Good News Agency – Year IV, n° 14



Weekly - Year IV, number 14 – 14 September 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 development

SolidarityPeace and securityHealthEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education




International legislation



UN, Turkey to increase cooperation against drugs and organized crime

Vienna, 3 September (UN Information Service) -- In his first visit to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime(UNODC) in Vienna, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, Mr. Abdullah Gül, reiterating his country’s long-standing call, stressed the need for continuing international cooperation against the trafficking of opiates -- affecting his country and neighbouring states -- and in combating other forms of organized crime, terrorism, human trafficking and corruption. (…)

The two sides agreed to strengthen their partnership by developing a range of technical activities to prevent drug abuse in the country, strengthening Turkey’s national drug control capacities and expertise, increasing cooperation against organized crime and terrorism, and promoting law enforcement training of government officials from Turkey and other governments in the region. The Turkish International Academy against Drugs and Organized Crime (TADOC), created with UNODC support, has become a success story in international cooperation against drugs (…)


UN, Afghanistan launch drugs interdiction unit

Vienna, 25 August (UN Information Service)  --  The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has just added another project to fight narcotics to its largely expanded portfolio of 20 projects -- worth US$38 million -- in the fight against illicit drugs in Afghanistan. Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC Executive Director, and Ali Ahmad Jalali, the Afghan Minister of Interior, signed an agreement in Kabul on Sunday to help establish a new drug interdiction department within the Ministry. (…)

In a meeting late Sunday in Kabul, Hamid Karzai, President of the Afghanistan Transitional Authority, reiterated his government’s commitment to enforcing the drug control measures, including the eradication of opium poppy fields and the destruction of illicit drugs-processing laboratories. President Karzai and Mr. Costa agreed on the need for the international community -- including major development institutions -- to help Afghan farmers, not only to grow commercial crops, but also develop the infrastructure in the largely poor rural areas of the country.

UNODC projects in Afghanistan cover four major areas of drug control. (…)



Human rights



Twenty-three new inscriptions on Memory of the World Register of Documentary Collections

1 September - The Declaration of the Rights of Man and documents pertaining to slavery in the Caribbean are among the 23 documentary collections from 20 countries selected for inscription on the Memory of the World Register of library and archive material during a three-day meeting of the International Advisory Committee (IAC) of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme in Gdansk, Poland, that ended Saturday.

Twelve new countries enter the Register: Barbados, Brazil, Chile, France, Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Saudi Arabia, Serbia and Montenegro, Tajikistan, Thailand, and Uruguay. A total of 91 properties from 45 countries are inscribed on the Memory of the World Register, which was established in 1997 to preserve and promote documentary heritage of universal value. (…)



Economy and development



Armenian women to raise organic crops and aid MDG progress

4 September - A new partnership is bringing together 80 women from farming households in Saramej and Lernantsk in Armenia's northern Lori region to raise organic crops and produce dairy products. A non-profit organization they are setting up will help members increase incomes and gain new skills and also ensure food security for the communities' most vulnerable families.

A joint initiative by UNDP Armenia, the local Spitak Farmers' Association and Heifer International Armenia, the partnership will help the communities make progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), targets agreed on by world leaders to end severe poverty and achieve other key education, health and other social objectives.

Community organizations can get funding through the UNDP partnership programme for innovative projects such as this that support one or more of the eight MDGs. The partnerships provide a flexible framework for combining the efforts of community associations, civil society groups, international agencies and the Government. (…)


Washington D.C. Rotarian is winner of 2003 UN Population Award

Werner Fornos of the Rotary Club of Washington, D.C., USA, is the 2003 United Nations Population Award laureate in the individual category. Fornos is president of the D.C.-based Population Institute, a nonprofit organization that strives "to achieve a world population in balance with a healthy global environment and resource base."

Established by the UN General Assembly in 1981, the award honors those who have made outstanding contributions toward promoting better awareness and understanding of population issues and sustainable development. It comes with a diploma and a US$12,500 cash prize.

Presenting the award, Nane Annan, lawyer, children's author, and wife of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, described Fornos as "one of the best-known and most active leaders on global population issues."

