Good News Agency – Year X, n° 157


Weekly - Year X, number 157 – 12th June 2009

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph. D.

Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.           

 “…In conveying the appreciation of the Head of State for the passion and the professionalism with which you spread, above all among the young, the culture of "good news", I would like to take this opportunity of adding my personal greeting”. (From the letter of the Adviser for the Press and Information of the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, to the Editor of Good News Agency, 12 October 2007.)



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 the editorial offices of 5,000 media in 49 countries and to 2,800 NGOs and 500 high schools, colleges and universities. It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace” and it has been included in the web site




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education

In a global perspective: illiteracy and child labour decreases, hunger diminishes



International legislation



UN Secretary-General congratulates Lebanon on peaceful parliamentary polls

8 June - Congratulating Lebanon on its peaceful parliamentary elections over the weekend, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today urged all Lebanese people to cooperate “in the spirit of coexistence and democracy.” (...) Both yesterday’s polls and the formation of a new Government “represent further important steps along the path of the revitalization of the State’s political institutions,” the statement added. The Secretary-General also noted that he looks forward to the “full consolidation” of Lebanon’s stability, unity and political independence in line with the Taif Accord, the 1989 deal that followed the country’s protracted civil war, and Security Council resolutions. (...) “The general improvement of the situation in the country, combined with reconciliation efforts in the region, creates a potential momentum to strengthen the sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon and Government control throughout the country,” Mr. Ban writes in the report, which focuses on the implementation of resolution 1559. Adopted by the Security Council in 2004 amid concern about high tensions within Lebanon, the resolution calls for free and fair elections, an end to foreign interference and the disbanding of all militias.


Fight against drugs and crime in south-east Europe gets boost with UN pact

21 May - Tackling the challenges posed by illicit drugs and organized crime in south-east Europe is one of the major priorities of a new agreement boosting cooperation between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Regional Cooperation Council (RCC). (...) The memorandum of understanding signed today in Vienna between the two bodies lays out the basis for technical assistance, as well as facilitating the sharing of knowledge and best practices in order to build security and the rule of law in the region. Franz Baumann, UNODC’s Acting Deputy Executive Director, said the pact will pave the way for closer integration of south-east Europe with the rest of the continent. Among other things, the memorandum aims to strengthen national criminal justice systems and the protection of human rights, while promoting the independence and integrity of institutions by tackling corruption.

It will also include efforts to address money-laundering and the financing of terrorism, as well as asset recovery, in addition to support for the prevention and treatment of drug-related problems, including the spread of HIV/AIDS. A number of joint activities are planned between UNODC and the RCC - a body launched in February to succeed the Stability Pact for South-eastern Europe - including in the areas of training, research and awareness raising.


Nepal: senior UN official lauds Supreme Court reforms

19 May - The top United Nations human rights official in Nepal today welcomed Supreme Court reforms initiated by the fledgling democracy’s newly appointed Chief Justice. Among the measures aimed at enhancing transparency in its system of jurisprudence, Chief Justice Bahadur Rayamajhi has established a Court Decisions Enforcement Directorate. A telephone hotline for people to register complaints about irregularities within the judicial system has also been set up along with the installation of CCTV in the Supreme Court. In a report released last month, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that progress has been made in Nepal’s peace process, including steps towards drafting a new constitution, but warned that differences among key political parties continues to impede the consolidation of peace. (...)



Human rights



World Day Against Child Labour – 12 June 2009

Geneva - The annual World Day Against Child Labour will be marked by events in scores of countries around the world on 12 June amid growing concerns over the impact of the economic crisis on child labour, and in particular girls. For the World Day, the ILO will release a new report entitled “Give Girls a Chance: Tackling child labour, a key to the future,” highlighting the exploitation of girls in child labour and warning that the crisis could force more girls out of education and into child labour. The report by the International Programme on the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) of the International Labour Office (ILO) will provide latest estimates on the number of girls in child labour and detail the exploitative forms of child labour facing them.

This year’s World Day also marks the tenth anniversary of the adoption of ILO Convention No. 182 on the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.


Committee on Rights of Child holds fifty-first session in Geneva from 25 May to 12 June 2009

Situation of Children’s Rights in France, Sweden, Mauritania, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Niger, Romania and Oman to be Reviewed.

22 May - The Committee on the Rights of the Child will meet at the Palais Wilson in Geneva from 25 May to 12 June to review the promotion and protection of children's rights under the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in France, Sweden, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Niger and Romania. The Committee will also review efforts made by Slovenia and Oman with regard to their implementation of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Committee was formed in 1991 to monitor the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which gives a comprehensive collection of children's rights the force of international law.


Good practices in legislation to address harmful practices against women

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 25-28 May - The United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDAW/DESA) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) convened an expert group meeting on good practices in legislation to address harmful practices, to be held at the United Nations at Addis Ababa, from 25 to 28 May 2009.

The expert group meeting was a follow up to an expert group meeting organized by UNDAW/DESA and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Vienna, from 26 to 28 May 2008, on good practices in legislation on violence against women. That meeting prepared a model framework for legislation on violence against women, including detailed recommendations, commentaries and examples of promising practices. The framework contains two types of recommendations: those that are applicable to all forms of violence against women; and those that are specific to domestic violence or sexual violence. The purpose of this expert group meeting was to further develop the framework by elaborating specific recommendations for legislation on harmful practices against women. (...)


Australia agrees to make sure that all people in detention are treated well

22 May -  The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomes today’s announcement by the federal Attorney-General that Australia has signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

“This is an important international agreement,” said Commission President Catherine Branson QC. “By signing this agreement, Australia has agreed that all places where people are kept in detention should be monitored to make sure that the treatment of those in detention meets human rights standards.”

There are many places of detention in Australia - including prisons, juvenile detention institutions, police stations, locked psychiatric wards, immigration detention centres and aged care hostels where residents are detained involuntarily. “The fair and humane treatment of people in detention is a fundamental human right. People who are deprived of their liberty are vulnerable and too often we hear of breaches of detainee’s human rights,” Ms Branson said.


Advancing the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: The Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues

United Nations, 18 May - Some 2,000 indigenous representatives from all regions of the world have gathered here for the eighth session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues. Government representatives, civil society, academia, some 35 UN system bodies and other inter-governmental organizations are also engaged in the Forum, which will focus on implementation of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Other key topics are the relationship between indigenous peoples and industrial corporations and the situation of indigenous peoples in the Arctic, including the serious impact of climate change in that region. (...)By taking into account different world views, including different religious and ethical values and cultural backgrounds, the culturally sensitive and human rights-based approaches adopted by UNFPA encourages finding locally grown solutions in order to ensure ownership and sustainability of development efforts, and advance human rights. (...)



