Good News Agency – Year III, n° 7
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.
Good News Agency is distributed through Internet to the editorial offices of more than 2,400 media in 46 countries, as well as to 1,000 NGO.
Treaty event to be held at UN Headquarters on 11 April
New York, 1 April - The historic occasion of the deposit of sixty ratifications relating to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court will be marked by a treaty event at the United Nations Headquarters on 11 April. The event will be undertaken in a solemn setting, and arrangements are being made for delegations, the media and others to witness the occasion. At present, 56 countries have deposited their instruments of ratification of this treaty and 139 have signed it. At least four countries have expressed the willingness to ratify or accede to the Statute.
The treaty will enter into force, according to the Rome Statute, on the first day of the month after the sixtieth day following the date of the deposit of the sixtieth instrument of ratification. Accordingly, the Statute will enter into force on 1 July 2002. (…)
The International Criminal Court will possess the jurisdiction to deal with crimes such as genocide, war crimes, the crime of aggression and crimes against humanity. It is hoped that the Court will help to end the impunity with which individuals violate the established norms against these crimes, to remedy the deficiencies of ad hoc tribunals, and to provide the legal forum when national criminal justice institutions are unwilling or unable to act. (…)
The Statute of the Court, drafted by a committee established by the General Assembly with more than 100 countries participating, was adopted by 120 countries at the United Nations Diplomatic Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, held in Rome from 15 June to 17 July 1998. The text and status of the Statute can be obtained at the UN Treaty Collection web site: www.untreaty.in.org
Source: UN Information Office, Rome
International Criminal Tribunal For Rwanda
Trial of colonel accused of masterminding Rwandan genocide starts 2 April
Yet another milestone in the international battle against impunity for those who commit or instigate gross violations of human rights will be laid next week in Arusha, Tanzania, when the trial of the man accused of masterminding the Rwandan genocide commences at the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The man accused of designing and instituting a chilling conspiracy to exterminate the Tutsi population of Rwanda is Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, 61. He will face twelve charges on Tuesday 2 April, including conspiracy to commit genocide, genocide, complicity in genocide and direct and public incitement to commit genocide.(…)
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established in November 1994 by the United Nations Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter. The Tribunal is based in Arusha, Tanzania. The ICTR is the first international body charged specifically with prosecuting crimes of genocide. The Tribunal’s jurisdiction extends to serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda, and to Rwandan citizens responsible for such violations committed in neighbouring States, between 1 January and 31 December 1994. (…)
Burundi-Tanzania: Large-scale refugee repatriation begins from Tanzania
29 March - A large-scale operation to repatriate thousands of refugees from Tanzania began on Thursday, with approximately 430 people, a spokesman from the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) confirmed to IRIN. A total of 500 had been expected, but only about 430 had actually gone, he added. The first convoy, going from Ngara in western Tanzania through the Kobero border crossing, would stop in a transit camp in Fongore for one or two days. The refugees would then be transported to their respective homes, mostly in the northern provinces of Muyinga, Ngozi and Cankuzo.
Eritrea: Law workshop for police
28 March - The ICRC delegation in Asmara has completed a "train the trainers" workshop in international humanitarian law and human rights law with instructors and other senior officials from the Eritrean Police Force. During the six-day workshop, the theoretical and the practical were routinely combined so that day-to-day issues of policing were presented in the light of the law's provisions, with particular focus on techniques for teaching and implementing them. Altogether 12 police officers took part, many of them full-time training professionals at the Eritrean Police Training Centre in Asmara.
Apart from the central subject of humanitarian law, the workshop also dealt with law enforcement, ethical and legal police conduct, prevention and detection of crime, maintaining public order, and vulnerable groups in society, with particular emphasis on women and juveniles.
The workshop is the second example of such training cooperation between the Eritrean police and the ICRC, and represents the continued commitment of the Eritrean police to promoting humanitarian law. It was organized by a Danish ICRC specialist who is himself a former policemen.
Eritrea announced its accession to the Geneva Conventions in August 2000. As the promoter and guardian of international humanitarian law, the ICRC has a mandate to encourage respect for it and to support the States which, by becoming party to the Geneva Conventions, undertake to spread knowledge of its provisions.
