Good News Agency – Year IV, n° 12



Weekly - Year IV, number 12 – 11 July 2003

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph. D.

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

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. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti. Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next.  It is distributed free of charge through Internet to the editorial offices of more than 2,400 media  in 46 countries, as well as to 1,000 NGO.

It is a service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information.




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education

Message by UN Secretary-General for World Population Day, 11 July



International legislation



New UN standards on GM foods a `victory for consumers’

Rome, 1 July - The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the UN food standards agency today adopted three sets of standards on safety of genetically modified food (GMOs) that support strong regulations for these foods. `These standards are a tremendous victory for consumers, for science, for good regulation and for common sense. The food safety officials from dozens of countries who negotiated these documents did critical work on a highly polarised issue,’ stated Julian Edwards, Director-General of Consumers International, which represents more than 250 organisations in 110 countries.

The three documents provide guidelines for assessing the safety of GM food plants, such as maize, corn and soybeans, and of GM microorganisms, which are used in beer and cheese production. They provide pages of detailed procedures for determining if a GM food contains new toxins or allergens, is altered nutritionally, or exhibits unexpected effects. They establish a baseline standard that a GMO should be `as safe as the conventional counterpart.’ They also endorse the use of `product tracing’ as a tool of risk management.

Codex standards are important because they can be used to settle trade disputes. The USA has just filed a challenge against the European Union (EU) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) on genetically modified food.

Consumers International sees the Codex standards as strengthening EU countries that seek to regulate GMO safety and to establish traceability systems that will allow tracking in commerce. By 2004, 35 countries (including China, Japan, Korea, India, Australia and New Zealand) covering half the world's population, will require mandatory government safety assessments before GMOs are allowed on the market. However the USA prefers a system of voluntary consultations about safety, where the company developing the seed ultimately decides whether it is safe.  (…)



Human rights



United Nations Convention on Migrant Workers' Rights enters into force

Paris, 27 June – On July 1, 2003, the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families* will enter into force. Its primary objective is to protect migrant workers, a particularly vulnerable population, from exploitation and the violation of their human rights.

The first 22 nations to ratify the convention are essentially emigration countries, with none of the major immigration countries yet listed. (…) It was promoted through the combined efforts of three United Nations agencies (the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the International Labour Organization and UNESCO), the International Organization for Migration and ten NGOs concerned with protecting the rights of migrant workers.

Today, one person out of 35 is a migrant. The number of people who are living and working in a country other than their own is estimated at 175 million, which represents 3% of the world’s population, according to the United Nations International Migration Report 2002 (these figures include refugees, estimated at 16 million, i.e. 9% of the total). Nearly all countries are concerned, whether as sending, receiving or transit countries, or sometimes all three. (…)


Collaboration agreement signed between Mexican government and UNIFEM

United Nations, New York – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the United Mexican States and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) have signed a Collaboration Agreement to contribute to ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women, the elimination of violence and discrimination, and women’s advancement in compliance with Mexico’s commitments to international conventions and conferences.

Within the framework of the Agreement, collaboration will focus on two main goals: strengthening the capacity of governmental and non-governmental institutions to follow-up on international and regional agreements on gender equality, as well as promoting gender mainstreaming throughout the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (…)

UNIFEM is the women's fund at the United Nations, providing financial support and technical assistance to innovative programs promoting women's human rights, their economic and political empowerment, and gender equality in over 100 countries.



Economy and development



IFAD and the Government of Tunisia to evaluate 25-years of experience in rural poverty eradication – Tunis, 8 and 9 July

Tunis-Rome, 4 July – Joint efforts by IFAD and the Government of Tunisia to achieve the Millennium Development Goal target of halving the number of extremely poor people by 2015 will be discussed during a two-day meeting in Tunis next week, organized by the Tunisian Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Development and International Cooperation, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). (…)

The strong performance of Tunisia’s economy over the past 20 years, combined with development efforts such as IFAD’s programme, has led to a significant reduction in poverty levels in the country. However, substantial disparities remain between the urbanized coastal regions and those most disadvantaged in the central part of the country. (…)

Since 1981, about seven percent of Tunisia’s rural population, or more than 230,000 people, have benefited from IFAD’s programme in Tunisia, which has included nine projects worth a total of US$ 289.85 million in the provinces of Kef and Siliana, Sidi Bouzid, Oued Mellegue, Sidi M’Hadheb, Kairouan, Siliana, Zaghouan and Tataouine. IFAD’s investment in the programme has totaled US$114.7 million.


