Good News Agency – Year X, n° 158


Weekly - Year X, number 158 – 3rd July 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 6,000 editorial offices 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: as wars decrease, peace culture and human rights spread



International legislation



Record turnout for Arms Trade Treaty week of action

22 June - Last week, campaigners in the largest number of countries so far took part in an annual worldwide Week of Action, aimed at highlighting the need for an effective Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). NGOs in over 90 countries organized activities to draw attention to the treaty, and the rapid rise in the human cost of armed violence. Over 30 Amnesty International sections took part in the biggest ever Week of Action since the campaign was launched eight years ago. (...) This year’s Week of Action brought together NGOs from all continents, through demonstrations, public meetings, the collection of petitions, concerts, popular campaigning stunts and meetings with officials. (...) In many countries Amnesty International national sections and other NGOs campaigned for an effective Arms Trade Treaty, based on international human rights and humanitarian laws and covering all types of transfers and transactions of conventional arms and ammunition. In July, Amnesty International and its partner NGOs will continue lobbying a United Nations Open Ended Working Group on the ATT when it meets in New York to discuss the contents of the treaty. The Week of Action was a great opportunity to lobby governments ahead of this meeting.


SCT examines Trademark and Design Law and Practice

Geneva, 29 June - WIPO’s Standing Committee on Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Geographical Indications (SCT), meeting from June 22 to 26, 2009, examined areas of possible convergence in industrial design law and practice, as well as questions relating to grounds for refusal of all types of marks and technical and procedural aspects of the registration of certification and collective marks.

This work will continue at the next session of the SCT from November 23 to 26, 2009.

In discussions relating to the Article 6ter of the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, (“the Paris Convention”), SCT members agreed to further examine the protection of state names against registration or use as trademarks. Responses to a proposed questionnaire will serve as the basis of future deliberations on this topic. Article 6ter of the Paris Convention provides for the protection of flags, armorial bearings and other state emblems. (...)


Baltic countries to join EU internal power market

18 June - Yesterday, the Memorandum of Understanding of the Baltic Energy Market Interconnection Plan (BEMIP) was signed by the relevant Heads of State and the European Commission. This is a timely step underpinning the integration of large quantities of wind power in Europe, believes the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA). The BEMIP is a step towards a future pan-European electricity grid in the Baltic region, and extends the successful Nordic electricity market rules to the three Baltic States. (...) The interconnection projects include new lines between Finland and Estonia, Sweden and Lithuania, and Lithuania and Poland. In addition the offshore wind farms in the Kriegers Flak area should be provided with a combined grid connection solution which would also provide additional electricity trading possibilities by interconnecting Germany, Sweden and Denmark.” (...) The BEMIP is part of a wider EU Strategy for the Baltic Sea Region. A High Level Group made up of representatives from eight Member States has been set up to monitor the implementation of the Plan.[tt_news]=1538&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1588&cHash=9feeb56c18


Timor-Leste ratifies first ILO Conventions

16 June - Timor-Leste has ratified four conventions of the International Labour Organization (ILO), concerning forced labour, freedom of association and protection of the right to organize, the right to organize and collective bargaining, and the elimination of the worst forms of child labour.

Geneva (ILO News) - (...) The Vice-Prime Minister of Timor-Leste, H.E. Mr. José Luis Guterres, attending the 98th International Labour Conference in Geneva, deposited four instruments of ratification of the Conventions with the ILO, today (16/6) at the ILO Headquarters in Geneva. “This is a historic time for us. We are proud to reaffirm Timor-Leste’s respect of employers and workers’ fundamental rights. These ratifications lay a foundation for democratic governance in the Timor-Leste world of work. They also represent our country’s pursuit for sustainable development and recognition and protection of human rights,” said Vice-Prime Minister Guterres. (…) The ILO is supporting the draft to assist the inclusion of the fundamental and principles of rights at work in the new Labour Code. It is expected that the draft Labour Code will be submitted for approval by the Council of Minister and Parliament in the second half of 2009. (…)



Human rights



Peru: indigenous victory is a victory for all

25 June - This month saw an important victory by Indigneous Peoples in Peru. Thanks to their months-long protest, the Peruvian government repealed new laws that opened the Amazon rainforest to oil drilling. This was an important win for Indigenous rights - and for all of us. The Amazon region (known as “the lungs of the earth”) is crucial to climate stability for the entire planet. Peru’s new laws were passed to facilitate the US-Peru Free Trade Agreement and protests against them were met with extreme police violence.

Because of President Obama’s strong support for the Free Trade Agreement, MADRE called on him to renegotiate the deal and commit to embedding strong human rights standards in all trade agreements. Many of you signed our petition, which we shared with CHIRAPAQ, our sister organization in Peru, and other friends in the international Indigenous movement.

For those in Peru who faced off against heavily-armed police, it meant the world to know that they had your support. That support helped fuel their courage and helped secure this victory. It’s an achievement we should celebrate, but not with any complacency. The oil companies will be back and we will need to continue to stand with those on the frontlines of protecting the Amazon rainforest.


Afghanistan accedes to Additional Protocols I and II in historic step to limit wartime suffering

Kabul/Geneva, 24 June (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcomes the accession of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the 1977 Protocols additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts (Protocol I) and non-international armed conflicts (Protocol II). (...) In Afghanistan, which has suffered three decades of war and remains torn by strife, 96 per cent of all people say they have been directly or indirectly affected by the fighting, according to an ICRC survey published on 23 June. (...) The country’s accession to the Additional Protocols is especially welcome in view of the extreme hardship civilians face in their homeland. In particular, the entry into force of Additional Protocol II in Afghanistan will strengthen rules applied until now on the basis of customary international law, in the absence of any treaty applicable to the Afghan conflict. The two Protocols, which supplement the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, reaffirm and develop international humanitarian law in several respects. (…)

Afghanistan’s accession brings to 169 the number of States party to Additional Protocol I and to 165 the number party to Additional Protocol II.


Togo: Fifteenth country in Africa to abolish the death penalty

23 June - Togo today decided to abolish the death penalty following a unanimous vote by the national assembly. Togo has thereby become the 15th member of the African Union and the 94th country in the world to abolish the death penalty for all crimes. “This country has chosen to establish a healthy justice system that limits judicial errors (…) and guarantees the inherent rights of the individual,” said Justice Minister Kokou Tozoun when the cabinet first adopted the abolition bill on 10 December 2008. “This (new) system is no longer compatible with a penal code that maintains the death penalty and grants the judiciary absolute power with irrevocable consequences.” Togo stopped applying the death penalty more than three decades ago. The last executions of people sentenced to death date back to 1978 and the last death sentence was handed down in 2003. (...)