The Family Planning Association of Kenya, a volunteer-based nongovernmental organization, won the award in the institutional category.


Bangladesh, Gambia, the Islamic Development Bank and FAO sign agricultural projects agreement

Bangladesh to send experts to Gambia

Rome, 4 September - Bangladesh will send over 30 field technicians and experts to the Gambia to work with local experts, as part of a quadripartite agreement signed between the two countries, funded by the Islamic Development Bank and supported by FAO, the agency announced today.

The agreement is part of FAO's South-South Cooperation Programme, a global initiative which aims to strengthen cooperation among developing countries at different stages of development to improve agricultural productivity and ensure access to food for all.

Financed by the Islamic Development Bank, Bangladesh will send 5 experts and 28 field technicians to the Gambia over a two or three-year period.

They will work on small-scale rural projects to improve water management and bolster the production of foods such as cereals, fruit and vegetables, small animals and fish.

The project is one element in a broader programme to improve the country's food security. (…)


European Commission approves EUR 36.5 million to support regional co-operation between the Newly Independent States

Brussels, 3 September - The European Commission has adopted the Tacis Regional Action Programme 2003 with a total budget of Euros 36.5 million. In 2003, TACIS regional priorities are three key cross border themes: protecting the environment (E 8 million), promoting investment in infrastructure networks (E 17.5 million, and fighting crime (E 11 million). The TACIS Regional Programme is the main EC instrument for promoting co-operation between NIS countries, namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Russian Federation, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan (…)

The European Union has provided over E 5.200 billion to the Newly Independent States through the Tacis programme over the period 1992 to 2002. Nearly E 500 million (just under 10%) has been provided through Tacis regional co-operation programmes over that period, through around 120 projects. Since 1996, support for regional co-operation has concentrated on three areas: networks, environment and justice and home affairs. (…)


The European Commission signs a EUR 205 million aid programme with the Democratic Republic of Congo

Brussels, 3 September - The European Commission has signed a E205 million aid programme with the Democratic Republic of Congo in implementation of the Cotonou Agreement. The programme lays down the main guidelines for aid in 2003 and 2004.

At the signing Mr Poul Nielson, the member of the Commission responsible for development and humanitarian aid, said:

"This programme follows on the heels of the long-awaited inauguration of the interim government. The signing of this document demonstrates the will of the European Commission to support the Democratic Republic of Congo throughout the awkward transition to democracy and lasting peace both within its borders and throughout the Great Lakes region. (…)” The programme's key components are health, debt relief, institutional support for democratisation, constitutional reform and the strengthening of the rule of law.






Democratic Republic of the Congo: together again

2 Septeber -  The ICRC completed a series of operations on 28 August between the east and west of the country to reunite 94 unaccompanied children with their families.

Between 17 and 28 August, an ICRC DC-3 made six flights between Goma and the capital Kinshasa, transporting a total of 94 children (82 from Goma to Kinshasa and 12 in the other direction). Prior to these flights, Red Cross staff had ensured that the children involved were properly registered and making the trip of their own free will.

The children were aged between 11 months and 18 years; almost half were less than 13 years old. Among them was five-year-old Loleka, the youngest of eight children, who was orphaned shortly after birth. She was given into the care of her aunt in Kinshasa, who had made a tracing request two years ago, which resulted in Loleka being found in Kalemie, in northern Katanga. This is an example of the achievements of a tracing system that regularly finds missing persons sought by their loved ones and forwards Red Cross messages back and forth between people and relatives separated by the fighting. In all, 650 Congolese children have been reunited with their families this year. Almost 2,000 are still waiting their turn.


Russian Federation: Back to school

1 September - With a new school year starting today, the ICRC is distributing clothes to particularly vulnerable residents in Chechnya and to the poorest of the families in Ingushetia who have been driven from their homes by the fighting.

In Ingushetia the distribution has been under way for some time for 6- to 14-year-olds from the neediest families. Some 10,000 sets of clothes (shoes and pullovers, plus trousers for boys and skirts for girls) have been given to particularly large families, families led by single parents with disabilities, etc. Similar sets are being delivered in Chechnya. This one-time distribution is in addition to the food and other essential items which the ICRC supplies on a regular basis.