Economy and development



First European research con Microfinance: 2-3-4 June 2009 - Brussels, Belgium

The microfinance sector is developing at a rapid pace creating a growing demand for experienced professionals but also precise academic research within microfinance and credit institutions, banks and development investment funds in Europe and abroad.

In partnership with the Centre for European Research in Microfinance (CERMi), the European Microfinance Platform (e-MFP) has the great pleasure to organize the First European Research Conference on Microfinance, with the purpose of establishing the state of the art in the field.

The First European Research Conference on Microfinance aims at providing researchers with an opportunity to present their work, discuss it with senior researchers and exchange ideas with international colleagues. A Call for Papers has been launched to this extent, with the purpose of presenting the best papers during the workshops. (...)


Reward for conserving crops

11 projects announced in Tunis to receive grants from treaty on food plant genes.

Rome/Tunis, 2 June - Eleven developing countries that conserve food seeds and other genetic material from major crops will receive more than $500 000 to support their efforts according to an announcement made today in Tunis at a high-level meeting of the governing body of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources in Food and Agriculture. Grants are to be awarded to projects in Egypt, Kenya, Costa Rica, India, Peru, Senegal, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Cuba, Tanzania and Morocco. It is the first time funds have become available under the benefit-sharing scheme of the Treaty, designed to compensate farmers in developing countries for their role in conserving crop varieties.

The projects were chosen from hundreds of applications and come on stream thanks to the generous donations of Norway, Italy, Spain and Switzerland in support of agriculture and food security. The projects to be supported include: on-farm protection of citrus agro-biodiversity in Egypt, the genetic enhancement and revitalization of finger millet in Kenya and the conservation of indigenous potato varieties in Peru. For a full list of projects supported click here.


First fruits of plant gene pact

Delegates from 120 nations in Tunis to share benefits of treaty on food plant genes.

Rome/Tunis, 1 June 2009, - For the first time, farmers in poor countries are to be rewarded under a binding international treaty for conserving and propagating crop varieties that could prove to be the saviour of global food security over the coming decades. A new benefit-sharing scheme, part of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, is to come on stream thanks to the generous donations of several governments that will support five such farmers’ projects. They will be announced at a meeting of the Treaty’s Governing Body is Tunis this week from more than 300 applications submitted by farmers, farmer’s organisations and research centres mainly from Africa, Asia and Latin America.

It is the first time that financial benefits are being transferred under the Treaty which was agreed in 2004. (...) The first batch of projects are to receive around $250 000. Norway, Italy, Spain and Switzerland have contributed the funds as seed money for the benefit-sharing scheme.


Rural Africa can grow the continent out of poverty

IFAD President keynote speaker at Africa Day celebrations hosted by Italy’s President.

Rome, 28 May - As poor people across Africa struggle with the effects of last year’s food and fuel crises and the current global economic downturn, their plight took centre stage today at a panel discussion featuring top Italian officials and international leaders, including Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

The panel on the challenges and opportunities facing Africa was hosted by Giorgio Napolitano, President of Italy, to commemorate Africa Day at the presidential palace here. Other speakers were Giulio Tremonti, Minister of Economy and Finance; Romano Prodi, UN Secretary-General Special Representative and of the African Union for Peace-keeping in Africa; Jean Ping, President of the African Union Commission and Pier Carlo Padoan, Vice Secretary-General of the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development. “Poverty and hunger are inhuman and cannot be tolerated,” said Nwanze. “Food security is not just a moral obligation; it underpins national, regional and global security. Without food security, the world is not secure,” he noted.

Africa has been hit hard by the food, fuel and financial crises which today threaten to undo the economic progress achieved in the past 15 years. During that time, countries in the region set in motion major reforms, often at great sacrifice. Those efforts, combined with the global expansion and high demand for commodities, had begun to reap rewards. Africa was recording more than 5 per cent economic growth, giving renewed hope to its people that poverty could in time be eradicated. But now, the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the proportion of people living on less than US$1 a day by 2015 is becoming more like a mirage for many African countries. (...)






Zimbabwe: ICRC distributes food to thousands of detainees

Geneva/Harare, 5 June (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has started distributing food to 6,300 detainees. It continues to assess needs in prisons and stands ready to assist where required. Working with the Zimbabwean authorities, the ICRC has also set up therapeutic feeding programmes and begun improving cooking facilities and water supply systems inside prisons. (...) Once the food situation has stabilized, the ICRC will continue to assess the overall conditions of detention. (…) The ICRC will work with the authorities to ensure that improvements achieved in the food situation inside prisons are maintained. (...)!OpenDocument


Food provides critical lifeline and stability for Pakistan displaced

Rome, 4 June - The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is streaming critically needed food assistance to more than two million displaced people in Pakistan and helping to bring stability to the region through an innovative system which is helping to feed and protect victims.

“Food is a basic building block for life, and in Pakistan it goes beyond immediate nourishment by providing peace and stability to the human tide of people uprooted by conflict,” said WFP’s Executive Director, Josette Sheeran. WFP was already feeding 6.2 million people in Pakistan before the recent crisis, including 510,000 girls attending school.

WFP - in cooperation with the Government of Pakistan and the UN refugee agency, UNHCR - has devised a ‘service point’ approach to distributing food and other relief assistance through “humanitarian hubs” in protected areas close to the homes of displaced families. (...)


Caritas aid getting through in Sri Lanka

4 June - Caritas is supporting 48,000 people who had been forced from their homes in Sri Lanka during fighting in the north of the country. With the end of hostilities, Caritas Sri Lanka is able to provide food and other food items as well as counselling and medical support.

Conditions in the camps for the 280,000 people displaced by the conflict remain basic, with special concerns over poor sanitation and access to clean drinking water. Vulnerable groups such as the elderly, pregnant mothers and children are a major concern. Between the 24 and 27 May, 14 people over the age of 70 died in camps in one area, primarily due to lack of care and extreme heat.

Latest reports indicate that releasing elders is to begin on 5 June. More than 2,500 applications have been approved. Caritas Sri Lanka staff and community organisers are organizing the cooking and distribution of food to the camps. They have set up 12 community kitchens in camps in Chettikulam. Community support has been remarkable with the active involvement of local parishes that have provided up to 10,000 food parcels a day. (...)