UNFPA applauds the adoption of a landmark resolution on maternal health

Geneva, 17 June - The Human Rights Council today adopted the resolution on ‘Preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights’. With this resolution, over 70 UN Member States acknowledge that the issue of maternal health must be recognized as a human right challenge and that efforts to curb the unacceptably high global rates of preventable maternal mortality and morbidity must be urgently intensified and broadened. (...) The global community is recognizing the fact that progress towards improving maternal health is lagging behind other development issues. “Adoption of this resolution is an important step,” she added, “but how much impact it will have depends on whether the international community - donors, governments and civil society - join efforts to improve the human rights of women and girls all over the world.”


Working women changing traditional roles in Latin America and Caribbean: UN report

11 June - An increase of Latin American and Caribbean women in the workforce is challenging the traditional interplay between work and family life, a joint United Nations report said today, adding that responding to this phenomenon is an essential step towards gender equality and more productive economies. The report, “Work and Family: A new call for public policies of reconciliation with social co-responsibility,” prepared by the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), calls for better representation of women in labour negotiations, day care, and flexible hours. The report said that in Latin America and the Caribbean, the number of women active in the labour market rose from 32 per cent in 1990 to 53 per cent in 2008. Today, more than 100 million women throughout the region work.  It said the reconciliation between work and family is “one of the greatest challenges of our time (and) a fundamental aspect for promoting equality in the world of work and for reducing poverty.” (...)


Two UN agencies partner to make world’s cities safer for women

4 June - Two United Nations agencies have teamed up to combat violence against women and girls in the world’s cities, including by proposing measures such as improved street lighting and female-only modes of transportation. UN-HABITAT, the agency charged with ensuring adequate shelter for all, and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) have signed a memorandum of understanding that brings the shelter agency into UNIFEM’s existing Global Programme on Safe Cities Free of Violence against Women and Girls, the agencies announced today. The Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, Anna Tibaijuka, and the Executive Director of UNIFEM, Ines Alberdi, signed the agreement in New York on 2 June. (…) According to the memorandum, the agencies will develop practical measures that local authorities can use to make cities safer. (...) The memorandum also covers broader issues of good governance, urban planning, women’s empowerment, political participation, gender equality, gender-responsive budgeting and access to basic services, the agencies said.



Economy and development



New publication shows index insurance has potential to help manage climate risks and reduce poverty

Geneva, 24 June - Climate has always presented a challenge to farmers, herders, fishermen and others whose livelihoods are closely linked to their environment, particularly those in poor areas of the world. A type of insurance, called index insurance, now offers significant opportunities as a climate-risk management tool in developing countries, according to a new publication launched today during a workshop at the Global Humanitarian Forum (GHF) in Geneva. The report, called Index insurance and climate risk: Prospects for development and disaster management is part of the Climate and Society series produced by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI). The IRI published the report in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, Oxfam America, Swiss Re, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the World Food Programme. (...)


Helen Keller International Bangladesh Homestead Food Production Program selected as case study for “Millions Fed” initiative.

New York, 22 June - Out of 250 applicants, Helen Keller International’s (HKI) Homestead Food Production (HFP) program in Bangladesh has been selected to be one of twenty-seven case studies for “Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development.”  The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) initiated this research project with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. IFPRI will present evidence from case studies of current policies, programs, and investments that demonstrate success in reducing poverty and hunger. Learning from successes in agricultural development has become more urgent recently due to the volatility of global food prices and increasing food insecurity. The “Millions Fed” project offers a unique opportunity to showcase success stories that will reach a broad audience, including policymakers, development practitioners, donors, scholars, NGOs, entrepreneurs, students, and citizens concerned about the future of global agriculture. (…)


People’s Voices on the Crisis

On 20 June, a coalition of civil society organizations, and UN- NGLS, organized “People’s Voices on the Crisis”. This event brought together activists from civil society organizations, trade unions and grassroots groups on a local, national and international level, who gave testimony on how their lives and communities are being directly affected by the current economic crisis. Held in advance of the UN Conference on the World Financial and Economic Crisis and its Impact on Development, (…)

The event showcased the testimonies of grassroots activists from diverse regions of the world working with many of the world’s forgotten victims, who will give evidence on how the financial, as well as food, energy and climate change crises, are affecting their lives and their work. In his keynote address the President of the 63rd General Assembly, H.E. Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann stated that the upcoming UN Conference “should be seen as an opportunity to initiate a global conversation about global economic governance and ways to make our international institutions more representative and inclusive, now and in the decades to come”. (…)


IFAD provides US$13.2 million to Ethiopia to tackle land degradation

Rome, 19 June - Ethiopia loses about 2 billion tons of fertile soils to land degradation each year. As waterways silt up, irrigation development and the generation of clean energy are seriously hampered. To help Ethiopia meet these challenges, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing a US$6.6 million loan and a US$6.6 million grant for the Community-based Integrated Natural Resources Management Project. (…)The project seeks to enhance access by poor rural people to natural resources (land and water), and it will promote sustainable land management practices to improve agricultural production and productivity.

Co-financed by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF), the project will protect, conserve and rehabilitate some 15,000 km2 of degraded lands in the Lake Tana Watersheds, which will improve agricultural productivity, food security and incomes for about 450,000 poor rural households that depend on agriculture as their primary or only source of livelihood.

The IFAD-funded project will also help mitigate climate change by increasing carbon sequestration, which will contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (...)


Sri Lanka: ADRA contributes to tsunami warning system

Colombo, Sri Lanka, 9 June - More than 1,000 people attended a May 18 ceremony marking the completion of the Tangalle Tsunami Warning Towers (TTWT) project implemented in southern Sri Lanka by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Sri Lanka.

The TTWT project is directly contributing to Sri Lanka’s efforts to provide greater early warning messages to coastal communities who are vulnerable to tsunamis. The towers, which can issue a siren warning shortly after receiving information of a tsunami threat, are being incorporated into the national tsunami warning system and work in conjunction with existing infrastructure operated by the Disaster Management Center (DMC) in Colombo and the Department of Meteorology. (...) ADRA also worked with DMC representatives to educate residents about evacuation planning, tsunami preparedness, and disaster mitigation measures. (…)






ESPN promotes ‘Soccer Saves’ program with Save the Children to help African youth

Sports network to air new public service announcement featuring Seattle Sounders FC.