Buying a new piece of clothing for a child to wear at the beginning of the school year is a custom in the Caucasus: there is an element of celebration, with new clothes signifying the family’s well-being and respectability. This operation thus helps spare displaced people and particularly vulnerable residents an extra burden on their severely limited budgets.


Rotary clubs in Maryland, USA, help bring dental care to needy neighborhoods

3 September - While many children regard trips to the dentist as unpleasant but routine, some lower-income kids rarely, if ever, see the inside of a dental office. And for many older adults, just arranging transportation to the dentist can be nearly impossible.Seeking to fill this gap is the Tooth Mobile, a joint effort of the six Rotary clubs of Anne Arundel County, Maryland, USA — which collectively raised the funds needed for the dental-office-on-wheels project — and the Dental Health Services Division of the county's Department of Health. (…)By combining their fundraising expertise the clubs raised US$90,000, allowing the clubs to exceed their original pledge and fully cover the cost of the van and its dental equipment.

Joining the Tooth Mobile project as a third partner was the Pharmaceutical Division of Dentsply, the world's largest manufacturer of dental products. The Division donated $15,000 toward the cost of the van, and committed to provide dental disposables such as filing materials, X-Ray film, and cleaning supplies for the life of the program. (…)

Each preschooler receives an oral screening, cleaning, toothbrush and paste, and tooth care tips. Seniors receive oral cancer screenings and education plus vouchers for discounted dental services. Patients with more extensive needs are referred to the dental clinics and community dentists. (…)


New coalition aims to improve food security in Ethiopia

28 August - A new coalition — with participation from international agencies, donors, civil society, and private sector and the Government — is working on strategies to improve Ethiopia's food security within two to three years. It hopes to end the recurrent crises brought on by drought and difficulties in getting assistance to those in need.

Ethiopia reduced the percentage of its 67 million people who are undernourished from 59 per cent to 44 per cent during the 1990s, making progress towards the Millennium Development Goals target for 2015 of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. The coalition aims to contribute to this effort.

Over the last two years the Government and development partners have engaged in consultations on the problem, and these culminated in a forum in June that brought together Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and other top officials and representatives of the UN and other international agencies, donor countries, civil society and the private sector. They agreed to form a Coalition for Food Security in Ethiopia to foster partnerships to take action to lessen the impact of droughts, improve livelihoods and ensure that communities have adequate food supplies.  (…)



Peace and security



Annual Dpi/Ngo Conference ‘Human Security And Dignity: Fulfilling The Promise of The United Nations’ – UN New York, 8 to 10 September

Recent events around the globe have jeopardized the spirit of multilateral cooperation and peace-building, causing some voices to question the very relevance of the United Nations.  Despite these challenges, the Organization continues to play an essential role in ensuring human security and dignity through common commitment and international solidarity.  Secretary-General Kofi Annan has stated that:  “Achieving human security requires a dynamic, innovative partnership among the United Nations, governments and non-State actors.”

The fifty-sixth Annual Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), “Human Security and Dignity:  Fulfilling the Promise of the United Nationswill highlight these issues and give civil society organizations a forum to express their ideas about human rights, people’s empowerment and global well-being. Organized by the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) Section of the United Nations Department of Public Information (DPI), in cooperation with the Executive Committee of NGOs associated with DPI, the Conference is open only to representatives of NGOs associated with DPI, those in consultative status with the United Nations through the Economic and Social Council or those working with United Nations agencies and programmes or with United Nations Information Centers and Services.


Rotarians can foster peace through humanitarian service, says RI president

Close to 350 Rotarians from Nordic countries and other parts of the world met on 13 August in Stockholm, Sweden, to discuss Rotary's peace initiatives at the RI Presidential Celebration on Peace and Tolerance. The fifth of 15 mini-conferences focused on just one aspect of Rotary: reinvigorating Rotarian commitment to international understanding, goodwill, and peace.

RI President Jonathan Majiyagbe reminded participants in a keynote address that international understanding has been a goal of Rotarians since the earliest days of "our organization. Everything we do — improving our communities, promoting international fellowship, carrying out humanitarian service — supports a world of peace and tolerance."