Pakistan: ICRC and Pakistan Red Crescent substantially expanding operations

Geneva/Islamabad, 4 June (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is stepping up its support for people affected by fighting in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). The organization will work closely with the Pakistan Red Crescent Society and other partners within the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. (...) The humanitarian crisis under way in the NWFP has forced over two million people to flee their homes over the last few weeks. Up to 120,000 displaced people (IDPs) are living in camps, but most have found refuge in host families, rented accommodation and makeshift shelters all over Pakistan. The ICRC, the Pakistan Red Crescent and other Movement partners plan to help a total of 380,000 displaced people in the coming weeks and months. (...)

The ICRC is also reinforcing the capacity of its surgical hospital in Peshawar and, given the influx of wounded people in the area, intends to set up a similar facility in Quetta. (...) Following today’s appeal, the ICRC budget for its Pakistan operation will stand at over 90 million Swiss francs, making the operation the ICRC’s third largest worldwide.


Save the Children brings relief to stranded survivors of Cyclone Aila in Bangladesh and India

Westport, Conn., USA, 1 June - Save the Children is addressing acute water shortages and other needs endangering many of the approximately 9 million people affected by Cyclone Aila, which hit southwestern Bangladesh and eastern India on May 25 and killed close to 300 people. The floodwaters have partially receded, but some villages remain underwater, others are flooded twice daily with the high tide, and seawater contamination of freshwater supplies is a widespread problem. In Bangladesh, Save the Children is operating five water treatment plants and is distributing tens of thousands of gallons of purified water daily. Diarrhea and other waterborne diseases are a major concern, with young children among the most vulnerable. (...)


Cyclone Aila strikes Bangladesh – ADRA launches response

Silver Spring, Md., USA, 2 June - Cyclone Aila made landfall on the southwestern coast of Bangladesh on May 25 killing approximately 180 people, displacing more than 500,000, and destroying homes, businesses, and thousands of acres of cropland, said the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA). (...) On June 1, ADRA distributed emergency supplies to survivors within the severely affected sub-district of Tala, in Satkhira District near the border with India, providing assistance to 1,200 families, including rice, lentils, rice, sugar, salt, oral rehydration salts, and water purification tablets. According to ADRA staff on the ground, severe food and water shortages have affected many villages. In some low-lying areas, seawater has contaminated water supplies, leaving communities with little or no access to drinking water. (...) Local officials stated that ADRA was the first aid organization to distribute relief supplies in the region since the cyclone hit. ADRA’s emergency response group remains on-site, and continues to survey and monitor the situation.


Romania: new home for abused women provides safety

Silver Spring, Md., USA, 2 June - To combat the prevalence of domestic violence in Romania, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) inaugurated a new shelter called ADRA House near the capital of Bucharest, on May 21. The center, which is located in Ilfov County, a rural area outside Bucharest, can accommodate up to 24 guests and is equipped with separate reception and counseling offices to better meet the needs of its residents. At the shelter, beneficiaries receive social and psychological evaluations, a medical check-up, access to social and legal services, and psychological counseling. In addition, ADRA helps ADRA House residents find employment and a new home where they can live once their stay is complete. Beneficiaries can also request ADRA to monitor their individual case for up to one year after their departure from the shelter to ensure their continued safety. (...)

ADRA is a non-governmental organization present in 125 countries providing sustainable community development and disaster relief without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity.


ACT Alliance: Giant global humanitarian body to be created

29 May - Church-based emergency and development organisations are about to create one of the world’s biggest networks. The name of the new body will be the ACT Alliance with a common income of more than US$2 billion dollars and a staff of 40,000, including volunteers. The formal launch of the new alliance will take place in March of next year in Malawi.

The General Assembly of ACT Development, holding its meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina has decided to unify with the emergency network, ACT International. Both alliances are based in Geneva, bringing together more than 150 agencies, churches and organisations.

Through emergency appeals, ACT International coordinates humanitarian operations all over the world, and has been recently active in hot spots like Sri Lanka, Gaza, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Colombia and India. ACT Development works on long-term development issues and coordinates work in areas such as aid effectiveness, impact assessment and malaria. The members of the alliances come from both the global north and south. (...)


CARE provides critical assistance for the second wave of people fleeing the former conflict zone in Sri Lanka

Geneva, 20 May - With the end of the war in northern Sri Lanka, a second wave of more than 80,000 people are fleeing the former conflict zone and are in desperate need of food, water and shelter. As people arrive by the thousands to the camps for displaced people in Vavuniya, CARE is working with the government, United Nations and other aid agencies to provide enough tents, emergency supplies and water. With the new arrivals, the total number of people in the camps will eventually be nearly 280,000 people. People are arriving in the camps hungry and severely dehydrated after months in the conflict zone, and have nothing but the clothes on their backs.

CARE work crews are working around the clock building tents, latrines, water distribution stands, and providing water and emergency supplies to people in the camps. CARE has provided assistance for nearly 40,000 people so far. (...)



Peace and security



UN Secretary-General ‘encouraged’ by progress in Iraq

8 June - The successful and mostly peaceful polls earlier this year and an agreement on a new Speaker of Parliament are among the “encouraging signs of progress” Iraq has witnessed in recent months, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in a new report. Following the January provincial elections, “we witnessed local democratic processes at work with the formation of political alliances to allow the selection of governors and their deputies in each of the 14 governorates that held elections,” Mr. Ban says, expressing hope that “this will serve to promote greater accountability in local governance institutions.” Additionally, the Iraqi Security Forces continued to show they can assume stepped up security responsibilities, he notes. “Those developments underscore a general positive trend in the country on both the political and security fronts,” the report says. (...) “Iraq’s recovery is entering a new phase, with the Government leading the effort and shifting from a multi-donor trust fund to an emphasis on bilateral donor relations,” it adds, noting that the UN will now focus on sustainable social and economic development. “A healthy economy, jobs, services and a functioning government system are the benefits of good democratic governance,” the Secretary-General writes. (...)


UN-backed ‘Smile Darfur’ campaign wraps up with call to end violence

7 June - The week-long “Smile Darfur” outreach scheme, backed by the joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping mission in the war-torn Sudanese region, has wrapped up with a call for peace and an end to the violence. At yesterday’s closing ceremony for “Ibtasim [Smile] Darfur,” Henry Anyidoho, Deputy Joint Special Representative of the mission, known as UNAMID, urged Darfurians, as well as all Sudanese, to “join your hands and hearts together to work for the peace, development and prosperity of your land.” (…)

“Smile Darfur” was part of the celebrations to mark this year’s International Day of Peacekeepers on 29 May, the date in 1948 when the first UN peacekeeping mission, the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), began operations in Palestine.


