Good News Agency – Year II, n° 8
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.
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It is a free of charge service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered non-profit educational organization chartered in Italy in 1979. The Association operates for the development of consciousness and supports the activities of the Lucis Trust, Radio For Peace International, The Club of Budapest and other organizations promoting a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective based on unity within diversity and on sharing. Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Africa: Parliamentarians come out in support of children
13 April - Parliamentarians from North, West and Central Africa capped a UNICEF-organised conference on 7-9 April in Nouakchott, Mauritania, with a call for governments and the international community to support, respect and promote children's rights.
The 'Nouakchott Appeal' urges governments to protect children by ratifying and implementing international agreements, including the UN Convention on Human Rights and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The legislators also called on governments to adopt new political and budgetary measures so that children's basic needs in areas such as education, health care and nutrition are met.
Delta Region: female circumcision banned
Nigeria, 13 April – The State House of Assembly of the Delta Region passed a bill prohibiting female circumcision in the state, with immediate effect. The bill expressly bans the practice, making it an offence for “any person to allow any female who is either the daughter or ward to be circumcised or has her genital organ mutilated”. Offenders will face up to three months in prison, as well as a fine. (BO)
12 April - In response to a request by Uruguay's President Jorge Batlle, UNDP is supporting a consensus-building process to help the government transform its policies on public services. The project is being carried out by the Strategic Studies Center 1815, a civil society organization, with participation by the United Nations University for Peace.
"This initiative aims to construct a united platform and to facilitate a fluid dialogue, with a broad and participatory approach, for defining and implementing state policies on public services," said Martin Santiago, UNDP Resident Representative, who emphasized that the issue is an important one on Uruguay's national agenda.
12 April - The administration of Mexican President Vicente Fox sent a tax reform bill to the Mexican Congress last week that contains strong environmental protection and cleanup provisions. Environment Minister Victor Lichtinger said that under the bill, ranching and mining interests would have to start paying for the water they use, giving them an incentive to conserve, and the worst-polluting cars would be taxed so that they became the most expensive cars on the market. Lichtinger said the new administration would rigorously enforce current environmental laws, pointing out that it had already begun to clamp down on water-pollution violations by Pemex, the state-owned oil monopoly.
16 April - Malawi's parliamentary committee on the environment is devising ways that will enable it to summon violators of environment preservation guidelines and policies to parliament for punitive measures, PANA reported on Monday. Chimunthu Banda, the committee chairman, said that the committee – formed early last year - was mandated to summon violators of the country's environment policies to parliament for possible punishment as one way of enforcing environment policies.
10 April - Migrants Rights International has just launched a discussion group by email on the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCRX ). Participants, approximately 300, are representatives from civil society organizations with a special interest and or expertise on migration issues vis-a-vis the preparations and outcome of WCRX.
16 April - The Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN) has defended the rights of gays and lesbians while maintaining that the anti-homosexual position of the Bible be followed, the 'Namibian’ reported on Wednesday. This comes in the wake of several attacks by President Sam Nujoma on gays and lesbians in which he labelled them as ungodly. In a press statement, the 50 church leaders "rejected any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation". The statement, issued at the end of the church group's annual general meeting, said: "The AGM also stressed that every human being deserves the same protection, human rights and equality as provided for by the scriptures and the Namibian constitution."
16 April - The central statistical office in Port Louis has announced that sugar production will reach 620,000 mt this year as compared to 569,289 mt in 2000 and 373,294 mt in 1999, reports said on Tuesday. It said better climatic conditions last year resulted in an increase of 31.6 percent in the production of cane: 5,109,500 mt in 2000 as compared to 3,882,597 mt in 1999.
Philippines meeting promotes eco-industry in Asia
17 April - More than 100 business, government and community leaders from Asia met recently in Manila to discuss "industrial ecology" strategies to encourage environmentally-friendly development. Industrial ecology focuses on ways to minimize waste and maximize efficient use of materials and energy, including recycling. Eco-industry strategies can help reduce poverty by promoting development while protecting the environment - and also benefit firms' financial bottom line.