26 June - Seattle Sounders FC, the newest soccer franchise in Major League Soccer in the USA, has partnered with their fans and the new Seattle nonprofit organization Soccer Saves to support Save the Children’s work with older youth in Africa. A new public service announcement is scheduled to air on ESPN 2 on June 26-28, highlighting the initiative, which launched in April. The PSA will air during the Wegmans LPGA tournament coverage. The initiative will help disadvantaged young people in Africa who deserve a chance to grow up with support to lead healthy lives. It’s important that all people learn respect for their bodies and each other, stay fit and healthy, and that teenagers understand reproductive health and the risks of HIV. Thanks to a $50,000 pledge from Soccer Saves, the project will kick off in 2009 in Ethiopia with a series of trainings of soccer coaches in life skills for youth, and an organized club soccer program using the acclaimed Sports for Life curricula. This is aimed at working with young people and their coaches to support healthy lifestyles for young people. (...)


New report shows over 2.5 million Iraqis received UN assistance in 2008

25 June - The United Nations and its partners provided some $207 million worth of humanitarian assistance to over 2.5 million Iraqis in 2008, according to a report by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), highlighting the successes and challenges for aid organizations in the strife-torn country. (…) Last year, some 600,000 people in Iraq received food assistance, around 450,000 benefited from water shipments, an estimated 55,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) were placed in improved or new housing and 650,000 presented with household items. Basic social services were restored to a number of communities after decades of conflict. (...) Children in over 100 schools are now receiving psychosocial care thanks to the training of over 2,000 teachers, in response to high levels of post-traumatic stress disorder recorded in the country. The report also noted efforts to help some 100,000 students attend schools across Iraq, plus enrol 36,000 schoolchildren in accelerated learning programmes allowing them to complete their basic education after it was interrupted by the conflict. (...)


RI Covention, Birmingham - Two young people set ‘shining example’ in polio fight

by Arnold R. Grahl

Rotary International News, 23 June - Two children who decided to do what they could to rid the world of polio received thunderous applause 23 June during the third plenary session of the 2009 RI Convention in Birmingham, England. Rotary Foundation Trustee Chair Jonathan B. Majiyagbe brought Joshua Kim, a 14-year-old from Northbrook, Illinois, USA, and Anna Zanotti, a 10-year-old from Mantova, Italy, on stage to “share with you the story of these two young people who have taken Rotary to heart.”

Anna and her fifth-grade classmates in Mantova raised about US$164 in only two days after her mother, Rotarian Patrizia Zanotti, told her how Rotary and its partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative have worked since 1988 to eradicate the disease. Cases of polio worldwide have declined by more than 99 percent, her mother explained, but the disease still threatens children in parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and more money is needed to finish the job.

“I thought of how many children like me I could save with my money,” said Anna, who came up with the idea of collecting donations as a class project. She used recycled chocolate boxes to make her own collection boxes, one of which she brought on stage. She and her classmates thought of the donations in terms of actual lives, each represented by the 60 cents it costs to immunize a child. “Imagine a chocolate box that contains so many lives,” she said. (…)

Joshua, an eighth grader at Wood Oaks Junior High School in Northbrook, became interested in the fight against polio when he learned that his father’s Rotary club had donated $10,000 for polio eradication to The Rotary Foundation. After he read an article on the End Polio Now campaign in The Rotarian, Joshua decided to donate his entire savings of $1,200 - seven years of weekly allowance and money earned from neighborhood jobs - to the effort. (…)


Indonesia: A lot of learning along the way

Having completed its tsunami programmes the Australian Red Cross continues to work with the Indonesian Red Cross in other areas of Indonesia.

by Cici Riesmasari, Communications Officer, IFRC Jakarta, Indonesia

12 June - After more than four years the Australian Red Cross (ARC) has completed its projects in tsunami affected areas of Aceh, Indonesia.  Over AUD $112 million was donated by the Australian public to programmes that have been implemented by ARC in the Maldives, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. Working in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), the Indonesia programme has converted $58 million into emergency response assistance, transitional shelters for 2000 families and earthquake resistant permanent houses for 1623 families. 1083 families now benefit from improved sanitation and ARC has built or repaired 908 wells. In total, over 2700 families now have better access to clean water. The tsunami response was the largest overseas mobilisation for the Red Cross, since the Second World War. (…)


ANERA to deliver needed hygiene kits to Gaza

Washington, D.C., 9 June - ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid) has been awarded a USAID/ARD grant to provide $600,000 of personal hygiene supplies to families in Gaza who lost their homes during the recent war. The much-needed hygiene kits will be distributed to 7,400 families - 44,400 children and adults living in temporary shelters and tent camps in northern and central Gaza. The kits will include a three-month supply of basic items like bath towels, shampoo, hand soap, feminine hygiene products and toothbrushes. The items will be purchased in the West Bank, which will help support the struggling economy there. (...)

ANERA has been working in Gaza for more than two decades. Since January, the organization has delivered $5 million of medical supplies and more than $1.5 million of food packages. Most recently, ANERA delivered 100 hearing aids and other audiology equipment for youngsters with hearing impairments. (...) In 2008 alone, ANERA delivered more than $75 million for programs in Gaza, West Bank, Lebanon and Jordan.



Peace and security



More than 80 Governments meet in Berlin to plan cluster munitions disposal, 25-26 June

The new international convention banning cluster bombs is already delivering results as signatories plan the destruction of these indiscriminate weapons even before it has entered into force, said the Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) on the eve of a major international conference in Berlin. On 25 and 26 June 2009, delegations from more than 80 countries will meet in the German capital to discuss plans for stockpile destruction. The event will allow experts to share knowledge and experience, and thus to provide signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions with guidance and broader information on the issue of cluster munitions’ destruction.

Since the Convention on Cluster Munitions opened for signature in December 2008 in Oslo, 98 countries have already signed and 10 have ratified it. The treaty will enter into force 6 months after the 30th ratification is deposited at the United Nations in New York. Early initiatives on the implementation of the treaty are very encouraging. (...)