US State Department funds Clear Path International programs in Vietnam & Cambodia

Posted by: James Hathaway

Washington, D.C., 5 June - The U.S. Department of State’s Office of Weapons Removal & Abatement has approved matching grants totaling $177,000 for Clear Path International’s humanitarian mine action programs in Vietnam and Cambodia.

The largest grant of $127,000 will be used to fund efforts that assist survivors of accidents with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) in central Vietnam. The second grant of $50,000 will be used for CPI’s rice mill enterprise for landmine survivors in Battambang, Cambodia, where its beneficiaries receive training, microcredit and crop processing services.

The two grants are matched by financial contributions from the private sector, including the McKnight Foundation of Minneapolis, the Johnson & Widdifield Charitable Trust, the Seattle-based law firm Marler Clark and the Dutch charity Stichting Mensenkinderen. (...)


DR Congo police receive UN training ahead of local elections

3 June - The United Nations has begun training the first of some 75,000 policemen in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in preparation for local elections, the world body’s peacekeeping mission there said. The mission, known as MONUC, said much of the training is an update of a course already received by members of the Congolese National Police (PNC) in previous years. The instruction includes the management of queues in front of polling stations, the escort and transport of the material to the local centres of compilation and the evacuation of currently illegally occupied buildings, MONUC said. The aim of the first stage of the programme is to train 2,578 agents from the various police stations of Kinshasa, who will be deployed in 143 registration centres in the capital for a revision of the electoral rolls. The training will continue at a national level in the coming weeks starting with the PNC of Bas-Congo. The revision of the electoral roll, regarded as the first step towards the next local elections, begins on 7 June in Kinshasa and in Bas-Congo, and on 3 August in the nine other provinces.


Former Somali army officers to meet for UN-backed talks in US capital

3 June - Former senior army officers from Somalia are slated to meet in Washington D.C. tomorrow for United Nations-backed talks aimed at bolstering security institutions in the strife-torn nation. The two-day gathering, arranged with the support of the Somali Ministry of Defence and the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), will look at the structure of Somalia’s military before the collapse of the State and the best ways to address the country’s current and future security needs. (...) Stressing that this is a “great opportunity for Somalis to find within their past some solutions for the future,” Mr. Ould-Abdallah noted that the former Somali military officers participating in this meeting are respected for their experience in training soldiers from other African nations. UNPOS said in a press release that the meeting will serve to prepare for follow-up discussions with Somalia’s top military officials, expected to take place in late July, as part of the Government’s commitment under the Djibouti Agreement to strengthen its defence forces. (…)


Voter registration in Kurdistan off to good start – UN envoy

1 June - The United Nations envoy to Iraq has congratulated the election officials and people of the Northern Region of Kurdistan “for completing a successful and peaceful first week of the voter registration” for next month’s regional elections. Staffan de Mistura, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Iraq, said 89 voter registration update centres successfully opened across the Northern Region of Kurdistan (KRG) and in Baghdad, according to a news release issued by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). In addition, nearly 40,480 people visited the centres during the first week to verify or correct their information so that they are properly registered to vote in the KRG elections on 25 July. Mr. de Mistura said that the turnout and participation in the voter registration update in the KRG is a “positive signal” for greater participation in the national voter registration update scheduled to begin in early August for the Council of Representatives election in January 2010. (...)


EU Heads of State receive Desktop Peace Pole for their Offices

Prime Ministers, Presidents or Chancellors of all 27 European Community member states received a present this month of the World Peace Prayer Society Europe and its sister organisation, the Goi Peace Foundation Europe:  a 50 cm Desktop Peace Pole with an peace message on each of its four sides. Two sides of these wooden pillars were engraved in the respective country`s national language saying “May Peace be in ....(name of the country) and “May Peace Prevail on Earth”. The other two sides feature the peace message in English.

In their letter to the 27 Prime Ministers and Presidents the World Peace Prayer Society and the Goi Peace Foundation mention that the peace poles shall not only inspire the leaders`daily mission of peace but also commemorate the 20th anniversary of the fall of the iron curtain as this historical moment enabled the reunification of Western and Eastern European countries to one unique body - The European Union.

Peace Poles (in its usual length of 2,50 meters) are an international project with more than 250.000 to be found in universities, schools, parks, churches, townhalls, at the United Nations, the World Bank in Washington, the OPEC office in Vienna or the Pentagon :Chapel to just name a few. More information about peace poles can be obtained at:  (US office) or

  (European office).


Stockpile destruction signals end for cluster munitions

New report looks at government engagement on ban treaty.

Geneva, Switzerland, 29 May - Several states that have signed the new international treaty prohibiting cluster munitions have already started to destroy their stockpiles of the weapon, even before the treaty formally takes effect, according to Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice, a 288-page report released today. The report is being issued one year after the conclusion of the negotiations of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Dublin, Ireland on 30 May 2008. (...) The new report documents, on a country-by-country basis, how and why such dramatic shifts occurred. Many treaty signatories are expected to complete destruction of their stockpiles earlier than the eight-year deadline imposed by the convention. Spain completed destruction of its stockpiled cluster munitions in March 2009, the first to do so since signing the treaty. Several other signatories have begun to destroy their stockpiles of cluster munitions including Austria, Belgium, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. (...)


More Japanese aid for de-mining in Sri Lanka

Colombo, 26 May - The government of Japan has decided to provide additional aid worth US$ 1.4 million for de-mining in northern Sri Lanka. The Japanese Embassy in Colombo announced today that they expect to provide these funds through the Danish De-mining Group (DDG) and the HALO Trust. The funds are allocated for demining in recently liberated areas in Jaffna, Kilinochchi and Vavuniya. This will be the second time this year that the Japanese government assists Sri Lanka with de-mining. Earlier the Japanese government provided a grant of US$ 700,000 for humanitarian de-mining in Mannar through FSD (Swiss Foundation for Mine Action).

The total contribution from Japan for de-mining activities in the North therefore reaches US$ 2.1 million, the Embassy said.






Countries go all-out against polio

Almost a quarter of a billion children vaccinated in 10 days.

5 June - In the last 10 days of May, a total of 222,270,331 children in 22 countries were immunized against polio. This included more than 74 million children in 11 west African countries immunized by 400,000 polio vaccinators last weekend in a synchronized response to a wild poliovirus outbreak from northern Nigeria that has swept as far westwards as Guinea.