UNDP Resident Representative Terence Jones underscored the importance of progress in eco-industry as countries prepare for Rio+10 , next year's meeting to review progress since the Earth Summit. Participants discussed issues such as regional development and planning in Asia, advantages in site location, competitiveness and eco-industrial networking, and environmental perspectives in developing eco-industry parks.
4.S Martina Hingis to donate award to aid children in Colombia
12 April - Tennis star Martina Hingis has been named winner of the tenth annual Family Circle/ Hormel Foods "Player Who Makes A Difference" award. She will receive the honour at a ceremony at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, South Carolina on 21 April.
"Martina's work with the World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Program is truly commendable," said Susan Kelliher Ungaro, Editor-in-Chief of Family Circle magazine. "As a recipient of this award, we celebrate her commitment in making the world a safer and healthier place for children."
"I am very honored to receive this award from Family Circle magazine and Hormel Foods," said Ms. Hingis. "Children are our future, and this money will go a long way in helping hundreds of young children escape from the dangers of living in the streets." She has decided to use the $20,000 award money to support the work of the Bosconia programme in Bogotá, Colombia, which helps children living and working on the streets.
Humanitarian convoy sponsored by UNESCO to mark 15th anniversary of Chernobyl on April 26
Paris, April 9 - A humanitarian convoy led by French students and sponsored by UNESCO is on its way to areas affected by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Belarus to mark the 15th anniversary of the catastrophe on April 26. The convoy, carrying medical, computer and educational material to hospitals, orphanages and schools, set off on its three-day trip from UNESCO Headquarters on Saturday after a ceremony attended by UNESCO's Assistant Director-General for Science, Walter Erdelen, and the Permanent Delegate of Belarus to UNESCO, Vladimir Senko, who also serves as Ambassador to France.
Mr Erdelen recalled that 70 percent of the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Ukrainian nuclear power station had fallen into Belarus. He said: “In the contaminated areas, people are still living in very damaged social and environmental conditions.” Mr Ardelen underlined that “UNESCO was the first United Nations body to work to alleviate the consequences of Chernobyl”. He hailed the action of the students “who would have only been around 10 years old at the time of the catastrophe” and said the convoy was an example of “establishing a culture of solidarity.”
Mr Senko thanked the students for their “courageous action” and added: “My country suffered more than others from the disaster. Today, 20 percent of the national budget is dedicated to fighting the effects of Chernobyl. Fifteen years after the disaster, the problems remain and will continue in years to come.”
WFP launches new emergency operation to feed 2.5 million people in Ethiopia
Addis Ababa, April 10 - The United Nations World Food Programme today launched a US$89.7 million emergency operation to feed 2.5 million small-scale farmers and drought affected pastoralists in Ethiopia.
WFP, the world's largest food aid agency, is seeking support from donors to resource some 206,000 metric tons of food urgently needed to assist people affected by drought and recurring crop failure.
"For the last twelve months, WFP requested over 605,000 metric tons of food to assist some 5.7 million people, but this year due to favourable weather conditions, we are asking for less food aid," said Benedict Fultang, WFP acting Country Director in Ethiopia.
Although the overall humanitarian situation in Ethiopia is gradually improving, populations in several regions of the country remain highly vulnerable. Hit by a series of drought and crop failure over the last four to five years, pastoralists and subsistence farmers still need assistance to rebuild their lives.
Bill Gates Senior Helps Deliver Life-saving Vaccines to Mozambique
Maputo, Mozambique 6 April – In a major step towards saving the lives of millions of children around the world, the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the Global Fund for Children's Vaccines began the first round of a global schedule of vaccine delivery, to Mozambique, the first to reach the African continent.
Bill Gates Sr., Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, joined Carol Bellamy, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique, at Boane District Health Clinic, 45 kms from the capital city Maputo, to see infants being immunized with DTP-hepB vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough and hepatitis B.