African Union wraps up hearings aimed at speeding up Darfur peace process – UN

25 June - The latest round of public hearings examining the origins of the ongoing conflict in Darfur, which erupted in 2003 and has led to over 300,000 deaths, wrapped up today, a United Nations spokesperson told reporters in New York. Michele Montas said that the high-level African Union Panel on Darfur (AUPD) enquiries, chaired by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, are aimed at advancing the peace process between the Government and various rebel forces in the western Sudanese region. Over the past 10 days, the AUPD has listened to Sudanese political parties, civil society representatives, rebel movements, Arab nomads, native administrators, tribal leaders, internally displaced persons (IDPs), women, youth, and others in Khartoum and across Darfur, as part of its third such session. The Panel is slated to conduct several additional hearings and consultations into the armed struggle - setting Government forces and their allied Janjaweed militiamen against various rebels groups and forcing 2.7 million people from their homes - before drafting recommendations to be presented to the AU and making them available to the public. (...)


U.S. leadership for a nuclear weapons-free world - New DVD features President Obama

Sometimes opportunity doesn’t just knock. Sometimes opportunity practically bangs the door down.

In 27 years of working for nuclear disarmament, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has never seen a better opportunity to make significant progress towards our goal of a safer and more secure world through the phased, verifiable and irreversible elimination of all nuclear weapons. That’s why we created our new DVD featuring U.S. President Barack Obama.

Called U.S. Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World, the 8-minute educational video shows how the US and the world will benefit by moving beyond nuclear weapons. It can be viewed on our homepage  The DVD can be pre-ordered now, with a projected release date of July 20, 2009. On the DVD, people will also be able to view a Spanish-language version as well as the first video “Nuclear Weapons and the Human Future”  (5,000 copies of this our first DVD have been distributed.) The free DVD will be one of the key tools used by the Foundation’s volunteer peace leaders around the United States and the world (…)


Efforts to disarm Sudanese ex-combatants making headway, reports UN official

18 June - The United Nations reports that progress is being made in the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of soldiers in north and south Sudan, a key component of the 2005 agreement that ended the country’s 21-year civil war. “The Sudanese DDR programme is unique and potentially the largest and most complex ever undertaken,” Adriaan Verheul, Chief of the DDR Unit at the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), told a news conference in Khartoum today.

“Some 180,000 members of the armed forces and women who have helped the armed forces will be given the possibility to make a living as a civilian. Any child soldiers will be reunited with their families,” he added. Mr. Verheul said that more than 5,000 soldiers have now gone through the demobilization process, which was launched in February. The DDR process is a key component of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), which was signed by the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). Other key benchmarks of the pact include border demarcation and preparations for national elections in 2010 and a referendum on the final status of areas of Southern Sudan in 2011. (...)


Darfur returnees can count on UN, African Union support to rebuild, says official

16 June - The joint African Union-United Nations Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) will do all it can to help civilians who have started returning voluntarily to their villages in the strife-torn Sudanese region to rebuild their livelihoods, a senior official pledged today. Deputy Joint Special Representative Henry Anyidoho said it was critical to provide returnees with the necessary support so that their returns are not temporary, as he addressed community leaders in the West Darfur village of Seraf Jidad, where over 2,000 families have returned in the past two months.

“We will take up the challenge - UNAMID, together with UN agencies and NGOs [non-governmental organizations], as well as the Government - to see how quickly we can come to your aid,” he said. Mr. Anyidoho said priority tasks included improving security, providing water and rehabilitating infrastructure in villages such as Seraf Jidad, which is located some 45 kilometres southwest of El Geneina, the capital of West Darfur. (...)


The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan prohibits the use of anti-personnel mines

Geneva, 16 June - The quest to rid the Middle East of anti-personnel mines has taken a step forward today with another armed non-State actor signing Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment in Geneva. By signing this document, the “Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan” has pledged to ban anti-personnel mines, as well as carry out, or co-operate in, necessary mine action. The Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan has its roots in the “Komala”- party that was formed in the late 1960s. Today, the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan demands the right to self-determination of the Kurdish population in Iran and the creation of a federal, democratic Iranian state. The organization has sporadically used anti-personnel mines in the past. (...) The Kurdish provinces in Iran, like all provinces bordering Iraq, have been particularly affected by landmines and unexploded ordnance. Iran is not a State Party to the anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention. (…)

Geneva Call is an international humanitarian organization dedicated to engaging armed non-State actors to respect and to adhere to humanitarian norms, beginning with the ban on anti-personnel mines. (…)


Niger becomes 8th country to ratify cluster bomb ban treaty

4 June - On June 2, the Republic of Niger became the 8th country to ratify the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Niger became the second African country to ratify the convention that bans the use, production and stockpiling of cluster munitions after Sierra Leone, who ratified at the same time that they signed the convention in Oslo, Norway, in December 2008.

The Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) welcomes Niger’s commitment to ridding the world of cluster bombs and becoming one of the countries responsible for bringing the convention into force. 30 ratifications are needed before the convention becomes legally binding. Niger has never stockpiled, produced or used cluster munitions, but is now making its signature count through swift ratification, contributing to the global momentum on the issue. During the process that led to the creation of the treaty, Niger advocated for a strong and comprehensive treaty. (...)


Somalia: Project launched to support peacekeeping work in Mogadishu

MAG has begun a project in Mogadishu aimed at strengthening the peacekeeping work of the African Union. MAG sent two members of staff into the Somali capital at the weekend, despite continued heavy fighting in the city. Through the UN Mine Action programme in Somalia, MAG is supporting AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) in destroying the stockpile of confiscated small arms currently being stored near their office in the capital.

MAG has been tasked to train AMISOM’s peacekeeping troops, predominantly from Uganda and Burundi, in Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) techniques. The troops have been collecting abandoned weapons from areas of the city and removing them to their base, but now need help demolishing them. The two EOD experts are identifying where their expertise is most needed and preparing appropriate training packages for AMISOM. Training is due to begin in two months. (…)






International Council of Nurses – Durban, South Africa, 30 June to 4 July

Durban, South Africa / Geneva, Switzerland, 26 June - More than 5, 000 nurses will converge on Durban, South Africa from all corners of the globe for the International Council of Nurses (ICN) 24th Quadrennial Congress, co-hosted by the Democratic Nurses Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA). This first ICN Congress in Africa offers a scientific programme of more than 1 300 presentations, including plenary, main sessions and concurrent sessions, symposia, workshops, special interest sessions and posters, over a five-day period from 30 June to 4 July. (…)

The International Council of Nurses (ICN) is a federation of more than 130 national nurses associations representing the millions of nurses worldwide. Operated by nurses and leading nursing internationally since 1899, ICN works to ensure quality nursing care for all and sound health policies globally.