ICFTU on Israel-Palestine: returning to the path of peace
Brussels, 4 April - Next week, in their continuing efforts to build trust, confidence and dialogue among the workers and people of Israel and Palestine, Guy Ryder, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions’ General Secretary, and Emilio Gabaglio, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) General Secretary, will travel to Israel and to Palestine. They will meet with Amir Peretz (General Secretary of the ICFTU affiliated General Federation of Labour in Israel (Histadrut), and with Shaher Sae'd (General Secretary of the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU), to discuss how the international trade union movement can drive forward the return to the path of peace.
The ICFTU represents 157 million workers in 225 affiliated organisations in 148 countries and territories. ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions.
Upcoming NPT Preparatory Committee for the 2005 Review Conference
Perspective (…): Weapons of mass destruction and missile proliferation do pose a legitimate threat not only to US security, but also to international security. However, unilateral US threats to use nuclear weapons, in conjunction with developing and deploying missile defenses, as a means of countering these threats is likely to provoke rather than prevent proliferation. A much better option would be for the US to take the lead on negotiations for the complete elimination of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery.
From 8-19 April, the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Committee (Prep Com) meeting for the 2005 Review Conference will take place at the United Nations in New York. The NPT has become the cornerstone of global disarmament efforts, yet its very existence is threatened. (…)
The Nuclear Age Peace Foundation has prepared a briefing book entitled "The Status of Nuclear Disarmament" that will be delivered to the delegates of the NPT Prep Com. The book highlights significant events since the 2000 NPT Review Conference in relation to the five points of the Foundation's Appeal to End the Nuclear Weapons Threat to Humanity and All Life. The book is available in the Member's Area of the Foundation's website to download in pdf format. https://www.ndic.com/wagingpeace/ma_login.asp - Nuclear Files.org offers a detailed look at the NPT and its importance to disarmament efforts. http://www.nuclearfiles.org/prolif/index.html
The Sunflower, April 2002. Http://www.wagingpeace.org
Attacking Poverty Program (APP) update: Attacking Poverty Course in West Africa, Middle East and North Africa Debates and Poverty Analysis Initiative Manual
30 March - In late February and early March the Attacking Poverty Course (APC) was launched in West Africa with a series of two-day workshops in Mali, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. For those who read French, there are quite a few presentations and papers available on the APP web site. You can access these from the APC main page:
The Development Debates are winding down in the Middle East and North Africa region after a series of national meetings in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Morocco and regional videoconferences. Different poverty-related topics were addressed by each country, with Morocco focusing on food subsidies, and Jordan discussing the effects of structural reform on the poor. In addition to summaries in English, there are also several documents in Arabic. For more information, go to: http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/devdebates/MENA/menahome.html .
Other activities which have been taking place in the APP include the recent Consultation Meeting on Communities of Practice for PRSPs in Africa and a number of upcoming workshops offered by the Poverty Analysis Initiative. One resource that might be of interest is the recently released Poverty Analysis Manual with nine chapters on topics from poverty measurement to tools and exercises. Go to:
For more on APP activities go to: http://www.worldbank.org/wbi/attackingpoverty/index.html .
Cape Verde: International forum links desertification to poverty
29 March - Environmentalists and government officials have produced a unified position among countries most affected by desertification following a recent four-day international forum in Cape Verde's capital, Praia, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) reported on Monday.
The 'Praia Declaration', which will be presented at the World Summit on Sustainable Development to be held in August in Johannesburg, South Africa, says, "The poverty nexus is tied with desertification and drought in a vicious circle characterised by land degradation and loss of resources." The declaration recommends that the summit consider fighting desertification and promoting natural resources management as a main strategy to reduce poverty. It also urges more cooperation at subregional and regional levels to ensure cross-border sharing of skills and resources in the management of arid ecosystems. (…)
IFAD renews its support to Rwanda with a loan of USD 12 million in favour of the people of Umutara province
Rome, 28 March - The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Republic of Rwanda have signed an agreement for a loan of USD 12 million on highly concessional terms to finance a "twin" project aimed at the development of community resources and infrastructure in Umutara Province of Rwanda. Mr. John Westley, Vice President of IFAD, and Mr. Benon Karenzi, Secretary-General, Ministry for Finance and Planning of the Republic of Rwanda, signed the agreement at the Fund's headquarters in Rome. (…)
Germany supports FAO activities in Afghanistan with a 7.6 million euro-aid-package
Rome, 27 March - The Finance Committee of the German Parliament has approved a 7.6 million Euro aid package in support of agricultural rehabilitation carried out by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Afghanistan. It is the first time for many years that Germany, in addition to its regular contribution to the FAO budget, has pledged money in support of FAO development activities, the UN agency said in a statement issued today. (…)
Germany will contribute to a seed distribution project in Northern Afghanistan. Poor families in remote areas will receive local cereal, legume and vegetable seeds and fertilisers to resume agricultural production.