13 April - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has given non-food items such as sheets and tools to 96,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in southern Guinea, Kindia, Forécariah and Haute-Guinée since September during the first phase of a distribution exercise. Phase II will target tens of thousands of vulnerable IDPs in southern Guinea, according to the ICRC.
13 April - More than 1,500 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had fled to Monrovia from southeastern Liberia during a civil war in the 1990s were taken back to the area between 27 February and 28 March, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported on Thursday. The operation was organised by the ICRC in cooperation with the Liberian Red Cross and the Liberian Refugee Repatriation and Resettlement Committee, ICRC said.
16 April - Morocco had donated US $150,000 for the victims of the recent flooding in central Mozambique, PANA said on Wednesday. Handing over the money to Mozambique's Disaster Management Institute (INGC) in Maputo on Monday, Moroccan Ambassador Abdellatif Nacif said the gesture was a mark of his country's solidarity with the Mozambican people.
Meanwhile, United States ambassador to Mozambique, Sharon Wilkinson, delivered a consignment of health equipment valued at US$ 240,000 to the Manica health centre, 75 km north of Maputo, reports said. Wilkinson said the US would soon repeat the gesture to Boane and Boquisso health centres in Maputo province.
Italy supports sewerage network for Bethlehem area
Monday, 16 April - As part of a long-term effort to help improve environmental health for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People and Bethlehem Water and Sewerage Authority signed an agreement last week for installation of 24 km of sewer lines. Italy is providing $2 million for the work, which will expand existing networks to reach areas not currently served in Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour and the Al-Dheisheh refugee camp.
This is the third phase of a project that will complete about 90 percent of the sewerage master plan for the Bethlehem area, serving over 100,000 inhabitants.
For the earlier work, Italy provided $5.5 million in funding, UNDP managed the procurement of pipes and equipment, and Germany provided support for the construction, which was implemented by German Technical Cooperation (GTZ).
Imagine that instead of having water on tap in your home, you have to walk miles each day to collect it. Imagine that when you reach the water source it is a muddy hole in a dried-up river bed. For over a quarter of the world's men, women and children this is reality.
WaterAid (Registered No. 288701) is the only charity in the UK that specialises in providing three things to the poorest people in developing countries: water, sanitation and hygiene promotion. WaterAid works:
1. With communities - from planning and construction to maintenance and encouraging community ownership and responsibility. This is the key to making a lasting difference
2. By using simple, suitable and sustainable technology
3. With partner organisations in fifteen countries in Africa and Asia
4. Efficiently - it costs us a little over £10 to provide one person in the developing world with access to safe water for life.
WaterAid has helped over six million people to gain access to improved water supplies and/or sanitation; looks forward to a world in which everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.
For Press enquiries please contact: Email
Rome/Geneva, 12 April - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have published new recommendations to strengthen the process used to protect consumers from the risk that some genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could pose for a small percentage of people with food allergies. They are available on FAO's website at the following address: http://www.fao.org/es/ESN/gm/biotec-e.htm and on WHO's at: http://www.who.int/fsf/GMfood/index.htm
Incorporating the latest scientific information on allergens, a FAO/WHO Joint Expert Consultation on Foods Derived from Biotechnology which met in Rome from 22-25 January made recommendations that would substantially improve the decision-making process and update the allergen data base used to evaluate the risk of transferring allergens from an existing organism, or creating new ones in food made from genetically modified organisms.
Maryland became the first state to regulate genetically modified fish this week when Gov. Parris Glendening (D) signed a law that prohibits raising such fish unless they are in ponds or lakes that do not connect with other waterways. Under the law, fish growers must also make sure the fish cannot escape by other means, such as getting picked up and dropped by a bird.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether to allow sales of genetically modified fish.
13 April - The European Commission is to commit 1.6 million euros (US $1.42 million) to the fight against meningitis in Burkina Faso and Chad, the EC's humanitarian assistance office, ECHO, reported on Thursday. The epidemic started in January in each country. On Wednesday, Burkina Faso's Health Ministry said the disease had infected 9,623 persons and killed 1,379 people this year. ECHO said Chad's health authorities had reported 4,117 cases between mid-January and 8 April, including 393 deaths.