High-Level Panel tackles youth employment crisis with new plan of action brings youth into play

Geneva, 3 July – In an effort to stimulate the creation of some one billion new jobs for youth over the next decade, youth leaders, senior officials of the International Labour Office (ILO), the UN, the World Bank and other organizations met here to launch a new initiative designed to convert "policy work to action at the country level".

“Our challenge now is to move from the excellent policy work that has been done to a new phase of action at the country level", said UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who joined ILO Director-General Juan Somavia and other experts during a two-day session of a "High Level Panel on Youth Employment" held here on 30 June-1 July. “In the next decade, more than one billion young people will enter the working age population", UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said. "We have seen, all too often, the tragedy of youthful lives mis-spent in crime, drug abuse, civil conflict and even terrorism."  (…)

The road map proposes five steps to be taken by a Youth Employment Network (YEN), including endorsing the Panel's 2003 recommendations, translating strategy into National Action Plans (NAPs), mobilizing financial resources for youth employment, building bridges between school and work and inviting youth organizations to play an active role in the design and implementation of national action plans.  (…)


FAO Gambia steps into cyberspace with launch of new country Web site

Gambia, 24 June - The FAO Representation in The Gambia stepped into cyberspace today with the launch of a new Web site detailing the work of FAO in the West African country of 1.4 million. The Web site contains details on FAO activities in the country which focus on rural development and agricultural diversification in accordance with the Gambian government's anti-poverty strategy. The Web site was created using the FAO Representation Web site template which guarantees corporate identity across all FAO country sites.

FAO Representation Web sites can be accessed from the FAO Decentralized Offices Page which also gives details of FAO Regional Offices, Sub Regional Offices and Liaison Offices.

Web page


Promoting urban governance and secure tenure

June 25 - Eradication of Morocco’s shanty-towns by 2020 is a definite possibility, according to Farouk Tebbal, chief of UN-HABITAT’s shelter branch. In an interview with the Moroccan daily newspaper, Libération, Mr Tebbal said the UN agency was about to launch twin campaigns promoting urban governance and secure residential tenure in the North African country.

In Morocco as in neighbouring Algeria, over 50 per cent of the population are now living in urban areas, and more are coming. But those who cannot find affordable townhouse dwellings end up in shanty towns. Economic shocks can only accelerate the trend, Mr Tebbal said. A former housing minister in Algeria, Mr Tebbal spent some time in Morocco before joining UN-HABITAT. (…) “The campaigns we are about to launch in Morocco will give shanty-town dwellers a say in decision-making and will put them more in charge of their own destinies,” Mr Tebbal said. The campaigns will closely involve neighbourhood groups, non-governmental organisations and housing associations.

Mr Tebbal said UN-HABITAT’s twin campaign in Morocco was a “first” to serve as a pilot programme for the Arab world. And there was no denying the sense of urgency: “The worst is to come, unless we come to intelligent arrangements and there is genuine political readiness to acknowledge the citizenry and undertake fundamental reforms.”






Shipment of agricultural aid to rebel held areas in southern Sudan

FAO supports both rebel and government controlled areas with seeds and tools - more relief assistance needed

Rome , 8 July - For the first time, FAO has successfully delivered a substantial amount of seeds and tools by road to previously inaccessible rebel held areas in the Nuba Mountains in southern Sudan, according to a statement released today. The region is controlled by the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A). The Nuba Mountains are located in South Kordofan and part of Western Kordofan States. The area has been a conflict zone between the government of Sudan and the SPLM/A since 1985. (…) The delivery of urgently needed agricultural aid became possible after a ceasefire agreement between the Sudanese government and the SPLA/M in January 2002. (…)

 In total, the delivery of seeds and tools is expected to result in the production of 8 200 tonnes of food in 2003 and to improve livelihoods and food security. (…) The project is financed by the governments of Norway, as the main contributor, the Netherlands and Sweden.