The celebrations will take a brief break in September, but will begin again on 13 October in Seoul, Korea, where the focus will be on Rotary Foundation Support. On October 25, a celebration will take place in Antibes-Juan les Pins, France, where the theme will be Inter Country Committees. And Rotary Centers for International Studies in peace and conflict resolution will be the topic of the 1 November celebration in Bradford, England.


UNDP seeks $18m to help Palestinians affected by West Bank wall

Friday, 29 August - The UNDP Programme of Assistance to the Palestinian People is appealing to the international community for US$18 million in emergency aid for communities affected by Israel's construction of a series of walls, fences, trenches and barriers, commonly known as the "separation wall," in the West Bank.

Begun a year ago and winding 175 kilometres so far, the wall has encircled and isolated many Palestinian cities and villages.

The funds will be used for land reclamation, construction of agricultural roads, improving water supplies, revamping health care and education, strengthening municipal and village councils, as well as other infrastructure projects to be developed in consultation with communities. The work will generate over 200,000 jobs. (…)






 Afghanistan: New ambulance service opens in Kabul

1 September - As of last week, Kabul residents can call an ambulance. A new service has been set up with the support of the Norwegian Red Cross, and last week the ICRC handed over to the Ministry of Public Health five ambulances donated by the Kuwait Red Crescent Society (traduzione: dalla Società della Luna Rossa in Kuwait)

Until now, Kabul has had no permanent system for calling an ambulance, leaving the sick and injured at risk. The ambulance service forms an important addition to ICRC health projects in Afghanistan, and will focus on surgery, trauma management and first aid. The control room is at the Ibn Sina Emergency Hospital, which the ICRC has supported throughout decades of conflict in Kabul.

Few people in Kabul have phones at home, so radio call points have been installed at 20 locations around the capital, enabling the public to call for assistance. Drivers and nurses have been recruited and staff have received training.


French Rotaractors take "no drunk-driving" message to discotheque

3 September - Young people may be given to rebelling against authority, but they do listen to their peers. This was the premise upon which the Rotaract Club of Montpellier, France, based its project to stop drunk-driving among the city's youth.

On 23 August, members of the club launched the "Alcool + Volant = Cocktail Perdant!" (Alcohol + Driving = Bad Combination) with an awareness campaign about the consequences of driving "under the influence" at Havana Night, a local discotheque. Assisted by management and staff at the dancehall, Rotaractors handed out tickets to patrons, whose names were automatically entered in a draw for a DVD player. The only condition for claiming the winning prize was a breathalyzer test at departure time to confirm that a designated driver was not drunk.

The campaign, which began at 10:00 pm, lasted until 6:30 am the following morning. From around 4:00 am, a team of Rotaractors, assisted by management and staff at the dancehall, distributed literature that explained the importance of controlling blood alcohol level.

Close to 700 young people were reached on the inaugural campaign. No alcohol-related accidents were reported by the police that night.


First mass measles vaccination in 3 years in Tubmanburg, Liberia

Monrovia, 29 August - The first mass immunization measles campaign following the cessation of hostilities in Liberia will be launched today in Tubmanburg, Bomi County, by UNICEF and its partners.   Tubmanburg is a base of the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD), one of the two rebel groups in Liberia, and is home to thousands of displaced persons, the majority of whom are women and children, from Gbarpolu and Lofa Counties.

While Bomi County has been largely inaccessible for immunization services since the end of February 2003, Gparpolu and Lofa Counties have had no access to immunization since 2000.

The seven-day campaign in Tubmanburg is targeting 42,000 children, aged between six months and 15 years.  Three mobile immunization teams will administer the measles vaccines. Children aged six months to five years will also receive Vitamin A to help build up resistance against diseases such as measles, respiratory tract infection, and diarrhoea.