12 April - Contact with nature may have therapeutic effects, says a professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Emory University. Writing this month in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Howard Frumkin says that interactions with natural landscapes, plants, and animals can have a "soothing, restorative, and even healing" effect. He says natural places may even cause some diseases to "run their course faster." Harvard scientist E.O. Wilson writes an accompanying piece in the journal, praising Frumkin for showing "why it is wiser ... to save the last stand of old-growth forests in the permanent service of preventive medicine than to cut them down for the short-term purchase of more pharmaceuticals."
16 April - Health authorities vaccinated over one million children up to five years old against poliomyelitis in Luanda at the weekend, Angop reported on Monday. The vaccination programme was part of a joint effort between the government and the World Health Organisation. Many children were given doses of vitamin A, which prevents blindness, the report said.
South Africa: The 39 pharmaceutical companies withdraw their indictment against the South African Government
Pretoria, South Africa, 19 April - The High Court of Justice has declared concluded the lawsuit cited by 39 pharmaceutical multinationals against the South African Government accused of having allowed the importation and distribution of low cost anti-AIDS drugs, duplicated from medicines produced by them. The High Court closed the case because the 39 pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn the indictment and have also accepted to cover the costs of the trial.
The event, which highlights how concern for human beings can and must prevail over commercial interests, was strongly influenced by international public opinion which reversed the roles of the trial and considered the pharmaceutical companies not as the damaged party but, on the contrary, as the accused. The news reported here on this subject show this event in this perspective. In addition, the other news reported here on the subject AIDS show that the reactions to this scourge are including new and increasingly effective measures . (F.G.)
UNAIDS welcomes outcome of South African court case
Geneva, 19 April – UNAIDS welcomes the withdrawal by 39 pharmaceutical companies and associations of their legal case before the High Court of South Africa. The case challenged provisions of the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act of 1997, whose intent UNAIDS has consistently supported. The Act’s intent is to operationalize key elements of the National Drug Policy, including generic substitution, greater competition in public drug procurement, improved drug quality, and more rational use of medicines.
UNAIDS further welcomes the decision by the Ministry of Health to create a joint working group with the pharmaceutical industry to examine broader public health issues.
13 April - The Malian government has signed an agreement with four international pharmaceutical companies to drastically reduce the cost of drugs which suppress the growth of HIV, AFP reported.
A treatment which used to cost some US $480 per patient each month will now cost between $60 and $110 monthly, Malian Health Minister Traore Fatoumata Nafo told reporters on Saturday. The companies that signed the deal are Boehringer-Ingelheim from Germany, GlaxoSmithKline from Britain and US firms, Merck and Bristol Myers Squibb.
10 April - The UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has won agreement from six major drug companies to keep cutting prices of Aids treatments for the world's poorest nations.
Cameroon signs up for cheap AIDS drugs
Cameroon became the fifth African country on Wednesday to strike a deal with major pharmaceutical companies to ensure cheap access to AIDS drugs. GlaxoSmithKline, the world's largest supplier of HIV/AIDS medicines, said the West African country had reached agreement with five leading drug firms under a UN initiative.
Bangkok, 23 April – A new report released here today by Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali reveals that between 3000 and 5000 HIV-positive children will be born to infected mothers in Thailand every year unless health measures are taken.
The report, entitled “Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV: Thai Red Cross Zidovudine Donation Programme,” documents this programme, which is under the patronage of Her Royal Highness. This vital programme has successfully raised funds from public donations to subsidize the drug for HIV-infected pregnant women. Zidovudine is a drug that has been shown to significantly reduce the transmission from mother to child of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Her Royal Highness Princess Soamsawali spearheaded the zidovudine donation programme from the mid-1990s, after realizing the drug was financially beyond the reach of most infected Thai women. The programme is a partnership between, the Thai Red Cross Society, the Thai Ministry of Public Health, and the public.