A further 70 million children in northern India, 29 million in Pakistan and 49 million children in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, DR Congo, Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen and Nepal received oral polio vaccine.


Polio eradication in historic US Presidential speech

4 June - In his main address in Cairo during his visit to the Middle East, US President Barack Obama highlighted the old and complex bonds between cultures and religions and spoke of the cooperative effort to eradicate polio. “Today I am announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to eradicate polio,” President Obama told millions of viewers watching the historic address around the world. The 21-year Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) has reduced the incidence of polio by 99% worldwide. A partnership of national governments, international organizations and the private sector, the GPEI works to conduct surveillance for polio and vaccinate hundreds of millions of children every year against the paralyzing disease. Of the four countries where endemic polio survives, three are members of the OIC. Furthermore, of the fifteen countries that have reported polio re-infections in 2009, 10 are OIC members. (...)

Final challenges remain in the four endemic countries of Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Indonesian clubs help 2,000 children with cleft lip

by Peter Schmidtke

Rotary International News, 4 June - Syahrul Gunawan looked in the mirror and touched the reflection of his nose and lips. The seven-year-old boy, who had received surgery for clefts on both sides of his upper lip, smiled at his mother and exclaimed how handsome he was. Thalca Hamid from the Rotary Club of Surabaya Central, Indonesia, recalls how the boy’s mother told Hamid she had given her son a normal life. (…) Gunawan was among the first children in 2001 who received cleft lip or palate surgeries through the efforts of Hamid and the Surabaya Central club. Since then, 2,000 children have undergone surgery with help from Australian, Dutch, and Indonesian Rotarians, among others.

Two Matching Grants have aided this effort, the most recent of which was cosponsored by District 1610 (The Netherlands). This second, US$45,000 project provided surgeries to 149 impoverished children in 2006-07.

Hamid, an orthodontist, and two other Surabaya Central Rotarians arranged patient transportation, educated parents about postsurgical care, and provided children with books and toys. Rotarians also recruited local villagers to talk to rural families who may not realize the benefits of the surgery. (...)


Korean, Greek Rotarians mark a first in polio eradication

by Joseph Derr

Rotary International News, 3 June - A team of Rotarians from Korea and one from Greece became the first from their respective countries to volunteer during a National Immunization Day (NID), which occurred 1-2 March. Working with local teams from numerous agencies, the volunteer groups administered drops of oral polio vaccine to children in two regions of Uttar Pradesh during a massive immunization campaign that targeted all children under age five in the country. In Meerut, the 18-member multidistrict Korean team walked house to house to help ensure that every child was immunized. Team leaders said that this year’s RI theme, Make Dreams Real, was the motivation behind volunteering for the event. (…)

While the Korean volunteers tackled the streets of Meerut, a 22-member team from District 2470 (Greece) worked in Moradabad and its environs, going door to door to administer vaccine to all young children. Greek team leader Hara Papadaki, of the Rotary Club of Pendeli, said one of the most successful moments of the NID was when the team immunized 56 children all at once in the Moradabad railway station. She said the NID was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. (…)

“Until polio is eradicated worldwide, every child remains at risk,” said Katerina Kotsali, a member of the Pendeli club. “Though we are close to reaching our goal, we must continue our efforts until each and every child is protected against the tragic consequences of this disease.”


As intense violence once again rocks Somalia’s capital, MSF teams continue working throughout the country

Many of those fleeing Mogadishu are seeking refuge in the ‘Afgooye corridor’, a stretch of road leading from the capital to the town of Afgooye, around 25km to the northwest of Mogadishu.

3 June - In Mogadishu’s Daynile district, where MSF supports a community hospital, medical teams treated 218 people suffering from trauma injuries caused by shelling and gunshots between May 7 and 22. Of these, 81 were women and children under age of 14. On May 14 MSF was forced to close its outpatient clinic in Yaqshid, northern Mogadishu, for two days to ensure its medical staff were not caught in the cross fire during the heavy fighting. The clinic has since reopened. (…)

Another clinic in Lido has seen a sharp increase in activities as people flood to the area to try and escape the fighting. In the past two weeks 22 people with trauma wounds have been treated. The 50 bed in-patient ward in Lido has been packed, with an average admission of 120 patients per week. Over 1,200 outpatient consultations for children under five were done in the week ending May 15. (...)


Uganda: ICRC hands over two health centres

Kampala, 2 June (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has finished rebuilding Lugore and Labworomor Health Centres, in the Gulu district of northern Uganda, which about 14,000 people depend on for health services. The head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Gulu, Ynske Vandormael, today handed over the upgraded health facilities to the Gulu district chairperson. At Lugore, which some 6,200 people rely on for health services, the ICRC renovated the existing structure and constructed an in-patient unit with a separate maternity room. It also built a staff house for four families, a waste disposal system and a venue for immunizations and community meetings. In addition, the ICRC drilled a borehole and fitted it with a hand pump. At Labworomor, which serves about 7,800 people, the ICRC upgraded the old facility, built an eight-bed maternity block and a waste disposal system, and motorized the existing borehole. The ICRC also provided training for medical staff, traditional birth attendants and volunteers at both health centres. (…) Over the last three years, the ICRC has provided support for 14 health centres serving more than 120,000 people in the four Acholi districts (Gulu, Kitgum, Pader and Amuru) of northern Uganda. (...)!OpenDocument



Energy and safety



Indian sugar mills generate as much ‘green’ energy as windmills, and at half the cost

Sugar mills produce 2,000 megawatt of biomass-based energy through cogeneration, says a new report. Cogeneration means the production of two forms of energy, electricity and heat.(…)

New Delhi, 5 June - As the 2009 World Environment Day draws to a close, there’s heartening news from unexpected quarters: Indian sugar mills seem to be doing their bit to ease the energy crisis in the country. What’s more, they are doing it by generating biomass-based ‘green’ energy from bagasse, a waste product that comes from sugarcane cultivation Sugar mills in the five major sugarcane growing states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh are contributing 2,000 megawatt (mw) of power to the national electricity grid. This is enough to meet the energy needs of a business centre the size of Gurgaon (in Haryana), says a latest report in Down To Earth, a fortnightly magazine that Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) helps publish. (...)


European Commission’s study finds out that European 20% renewables target can give jobs to 2.8 million people

Brussels, 2 June - Reaching the 2020 renewable energy targets is expected to lead to around 2.8 million jobs in the renewable energy sector and generate a total value added of around 1.1% of GDP. This is the main conclusion of a European Commission’s study on the impact of renewable energy policy on economic growth and employment in the European Union (Employ-RES) which is available in the internet from today. Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: “This shows that benefits of renewables in terms of security of supply and fighting climate change can go hand in hand with economic benefits”.