To ensure the success of the campaign. UNICEF has enlisted the support of opinion leaders and health workers in Tubmanburg in the mobilization and sensitization of the local population. (…)


Access to health services should be possible right across Angola

29 August - Luanga (Angola) -- The success of national immunization campaigns against polio and measles in reaching every corner of Angola shows that it is possible to provide health care to all Angolans, said Dr LEE Jong-wook, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) today. Dr Lee stressed that despite significant challenges, the polio and measles programmes had laid the groundwork to reach children in even the most difficult and inaccessible areas. (…)

Since the 4 April 2002 ceasefire in Angola, WHO, UNICEF, NGOs and the other partners have been supporting the country by providing a minimum health care package including vaccinations, HIV, malaria, TB, leprosy, trypanosomiasis and other disease control activities. Other health partners include the European Union, USAID, Italy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Japan among others which have provided primary health care services for hundreds of thousands of Angolans as they returned home. (…)


Zambia's measles campaign reaches record numbers

Lusaka, 26 August  – In one of the biggest health campaigns in Zambia’s history, nearly 5 million children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years were successfully vaccinated against measles. During a Measles Campaign Awards ceremony on 21 August, the Minister of Health, Dr. Brian Chituwo, announced that 4,955,647 children had been immunized, representing coverage of 108 per cent (Target: 4,600,916). The National Measles Campaign, which was held from 7-13 June, is part of a larger global effort to halve the number of measles deaths by 2005.

Through the efforts of 17,710 committed volunteers at 3,795 vaccination posts, all types of transport were used, including bicycles, canoes and ox carts, to reach inaccessible rural areas. One of the major challenges of the campaign was to persuade resistant religious communities in remote parts of the country to vaccinate their children. This was possible due to the partnerships formed with traditional leaders, administrative authorities, the Church, NGO leaders, and the military.  (…)


MSF intensifies its activities in Liberia 

26 August - Full plane load with 63 tons of relief materials arrives in Monrovia today. MSF currently has 30 international and over 300 Liberian staff members - in addition to 600 MSF-supported public health workers - working in Liberia.

Monrovia - MSF intensifies its activities in Liberia and continues exploratory missions in areas inaccessible to humanitarian aid since the beginning of the fighting. (…)

To support this increase in operations, a chartered 747 of 63 metric tons of emergency aid arrived today for Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, where hundreds of thousands of displaced civilians continue to live without adequate food, water or health services. This cargo of logistic, food, and medical materials are destined for the hospitals and health facilities run by the international medical humanitarian organization Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Last week, MSF opened a mobile clinic in Tubmanburg in Bomi county and has been providing over 250 consultations a day for a population of approximately 15,000 displaced people and residents who have not had access to medical care since the fighting started. (…)



Environment and wildlife



Stopping land degradation key to lifting one billion people out of poverty

World Bank urges renewed international commitment to combat desertification at Convention in Havana

September 3 - The World Bank yesterday called upon all stakeholders - both rich and poor countries alike - of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) to do more to address land degradation and take concrete implementation actions that are required to meet the objectives of the Convention. The call came at the Sixth Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention to Combat Desertification currently taking place in Havana, Cuba.

According to the United Nations, drought and desertification threaten the livelihoods of over 1 billion people in more than 110 countries around the world who depend on land for most of their needs, and usually the world's poorest in over one hundred countries are threatened. Desertification is a worldwide problem directly affecting 250 million people and a third of the earth's land surface or over 4 billion hectares. (…)


Protected forests crucial to supplying the world's biggest cities with cheaper clean water

Gland, Switzerland, 1 September - A new study by World Bank-WWF Alliance for Forest Conservation and Sustainable Use shows that protecting forest areas provides a cost-effective means of supplying many of the world’s biggest cities with high quality drinking water, providing significant health and economic benefits to urban populations.

The new report, Running Pure, shows that more than a third of the world’s 105 biggest cities — including New York, Jakarta, Tokyo, Mumbai, Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Barcelona, Nairobi, and Melbourne — rely on fully or partly protected forests in catchment areas for much of their drinking water.

Well-managed natural forests minimize the risk of landslides, erosion, and sedimentation. They substantially improve water purity by filtering pollutants, such as pesticides, and in some cases capture and store water. According to the report, adopting a forest protection strategy can result in massive savings. It is, for example, much cheaper to protect forests than to build water treatment plants. In New York, the adoption of such a strategy will be seven times cheaper than building and operating a treatment plant. (…)


UNEP backs Mongolia’s efforts to safeguard vast, unique environments

Bangkok, Ulaanbaatar, 22 August - The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Mongolian Ministry of Nature and Environment today signed a framework agreement to support sustainable development and environmental protection in the fabled North-East Asian country.