United Nations to hold first special session on HIV/AIDS, 25-27 June 2001
The United Nations will hold a Special Session on HIV/AIDS to galvanize leadership at the highest levels, intensify international action and mobilize the resources needed to combat the epidemic. The Special Session, to take place from 25 to 27 June 2001 at UN Headquarters in New York, will be the first ever to address a public health issue.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and high-level government delegations will address:
- The importance of political leadership in developing effective responses and decreasing the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS
- Encouraging all sectors of society to play a major role
- Increasing resources for treatment, prevention, and care
- Preventing new infections and alleviating the social and economic impact of the epidemic
- Access to care and the development of new technologies and treatments that are both effective and affordable
Governments are expected to adopt a Declaration of Commitment setting targets and timetables. In addition to statements in the Plenary, four interactive round tables will discuss human rights, international funding and cooperation, prevention and care, and the socio-economic impact of HIV/AIDS. These will involve participants from NGOs, the private sector and other civil society groups. A full programme of press conferences and special events will provide additional media opportunities.
WHO/WTO workshop on pricing and financing of essential drugs
Experts: affordable medicines for poor countries are feasible
Høsbjør, Norway, 11 April – Making life-saving medicines more affordable for poor countries is vital for improving public health. More importantly, it is realistic, experts said in a three-day workshop that ended today. In particular, "differential pricing" — companies charging different prices in different markets according to purchasing power — is a feasible means of achieving this, provided certain conditions are met. That was a widely held view among a diverse group of 80 experts from 21 countries and a wide range of professional backgrounds, participating in a workshop organized jointly by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), Norwegian Foreign Ministry and Global Health Council, a broad-based US organization in the healthcare field.
The workshop examined in detail ways to reduce pharmaceutical prices in low-income countries and how to increase financing so that the world’s poorest people can obtain necessary medicines and healthcare. HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis featured prominently, but a wide range of other diseases that affect poor people were also discussed.
US - Chemists have finally made synthetic quinine after more than a century of trying, reopening its file as a potential source of new antimalarial drugs. Gilbert Stork and co-workers at Columbia University have made quinine from a process called 'total synthesis'.
Malaria remains endemic in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and South America, and kills more than a million people each year. Quinine does not by itself cure malaria, it simply interferes with the growth of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum that is passed on by mosquitoes. Most of Africa and Asia are afflicted with drug-resistant strains. ‘The ability to build the molecule piece by piece” explains Gary Posner, a chemist at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, “could be useful in a search for new, more potent and less toxic variants of the molecule”
UK - The BWEA (British Wind Energy Association) predicts that 2005 megawatts of wind energy will be operating in the UK by the end of 2005. The turbines, both on and offshore, will provide enough electricity for one and a quarter million households.
Presentations made at the CREA (Confederation of Renewable Energy Associations) seminar on Regional planning targets; rationale, progress and practical implementation now available at:
The 5th April Crown Estate announced the release of eighteen potential sea bed sites for offshore wind farms. Should all the projects go ahead, their combined electricity generation would power 1.1 million homes each year, equivalent to the output of both Dungeness B and Bradwell nuclear reactors .
The UK has the largest wind resource in Europe, with the offshore resource alone sufficient to power the country nearly three times over.
A new type of fuel cell could prove cheap, reliable and robust enough to speed things up. Developed at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, the prototype cell converts hydrogen to electricity more efficiently than existing devices, and at temperatures many engineers consider ideal. Operating at around 160o C, these devices create higher voltages than PEM cells, and should, once design is optimised, have greater overall efficiencies. “If we really decided that we wanted a clean hydrogen economy”, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado, USA comments, “we could have it by 2010.” The barriers are now mainly psychological, agrees Stanford Ovshinsky of Energy Conversion Devices in Troy, Michigan: “What is involved is the task of changing a huge, powerful, entrenched global industry from a petrol-engine base to an electric one.”