In 2005, the renewable energy sector employed 1.4 million people with a gross value added of 58 billion EUR. The significance of the sector varies strongly among Member States. Biomass, wind and hydro technologies are currently the most important for employment. (...)


The European Commission calls for proposals for €4 billion worth of energy investments

Brussels, 18 May - The European Commission has launched today a call for proposals covering key energy infrastructure projects such as energy interconnections, offshore wind energy and carbon capture and storage as part of the implementation of the European Energy Programme for Recovery (EEPR), on which the Council and the Parliament recently reached agreement. Project promoters are invited to submit their proposals by 15 July 2009. The Commission expects to sign the first grant agreements and decisions before the end of the year. In total nearly €4 billion worth of financial aid will be available to support new energy-related investments.

Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: “The financing that has been made available will act as a role to secure and speed up investments in the energy sector. In addition, the funds allocated to projects will have a direct impact on the EU economy and on employment.

“It will also help to improve the security of supply of the most vulnerable Member States. The gas crisis earlier this year showed the vulnerability of Europe with respect to its gas supply. In addition this funding will assist in speeding up the implementation of the 20/20/20 objectives for 2020 by promoting for the first time on a large scale the development of Carbon Capture Storage technologies and the implementation of high power wind turbines.” (...)

The list of eligible projects is indicated in the annex. The text of the call for tender, as well as the 53supporting documents, is available on the Commission’s website. (...)


2nd European Solar Days: Europe celebrates the energy from the sun

Brussels, 14th May 2009: The second European Solar Days are celebrated from 15 to 22 May with more than 500.000 citizens participating in 7.000 events in 15 European countries. Solar PV and Solar Thermal are replacing fossil fuels and nuclear energy in Europe

The European Solar Days are a Europe-wide campaign to promote the use of solar energy for production of electricity, heat and cold. What once started in 2002 in Austria as ‘Day of the Sun’, is now a multi-country effort of thousands of local events organisers ranging from solar equipment manufacturers, to church communities and local governments. In 2008, the initiative was taken to the European level and the first European Solar Days took place in 13 European countries with over 4.000 events.

The second edition of the European Solar Days takes place 15-22 May 2009 in 16 countries. More than half a million citizens are expected to participate in the more than 7000 events in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. (...)[tt_news]=13&tx_ttnews[backPid]=5&cHash=961efa6940



Environment and wildlife



Three more countries say ‘yes’ to a low-carbon future on World Environment Day

Nairobi, 5 June - Three countries have pledged to promote low-carbon, green growth by joining the Climate Neutral Network (CN Net) - an initiative led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to promote global action to de-carbonize our economies and societies.

Ethiopia, Pakistan and Portugal are the latest nations to join the CN Net initiative, bringing the total number of countries that are going low-carbon or even climate neutral to ten. These ten countries have a combined population of over 266 million and cover the land area roughly the size of Argentina or two percent of the world’s terrestrial surface. (...)


EU greenhouse gas emissions fall for third consecutive year

29 May - European Union emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases (GHG) declined for the third consecutive year in 2007, according to the EU’s GHG inventory report compiled by the European Environment Agency. The EU-27’s overall domestic emissions were 9.3 % below 1990 levels, which equalled a drop of 1.2 % or 59 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent compared to 2006. The EU-15 now stands 5 % below its Kyoto Protocol base year levels. Falling emissions since 2005 have largely resulted from the lower use of fossil fuels (particularly oil and gas) in households and services - these sectors, not covered by the EU Emission Trading System (ETS), are among the largest sources of GHG emissions in the EU. Warmer weather and higher fuel prices were the primary causes for the drop in emissions in 2006-2007, with most of the decrease occurring in households - particularly in Germany. Welcoming the reductions, Professor Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, stressed that EU Member States need to take positive steps to sustain progress in coming years. (...)


UNEP announces Top African Winner for its 18th Global Painting Competition

Nairobi, Kenya, 5 June - The United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Office for Africa (UNEP-ROA) is today announcing the regional winners of the Eighteenth International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment to mark this year’s World Environment Day. The regional winner, Ramy Gamal AbdelHamed AbdelRazik’s painting was selected by a jury composed of the representatives of the organizers out of 694 entries received by the Regional Office from 14 countries, representing all the regions in Africa. (...) As a regional winner, Ramy AbdelRazik will receive a cash prize US$ 1,000. (...) The theme of the 18th International Children’s competition “Climate change-Actions you can take” highlighted one of the most critical global challenges of our time and the need for individual action and political commitment to seal the deal in culmination of crucial negotiation for a more equitable and efficient climate regime at the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009. Children, aged 5 - 14 across the world were invited to express their thoughts on the challenges of climate change and what they can do about it through the medium of art, by drawing and painting their vision of how each and everyone can lessen his foot print or minimize activities that adversely affect the climate.  (...)


World Day to Combat Desertification, 17 June 2009

“Conserving land and water = Securing our common future”.

The World Day to Combat Desertification is observed every year on 17 June. This year, the Day’s theme is “Conserving land and water = Securing our common future”.

Desertification, land degradation and drought (DLDD) threaten human security by depriving people of their means of life – by taking away food, access to water, the means for economic activities, and even their homes. In worst-case scenarios, they undermine national and regional security, force people to leave their homes and can trigger low- or high-level intensity conflicts.

On this World Day to Combat Desertification, we would like to remind everyone threats to soil security unleashed by desertification, land degradation and the effects of drought constitute a peril to securing our common future.

The World Day to Combat Desertification has been observed since 1995 (General Assembly Resolution A/RES/49/1995) to promote public awareness relating to international cooperation to combat desertification and the effects of drought, and the implementation of the UNCCD. (...)


Welcome to the Green Week Conference, 23-26 June – Brussels, Belgium,

The biggest annual conference on European environment policy turns the spotlight this year on the multi-faceted challenges of climate change.

What are the prospects for reaching a new global deal to control climate change at the crucial Copenhagen conference in December? How can we best ‘climate-proof’ our economies against the impacts of present and future climate change? How can we create a carbon-free society by 2050?

How can we ensure action to address climate change best serves conservation of the ecosystems that support life on Earth?

These are some of the many questions Green Week 2009 will be examining in three days of discussion and debate between high-level speakers from Europe and beyond.

Green Week is a unique opportunity for exchanges of experience and good practice. Some 3,500 participants are expected from EU institutions, business and industry, non-governmental organisations, public authorities, the scientific community and academia.