FAO said that around 300 000 households in southern Sudan are in dire need of seeds and tools, estimated at nearly $8.6 million, to resume their farming activities in the upcoming season starting in July 2003. So far, FAO has received funds of about $1.7 million.


WFP: Umm Qasr becomes a key for humanitarian supplies into Iraq

Baghdad, 3 July - Iraqi Umm Qasr port is becoming a key entry point for humanitarian supplies to Iraq. (…) WFP is increasingly using Umm Qasr port to cut down on transportation cost and create more employment for workers in this town as well as for the decimated Iraqi transport industry. Still, WFP is using other ports in the region including Aqaba in Jordan, Mercin in Turkey, Beirut in Lebanon, Latakia in Syria and Bandar Imam Khomeini in Iran to bring food supplies to Iraq.

“This is an unprecedented logistic operation for WFP in terms of size and complexity. It is in fact the largest food aid operation in history. Three months into this operation, we can now say that we succeeded in making it possible for millions of Iraqis to push away the specter of hunger that loomed over the country when military hostilities broke out in late March,” said Amer Daoudi who is in charge of WFP logistics for the emergency operations in Iraq.

Until the end of October, WFP will continue to support the Iraqi Ministry of Trade in running the vast food rationing system in this war-scarred country where before the war 60 % of the 27 million residents relied on the monthly food handouts as their only source of income. (…)


Liberia: ICRC flies in medical relief

Geneva / Monrovia (ICRC), 30 June – An Antonov cargo aircraft chartered by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) arrived today in the Liberian capital Monrovia with eight tonnes of medical supplies and a doctor aboard. (…) John F. Kennedy Hospital is the only major medical facility still functioning in Monrovia. An ICRC team of three surgeons, two anaesthetists and three nurses have been working continuously at the hospital for two weeks and currently have almost 500 patients in their care. (…)

Today’s arrival of a doctor from Geneva brings to 14 the number of ICRC expatriate staff in Monrovia. While the organization’s main activities remain medical, delegates are studying the best means of bringing food aid to displaced people and residents of Monrovia as the situation unfolds.!OpenDocument


Eritrea: Seed and food distributions completed

June 26 - In drought-affected Eritrea, the ICRC has completed its seed and food distributions to families who were displaced during the border war with Ethiopia.

Around 20,000 households (100,000 people) in the regions of Debub and Gash-Barka received 457 tonnes of cereal seed and 1,915 tonnes of food.

The first rains of the season have slowly begun to fall, and farmers are starting to plough and sow their lands. An ICRC agronomist is monitoring the planting. A specialist in household food economy is set to compare the beneficiaries’ current economic situation with that of October 2002, just after the failed harvest. The outcome of the next harvest, which will be surveyed in October 2003, will determine whether further seed and food distributions will be necessary in 2004 to help drought- and war-affected farmers regain their self-sufficiency. (…)!OpenDocument


New study to assist Iraq’s most vulnerable children launched

UNICEF, in partnership with five international NGOs, undertakes study of the needs of Iraqi children made vulnerable by recent war and its aftermath.

Baghdad 26 June 2003 – UNICEF has teamed up with five international aid organizations to investigate the situation in which children live in Iraq today. The study will focus on the risks to children’s wellbeing and the coping mechanisms that exist within their families and communities to help them overcome the current challenges they face in post-war Iraq.

UNICEF’s partners include the Christian Children’s Fund, Save the Children UK, World Vision International, the International Rescue Committee and Save the Children US.

“This inter-agency assessment is the first of its kind to be taken at national level in Iraq,” said Carel de Rooy, UNICEF’s Representative in the country. “Previously, it was virtually impossible to do in-depth surveys of street children, orphans or children living in institutions,” said de Rooy. “Until the late 1990s, the government here did not even recognize that child labour or children living in the streets even existed. That is why this new study is going to be so important to understanding of the needs of children in this country.” (…)

The project will identify particularly vulnerable groups of children, including street children, working children, institutionalized children, and children in conflict with the law. It will map out where these children are, what their needs are and which areas of the country require particular attention. The study will also focus on the risks facing children, such as unexploded ordinances, child labour, and sexual violence. (…)


Rotarians give hope to poor Ugandan children

Ugandan Rotarians are channeling their expertise and compassion into a project that provides educational assistance to disadvantaged children, who include some of the nation's near-two million AIDS orphans, as well as a few others from neighboring Kenya.