Upton, New York, April 13 (ENS) - The more diverse an ecosystem, the better it can serve to absorb carbon dioxide - a potent greenhouse gas - from the atmosphere, a new study suggests. The research has important implications for ongoing international negotiations over the best way to address global climate change, and the role that so called carbon sinks should play.
Washington, April 10 - When the Oscar-nominated Mexican film Amores Perros opens in movie theaters across the United States later this month, moviegoers will see graphic scenes of dogfighting. While these scenes are sure to shock many, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) says the movie depicts an inhumane and illegal activity that is flourishing in urban and rural areas across the United States.
Executives from the film's U.S. distributor - Lions Gate International, Inc. - have agreed to work with The HSUS to educate audiences about dogfighting. Along with assuring moviegoers that no animals were harmed during filming, the distributor will include The HSUS' Web site address - www.hsus.org on posters and advertisements. The Web site features information on dogfighting, including a comprehensive list of state laws on dogfighting, which is illegal in all 50 states.
Paris, April - The Paris based OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) is urging with a coordinated program the removal of subsidies and introduction of environmental taxes “to prevent irreversible damage to our environment over the next 20 years”. OECD groups 30 industrialized countries that produce two-thirds of the world's goods and services.
The call comes in a major review of key environmental challenges to 2020, to be considered by OECD environment ministers May 16. “Only with such widespread use of economic instruments will it be possible to tackle the more complex, interrelated and international environmental problems of the future”, told OECD environment director Joke Waller-Hunter, “More stringent policies are needed to ensure that environmental degradation is de-coupled from economic growth”. There would be nine percent lower SOx emissions, three percent lower methane emissions, and 30 percent less run-off of nitrogen to waterways from agricultural chemicals. The OECD Outlook is available online at:
The OECD member countries are listed at:
Bhubaneshwar, India, April 17 - Thousands of baby Olive Ridley turtles have begun crawling out of eggs laid at the sandy shores of Orissa, one of the world's largest nesting grounds on India's eastern coast, boosting hopes of pulling these turtles back from the brink of extinction “Government efforts to guarantee the turtles' safe passage to the Orissa coast have paid off," said Ardhendu Sarangi, the state forest and environment secretary. “This year was an exceptionally busy year with over a million turtles making their ritual trek to the nesting sites”. According to studies, only one out of every 1,000 hatchlings normally reaches adulthood. Though protected under India's Wildlife Protection Act, during the past five years over 50,000 turtles have either been mangled by fishing trawler propellers or suffocated in fishermens' gill nets, and, by pollution and poachers , high tides and exceptionally strong winds made danger to the eggs, conservationists say.
Clean Up the World (CUW), one of the world's largest community-based environmental projects, has announced a formidable partnership with National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) - helping even more communities to access the tools necessary to conserve and improve their environment. Chairman of CUW, Ian Kiernan, said that as a global media partner, NGCI would create many more opportunities for local communities around the world to make a fundamental difference to the health of their environment. "Not only does CUW seek to empower people and communities to improve their own environment, but also to link communities and share the knowledge they already have," Mr Kiernan said. The CUW project, held in conjunction with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), is now active in 124 countries, and NGCI is the fastest-growing global cable network, broadcasting in 113 countries reaching nearly 100 million homes in 18 languages.
American Forest’s year 2001: global tree-planting projects
For the 13th consecutive year, American Forests is planting native trees in global ecosystem restoration projects across the United States and around the world. In 2001 nearly 4 million trees will be planted in 52 domestic and international projects (Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; Erzgebirge, Germany; Northen Coast of West Java, Indonesia; Trees for Tigers, Russian Far East) in cooperation with hundreds of local and national organizations and agencies.
Complete programme, at:
The “Turn Off Violence on TV” Campaign
(Good News Agency reports this press release as received by IFLAC’s President, Prof. Ada Aharoni.)