Germany will also participate in a seed multiplication programme. (…)
Germany is FAO's third largest contributor and covers around 10 percent of the agency's regular budget.
Ukrainian students see ICT light at end of poverty tunnel
Wednesday, 27 March 2002: As world leaders discussed financing for development in Monterrey, Mexico, last week, a group of young leaders met in Kiev, Ukraine, to discuss poverty in their midst and how to use information and communications technology (ICT) to tackle such poverty. (…)
About 300 students between 14 and 17 years old from all over the country attended the event, sponsored by UNDP Ukraine, the State Committee on Communication and Information and Ukrtelecom. The five-day meeting was part of a large-scale UNDP programme aimed at turning ICT into a means of promoting prosperity in the country. The programme, launched last year, goes beyond infrastructure support to promote the use of ICT as part of government services. Its aim is to establish balanced national development and poverty alleviation through the appropriate and innovative use of ICT. (…)
Making it easier to have water in Kazakhstan’s Aral basin
26 March - (…) The rural Kazakh districts of Aralsk and Kazalinsk, which include Kamystybas, have long suffered from the Soviet legacy of unsustainable irrigation practices. That was worsened by excessive cultivation of rice and cotton and the degradation of the environment, all leading to the shrinking of the Aral Sea. In addition, local governments lacked sufficient funds to restore the facilities supplying potable water to the villages and to clean up destroyed or dried up irrigation canals. A new UNDP/Capacity 21 project is now enabling the populations of nine villages in Aralsk and Kazalinsk to take their destiny in their own hands. The project is helping villagers (…) manage their water resources and improve their living conditions by setting up water users associations to take the lead in resolving water problems.
In addition to supporting the associations, UNDP has organized a series of training sessions on institutional strengthening, strategic planning, project design and legal aspects of land and water use. The training has helped the associations in mobilizing the local populations to address their problems and better manage their agriculture, fishing and water resources. (…)
Urban Forum - Nairobi, 29 April - 3 May 2002
The unified Urban Forum will have international co-operation in shelter and urban development as its substantive focus, and will serve as an advisory body to the United Nations Commission on Human Settlements on these issues.
Towards this end, the meetings of the Urban Forum will facilitate the exchange of experiences and the advancement of collective knowledge among cities and their development partners. The meetings of the Urban Forum will also place strong emphasis on the participation of Habitat Agenda Partners and relevant international programmes, funds and agencies, thus ensuring their inclusion in the identification of new issues, the sharing of lessons learnt, the exchange of best practices and good policies.
The General Assembly at its meeting in New York on 12 December 2001, decided to transform, with effect from 1 January 2002, the United Nations Centre for Human Settlements into “The United Nations Human Settlements Programme,” to be known also as “UN-HABITAT.” The General Assembly also changed the name of the governing body from “The United Nations Commission on Human Settlements” to “The Governing Council of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme.” The UN-HABITAT secretariat shall service the Governing Council and serve as the focal point for human settlements and for the coordination of human settlements activities within the United Nations system. [F. G.]
Better World Campaign 2001-2002
BWC will work to encourage Congress and the Administration to fully fund U.S. financial and treaty obligations to the UN, for both the regular and peacekeeping budgets. Additionally, the campaign will encourage the new Administration and Congress to “normalize relations” with the United Nations by addressing several issues that stand as roadblocks to the UN’s institutional and financial health. BWC will also continue to monitor U.S. efforts to pay back nearly $1 billion in U.S. debt to the UN (as of November 2001, $682 million had been paid).
The Better World Campaign (BWC) is a project of the Better World Fund, which was created with initial support from businessman and philanthropist R.E. Turner as part of his historic $1 billion gift to support UN causes. It is a bi-partisan, non-profit national education and outreach effort dedicated to enhancing the awareness of and appreciation for the vital role the United Nations plays around the world.