Liberia: ICRC hands over renovated clinics to Ministry of Health

Monrovia, 26 June (ICRC) - Fourteen health clinics renovated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) between 2005 and 2008 will be handed over to Liberia’s Ministry of Health and Social Welfare by the end of June. The clinics are located in Grand Kru and Lofa counties and serve the basic health-care needs of over 107,000 people. The facilities had been damaged during 14 years of armed conflict, which ended in 2003. In addition to rebuilding the facilities, the ICRC donated laboratory and other equipment, and also pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies, while providing training for medical staff and over 280 traditional midwives. (...) By the end of 2009, the ICRC will be transferring its health, economic security and water and sanitation programmes to the authorities and communities concerned. The ICRC delegation in Liberia will remain open to continue spreading knowledge of international humanitarian law among the police, the armed forces and universities, and providing support for the activities of the Liberia National Red Cross Society.


International Drugs Day: launch of the European Action on Drugs – 26 June 2009

Through its EU Drugs Action Plan for 2009-2012, the European Union aims to provide a strong, coordinated and balanced answer to a growing problem that affects European society as a whole. Through the European Action on Drugs the European Commission, Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security, invites national and local authorities, institutions, state bodies, regions, municipalities, educational institutions and schools, research institutes, media and public services, associations and NGOs, companies of all sizes, individuals, etc. to make a concrete commitment. Alongside the various drugs policies and schemes run in the Member States, the European Action on Drugs will serve as a new tool for everyone in the European Union - whatever their organisation, approach, national policy or attitude towards drugs.

The European Commission plays an important role in this joint effort to reduce drug-related problems in EU society. It is keen to stimulate dialogue so that all stakeholders can share their experiences and help each other in their shared goal of increasing awareness about drugs among young people.


Rotary raises over US$ 90 Million towards polio eradication

UN Secretary General recognizes polio workers and volunteers.

Birmingham, UK, 23 June - In the final push to rid the world of a crippling and potentially fatal disease, Rotary International today announced that it has raised US$ 90.7 million toward its US$ 200 Million Challenge, a fundraising effort supporting crucial polio eradication activities.

The announcement came at the Rotary International Convention, where UN Secretary General Ban-ki Moon was presented with a Polio Eradication Champion award, which he dedicated to polio workers who were killed last year in Afghanistan. Read More on the Rotary Convention


MSF increases medical assistance to those affected by violence in north DR Congo

16 June - In the areas of Haut-Uélé and Bas-Uélé, in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ugandan rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) have committed violent attacks in response to military operations launched by the armies of Uganda, DRC and southern Sudan.

MSF is providing assistance to this abandoned population, which has been left to its fate in a highly isolated region. It has therefore decided to open two new projects. The MSF Congo Emergency Pool started providing support to a health centre and two referral hospitals in Faradje and Niangara one week ago. MSF has been working in this region since last September, notably at the hospital in Dungu. The organisation has now decided to step up its activities in light of the increased attacks on the civilian population resulting in an influx of displaced people deprived of all medical assistance. (...)


AmeriCares delivers $1 billion in medical aid

Stamford, CT, USA, 15 June - AmeriCares today achieved a milestone with a shipment to Honduras bringing the total value of aid delivered in the past 12 months to $1 billion. The shipment, which left AmeriCares Stamford warehouse this morning, includes nearly $7 million worth of medicines for patients with dangerous infections, heart problems, diabetes, respiratory problems and other ailments. The medicines and supplies will be distributed to a network of 180 hospitals and clinics across the country.

Reaching the $1 billion aid mark is an extraordinary feat given the challenging economy. AmeriCares has been able to deliver the same volume of medical assistance as last year through ongoing product donations from many pharmaceutical companies and medical manufacturers which are delivered to help restore health around the world and increasingly, throughout the United States. (...) Over the past 12 months, AmeriCares delivered aid to 94 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. This included 470 shipments to health care clinics. (…)


Polio eradication cited as example of successful partnership  

As UNICEF Executive Board discusses global health.

10 June - International partners welcomed UNICEF’s appraisal of partnerships - in particular of the agency’s unique role in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative - during its Executive Board meeting this week. In comments to the Executive Board session on global health, Dr. Robert Scott of Rotary International noted that polio eradication efforts provide an example of a successful partnership among governments, donors and international organizations.

The Executive Director of Nigeria’s Primary Health Care Development Agency, Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, called on UNICEF to help his country finally stop polio by establishing strong social mobilization capacity that would enable communities to voice their demand for vaccination against the disease.

For more than 20 years, the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF have worked jointly through the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. It is one of the largest public-private partnerships for an internationally coordinated public health goal. (...)



Energy and safety



President Obama launches new energy efficiency schemes

30 June - US President Barack Obama and US Energy Secretary Steven Chu have launched a new energy efficiency effort. ‘One of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to make our economy stronger and cleaner is to make our economy more energy efficient,’ said President Obama. ‘That’s why we made energy efficiency investments a focal point of the Recovery Act. And that’s why today’s announcements are so important. By bringing more energy efficient technologies to American homes and businesses, we won’t just significantly reduce our energy demand; we’ll put more money back in the pockets of hardworking Americans.’

The announcement includes significant changes to energy conservation standards for US household and commercial lamps and lighting equipment. The changes aim to avoid emissions of up to 594 million tonnes of CO2 from 2012 through 2042. (...) The pair announced a $346m investment from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand and accelerate the development of energy efficient technologies in commercial buildings, as well as new and existing homes. Findings show that almost three-quarters of the nation’s 81 million buildings were constructed before 1979 and therefore require significant retrofits or replacement. (...)


The EU establishes a common binding framework on nuclear safety

Brussels, 25 June - Today's adoption by the Council of the Nuclear Safety Directive is a major step for achieving a common legal framework and a strong safety culture in Europe. The EU has thus become the first major regional nuclear actor to provide binding legal force to the main international nuclear safety standards, namely the Safety Fundamentals established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the obligations resulting from the Convention on Nuclear Safety. The Directive also reinforces the independence and resources of the national competent regulatory authorities.