Religion and spirituality



World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, 4-10 June 2009

Joint action for a just peace convened by the World Council of Churches.

The World Council of Churches is inviting member churches and related organizations to join a week of advocacy and action for a just peace in Palestine and Israel. Those who share the hope of justice are invited to take peaceful actions, together, to create a common international public witness. During World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel, 4-10 June 2009, churches in different countries send a clear signal to policy-makers, interested publics and their own parishes about the urgent need for a peace settlement that secures the legitimate rights and future of both peoples. Participants are requested to plan their activities around these points:

1. Pray with churches living under occupation, using a special prayer from Jerusalem.

2. Educate about actions that make for peace and about facts on the ground that do not, especially, settlements in occupied territory.

3. Advocate with political leaders using ecumenical policies that promote peace with justice.

The week calls participants to seek justice for Palestinians so that both Israelis and Palestinians can finally live in peace. (...)


Voices of the Peace-Builders: from Roots to Reconciliation

Interfaith Peace-Builders and the National Peace Foundation Delegation arrives in Israel/Palestine.

26 May - Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB) and the National Peace Foundation (NPF) are pleased to announce that our 16 member delegation to Israel/Palestine entered Israel at the Ben-Gurion airport Tuesday afternoon. After a flight delay, the delegation is now safely in Jerusalem.

The purpose of this delegation, the 30th to make the trip since 2001, is to educate North American citizens about the region and deepen their understanding of its conflicts. This is the second delegation that IFPB and NPF have co-sponsored since 2008.

The delegation focuses on the voices of Palestinian and Israeli peace-builders and nonviolent activists. Both Palestinian and Israeli voices promoting peace and reconciliation are marginalized in an international discourse that far too often paints Israelis and Palestinians as either violent militants or helpless victims. The reality is that many people in Israel/Palestine work on a daily basis to bring about a peaceful and nonviolent end to the occupation and resolution of the conflict. This delegation will meet a variety of these individuals and organizations. (...)


Religious Pluralism in Your School: A Two-Day Workshop for Educators

June 18-19 - Chicago, IL, USA

This workshop will be co-facilitated by the Global Youth Leadership Institute and Interfaith Youth Core. Every day we see religious diversity in the world around us. We hear that religion is a problem to be avoided. How do we engage the reality of diversity in the classroom? How do we encourage dialogue and empathy among students? How do we create a community which supports religious pluralism?

Workshop activities will focus on how to be a leader in your community for religious pluralism, how to assess religious pluralism at your school, how to think critically about new ways to teach your curriculum, how to engage diversity among students, and will include a workshop by Dr. Eboo Patel, Founder and Executive Director of Interfaith Youth Core. (...)



Culture and education



Bangladesh: a quiet volunteer helps refugee children shoot for the stars

Bangladesh, 8 June - When children in the two refugee camps near here speak of their role models, Bollywood stars and Italian football players take a back seat to a tall, quiet and unassuming man they know as Pero. (…) Muslim refugees from Myanmar have been living in the two camps of Nayapara and Kutupalong in Bangladesh for up to 18 years. Children make up more than half of the 28,000 residents. (…) Sport is one of the many activities that UNHCR and its partners in Bangladesh have recently initiated with help of the refugee in the camps. The national education system was recently introduced by UNICEF and child protection activities are also being strengthened. UNHCR is building new shelters and improving livelihood activities in the camps as well. While conditions remain below international standards, these initiatives are providing renewed hope to the refugees in Bangladesh. (...)


2011 to be the European Year of Volunteering

Brussels, 3 June - The European Commission has decided today to propose that 2011 be designated the “European Year of Volunteering”. The Council is expected to endorse this decision, after the European Parliament has been consulted, by the beginning of next year.

In the European Union, millions of citizens are volunteering. People of all ages make a positive contribution to their community by investing some of their free time in civil society organisations, in youth clubs, in hospitals, in schools, in sport clubs, etc. For the Commission, volunteering is an active expression of civic participation and strengthens common European values such as solidarity and social cohesion. (...) Volunteering has a great, but so far under-exploited, potential for the social and economic development of Europe. Dedicating 2011 to the topic of volunteering will help Member States, regional and local communities and civil society achieve the following objectives: Work towards an enabling and facilitating environment for volunteering in the EU; Empower volunteer organisations and improve the quality of volunteering; Reward and recognise volunteering activities; Raise awareness of the value and importance of volunteering. (...)


2009 World Conference on Higher Education

The field of higher education is undergoing rapid and profound transformation: demand is surging, providers are increasingly diverse and students are more mobile than ever. But national funding falls short of needs and stark inequalities remain at a time when higher education has a crucial role to play in addressing key social and economic challenges.

It is against this backdrop that the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education will be held in Paris, France from 5 to 8 July.


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Anti-crisis general measure: increase awareness that what many are doing for a better future is already changing the world.


In a global perspective: illiteracy and child labor decreases, hunger diminishes

By Michele Dotti


It is true that a lot still needs to be done but it is not correct to maintain that things are getting worse and worse. Such an attitude could lead to a perilous sense of impotence, which represents the first step to resignation and inertia: paradoxical feelings at a moment when the possibility of reaching meaningful results for humanity is truly possible, results which were unimaginable even for the generation of our grandparents.


Illiteracy decreases – Remarkable progress has been recorded everywhere in this area, though with great differences between the various regions of our planet (in Europe, for instance, the illiteracy rate is 1.8% whereas in Africa it is 40.2%). In 1970 the illiterates were still 35% of the world population, while they decreased to 21% in the year 2000. The rate of illiteracy among the adult population (that is the percentage of illiterates in the population older than 15)  went down from 36.6% in 1970 to 20.3% in the year 2000. (See M. Dinucci, Il sistema globale seconda edizione. Geografie del sistema globale/ The global system 2nd Edition. Geographies of the global system, Zanichelli, Bologna 2004.)

Despite the positive results obtained in fighting illiteracy, much still needs to be done to get rid of the problem worldwide. Though falling, the rate of female illiteracy remains much higher than that  of males: in the year 2000 the percentage of adult illiterate women was 25.8% (compared to 44.6% in 1970) and among the male adult population 14.8% (compared to 28.5% in 1970.)