In 1999, BWC helped ensure Congress and the Administration worked together to pay nearly $1 billion in U.S. debt to the United Nations. The result was passage of the Helms-Biden legislation, a compromise requiring the UN to meet certain benchmarks in order to receive payment of $926 million in U.S. arrears.
In 2000, BWC worked to encourage Congress and the Administration to honor the U.S. commitment to UN peacekeeping – resulting in an appropriation of $846 million, $340 million more than originally appropriated by the Senate and House early in the year. [F. G.]
Nairobi, 29 March - The African Development Bank (ADB) has approved a grant of US $500,000 to help finance humanitarian assistance to the victims of the 17 January 2002 eruption of Mt Nyiragongo in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), ADB announced on 28 March.
The funds will be channeled through the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) to support rehabilitation of the education sector, which suffered significant damages such as the destruction of 720 classrooms, leaving nearly 24,000 pupils without any possibility to continue their education, according to an ADB statement.
The programme has been divided into two phases. The first phase, which started in January, involved emergency rehabilitation of classrooms, while the second involves the reconstruction of primary schools and the purchase of furniture, materials and textbooks. The reconstruction programme will employ local labour, thereby generating basic incomes for some 25,000 households, ADB stated. The programme, whose total cost amounts to US $1.6 million, is co-financed by the ADB, the DRC government and a number of other donors.
ADB Group operations in the DRC started in 1972. Since then, it has provided a total of over US $700 million for more than 50 operations in that country.
Central African Republic: China to provide US $1.2 million in support
29 March - The governments of the Central African Republic (CAR) and China signed an economic cooperation agreement worth 10 million yuan (US $1.2 million) on Tuesday, 26 March, Radio Centrafrique reported from the CAR capital, Bangui. The Chinese embassy in Bangui confirmed this information to IRIN on Thursday, and noted that discussions between the two governments were in progress as to how the funding could best be used. (…)
Burkina Faso: European Union gives US $310.8 million to fight poverty
29 March - The European Union announced on 22 March that it would give Burkina Faso the equivalent of some US $310.8 million - from 2002-2007 - to support the government's anti-poverty drive. The aid will be ploughed into rural development and food security, basic education, health, economic reform and road building.
Congo: Sweden provides US $773,000 in support via UN
Nairobi, 28 March - The government of Sweden has agreed to provide SEK 8 million (US $773,320) to be channelled through UN agencies as part of Sweden's ongoing support for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Republic of Congo. Swedish diplomatic sources informed IRIN on Tuesday that SEK 5 million ($483,325) would be channelled through the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for the reintegration of ex-combatants and small-arms collection; that SEK 1 million ($96,665) would be channelled through UNDP for agriculture feeder-road repairs; and that SEK 2 million ($193,330) would be channelled through the UN Children's Fund for a psychological assistance programme for war-affected children.
Abidjan, 28 March (IRIN) - The World Food Programme (WFP) has donated educational materials to the Liberian Ministry of Education to help strengthen its administrative base, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its recent situation report. (…)
The three-year feeding project, which is due to end in late 2003, targets a total of 140,000 people, of whom 132,000 are students and 8,000 teachers and support staff. WFP supports community-based school feeding activities that aim to bolster local initiatives to reopen schools following the 1989-1997 Liberian civil war. The programme, which is implemented in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, was initiated and funded by the US government.
WFP also operates an emergency school-feeding project in Liberia that has targeted food aid to some 20,000 beneficiaries, most of whom are school-age children in refugee and internally displaced persons camps in Liberia.
Catholic Relief Services commits emergency supplies to Afghan earthquake survivors
Baltimore, USA, March 28 - As rescue efforts fade and relief activities intensify in northeastern Afghanistan's Baghlan province, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is sending a variety of relief items to the leveled Nahrin district, where an estimated 30,000-50,000 people are homeless after a series of earthquakes and aftershocks rocked the area this week. The supplies, which complement the broad relief effort coordinated by the Afghan interim government and UN Emergency Task Force established for the crisis, include 1,000 stoves, with a month's worth of coal (10 tons in total), and 1,000 sets of cooking pots, plates, cups and eating utensils for a family of six. (…)
UNICEF rushes assistance to quake-stricken survivors in northern Afghanistan
New York, Geneva, 27 March - The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) delivered 70 tonnes of emergency supplies to the thousands of quake survivors in the Baghlan province of northern Afghanistan hours after the earthquake hit. Today, a second UNICEF convoy arrived in the worst affected towns of Nahrin and Burka, transporting additional emergency materials - including desperately needed food, medicine and shelter.