"Nuclear safety is an absolute priority for the EU. This Nuclear Safety Directive brings legal certainty by clarifying responsibilities and provides increased guarantees to the public as required by EU citizens. It sets binding principles for enhancing nuclear safety to protect workers and the general public, as well as the environment. Continuous development of nuclear safety is a responsibility not just for Europe, but for the world; not simply for us but also for coming generations”, said Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs. (...) The EU is the first major regional nuclear actor to provide a binding legal framework on nuclear safety. Europe could thus become a real model for the rest of the world in a context of renewed interest in nuclear energy.


BKW FMB Energy acquires 33 per cent share in Italian wind company

29 June - BKW FMB Energy has acquired a 33 per cent share in new company Fortore Wind, founded by Italian energy company Fortore Energia.

The acquisition is part of a strategic partnership between the two to build and operate wind farms with a total capacity of around 600MW between now and 2016. The agreement immediately incorporates wind farms already implemented and operated by Fortore with a total output of around 140MW. In addition, the wind projects transferred by Fortore to the partner company will be jointly implemented and operated between now and 2016.

Fortore Wind is aiming to invest more than €1bn in implementing the planned wind power capacities over the next seven years.


Wind Power Works: Global Wind Day reaches tens of thousands of people

17 June - On 15 June, tens of thousands of people from around the world joined in celebrating the enormous benefits of wind power during the first ever Global Wind Day. “Wind energy is a driving force for climate protection, economic development and the creation of future-proof jobs”, said German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel. “The Global Wind Day 2009 demonstrates the enormous potential of wind energy to the public.”

In a joint effort between the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) and many national wind energy associations, over 200 events and activities were organised in 35 different countries, spreading the Wind Day messages to around a million people. Ranging from wind farm open days, conferences, exhibitions, workshops and information days to regattas, sporting contests and theatre shows, there was something for everyone, everywhere. (...)[tt_news]=1537&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1588&cHash=30e8d958f3


EEA report confirms wind energy could power Europe many times over

11 June - “The extent of wind energy resources in Europe is very considerable.” That is the key finding of the European Environment Agency’s new report, ‘Europe’s onshore and offshore wind energy potential’. The report highlights wind power’s potential in 2020 as three times greater than Europe’s expected electricity demand, rising to a factor of seven by 2030. (...) The EEA report confirms that EWEA’s 230 GW target for 2020 is eminently achievable. This would produce approximately 600 TWh per year in the EU by 2020, power equivalent to the needs of 135 million average EU households (60% of EU households) and meet between 14 and 18% of EU electricity demand (depending on total demand in 2020).[tt_news]=1533&tx_ttnews[backPid]=1588&cHash=9b32c59114



Environment and wildlife



UNESCO to investigate threats to Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on U.S.-Canadian border

Proposed coal mine in BC’s Flathead River Valley triggers World Heritage investigation.

Seville, Spain, 26 June - The World Heritage Committee of the United Nations voted today to promptly send a mission to Canada to investigate threats to Glacier National Park (Montana) and Waterton Lakes National Park (Alberta) posed by coal mining and gas drilling proposals in British Columbia’s adjacent Flathead River Valley. Together these parks make up Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park, a U.N. World Heritage Site that spans the U.S.-Canadian border. Grizzlies, wolves, wolverines, lynx and many at-risk species depend on the pristine habitats and pure water of the two parks and surrounding wilderness. (...)

The committee’s action was in response to a petition written by Earthjustice on behalf of eleven environmental groups in the U.S. and Canada. Last week, over 53,000 people in the U.S. and Canada wrote in support of the petition to decision makers in both countries, asking them to protect the parks from the upstream mining and drilling. (…)


Red Locust disaster in Eastern Africa prevented

Biopesticides being used on a large scale

Rome, 24 June - An international Red Locust emergency campaign in Eastern and Southern Africa has succeeded in containing a massive locust outbreak in Tanzania, FAO said today. It is the first time that biopesticides are being used on a large scale in Africa against locusts. The rapid intervention has markedly reduced Red Locust infestations thereby preventing a full-blown invasion that could have affected the food crops of around 15 million people in the region, the agency said. FAO organized and coordinated the campaign together with the International Locust Control Organization for Central and Southern Africa (IRLCO-CSA).

Aerial survey and control operations will continue during the next weeks in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, until the locust threat is fully under control. (...) Surveys carried out in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe by IRLCO-CSA and Ministries of Agriculture revealed serious Red Locust infestations, particularly in Tanzania. (...)


Bathing water quality improving in the EU

11 June - The annual bathing water report presented by the European Commission and the European Environment Agency reveals that the large majority of bathing sites across the European Union met EU hygiene standards in 2008. During that bathing season some 96 % of coastal bathing areas and 92 % of bathing sites in rivers and lakes complied with minimum standards. The report provides useful water quality information for the millions of people who visit Europe’s beaches every summer. (…) The overall quality of bathing waters in the EU has markedly improved since 1990. Compliance with mandatory values (minimum quality requirements) increased over the 1990 to 2008 period from 80 % to 96 % and from 52 % to 92 % in coastal and inland waters respectively. From 2007 to 2008 compliance increased both for inland and coastal waters (1.1 and 3.3 percentage points respectively). (…)



Religion and spirituality



Meeting of Religions: final statement for the G8


Written by Administrator

Rome, 18 June (SIR) - “We, leaders of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions gathered in Rome on the eve of the G8 Summit of 2009, are united in our common commitment to justice and the protection of human life, the building of the common good and the belief on the divinely established and inviolable dignity of all people from conception to death”. So begins the final statement issued by the 129 attendees at the IV Summit of Religious Leaders which finished yesterday in Rome. The statement will be delivered to those political leaders who are going to meet at L’Aquila from 8 to 10 July. “In a time of economic crisis when many securities are crumbling, we feel even more acutely the need for spiritual orientation”, reads the statement.

According to the religious leaders “a new moral paradigm is essential to address today’s challenges”. Hence the notion of “shared security” according to which “the security of one actor in international relations must not be detrimental to another”. As for the economic and financial crisis, religious leaders call for “a new financial pact” namely a “concerted action to close down the unregulated off shore banking system”. Regarding development assistance, “the inclusion as partners of civil society organizations including especially religious communities” is another request put forward by religious leaders who call on the G8 to fulfil “the Millennium Development Goals” by 2015. (…)


Bible is the “ultimate immigration handbook”

In a worship service opening the “Churches against Racism” conference in Doorn, Netherlands, 14-17 June, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia said the Bible was the “ultimate immigration handbook”.