Lord Meade Vocational College, a school in Njeru, near the industrial city of Jinja, is the fruit of the initiative of members of the Rotary Club of Jinja. Their effort is based on the belief that in a society where the traditional social safety net of the extended family is severely strained or broken by war and disease and where secondary education is not free, intervention by nongovernmental organizations is the only ticket to a better life for many poor children.

"There is an enormous amount of human talent being wasted in Uganda," says Jinja Rotarian John Kirkwood, who also is the founder of the Tofta Educational Trust, the driving force behind the school project. (…) Kirkwood endowed the trust with money he raised from selling a farm he had inherited called Tofta in the north of UK. It is now partially assisted through donations from individuals and church groups.

Built from scratch on a 20-acre site, Lords Meade Vocational College serves as a modern secondary school offering an unusual mix of academic and vocational curricula to impart skills that are useful in the home or the job market. The Rotary Club of Jinja is now working to provide textbooks, computers, furniture, and laboratory and workshop equipment. For more information about Lords Meade Vocational College and the supporting role played by the Rotary Club of Jinja, contact John Kirkwood by telephone: 256-77 516299; Fax: 256- 43-123063; or email:



Peace and security



African Union bolsters capacity to prevent and resolve wars

3 July - As the African Union (AU) prepares to open its second summit next week in Maputo, Mozambique, a UNDP-supported project is reinforcing peace and security machinery to strengthen its ability to prevent and resolve conflicts in Africa. UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown will be at the summit to launch the Human Development Report 2003, focusing on the Millennium Development Goals, on 10 July.

UNDP is providing US$2 million towards the project's $6.4 million budget, and Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden have also pledged support. The UN Office for Project Services is implementing the initiative.

Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the AU came into existence last year as a successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The project follows an earlier initiative backed by UNDP and Norway to train the OAU Conflict Management Centre staff in Addis Ababa and set to up a local area network linking the organization with 41 African embassies in the city. (…)


Successful partnerships drive development in Angola

Luanda-Geneva, 23 June – Just 15 months after a cease-fire ended three decades of devastating civil war, Angola has taken two significant steps on its long road to recovery. Campaigns in health and education, backed by UNICEF and supported by all levels of Government, are proving vital in restarting the development of social services in Angola.

Final figures for the National Measles Campaign, which ended on May 31, record that 7.1million Angolan children were vaccinated (92% of the population aged 9months-15years). Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has just announced $40million for 29,000 new teachers. This equates to one million more school places for children in the 2004 school year, and will be a 90 per cent increase in the number of grade 1 to 4 children in Angolan schools.

‘Development in services to fight child mortality are critical if Angolans are to recover from the ruinous results of war,’ said UNICEF Representative Mario Ferrari. ‘These campaigns are only first steps but they are fundamental in kick-starting the system, shaping policy and energising the administrative machine. UNICEF’s partnership with the Government, in promoting and supporting the implementation of public policies while advocating for higher commitment for the social sectors, is getting stronger by the day and as a result the children of Angola are benefiting.’


Washington D.C., August 23: march for jobs, peace, and freedom

A March for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom is being planned for Saturday, August 23 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. on the 40th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington at which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

The Coalition for Peace Action (CFPA) is a grassroots citizens organization which brings together people of all ages, backgrounds, professions, and political persuasions in support of three goals: global abolition of nuclear weapons, a peace economy, and a halt to weapons trafficking at home and abroad.






Nepal starts Asian broadcasts with HIV/AIDS and development programming

30 June - Satellite digital radio broadcasts are reaching rural communities in Nepal with locally-produced programmes imparting valuable information on HIV/AIDS and gender issues through a new initiative by UNDP and several partners. One programme is a drama set in a Nepalese village, and the other, in magazine format, features a variety of educational themes. Shows on early childhood development and micro-finance are being developed.