"Our main concern now is to keep children from dying of exposure and disease," said UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy. "These children have suffered enough - many of them have now also lost family members and their homes. Many more will be traumatized."
Five UNICEF staff members - including a doctor, a nutrition expert and a water engineer - are on the ground as part of a UN and NGO team assisting survivors. UNICEF is working closely with the Interim Administration to co-ordinate a rapid response to the emergency. (…)
Afghans for Afghanistan: UN Volunteers of Afghan origin return to assist recovery efforts
Islamabad/Bonn, 26 March - United Nations Volunteers of Afghan origin have started arriving to support recovery efforts for and with the people of Afghanistan. (…) Currently, 25 United Nations Volunteers based in Afghanistan and Pakistan are providing support for activities of UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Additional UN Volunteers are being fielded or are on stand-by to provide assistance to the humanitarian relief efforts of the United Nations. They will be based in Afghanistan or will operate from neighbouring Pakistan and Tajikistan. These UN Volunteers -- water and sanitation engineers, site planners, public health experts and administrative specialists -- will focus their efforts on care for refugees and internally displaced people as well as food distribution. A number of UN Volunteers will also serve as public information officers. (…)
Japanese NGO donates $200,000 to UN Drug Control efforts
Vienna, 18 March – Seven Japanese students presented a donation of 25,000,000 Japanese Yen (equivalent of $200,000) to the United Nations Drug Control Programme (UNDCP) at the Vienna International Centre (VIC) today.
The "Young Civic Ambassadors" - all students aged 16 or 17 - were selected for playing leading roles in the 2001 fund-raising drive of Tokyo's Drug Abuse Prevention Centre (DAPC). The DAPC organises annual youth drug-awareness campaigns, which include fund-raising events and street collections throughout Japan.
The DAPC contribution will go into a special fund to support the drug abuse prevention work of grassroots organizations in developing countries. This year's figure raises the Centre's total donations to the UNDCP to $3.5 million since 1994. This has already enabled UNDCP to make grants to more than 330 NGOs. (…)
Sierra Leone: World Bank loan for reconstruction and HIV/AIDS
29 March - The World Bank has agreed in principle to allocate over US $140 million to support reconstruction and development efforts, and to fight against HIV/AIDS in the war-torn country, the bank said on Wednesday.
Under the Transitional Support Strategy, the government will receive US $140 million over the next two years to finance projects in education, health, institutional reform and infrastructure and economy. The support strategy, which sets out cooperation between the bank and its borrowing members, is a country-specific development programme for countries emerging from conflict, the World Bank reported.
29 March - The government has unveiled a three-year programme against HIV/AIDS aimed at lowering the national prevalence rate of 11 percent. "Our principal objective is to reverse the actual trend in the epidemic, reduce the prevalence rate to less than 10 percent, and reduce by at least 25 percent HIV's incidence rate among the youth, men and women by the year 2005," Health Minister Urbain Awono said at the programme launch on Friday.
Drawn up by the national committee against AIDS (Comite National De Lutte Contre Le Sida), the programme pays special attention to helping youth, who have been hardest hit by the epidemic in this central African country.
Nepal: Monitoring the healthcare system
28 March - For the second time in four months, the ICRC has delivered a surgical kit for treating up to 100 war-wounded to the Bheri Zonal Hospital in Nepalgunj, some 600 km west of Kathmandu. The kit weighs half a tonne, and contains instruments, antibiotics, fluids and dressing material. It will enable the hospital to stabilize casualties until they can be evacuated to Kathmandu for further treatment. The Bheri hospital was chosen to receive these supplies because of its capacity to treat war wounded. Its location in mid-western Nepal, where several clashes have recently taken place, allows casualties to be taken there by road or air, even from remote areas. (…)
WHO and UNAIDS continue to support use of nevirapine for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission
Geneva, 22 March - The statement released today by the United States National Institutes of Health (NIH), concerning some reporting and documentation irregularities in clinical trial HIVNET012, does not warrant any change in the recommendations issued following a WHO technical consultation on mother-to-child HIV transmission in October 2000.