Home to warlord Genghis Khan, whose 13th century empire stretched from the Mediterranean Sea to the Pacific Ocean, Mongolia’s territory remains the world’s 17th largest. The land-locked nation’s 2.4 million people are spread over an area similar to that of Alaska, or nearly three times the size of France (one of the lowest population densities in the world of 1.5 people per sq km).

Mongolia’s unique and varied environments – including super-arid desert, moist taiga forest, rolling steppe grasslands and glaciated alpine peaks - provide refuge to some of the last populations of endangered snow leopard, Argali sheep, wild ass, saiga, bacterian camel and Gobi bear. (…)


'Queen of Clean' teaches American kids about Recycling 

( Clean Up the World,  Australia )

21 August – Across North America, friends, family, neighbours, communities and people of all ages and walks of life are uniting to combat polluted waterways, declining water quality and the growing amount of waste during this year's Clean Up the World campaign.

In Arkansas the Queen of Clean is teaching school children about rubbish and recycling accompanied by Bagman, a cartoon character portraying a typical bag of household rubbish.

Dressed in a litter strewn jacket and tiara the Queen performs a theatrical presentation which teaches children how to take small steps in their everyday lives to take care of their local environment; and Bagman is the star of a video presentation following his life as a bag of rubbish, from the household to landfill. "It is vitally important for young children to understand environmental issues and this campaign is a great, fun way of getting the information out there," said Ian Kiernan, AO Chairman and Founder of Clean Up the World. (…)

The 2003 Clean Up the World weekend, 19-21 September, will be an opportunity for volunteers from around the world to celebrate year round environmental achievements and will be a time of action as volunteers get physical and clean up their local area. (…)


Central & South America clean up beaches & waterways

Rivers, lakes, streams, creeks, oceans and coastlines will be targeted when communities across Central and South America unite for the 2003 Clean Up the World weekend on 19-21 September.

Twenty five thousand volunteers across Venezuela will participate in a ‘World Day of Beaches’ focussing on cleaning up over 235 marine areas.

The beach theme continues in Brazil with the launch of an environmental television program that will run for one-year educating people about preventing rubbish problems on beaches.

Now in it’s 11th year, the Clean Up the World campaign mobilises over 40 million volunteers from more than 100 countries each year to clean up, fix up and conserve their local environment.

“I encourage individuals and communities in Central and South America to register for free as Members of Clean Up the World and join the millions of people that are working together to look after our waterways and beaches,” said Ian Kiernan AO, Chairman and Founder of Clean Up the World.“ I believe individuals can make a big difference in helping solve the world’s environmental problems. The strength in unity of the 40 million people who participate in this campaign clearly illustrates how deeply people care about the environment they are living in,” Mr Kiernan said.  (…)



Religion and spirituality



International Day of Peace

This United Nations Day provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of Peace on a shared date. The International Day of Peace can be used to highlight the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World, 2001 to 2010.

Key peace and inter-faith organizations, together with the United Nations,  are calling for houses of worship and sacred spaces around the world to be used for 24 hour vigils for a culture of peace. The Meditation Room at the United Nations will be the setting for one such Vigil.

Intuition In Service and the UN Days & Years Meditation Initiative are co-ordinating a 24 hour global vigil of meditation and prayer for a culture of peace. Look at the web site ( to see how you and your group can participate in this meditation focus using the Great Invocation, the World Peace Prayer, May Peace Prevail on Earth, or a peace prayer of your choice. Every 15 minutes for a 24 hour period, prayers will be used by participants from different parts of the world.



Culture and education



International Literacy Day: Good news in four high population countries

9 September - New data released by UNESCO’s Institute for Statistics (UIS) on the occasion of International Literacy Day (September 8), show improvement over the past decade in adult literacy rates for several of the world’s high population countries, including Brazil, China, Egypt and Pakistan. According to national estimates based on census data, compiled for 40 countries, China made the greatest gains, with the literacy rate of the adult population (15 years and over) climbing from 78 percent in 1990 to 91 percent in 2000. In Egypt, the rate rose from 44 percent in 1986 to 56 percent in 1996 and, according to recent reports, has risen further since. Brazil posted an increase of six percentage points from 80 percent in 1991 to 86 percent in 2000, and Pakistan, between 1994 and 1998, saw a rise from 39 to 42 percent.