Nepal is the first country to start the broadcasts on the Equal Access Asia Development Channel, a regional initiative, with India, Laos and another Asian country to follow. UNDP and Equal Access, a civil society organization based in San Francisco, California, are implementing the 18-month pilot project.

The broadcasts, which began in April, reach more than 10,000 people directly through satellite receivers in 390 rural communities in 14 districts and about nine million people via rebroadcasts by Radio Nepal and local FM stations. The project is expanding to 51 districts in collaboration with the UN Population Fund and UNDP Nepal.  (…)


MSF maintains two teams medical in Monrovia 

Paris, 26 June - With the majority of the foreign representatives already evacuated from the capital of Liberia, Monrovia, following the recent outbreaks of violence, MSF has decided to maintain two medico-surgical teams to provide aid to the civilian victims of the conflict. (…)

Today, nine international volunteers and approximately 100 national Liberian staff members work for MSF in the capital. MSF will reinforce these teams as soon as an access to the capital is possible. In addition, an MSF team continues to provide assistance to the near 60,000 people installed in camps in the Bong.

MSF asks all belligerents to respect medical installations and personnel as well as the patients and wounded, as required by the Geneva  Convention.


New initiative to research and develop drugs for the world’s most neglected diseases

Delhi, 25 June - In a unique initiative, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), the Nobel Prize winning Organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and four eminent public research institutes from around the world have joined forces to address the lack of research and development in drugs for neglected diseases. This Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative or DNDi, will work in close collaboration with WHO/TDR Tropical Disease Research program.

A mere 10% of global health research is devoted to diseases that account for 90% of the global disease burden. (…) The world’s most neglected patients desperately need new, affordable, accessible and effective drugs, but their diseases do not represent a market profitable enough to attract Research and Development (R&D). (…)

A number of organizations are looking for solutions to ease the plight of the poor suffering from tropical diseases. DNDi’s six founding partners are primarily from the public sector and have already been working tirelessly in the field of public health and research: MSF, the Institut Pasteur, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, ICMR and the Malaysian Ministry of Health. (…)


World drug trends: UN sees major changes

Vienna, 25 June - The world heroin and cocaine markets are showing major new tendencies, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) states in its 2003 Global Illicit Drug Trends Report, launched in Paris today. On the production side, some good news is forthcoming from the two major illicit drug-producing regions. On the abuse side, important developments have taken place, especially in Europe, Russia and the Far East.

In the Golden Triangle -- areas under opium poppy cultivation in Myanmar and Lao PDR have been reduced by 40 per cent between 1998 and 2002, and this downward trend continues in 2003. Globally, compared to the bumper harvest of 1999, opium-production in 2002 was some 22 per cent lower. The other good news comes from the Andean region, where Colombia has achieved a very significant decline of coca bush cultivation, amounting to a 37 per cent decrease between 2000 and 2002; Bolivia has become an almost marginal source; and Peru has reduced coca cultivation by about 60 per cent since 1995. Potential global cocaine production has declined from 950 tons in 1996 to 800 tons in 2002; further declines are expected in 2003.  (…)


Rotary International Avoidable Blindness Task Rorce

Its mission is to distribute information on avoidable blindness and facilitate linkages between those with project needs and those with available resources (…). General Chairman is Past Rotary International President 2000-2001 Frank J. Devlyn.

The Avoidable Blindness Task Force of Rotary International has carried out over 400 thousand Procedures in two years besides all their other hundreds of projects involving almost 32,000 Rotary Clubs in 165 Countries.



Energy and safety



Codex Alimentarius Commission adopts more than 50 new food standards

New guidelines on genetically modified and irradiated food

Rome, 7 July -  The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted a landmark agreement on how to assess the risks to consumers from foods derived from biotechnology, including genetically modified foods, FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) said today. Altogether, the Commission adopted more than 50 new food safety and quality standards, some of which are revisions of old standards. The Commission adopted ground-breaking guidelines for assessing the food safety risks posed by foods derived from biotechnology.