This expert group, convened by WHO on behalf of UNICEF, UNFPA, and the UNAIDS Secretariat, concluded that the safety and effectiveness of antiretroviral regimens, including nevirapine, in preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission has been clearly documented and that the use of these regimens is thus warranted for preventing mother-to-child HIV transmission. (…)
The NIH statement emphasized that, according to available information, there has been no evidence the scientific data from the HIVNET012 study demonstrating the safety and effectiveness of nevirapine is invalid. Each year, more than 600 000 infants become infected with HIV, mainly through mother-to-child transmission. WHO and the UNAIDS Secretariat recommend that the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, including antiretroviral regimens such as nevirapine, should be included in the minimum standard package of care for HIV-positive women and their children. We are aware of no information that would cause the WHO and UNAIDS to change its recommendations.
Major new forest restoration initiative launched at ‘Restore The Earth!’ conference
31 March - Today, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced the launch of the Forest Restoration Information Service, a new website-based information service aimed at promoting the restoration of degraded forests. Making the announcement at the Findhorn Foundation’s Restore the Earth! conference, Adrian Newton of UNEP’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre in Cambridge, England, described the new Service as a key tool in the battle to begin the urgent process of restoring the large areas of forest cover that we have lost over the last century: ‘There are many successful initiatives underway in different parts of the world, but little information is available about them’, he said. ‘This web resource should help provide guidance about how ecological restoration can be achieved in practice by highlighting successful examples’.
Earlier, the 160 conference participants representing 30 different countries from all parts of the world, heard Senior UNEP adviser, John Manoochehri, describe the idea of earth restoration as potentially, ‘a turning point in the history of humanity’s relationship with the environment. It provides us’, he said, ‘with the opportunity to develop a new relationship with the natural world – one based not on guilt, but on positive and practical action’. He said that great efforts were required to push earth restoration up the agenda of the forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) to be held in Johannesburg later this year.
The Forest Restoration Information Service web-site can be found at:
Global Reporting Initiative sets over 90 indicators
29 March - After five years of work, an innovative coalition of businesses, advocacy groups, unions, accountants, academics, and government representatives is preparing to unveil standardized guidelines for how businesses report their impact on society and the environment. The Global Reporting Initiative standards, which are the brainchild of the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, include more than 90 indicators of environmental, social, and economic performance -- from greenhouse gas emissions and waste management to human rights and child labour records. The GRI standards could meet the growing demand from investors, activists, accounting bodies, and governments for thorough information about business practices, while streamlining the reporting process for companies.
FEMA agrees to assess impact of Floodplain Development Program on numerous threatened and endangered species
Santa Fe, NM, USA, March 28 - In a move that could reduce death and destruction as a result of flooding, by discouraging building in dangerous floodplains along New Mexico's major rivers, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recently agreed to determine the effect of its National Flood Insurance Program on numerous endangered species. The agreement comes in response to a lawsuit filed in January of last year by Forest Guardians, the Sierra Club and the Southwest Environmental Center that claimed that new development along river banks and in the adjacent floodplain was damaging the habitat of species listed under the Endangered Species Act.
Carbon sequestration through reforestation: ESI plants 15 million trees
Atlanta, GA, USA, March 28 - Environmental Synergy, Inc. (ESI), an Atlanta-based environmental services company, has this month planted its 15 millionth tree in the Lower Mississippi River Valley under a mission to restore bottomland hardwood habitat and remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
New biosphere reserves in Poland and Ukraine, while UK reviews its old reserves
Paris, March 25 - Two new natural areas on the borders of Poland and Ukraine - poised to be merged into a trans-frontier biosphere reserve - were added by UNESCO's Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme to its World Network of Biosphere Reserves on Friday 22 March, at the close of its two-yearly Council meeting in Paris.
The new sites are adjacent wetland areas in West Polesie (Poland) and Shatskiy (Ukraine). They feature a unique landscape of rivers, lakes, moors and forest and are a melting pot of inhabitants of different cultures, nationalities and religions. They are a haven for bird life. Regional social and economic changes are creating opportunities to develop this sparsely populated area, but this in turn poses challenges for conservation. The longer-term aim is to merge the two sites into a single biosphere reserve, possibly by the end of this year. This would make the merged site the sixth trans-frontier biosphere reserve worldwide.
