



Love of the good and love of neighbor: celebrating UN World Interfaith Harmony Week

7 February 2018 - It was a Saturday afternoon, usually the busiest day of the week in Metro Manila. Streets were jammed as people went about their weekend activities and chores. Amidst the hustle and bustle, a motley group of people braved the traffic and converged in a humble center located in a quiet subdivision where The Peacemakers’ Circle was celebrating the UN World Interfaith Harmony Week. Several women in Muslim garb. Hare Krishna, with their musical instruments. Catholic priests. Young teachers. Students… One of the directors of the Peacemakers Circle is Indian; another, a teacher who belongs to an indigenous tribe from the North. From Japan came the directors of Shumei Philippines, a Shinto inspired organization promoting natural agriculture. The group represented different faith traditions practiced in the Philippines— Buddhist, Hindu, Catholic, Muslim, Baha’i—and even from a non- denominational spiritual group, The Community for the Message of Silo. Together they shared a simple yet heartfelt afternoon, sharing with each other their chants and prayers, their faiths’ beliefs and insights, on the theme of Loving God, Loving One’s Neighbor. Seven years ago, King Abdullah II of Jordan proposed a World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Plenary Session of the 65th United Nations General Assembly in New York City.  A month later, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, Special Advisor and Personal Envoy to the King Abdullah II and author of the resolution, presented the proposal before the UN General Assembly in New York. The Resolution was adopted unanimously. The World Interfaith Harmony Week is based on the pioneering work of The Common Word initiative which called for dialogue between Muslim and Christian leaders based on two common fundamental religious Commandments– Love of God, and Love of the Neighbor– without having to compromise any of their own religious beliefs. These two commandments are at the heart of the three monotheistic religions and can provide solid theological ground for dialogue. By extending it to ‘Love of the Good, and Love of the Neighbor’, this dialogue allows all people of goodwill, those of other faiths, and even those with no religious faith, to be included.



Meditation is indipendent of any religious practice (Religious Landscape Study)

4 February 2018 - Unlike popular perception, meditation is not the principal characteristic of Eastern religions alone. It is a secular activity and found across almost all belief systems. Meditation is common in many religions. Meditation and religion are different and independent of each other. There is no need to believe in metaphysics to meditate. In fact, meditation becomes better when it is decoupled from religion. Unlike religion, meditation does not mean imaginary, amorphous concepts. The practice wakes people up. Then again, it depends on the individual to believe in religion. If it leads to a better meditation practice, so be it. The Religious Landscape Study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2014 finds that among all religious groups, Hindus and Buddhists meditate the most. Among the survey respondents, two-thirds told they meditate at least once every week. In contrast, a number of Christians also admit to meditating once every week. When broken up, about 49 percent of the evangelical Protestants, approximately 40 percent of the Catholics, and about 55 percent of black Protestants said they meditate at least once every week. Both Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormon Church encourage their followers to meditate. Meditation is found in mainstream Judaism as well. The word “Qabalah” means both receive and reveal. The Qabalah students transform their respective essential inner natures with their essential external Nature. These are done by internalizing the symbols and then absorbing the characteristics via meditation. Meditation is common in Islam. Sufism is a strain among Islam which draws from a broad range of esoteric traditions like Pythagoras, Zoroastrian, and Hermetic. The rich and deep literary tradition emphasizes allegory, poetry, and symbolism.




Culture and education


UNESCO Presents the Global Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation Policy Instruments (GO-SPIN) at the 3rd Forum on STI in Africa, Cairo, Egypt, 10-12 Feb, 2018.

11 February 2018 - More than 40 participants attended the event. The Honorable Ministers responsible for Science and Technology of the Central African Republic, Liberia and Nigeria were among the participants.

The director of UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science for the Arab States opened the session and the  Chief or Section on Science Policy and Partnerships at UNESCO Headquarters moderated the high -level panel. Panelists representing the Department of Research, Science and Technology of Botswana, the Observatory for STI in Egypt, as well as the African Union’s African Observatory of Science, Technology and Innovation (AOSTI), discussed the implementation of GO-SPIN and its impact on National and regional STI systems in Africa. The progress and data requirements were detailed, and National experiences with the instrument in Egypt and Botswana, and the regional experience in Africa highlighted. The representative of the Egypt STI Observatory announced the interest in completing the process towards a GO-SPIN country profile for his country.  A similar plan was declared by the representatives of other countries including Liberia.