Food safety and genetically modified food - These guidelines lay out broad general principles intended to make the analysis and management of risks related to foods derived from biotechnology uniform across Codex's 169 member countries. The guidelines concern food safety and not environmental risks. (…)

 Irradiated food -  The Commission also adopted a new standard for irradiated foods that accepts higher levels of radiation on food products. Food is irradiated to make it safe for longer periods of time. The process, which uses gamma ray irradiation, kills bacteria, increasing the food products' shelf life. The Commission determined that allowing higher levels of irradiation would eliminate bacterial spores and the radiation resistant pathogenic bacteria Clostridium botulinum. The process also reduces the need to use more toxic chemical methods of combating bacteria, some of which can be harmful to the environment. (…)


Americans declare Independence from hazardous chemicals

Washington DC, US, 2 July - On the eve of the Fourth of July holiday, over 10,000 Americans from all 50 states have signed the “US Declaration of Independence from Hazardous Chemicals” according to WWF — one of the 60 environmental, health, and trade groups that have endorsed the declaration. 

Spurred by policy reforms underway in Europe, citizens from around the country have demonstrated their support for improved protection from chemical hazards. (…)

The EU has requested public comments on the proposed legislation known as REACH (Registration, Evaluation, and Authorization of Chemicals), which could transform how chemicals are regulated.  In short, for some 30,000 chemicals used in Europe, companies must provide data on potential health or environmental hazards, eventually creating a valuable resource for public and private decision making. REACH would also allow Europe to restrict the use of the most dangerous chemicals. By putting the burden of proof on companies and harmonizing the rules across the EU, REACH will create a huge incentive for developing and using safer alternatives.

The “US Declaration of Independence from Hazardous Chemicals” supports the proposed EU reforms and urges the European Commission to strengthen key elements of the legislation.  (…)


Saudi Arabia to meet power demand while protecting environment

1 July - To help meet an increasing demand for electricity while protecting the environment, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Industry and Electricity is raising awareness about energy conservation.  It has set up a committee to promote energy conservation and manage electrical loads to reduce sudden surges in power. The group will also advise the Government on energy conservation measures and coordinate their implementation. These are the first steps towards dealing with several energy challenges, and to meet them, the Government is formulating a National Energy Efficiency Programme with UNDP and UN agency consultants.

The country needs to satisfy rapidly increasing energy demands driven by economic and social development. Despite its vast oil reserves, the cost of generating more electricity and expanding the national grid is enormous. (…) The programme will also help preserve natural resources, including oil and gas reserves, reduce energy costs for consumers, and foster economic development and a cleaner environment, he added.  (…)



Environment and wildlife



24 New Sites inscribed on World Heritage List

July 3 - Twenty-four sites were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, including, for the first time, sites in Gambia, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Sudan. The inscriptions were carried out by the World Heritage Committee, which has been holding its 27th session, under the chair of Vera Lacoeuilhe (Sainte-Lucie) at UNESCO Headquarters since June 30. The World Heritage List now numbers 754 sites, including 149 natural, and 582 cultural and 23 mixed sites “of outstanding universal value”. (…) See the list and a brief description at:]


The frontier that unites

The fight against desertification and hunger is bringing together both countries of Hispaniola

Rome, 2 July - Two nations share the island of Hispaniola in the Caribbean Sea: Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Their parallel histories and realities meet along a single border and now they are overcoming cultural and linguistic differences to fight a common enemy: the deep poverty and deforestation ravaging swathes of the island. (…)

The Global Mechanism of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), in collaboration with the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), is tackling this problem through a development initiative called the Border Action Plan or PAN-FRO (Plan de acción para la zona fronteriza).

The Border Action Plan (PAN-FRO) has been conceived of as a planning mechanism that seeks to address problems related to land degradation, drought, poverty and sustainable rural development, and importantly, the linkages with each country's Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). (…)


Emissions Trading Directive a significant step forward, say NGOs

Strasbourg, France, 2 July - Environmental groups today welcomed the European Parliament's adoption of the Emission Trading Directive but warned that further steps would be needed to guarantee the environmental effectiveness of the EU trading system.

The Parliament today adopted the compromise agreement on an EU-wide greenhouse gas emissions trading system, achieved after hard negotiations with the Council of Environment Ministers. This system will be one of the key tools in EU climate policy and central to achieving the Kyoto Protocol targets. For the first time there will be a binding cap on the total emissions from energy-intensive industry and the power sector, currently responsible for nearly half of the CO2 produced within the Community.