15 June - Kobia asked Christians to apply the parable of the “good Samaritan” to the current context in which they live. (...) The service was held to give thanks for the WCC Programme to Combat Racism. Launched 40 years ago the programme assisted the victims of racial discrimination in different parts of the world, most prominently in South Africa under the apartheid regime. Some fifty church leaders, activists and theologians are attending the international conference. Expected outcomes of the conference are theologically founded strategies and networks to advocate against racism within society and the church. A message of commitment will be read during a closing worship service 17 June in the presence of Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands.

The conference was organized by the WCC in cooperation with the Council of Churches in the Netherlands, the association of migrant churches in the Netherlands SKIN, the missionary and diaconal agency KerkinActie, the interchurch organization for development cooperation ICCO and the ecumenical advocacy group Oikos.



Culture and education



Italy: Diplomas awarded to 250 immigrant students from 30 different countries at the Louis Massignon Italian School run by the Community of S. Egidio

In 20 years the school has been attended by 5.000 foreigners.

Napoli, 26 June (Agenzia Fides) - Sunday 28 June at 5pm at the S. Egidio Community in Naples (via S.Nicola al Nilo 4), there will be a ceremony to award diplomas to 250 immigrant students of the Louis Massignon Italian School run by the S. Egidio Community. The ceremony will be followed by a multiethnic party to end the school year. This year the school registered 400 students for 10 different classes according to previous knowledge of Italian. The students are domestic helpers, baby-sitters, waiters, workers, builders. Classes are held Monday evenings, Thursday afternoons and Sunday mornings with a flexible programme to fit in with the working hours of the students. Louis Massignon School has been present in Naples since the Autumn of 1989 (...) Since 1989 Massignon School in Naples has registered about 5.000 foreign students from many different countries: initially most were Africans and then when immigration laws clamped down on that continent, students came from East European countries and then Latin America and then Sri Lanka. The school serves as an observatory on the flow and presence of foreigners in the Campania region of Italy. (S.L.)


UNESCO World Conference on Higher Education

26 June - Over 1,000 participants will discuss the future of Higher Education and research at the 2009 World Conference on Higher Education, to be held at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris from 5 to 8 July. They will review trends from rapid growth in student numbers to the surge in private provision, address emerging new dynamics and their policy implications, examine the social responsibility of higher education, and recommend measures to promote equity and stimulate innovation and research. Participants will aim for an internationally-agreed set of actions to ensure that Higher Education and research play a strategic role in knowledge creation and sharing for a more sustainable, inclusive and development-oriented future. (...)


Solferino: Making their move for a better world

by Rosemarie North

26 June - Five hundred youth from 149 countries at the third Red Cross Red Crescent world youth meeting Solferino in Italy this week are planning their next move for humanity. Under the theme “Youth on the Move”, workshops, cultural exchanges and meetings are taking place as part of the 150-year anniversary of the battle of Solferino. Stephen Ryan, communications officer for youth and volunteers at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said he hoped the youth meeting would inspire concrete actions in participants from every part of the world. (...)

Hadhya Al Zawm, a volunteer co-ordinator in the Yemen Red Crescent Society, said she was inspired by the Red Cross Red Crescent’s global values of humanity, independence, neutrality, impartiality, voluntary action, universality and unity. “I am here to meet our other brothers and sisters in the Movement. It was my dream to be here and to participate with other youth. And not to see not only in Yemen but all over the world that we all believe in the same fundamental principles and we do the same volunteering work and the same activities.”


A Free online University, courtesy of the UN

by Jason Williams

24 June - (…) The UN Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technology and Development introduced the University of the People, or UoPeople this spring, when classes began in April. The university will charge an admission fee only - $15 to $50 (depending on the country of origin) - and places students in classes of 20 for two majors: computer science and business administration. The university will not confer degrees. For now, the goal is to provide students a chance to continue their education without physical or financial restrictions. Similar to traditional universities, UoPeople holds online courses over fall and spring academic semesters. The first semester begins this fall and consists of two sessions; enrollment began April 27 for classes that run from Sep. 9 through Jan. 20. Registration for spring semester begins Jan. 21. (…)

UofPeople is a prime example of how the UN is carrying out its mission of equality and education through the Internet and new-media communications. Besides the UN, nongovernmental organizations like UNA are increasingly using communication technologies to improve outreach and exposure. UNA-USA, for example, has begun to formally switch gears from a print-based approach to an online and interactive move to communicate its activities to members and the diplomatic community. (…)


Afghan children heading to school despite attacks

by Giselle Chang

24 June - Despite the ongoing violence in Afghanistan, including gas attacks on girls attending schools this spring, Unicef and other humanitarian groups continue to work relentlessly in the country, heeding the escalating risks while moving ahead with their aid efforts.

In an e-mail message to UNA-USA, Falzul Haque, chief of education at the Unicef office in Afghanistan, described the significant progress the agency continues to make in education regardless of the obstacles. Enrollment in schools, he wrote, has increased to about 6.14 million students in 2008 from less than 1 million in 2001. Of the 6 million, 2.9 million are girls.

Haque added that 3,724 community-based schools have been established in remote rural areas for more than 160,000 children who were previously not in school and the majority of which are girls. Unicef has helped about 100,000 teachers receive training on pedagogy and has developed new curriculums and textbooks for students.  Unicef also reported that almost 3,500 former child soldiers in Afghanistan had been reunited with their families and that with its partners, the agency had immunized 5 million children against polio.

Although progress has been made in spreading literacy and offering health care in Afghanistan, Haque stressed that Unicef still faces major hurdles in these areas. (…)


2010 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards

The Hague, June 2009 - Each year, Europa Nostra and the European Union reward the best of cultural heritage achievements. Through our European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards, we celebrate excellence and dedication by architects, craftsmen, volunteers, schools, local communities, heritage owners and media. Through the power of their example we stimulate creativity and innovation.

The awards celebrate exemplary restorations and initiatives of the many facets of Europe’s cultural heritage in categories ranging from the restoration of monuments and buildings, their adaptation to new uses, to urban and rural landscape rehabilitation, archaeological site interpretations, and care for art collections. Also awarded are research and education projects, dedicated service to heritage conservation by individuals and organisations, and education and awareness raising initiatives related to cultural heritage. Every year, up to six monetary awards of €10.000 each are awarded to the top laureates in the various categories. Closing date for submission of entries for all categories: 1 October 2009.