The choice of site highlights how the concept of biosphere reserves is evolving from focusing on nature conservation and science to one that actively includes local communities in their management and economic development. (…)
New partnership promotes business for women and HIV/AIDS education in Africa
Thursday, 28 March - UNDP and the Business Women's Network (BWN) recently launched a new alliance to help expand women's entrepreneurship and HIV/AIDS education throughout Africa.
Strategic Partnerships for Women's Empowerment in Africa will help African businesswomen through a programme combining entrepreneur development and business skills training with HIV/AIDS education. This is the first Africa initiative linking entrepreneurship and financial independence for women with HIV/AIDS education and prevention. (…)
BWN, a Washington, DC based organization, is one of the most comprehensive sources of information and programme links to business markets for women around the world. BWN works with over 7,000 associations, 100 Fortune 500 corporations, 20 US government agencies, and over 300 members of Congress, as well as all 50 states in the U.S. and many foreign countries. BWN was acquired in 2001 by a New York based media company, iVillage.
Spring brings a new beginning: Afghanistan's schools triumphantly open; UNICEF calls it 'reminder to all of us'
Classrooms open at 3,000 schools; at least 1.5 million children attend first day
Kabul / Geneva / New York, 23 March - The United Nations Children's Fund today lauded the Afghan Interim Administration for its "relentless commitment to education," as 3,000 schools across Afghanistan threw open their doors to more than 1.5 million girls and boys, many of whom were entering a formal classroom for the first time in six years.
Calling the opening of Afghan schools just three months after the interim government came into existence "an inspiration to us all," UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy praised the people and leaders of Afghanistan for their "unwavering dedication to children." (…)
It was UNICEF's largest logistical effort ever in support of education, and was just one component of an Afghan back-to-school campaign led by the new administration that mobilized teachers, registered children, readied school facilities, and organized a curriculum and an entire educational structure virtually from scratch. (…)
Pax Christi International officially endorses the Earth Charter after Pax Christi Germany and Pax Christi USA
Pax Christi International Executive Committee members voted to endorse the Earth Charter at a meeting that took place in Belgium, 8 - 10 March 2002. According to Pax Christi International, endorsement of the document builds support for environmental protection and development of a just, sustainable, and peaceful world. Pax Christi International is a non-profit, non-governmental Catholic peace movement that began in France at the end of World War II. Today, it is comprised of autonomous national sections, local groups, and affiliated organizations spread over 30 countries and 5 continents, with over 60,000 members worldwide. The movement works in all areas of peace but has a specific focus on demilitarisation, security and arms trade, development and human rights, and ecology. For more see: http://www.paxchristi.net
“THIRD PARTY MEDIATION IS NEEDED MORE THEN EVER”, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS IN STATEMENT TO SECURITY COUNCIL MEETING ON MIDEAST
Welcomes Mission by United States Secretary Powell,
As Parties Unable, on Their Own, to Find Way Out of Current Situation
The following is the statement by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the Security Council on 4 April (source: UN Information Office, Rome):
The situation in the Middle East -- between Israel and Palestine, and across the “Blue Line” -- continues to deteriorate. All parties risk making serious miscalculations about the effect that their actions will have on each other. Such miscalculations can all too easily draw the region into greater and greater danger, whether intended or not.
My purpose in addressing you today is to call on all members of the international community to consider urgently how best to intercede with the parties to persuade them to draw back from their present course.
In the Palestinian-Israeli arena, Security Council resolution 1402 provides the elements needed to begin to de-escalate the present crisis, and resolution 1397 provides the framework for a permanent settlement. We all need to intensify our efforts to see that those resolutions are implemented without further delay.
Israeli actions, since the adoption of Security Council resolution 1402, do not bode well for stabilizing the situation and renewing political talks. On the contrary, the Government of Israel appears to be moving in the opposite direction to that prescribed by resolutions 1397 and 1402 -- a sure path to further escalation. Israel has justified its acts as self-defence and “counter-terrorist” measures.
However, we need to be very clear that self-defence is not a blank cheque. It is important to understand that responding to terrorism does not in any way free Israel from its obligations under international law, nor does it justify creating a human rights and humanitarian crisis within the occupied Palestinian territory. There is an urgent need to comply with all provisions of international law, particularly those that ban indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force, as well as the humiliating treatment of a civilian population.