This agreement should, as planned, allow the emissions trading system to start in 2005. Now, Member States have to prepare their National Allocation Plans, a document setting out the targets that each sector and firm must meet. This needs to be approved by the European Commission by April 2004. (…)


GEF to double funding available to NGOs for community-based environmental projects 

Washington, July 1 –  The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has announced that it will more than double the amount of small grant funding available to non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations. The grants, which are up to US$50,000 each, support projects that simultaneously benefit the global environment and local communities in developing countries. The projected increase in funds for grants reflects the program’s record of success, which has led to greater demand for grants and increased donor support.

As one of the GEF’s three implementing agencies, along with the UN Environment Programme and the UN Development Prorgramme, the World Bank helps its client countries to prepare and supervise GEF projects. It plays the primary role in ensuring the development and management of investment projects.

According to the recently approved GEF business plan, the GEF small grants budget is projected to increase from $30 million in 2003 to more than $60 million in 2005.  The increase in funding would allow GEF to award more small grants and increase the number of countries participating in the program. (…)

The Small Grants Programme is administered on behalf of the GEF by the UNDP (the United Nations Development Programme). So far, GEF’s Small Grants Programme has benefited some 4,000 communities (…)


Sacred forests help conserve Madagascar's biodiversity

Antananarivo, Madagascar, 24 June - WWF is celebrating an innovative approach to conservation, with a commitment to conserve the sacred forests of Sakoantovo and Vohimasio in southern Madagascar through modern forest management mechanisms and traditional practises.

The Mahafaly and Tandroy communities of southern Madagascar, local authorities, and the Malagasy government have committed to conserve the sacred forests of Sakoantovo (6,163ha) and Vohimasio (30,170ha), with responsibility for their management transferred to the local population through an agreement between the Ministry of the Environment, Water and Forests, and local communities represented by their traditional leaders. WWF has recognized these two initiatives as a Gift to the Earth, WWF's highest accolade for a globally significant contribution to the protection of the living world. (…)


Caribbean Conservation Association partners with the International Fund for Animal Welfare

(June 2, 2003, Barbados) - The regional environmental organization, the Caribbean Conservation Association (CCA), recently entered into a partnership agreement with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) to initiate a programme aimed at the protection and conservation of marine habitats and marine life across the Carribbean region. An important focus of the partnership surrounds joint efforts to protect coastal and marine habitats in the region and to promotion of eco-tourism development and other sustainable livelihood opportunities.

The Secretariat of the Caribbean Conservation Association, at the Association’s 36th Annual General Meeting in Trinidad last year, was charged by its members to promote the benefits of non-whaling activities in the Caribbean and in other regions of the globe. The project is therefore envisaged, inter alia, as an informational counterbalance to the bombardment of Caribbean states with information and campaigns which actively seek to justify regional and international whaling activities. (…)

The CCA exists to enhance the quality of life for present and future generations of the Caribbean by facilitating the development and implementation of policies, programmes and practices, which contribute to the sustainable management of the region's natural and cultural resources.



Religion and spirituality



Interreligious Engagement Project: Journal Launch Celebration

Regis University, Adult Learning Center, Mountain View Room - 3333 Regis Boulevard

On July 12, the Interreligious Engagement Project (IEP21 – a global initiative dedicated to interreligious cooperation to address issues of peace, justice, and sustainability) will host a major event in Denver. We hope to bring together a significant number of people interested in interreligious action to build a better world.

The event will have two themes:

1. Presentation of the exciting new quarterly journal, Interreligious Insight, which began publication in January 2003. Insight is published in the US and the UK by three organizations, IEP21, the World Congress of Faiths (Oxford, UK), and Common Ground (a Chicago-based interreligious study center). []

2.  The Dialogue of Civilization Project: a three-year initiative to build a network of dialogue and action between Islamic cultures and the West.

The Dialogue of Civilizations project is designed to engage the global Muslim community and the West in deeper encounter and dialogue in order to promote greater understanding, mutual respect, and cooperative common action. The project will be a two-year undertaking, culminating in a four-day Conference convened in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in February 2005.