IFLAC: The International Forum for the Culture of Peace, has launched a new global campaign: “Turn Off Violence on TV”, following "The Ethical Code of the Media" launched by Sergio Tripi, editor of the "Good News Agency." This code calls upon the world media to abide by ethical and objective standards, and to equally cover the good aspects of life and of human experience.Unfortunately, this code is often ignored on the electronic media, especially when abominably violent films are daily projected on television all around the world, which have a bad influence on society.
The "Turn Off Violence on TV" campaign calls on world governments, and on the citizens of the world who abhor violence and regard it as a danger to humanity, to stop its influence on the electronic media. Citizens of the world are recommended to write to their local and national television stations, and to the sponsors and directors of violent films, and to warn them that they will not watch their films filled with shootings, homicide, blood and murder anymore. Violence and murder are only a small part of human experience, and by all means, not the most interesting or beneficial. Television sponsors were warned that if they do not want to lose their money, they should air good and exciting films that present the real problems of life, that build society and not destroy it.
The first responses to this innovative campaign coming both from TV companies, and from NGO's and associations, as well as from individuals from England, India, Canada and Israel, are very promising.
Kazakhstan boosts women in politics
16 April - Kazakhstan, with support from Sweden, has set a bold target of doubling the proportion of women holding national political offices over the next two years. There are only 13 women in the 115-member parliament. Among 14 ministers, there is one woman, and out of 80 deputy heads of regional administrations, only five are women.
Kazakhstan's National Commission on Family and Women's Affairs is carrying out the initiative with support from the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida) (channelled through Sprangbradan Utvecklingskonsulter AB) and the UN Gender in Development Bureau in Kazakhstan.
former President of Costa Rica and 1987 Nobel Peace Laureate
Oscar Arias is the symbol of a small country and a great democracy, a State with no army in the tormented region of Central America. While President of the Republic, he succeeded in bringing together at the negotiating table the Heads of State of Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras and persuading them to sign his peace plan committing the signatories to renounce the use of war in the region. Today, as President of the Arias Foundation, he appreciates the role of Good News Agency in the creation of a more aware public opinion and agreed to give an interview to its Publisher and Editor, Sergio Tripi, on the themes of development and on Good News Agency’s initiative to promote an ethical code of the media.
Sergio Tripi: In spite of the social progress made in Latin America, there are still very difficult problems to be solved in various fields. What new values and what process of change will be necessary to ensure a democratic participation and a life worth of living at all levels in the Region?
Oscar Arias: The world is definitely in need of a new set of values for the twenty-first century. I have said many times that I would like to see a world with more solidarity and less individualism, more honesty and less hypocrisy, more transparency and less corruption, more faith and less cynicism, more compassion and less selfishness. In short, a world with more love.
To ensure democratic participation, it will be necessary to strengthen civil society and to ensure that militaries are appropriately subordinated to democratically elected civilian governments. In addition, democracy will only survive if it can “deliver the goods,” meaning take care of the basic necessities of people. Continued high levels of poverty, combined with government inefficiency and corruption, tend to make fast-paced and absolute autocratic change more attractive than democratic change to the majority of people. These are the conditions which lead to disenchantment and passivity in the population at large and facilitate military coups. In order for democracies to survive, they must find ways of growing their economies and satisfying people’s basic needs.
The key to the basic changes necessary to development rests with the people. What is being done and what else will be necessary to do in the field of education and training in Latin America?
Education is absolutely fundamental to democracy and to prosperity. Governments should be investing heavily in education, not only at the primary level, but at the secondary and tertiary levels as well. As a Costa Rican, I have seen the progress possible when military spending is cut out of the national budget. Since eliminating our army in 1948, we have been able to dedicate significant funds to health and education, with the result that our life expectancy and literacy rates are as high as those of Europe and the U.S.
Yes, Costa Rica is a vivid example to the world of a country that, on the basis of a farsighted constitution, has abolished the armed forces for over half a century and has fostered the progress for peace. As a former President of the Country, how would you rate the availability of financial resources that originate from the abolishment of the expenses for armament?