Forcing Chairman Arafat into exile would be reckless. He is the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and his exile would only lead to even more violence and chaos. Deportation is specifically prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention. It would be a miscalculation of monumental proportions to believe that removing Chairman Arafat from the political scene and dismantling the Palestinian Authority would create conditions where Israel can achieve security for itself.
I understand the bitterness, anger and disillusion felt by Israelis. But the military route undertaken by the Government of Israel will not pacify the Palestinians. Nor do I see how this approach can bring peace and security to Israel. Only a just, lasting and comprehensive settlement can do so.
If we have learned anything from history, it is that it is a grave mistake for the more powerful party to believe that power alone will ultimately subdue the weaker party.
In fact, what we are witnessing is an increase in the resolve and unity of the Palestinians, as well as increasing public anger across the Arab and Islamic world and beyond.
I am not arguing that the spiralling violence is to be blamed on one party alone. The Palestinian Authority seems to believe that failing to act against terrorism, and inducing turmoil, chaos and instability, will cause the Government and the people of Israel to buckle. They will not.
As we are seeing, this approach is only spurring on the Government in its present course; it also unites the Israeli public behind the military option. We should not forget that it was not so long ago that this same Israeli public was supportive of peace efforts by a large majority.
Under direct assault from the Israeli military, Chairman Arafat and the Palestinian security services are seriously limited in their ability to contain terrorism.
However, even now, Chairman Arafat has the capacity to exercise political leadership, to set the course for the future of his people. Terrorism is never justified. The Palestinian leadership must acknowledge this and the Palestinian public must accept this.
I would like to take this opportunity to call on the Government of Israel to give the Quartet full access to the compound of Chairman Arafat and to the Chairman himself.
Together with General Zinni’s mission, the Quartet arrangement could be used as an effective instrument to pursue implementation of resolution 1402.
There have been persistent reports about the limitations placed on access by humanitarian and medical workers to those Palestinians in urgent need of assistance.
It is imperative that humanitarian workers and agencies, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the Red Crescent Society, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), be granted full access to those affected areas.
There is plenty of reason for pessimism. But there is at least one recent positive development. The promise represented by the Arab League’s Beirut Summit marked a significant turning point. We need to ensure that the Saudi initiative endorsed by the Arab League does not founder.
Let us hold onto and nourish that vision amid the encircling gloom and the worrying rise in regional tension.
Here, I would like to express a very serious concern over events along the Blue Line. I recalled in the Council recently that Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon was in compliance with resolutions 425 and 426, and was recognized as such by the Council itself. We must make sure that all sides respect the Blue Line.
Escalation along the Blue Line could have serious consequences for peace and security in the region, beyond Israel and Lebanon, as we know from the past.
There seem to be efforts coming from Lebanese territory to deliberately create instability along the Blue Line.
In addition to recent attacks by Hezbollah across the Blue Line, this morning Hezbollah elements assaulted a patrol of United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) military observers.
It needs to be made clear to Hezbollah and others who may be involved that attacks across the Blue Line -- whether into northern Israel or into occupied Syrian territory -- are violations of Security Council resolutions and are not acceptable.
I strongly urge those with influence to ensure adherence to the Council resolutions on this subject. The Government of Lebanon will be aware that it is responsible for any hostile actions taken from its territory.
In this connection, I have been in contact over the last 24 hours with leaders in the region. Also, my Personal Representative in Lebanon, Mr. de Mistura, and the Force Commander of UNIFIL yesterday met with Council members who have representatives in Beirut, as well as the Lebanese leadership, about the situation.
Let me conclude by saying that the building blocks of peace, once broken down, are not easily rebuilt.
Recent events have had a further, severely corrosive effect on mutual confidence. On both sides, bitterness and despair are at an all time high. We all need to cling to the conviction that, in the end, however long it takes, there will one day have to be a peaceful settlement of this conflict.
Third-party mediation is needed more than ever as the parties are unable, on their own, to find a way out of the present situation. In this connection, I strongly welcome President Bush’s decision to send Secretary Powell to the region.
The road back to the negotiating table will not be easy or smooth. But, all sides can take the first steps by exercising maximum restraint so as to reverse the current dangerous deterioration of the situation.
Resolutions 1397 and 1402, taken together, provide the vision for a permanent settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the immediate security and political steps needed to move beyond the present crisis. Our efforts need to focus on implementing these resolutions.
Thank you very much, Mr. President.
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