Pontifical university offers new youth protection degree program

10 February 2018 - Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University will begin offering a two-year licentiate course in protecting minors, a move Fr. Hans Zollner SJ, said is a sign of the progress the Church has made in terms of abuse-awareness and prevention. The two-year course will launch in October 2018 as an interdisciplinary university degree. Classes will be taught in English, and those who enroll will also participate in an internship based on their respective academic backgrounds. The first semester will be dedicated to exploring the work of safeguarding minors, while the second will dig deeper into more theoretical study of what ‘safeguarding’ fully means. In the third semester students will participate in internships, and the final semester will be dedicated to writing a thesis. The objective of the diploma course is to form people who will eventually become child protection officers for dioceses, religious congregations, and similar organizations, as well as advisers and trainers in the field of safeguarding.



Concerted efforts needed to overcome systemic Bias preventing women, girls from pursuing science, Secretary-General says in International Day video message

8 February - Following is the text of UN Secretary‑General António Guterres’ video message on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, observed on 11 February, aired in New York today:” Both girls and boys have the potential to pursue their ambitions in science and mathematics, in school and at work. But, systemic discrimination means women occupy less than 30 per cent of research and development jobs worldwide. We need concerted, concrete efforts to overcome stereotypes and biases.  One starting point is banishing the predominantly male images of scientists and innovators on social media, in textbooks and in advertising. We need to encourage and support girls and women to achieve their full potential as scientific researchers and innovators.  Women and girls need this — and the world needs this — if we are to achieve our ambitions for sustainable development on a healthy planet. Throughout history, from Hildegard of Bingen to Wangari Maathai, women scientists have built our world. It’s time to support and invest in them”.



World leaders pledge continued support for education in Dakar

2February 2018 – Throughout the day, governments from all around the world made commitments on continued education financing both at home and through contributions to the Global Partnership for Education. At its Replenishment Conference in Dakar, Senegal, governments pledged to continue making funds available to give every child the chance to go to school and to learn. Juliet Wajega, Deputy General Secretary of Uganda’s National Teachers Union (UNATU) and member of the GPE Board, who addressed the conference on behalf of Education International, impressed the importance of teachers in achieving quality education for all on delegates. “We can meet the many challenges affecting our schools together,” she said, “but there is a massive shortage of qualified teachers. Many people will advocate for education, sitting comfortably in their offices, in the major capital cities. It is the teaching profession that is on the front line in the fight for equality and for better education for all, and our expertise is vital to efforts to improve education practice and policies.”



Korean Youtube Star Great Library sounds alarm on rise of global hunger

26 January 2018, Seoul -   The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and Korean YouTube celebrity Mr. Great Library (Dong-Hyun Na) have launched the “Player Unknown’s ShareTheMeal” campaign to alert the public about the rapid increase in the number of hungry people around the world.  The campaign imitates a famous first-person shooter computer game, “Player Unknown’s Battle Ground”, but instead of glorifying violence it urges viewers to stop fighting and “Share The Meal” with others, referring to WFP’s fundraising app by the same name. The parody stresses that conflict must end if we are to create a world where everyone has enough to eat.  Great Library is a South Korean YouTube celebrity who reviews computer games, with more than 1.6 million subscribers. Great Library was a TV show host introducing jobs on Korean Education Broadcasting System (EBS) in 2016 when he became interested in WFP and global hunger issues after interviewing the Head of WFP’s Seoul office and has been regularly promoting WFP and Zero Hunger during his daily live YouTube shows and participated in WFP Seoul office’s “Draw Your Faces in the Zero” campaign with his fans commemorating World Food Day (October 16) in 2016. WFP’s ShareTheMeal app engages millennials around the world to take part in the fight against hunger. This mobile-first fundraising tool allows users to feed a child with just a tap on their device with as little as US$0.50. Since launching two years ago, more than 900,00 people have joined the community worldwide.




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Next issue: 9th March 2018.


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: Fabio Gatti (fabio.gatti@goodnewsagency.org). Editorial research by Fabio Gatti, Isabella Strippoli, Elisa Minelli, Salvatore Caruso Motta, Chiara Damilano, Francesco Viglienghi, Carlo Toraldo, Andrea Landriscina, Nazzarella Franco. Webmaster, media and NGO coverage: Simone Frassanito (simone.frassanito@goodnewsagency.org


Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to media and editorial journalists of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations, NGOs, service associations, high schools and colleges as well as over 26,000 Rotarians around the world.


It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered, not-for-profit educational charity chartered in Italy in 1979 The Association operates for the development of consciousness and promotes a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective based on unity in diversity and on sharing. It is based in Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy. The Association is a member of the World Association of Non Governmental Organizations.


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

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