I partly answered this question. Today in Costa Rica, spending on security (the National Police Force) amounts to only five percent of what we spend on education and health. The results can be seen in our healthy and well-educated population, which has translated into a higher standard of living and much greater political stability than any of our neighbors in Central America enjoy. Costa Rica’s success with demilitarization has led me to campaign for other small, poor countries to demilitarise as well. So far, Panama and Haiti have followed Costa Rica’s example. There are many poor countries in Africa which would also benefit tremendously from redirecting most if not all of their military spending to alleviate human suffering and build up their populations’ levels of health and education.
There is an increasing tendency on part of the developed countries to alleviate the burden of the foreign debt of the developing countries, with specific social requirements included in the plans designed for the Highly Indebted Poor Countries. However, it is still not enough. What else could be done to improve the situation?
The HIPC initiative should be expanded to include more countries. Debt-for-nature swaps, as we did here in Costa Rica during my presidency, hold great promise for simultaneously reducing debt and protecting delicate ecosystems and environmental treasures. Poor countries should greatly reduce if not eliminate military spending, which eats away at scarce resources needed for human development. Foreign aid should be expanded, for it is in the interest of the wealthy countries to promote human development, as well as the development of infrastructure, in poor countries. It is only with this type of investment, along with major debt relief, that poor countries will be able to become serious trade partners and to develop sustainable economies.
The ecological balance is a vital factor for peace and life on the planet, and the Earth Charter will certainly play a fundamental role to shape human responsibility at a global level, today so urgent and crucial. What is the contribution of your Foundation to this objective?
We are proud to be located in a country which places a very high value on the natural environment. Roughly one third of Costa Rica’s national territory is under some form of protection, be it in national parks or private reserves. Eco-tourism is a booming industry here, and is enjoyed by Costa Rican nationals and foreign tourists alike. Costa Rica receives more tourists per capita than any other Latin American country, and that is because people want to see the beauty of the natural flora and fauna that are so well protected here.
Although the Arias Foundation does not work directly in the area of environmental conservation, we do promote a vision of human development, which puts people at the center of development policy, and bases development decisions on how they will affect human well-being, particularly that of the poor, as well as that of future generations.
The three major program areas of the Arias Foundation for Peace and Human Progress are:
The Center for Peace and Reconciliation, which works on conflict resolution, demilitarization, and democratization; The Center for Human Progress, which works to promote equality of opportunity and gender equity in Central American societies; and The Center for Organized Participation, which works to strengthen civil society in Central America.
Why are media still not sufficiently aware of the formidable expression of voluntary service in today’s society? What evidence will make them more attentive to this profound social transformation, still not predominant but nevertheless always growing?
I’m afraid that human nature causes us always to look out for the bad news first; perhaps it is a deeply ingrained self-defense response. It is certainly unfortunate that for most of the world, good news seems to wash over us without soaking in, while we hang upon every bit of danger, violence, corruption, and scandal. Still, I have hope that we can work to change our nature and to pay attention to all of the positive things that happen every day. The strengthening of civil society and the participation at the grass roots level in this effort are bound to bear fruit.
Do you think that an ethical code of the media, of which our Good News Agency is a promoter, a code which underlines the responsibility of the media in the information and balanced formation of public opinion, can be received by the media to the point of accelerating their readiness to consider positive news as worthy of as much attention as negative news?
I wholeheartedly support the ethical code of the media, and in fact, I would go even further. I believe that the role of the media is not only to inform, but also to form--that is, to educate. I feel that it’s unproductive for democratic societies to shy away from the topic of values. Free speech is certainly a fundamental aspect of democracy, but there are others as well, that the media ought to keep in view as it goes about its work of spreading information in free societies. I believe that we would all like to see such values as solidarity, honesty, transparency, hope, and compassion promoted in our societies, instead of their opposites: individualism, hypocrisy, corruption, cynicism, and selfishness. I would like to see an international media movement that dares to support such positive values through its collection and dissemination of information to the public.
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