WCC general secretary to visit Russian Orthodox Church

(2 July) Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser will pay his last visit as World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary to the Russian Orthodox Church, 4-8 July. It will be his third visit to the church - the first was in 1993 soon after he had began serving as WCC general secretary, the second in 1998 before the WCC Assembly in Harare. (…) Raiser retires at the end of 2003.

Raiser expressed particular interest in discussing with the church leadership the response to the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC and how the Church is anticipating the Ninth Assembly of the WCC in 2006.  (…)

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is an international fellowship of Christian churches, built upon the foundation of encounter, dialogue and collaboration. The WCC was formed to serve and advance the ecumenical movement - the quest for restoring the unity of the church - by encouraging in its members a common commitment to follow the gospel. The prayer of the churches which belong to the WCC is for the renewal and faithful response of the people of God in witness and service to the world.



Culture and education



International Day Of Peace – 21 September

Peace Begins With Ourselves, Living In Harmony With One Another And With The Earth

The International Day of Peace (IDP) provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of Peace on a shared date to highlight  the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001 to 2010.

The International Day of Peace, established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly, was first celebrated on the third Tuesday of September, 1982. Beginning 2002, the UN General Assembly set 21 September as the now permanent date for the International Day of Peace to mark our individual and collective progress toward building Cultures of Peace, and serve as a reminder of our permanent commitment to Peace, above all interests and differences of any kind.

Pathways To Peace, one of the main promoters of this worldwide event, stresses that Individuals and Nations, acting in concert, DO make a difference in the quality of our lives, our institutions, our environment and our planetary future. Through co-operation, we manifest the essential Spirit that unites us amid our diverse ways. Pathways to Peace suggests various ways to celebrate the Day, such as – among many others :

© Join people throughout the world in one minute of silence (or more!) this Day, and at NOON every day, in our common commitment to Peace.

© Plan a local event. Use schools, places of worship, libraries, parks, or municipal buildings to host events.

© Use universal invocations/prayers such as May Peace Prevail on Earth ( and the Great Invocation (

© Promote the Day as one dedicated to nonviolence and global ceasefire (

© Participate in a PeaceBuilding project that is inter-generational and inter-cultural  ( ).

© Become involved in the UN International Decade for a Culture of Peace (

© Or… Whatever inspires you as a PeaceBuilder!


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Message by UN Secretary-General for World Population Day, 11 July



Information, services crucial to fight against Aids, broader quest for good health,

UN Secretary-General says in Population Day message:


The theme of this year's World Population Day, "One billion adolescents:  the right to health, information and services", highlights the need to support young people in their efforts to lead safe, rewarding lives and contribute to the well-being of their families and communities.

Throughout the world, millions of girls and boys are deprived of an education, harming their individual prospects and those of society at large.  In some countries, half of all girls are married before the age of 18, often resulting in early childbearing that poses serious health risks to both mother and child.  Experience shows that educated women are more likely to marry later, and have healthy and better-educated children, who will pass on these benefits from one generation to the next.  Education and information also influence how many children they will have.  If a woman were to wait until age 23, instead of age 18, to have her first child, that alone could reduce the momentum in population growth by over 40 per cent.

Information and services are also crucial in the fight against AIDS and the broader quest for good health.  Young people should know how the HIV virus is transmitted, and how to protect themselves from infection.  This is important everywhere but is absolutely critical in countries where infection rates are already high or quickly rising.  Reproductive health services and factual information about reproductive health will also help young people to avoid risky behaviour, unwanted pregnancy and poor health in general.  And in conflict zones, where levels of sexual violence and abuse are dramatically heightened, young people need appropriate and sensitive services to recover and participate in their country's return to normal life.

If the world is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and implement the programme of action adopted at the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo in 1994, the most effective interventions will involve young people themselves.  It is they who can best identify their needs, and who must help design the programmes that address them. 

One of every six people on earth is an adolescent.  In the developing world, more than 40 per cent of the population is under age 20.  The decisions these young people make will shape our world and the prospects of future generations.  On this World Population Day, let us recognize their right to the health, information and services they need and deserve.

(Source: UNIC Rome)



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Next issue: 25 July


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