These four countries, especially China, also showed improved literacy rates for women. In Brazil, the data shows that there are now slightly more literate women than men. This is also the case for Belize, Honduras, the Philippines and the Seychelles. The Central African Republic (CAR), one of the few countries in Africa to report adult literacy rates, saw them increase from 34 percent to 49 percent in the decade to 2000. As with Egypt and Pakistan, however, there remains a gap of more than 20 percentage points between literacy rates for men and women. (…)


One million go back to school in Occupied Palestinian Territory

UNICEF working to keep Palestinian children in school

Jerusalem, 1 September - About one million students returned to school today in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after a summer break during a “Back to School” campaign supported by UNICEF.

In partnership with the Palestinian National Authority’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOEHE), UNICEF resumed its campaign to prepare thousands of children for the resumption of classes in a region battered by a damaged economy and severe mobility restrictions.

In the run-up to the opening of the schools today, UNICEF assisted impoverished families by distributing more than US$170,000 worth of supplies. These include uniforms and backpacks (containing stationary and writing materials) to 10,000 children who are most affected by the current crisis in the West Bank and Gaza. Using TV spots, billboards, posters and leaflets, UNICEF has supported a media campaign to encourage parents to send their children back to school.

This month also marks the start of an ambitious UNICEF training programme for more than 2000 teachers focusing on life skills based education. (…)


Innovations in Education: The Arts and Science Partnership

Symposium - Doha, Qatar, 19-20 October

Innovations In Education is an exciting series of symposiums hosted by the Qatar Foundation to promote sharing of cutting edge research in education. The goal of this series is to open a forum for international scholars to explore the implications of their research to practical educational applications. The series will attempt to promote public awareness of the significance of sound research to educational policy making and curriculum design.

The first symposium will bring together a leading team of experts and curriculum designers to discuss the impact of scientific research on the relationship between artistic and scientific creativity. The symposium will be held at the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Doha Campus in the Education City, Doha, Qatar on October 19-20, 2003. (…)

The Qatar Foundation has envisioned Education City, a center of educational excellence in the region, where international scholars from prestigious universities share research and educate students in fields of critical importance to the GCC region.


* * * * * *




by Sergio Tripi


The debate on the UN, which has already been ongoing for several years, has been strongly accentuated in recent months. Often people talk about it without knowing the subject thoroughly and thoughts and judgements are expressed more from hearsay than from real knowledge, attentive reflection and intimate conviction. But on a subject like this, to which the very system of cohabitation among the peoples of the Earth is linked, it is necessary to proceed with caution and to examine the question in at least some depth.

In a little less than sixty years (two generations) since the Organization of the United Nations  was founded, the world has changed drastically. With more than 120 new nations on the scene, the geopolitical map has had to be redrawn: it has been observed ever more clearly that the national economies now depend on the global economy; human rights have emerged with an ever deeper universal meaning; and humanity, also through problems of ecology (a science for which not even the word existed until two decades ago) is slowly opening to a new awareness: that of its intrinsic unity in its very diversity. However, the nations continue to be jealous of their national sovereignty and do not concede to the UN, their own creation, either the necessary delegation of authority or the necessary resources to allow it to perform a decisive and timely role in international crises. As Member States, the nations are not yet disposed to allocate a decent fraction, though minimal, of their wealth for the development of the poor countries. Still today, the design outlined in the 1970 North-South Commission, in which the industrialized countries were asked to give 0.7% of their gross national product (less than one percent!) to defeat hunger, disease and poverty, is still perhaps at the halfway point. And the impasse of authority has been clear in recent months, in which the decision-making conflict of the Security Council concerning Iraq clearly highlighted how far the most crucial decisions depend on the political will to confer on the UN the necessary delegation of authority, without which the consequence can unfortunately be foreseen: action is taken without the United Nations.