In order to reduce illiteracy, poverty, which is its main cause, must be reduced. It is also necessary at the same time to increase the budget for education: it has been calculated that, in order to reach the goal of making education accessible to everyone by 2015 (a goal that was agreed upon by the delegates of the 181 countries present at the Dakar Forum in the year 2000), it is necessary to add, for education in the economically less-developed areas, 5.6 billion dollars per year to the already existing budget; a trifle, if compared to what is spent on military expenses worldwide (1,200 billion dollars per year according to the 2007 Report of the Stockholm Peace Research Institute), money that could be easily provided by the richer countries. Instead what they are doing is to decrease the bilateral assistance for education in the poorer countries. It is therefore essential to pay close attention to this fundamental issue and make sure that politicians feel the pressure to keep the promises given at international meetings regarding public funding for development.


Child labour decreases – For the first time there has been a significant drop in the number of child victims of work exploitation. In a cautiously optimistic report, entitled The end of child labour is within reach, the International Labour Organization (ILO) draws attention to a consistent reduction in the number of children exploited for work purposes in the last few years, a trend that has been happening worldwide for the last few decades now. Up to  the period immediately after World War Two child labour was very common both in Europe and the United States; nowadays in the industrialized countries the phenomenon is practically non-existent. The number of children employed in working activities went down by 11% between the years 2000 and 2004: 218 million children as opposed to the 246 recorded four years previously. An important drop in the number of exploited minors, that is children employed full time in dangerous activities, took place particularly in the age bracket 5-17, in which the ILO reports a 26% decrease. The number of exploited children decreased from 171 million in the year 2000 to 126 million. Among the youngest children, in the age bracket 5-14, there was a 33% decrease.

According to this report, in South America the decrease in work exploitation of minors every day has been more consistent than anywhere else, with a two-thirds reduction. In Brazil, for instance, exploitation of minors in the age bracket 5-9 has dropped by 61% and of those in the age bracket 10-17 by 36%. Even in Asia a significant decrease has been recorded, although Asia is the continent with the highest number of exploited children in the age bracket 5-14 in the whole world, about 122 million. On the other hand, sub-Saharan Africa is the region which has the highest ratio child labourers to the population, that is 26%. However, some improvements are noted here too, with an increase of 38% in the number of children attending school between 1990 and 2000.

There are thousands of associations working for the rights of children and they have, so far raised  huge public support for concrete projects against the exploitation of minors and kept pressure on governments and multinationals to ensure that these rights are respected. This international movement has played a decisive role in achieving the positive results contained in the ILO report, even if it has recently focused too much on children working in the export manufacturing sector. It has continually spotlighted specific items such as balloons, shoes and carpets, thus creating in our global imagination the idea that child labour –especially in the South of the world – is mostly at the service of the rich consumers in the North.  However, it should be underlined that, according to the ILO, the number of children in the world employed in the export business represents not even 5% of the total number of working children. So, if we really want to solve this problem, we must concentrate our efforts on removing the structural causes which force millions of families, both in the South and the North of the world, to employ their own children in jobs, even dangerous ones, to earn the  means of survival.


Hunger diminishes – Mother Theresa of Calcutta was once asked to preside over  a big meeting on the issue of world hunger: she accepted on one condition: that all participants should fast for three days before the meeting, so that they could really “feel” what they were talking about. The meeting never took place…

I believe it is important, in order to overcome the widespread feeling of impotence and the consequent inertia, to take a look at the statistics to realize that, although the situation remains horrible and intolerable, the commitment of many people to resolving the problem of world hunger has achieved really impressive results. According to United Nations estimates, in percentage terms, back in 1950 the number of malnourished people in poor countries was 50% of the population, while twenty years later it was 37% and in the following thirty years it went down to 17%. We have to keep in mind that the world population has in the meantime gone up from 3 billion people in 1960 to 6.3 billion today. Contrary to the catastrophic forecasts which circulated in the nineteen-seventies, food production has been able to cope with the increase in population: in spite of the fact that the number of people more than doubled between 1960 and 2000, the food supply has increased instead of decreasing;  in fact today we have an average supply of 2,700 calories per day as opposed to 2,300 back in 1960.

According to the FAO SOFI 2006 report (Lo stato dell’insicurezza alimentare nel mondo/The state of food insecurity in the world) in the last ten years the world population has increased but at the same time the proportion of people in the developing countries suffering from malnutrition has decreased. Despite the increase in the world population, “twenty years ago the number of people dying every single day of starvation or diseases related to it was about 41,000 and now it is 24,000. Fifty years ago in developing countries the percentage of  children dying before the age of 5 was 28%, today it is 10%”. (World Food Programme, Fame mai più!/No more starvation! November 2001.)

Where does this progress come from? It is the fruit of undoubted scientific and technological progress, but above all it comes from the commitment  of millions of people around the world who are fighting for human rights and justice. It is difficult to identify these “change agents”, so different are their origins: from popular movements in the South of the world to voluntary associations from the countries in the North, from trade unions to NGOs, to the incomes of immigrants reinvested in development projects and social work. The latter are often underestimated but they amount to huge transfers of capital; according to World Bank data, migrant workers sent to their own countries, in the year 2002, remittances totalling about 80 billion dollars a year, which represented for the developing countries the second biggest source of income from abroad. In 2003 they became the first source of income (135 billion dollars). If we take into consideration also all the remittances sent informally and of which there is no record in banks, it is estimated that the amount is now between 150 and 200 billion dollars and could almost be the double of the investments coming directly from abroad.

According to a study carried out by the Panos Institute in Paris on the experience of Senegalese people in France, in 1992 the 143 regularly registered organizations, formed of 15 thousand immigrants, had carried out 146 development projects with the support of French NGOs (86% of the budget of which was made up of the remittances of immigrants and only 14% came from NGOs and institutions), involving most of the aspects of village life, such as the building of wells, schools, dispensaries, mills, etc. In fact 64% of the infrastructure existing in the area of the Senegal River, especially in the health and education sectors, was attributable to the contributions of immigrants.

The guiding thread of all this action seems to be a renewed political leadership role which is orientated towards the common good. This is the true engine of historical change and this is what any individual can choose who shares these values and the goal of a fairer and more caring world.


(Extract from the book “It is not true that everything is getting worse” written by Michele Dotti and Jacopo Fo, published by EMI 2008. The English version of the book is being prepared by the author. Translation by Angela Lombardi.)



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Next issue: 3 July 2009.


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Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next. Past issues are available at . Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph.D. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti, Maria Grazia Da Damos, Arianna Cavallo, Azzurra Cianchetta. Editorial Secretary: Maria Grazia Da Damos.


Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to 5,000 editorial offices of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations with an e-mail address in 49 countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway,  Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA. It is also distributed free of charge to 2,800 NGOs and 500 high schools, colleges and universities.


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