Information: Elena Bianchi, Europa Nostra Heritage Awards Coordinator:

Entry Forms now available at

Europa Nostra represents some 250 non-governmental organisations, 150 associate organisations and 1500 individual members from more than 50 countries who are fully committed to safeguarding Europe’s cultural heritage and landscapes.


CO2 Offset: FEE´s CO2 Compensation Fund

The CO2 Fund will support environmental education activities.

The funding derived from CO2 compensation will be entered into a CO2 Fund administrated by the International Learning about Forests (LEAF) Coordination.

Schools involved in the environmental education programmes of FEE (LEAF, Eco-Schools and YRE) can through their national coordinator apply for funding from the CO2 Fund for planting of trees. The tree planting must be combined with environmental education activities. Schools from countries outside the FEE network can also apply for funding from the CO2 Fund and a national NGO must apply on behalf of the school. (...)



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


In a global perspective: as wars decrease, peace culture and human rights spread

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.


Wars decrease - From the end of the Cold War until today world conflicts have diminished by 41%. This is one of the most astonishing findings of the Human Security Report, a piece of research carried out by the University of Vancouver in Canada over five years. This report refutes  the “false myth” of an increase in conflicts worldwide in the last few years. According to this research, entitled “War and Peace in the XXI Century”, there has been a sharp decrease in conflicts, genocides and human rights violations worldwide since 1992. Already at the beginning of 2005 a study done by the University of Maryland had pointed out the recent decline in the number of wars, contrary to the general feeling. But the findings of the Human Security Report, the first and most complete survey of all wars fought from 1946 onwards, go further and reveal a huge drop in the number of international and civil wars and consequently a drop also in genocides and war victims in general. Between the years 1981 and 2001, international crises decreased by more than 70%. The number of victims of genocide and ethnic cleansing dropped by 80%, in spite of the sanguinary massacres which occurred in Bosnia and Rwanda in the mid-90s. The average number of casualties per single war diminished greatly, from 37,000 in 1950 to 600 in 2002. International arms trafficking dropped by 33% between the years 1990 and 2003. (Unfortunately, this does not mean that the global expenditure on weapons has similarly decreased; as a matter of fact it has increased from 800 billion dollars in 1998 to 1,200 billion dollars today).

“Furthermore, starting from the ‘90s, thanks to the strong pressure of western public opinion, the idea of a humanitarian “right of intervention” in local conflicts, in order to avoid violence against civilians, has emerged among several UN Member States. This has led to a widening of UN involvement, resulting in a 40% drop in civil wars worldwide from the ‘90s up to the present day. Moreover, in the last fifteen years more internal conflicts have been solved diplomatically than in the last two centuries.” (from Italy-UN: 50 Years, a dossier issued by the Press and Information Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ed. Voices, Milan, February 2006).


Peace culture spreads - But the most important thing, in my opinion, is the fact that lately, though not without difficulties and impediments, a culture of peace has gained ground, which is imposing also for war a taboo like that established  over the centuries for slavery, pedophilia, incest and crimes of passion. If we study the language related to wars, we easily realize that we have gone from “holy” wars, that is wars blessed by God and therefore indisputable, to “just” wars, that is wars still made legitimate but in this case by earthly justice, to “humanitarian wars”, which are no longer even founded on justice but only on human pity, with a progressive regular decrease in considering legitimate the use of military force. Nowadays not only have such adjectives disappeared but the mere word “war” has become embarrassing for politicians on all sides to pronounce and in fact they prefer to use different expressions and talk about “peace missions”, often without any supporting evidence. What has changed and keeps on changing is the collective idea, which  now largely refuses war  as an instrument for resolving conflicts and has understood that it is of no benefit to anyone except arms dealers.


Human rights extended - Furthermore, according to the findings of the Human Security Report, the research carried out by the University of Vancouver, already cited in the paragraph about the diminution in the number of wars, between the years 1994 and 2003, in most of the developing countries there has been a general decrease in the number of human rights abuses. This phenomenon goes in parallel with that of human progress - which, as we have already seen, has taken enormous steps forward in the last fifty years – and with the spreading of democracy, which  thirty years ago existed in only about twenty countries in the world while now it has become a reality in the majority of countries, even though with many contradictions and limitations. In fact, according to the last Freedom House report, dated January 2008, for the first time in UN history, the majority of the governments of Member States are elected democratically: today there are 121 electoral democracies in the world (where there are free elections), of which 90 are liberal democracies. There has been much discussion In the last few years about the universality of human rights, emphasizing that such universality is only presumed since they are invalidated from the start by the fact that they represent only one culture, that is the “western” one. I personally do not share this doubt, since I believe that human rights come before differences on the cultural level: they simply represent man’s elementary “needs” and are therefore valid in any place in the world or time in history. But even if we make an anthropological-cultural analysis of the different cultures which goes beyond the more banal stereotypes on different cultures, we discover that the basic values are always the same. The ethical code which is the basis of human rights is the common property of all peoples.


Nevertheless this does not mean that significant  and complementary contributions cannot come from the various cultures to the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. A very interesting example is represented by the African Charter of the Rights of Peoples, which draws attention not only to individual rights but also to collective ones. It was adopted by the Organization for African Unity (OAU) in 1981 and became effective in 1986, when 35 out of 50 OAU Member States ratified it. As of January 2004, 53 nations had adhered to it, that is all the States belonging to the African Union. The Charter, which protects human rights in the territory of Africa, presents some original characteristics compared to similar treaties. The Charter recognizes both civil and political rights along with economic, social and cultural rights; moreover, it is the first international convention on human rights which covers many rights of peoples and not only the rights of the individual as such; in fact, it recognizes the right of equality, the right of self-determination, the right of ownership of one’s natural resources and the right to development and to a healthy environment. The Charter also contains provisions regarding several duties with which individuals must comply. Thus it recognizes the duties of the individual towards the family, society and the international community, the duty of non-discrimination, the duty of supporting one’s parents when needed and of working to the best of one’s capacities and competence and the duty of preserving and reinforcing the positive values of African culture. The African Charter has established the African Commission for Human Rights and the Rights of Peoples with specific, though very limited, judicial tasks. Lastly, in 1998 the OAU approved an Optional Protocol to the Charter which established the African Court of the Human Rights and the Rights of Peoples. This Optional Protocol has just received the number of 15 necessary ratifications. The African Rights Court thus became effective on 25 January  2004 with the ratification of the Union of the Comoros.


(Extract from the book “It is not true that everything gets 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: 24 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 6,000 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.


It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered 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.


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