The crucial point, then, is this: can one do without the UN? I maintain that the UN is not only necessary, but indispensable. To examine this view in the necessarily restricted context of a journalistic article, let us consider only some of the many dramatic crises which the whole world has to face: terrorism and international security, illiteracy, the poisoning of the environment, illness.

With regard to terrorism, during his latest visit to Switzerland the President of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi affirmed: “No State, or group of States, can find, in isolation, effective answers to the challenges of terrorism” and to this end hoped for the strengthening of the United Nations and its “operational instrumnts”. Floods of words are being written about terrorism and the recurrent element, especially in recent times, has  been that this terrible world threat must be dealt with by the whole world community. In fact, could we ever imagine that this terrible scourge, expressing a perverse homicidal fanaticism that finds proselytes in the terrible social conditions which the world continues to foster, can be healed by something less than the entire community of the planet? Remembering the founding Charter of the UN, President Ciampi made this concise observation: “It would be a strident contradiction, if a vision of international reality, which arose in a world which hardly knew the concept of interdependence, should be blocked in a world of reciprocal, growing, economic, political and cultural interdependence.” Can one ever doubt the thought that, in an interdependent world, the long-term reply to terrorism must express new forms of synergy between nations both at the level of safety and at the level of endemic causal situations like hunger, deprivation of human rights, extreme poverty and illiteracy, which condemns children (yes, the very future of the world!) to a life without hope?

When, last spring, 110 million people in the world demonstrated for peace, their motivation made clear an exceptional fact: the conscience of these people, in fact the conscience of this significant part of public opinion, rejected war as being by now an anachronistic instrument, if used by single nations or groups of nations, even to respond to extreme threats. Their conscience asked for collective security to be defended with all the means of control available and unequivocally indicated that, in case an action of force was in the end considered necessary, this should be conducted under the control of the United Nations, the only institution  which could respond to the request for a global legitimacy. This is the good news which has arisen from these recent events: the conscience of a very significant part of public opinion is changing and recognizes the value of globalization when is is based on the new principles of unity in diversity and sharing. It is a grassroots conscience, which cannot be ignored or overridden by governments without their very operations being questioned; it is a conscience which is rapidly spreading and is directing priorities and choices towards the affirmation of the new values and the repudiation of old methods. It is the globalization of the new values expressed by those institutions which pass over sectorial interests and address themselves to the search for the common good and its defence.   

The European Parliament has adopted a resolution for increasing resources for international development cooperation, to be allocated to instruction. Undoubtedly, a measure of far-sighted solidarity. But the dramatic statistic is that today at least 113 million children in the world do not attend school, and of these two-thirds are girls (yes, the mothers who will bring up the new generation …). Mani Tese, an Italian non-governmental organization of which Italy can be proud, tells us that the sum which the world spends in three days for the war industry would be sufficient to send them all to school for ten years. Who, if not the UN, will be able to speak for them? Who, if not the UN, will have the moral authority and the global capacity to press for a shift from the fateful direction that things are taking?

For the environment, the same argument applies: can we imagine that the adoption of effective anti-pollution measures can be less than global? Can we have a partial greenhouse effect? Can a nation or a group of nations adopt solutions like the spots of a leopard on the surface of the planet, trusting in the right direction of the wind to maintain its safety? Come on, let’s not joke. The search for alternative energies and measures for the protection of the environment have to be considered globally in order to be applied globally, even if gradually and with implementation programmes which take account of the different regional and local situations. To protect short-sightedly the interests of some industrial sectors, some nations can put off the adoption of the parameters indicated at Kyoto at the UN Conference on the Environment, but they cannot deny the necessity and the validity of these parameters without losing their credibility and putting the health of their own citizens at risk.

As to health, before the summer SARS made dramatically clear the inconsistency of territorial boundaries, the need for coordinated scientific research and the urgency of a global health reaction. It is a treacherous syndrome: a nasty lung infection which, up till now, has been characterized by a mortality rate of around 15%. When it has been defeated, it will have been by the interdependent response that the global community is increasingly putting into practice with the coordination and guidance of the World Health Organization. And AIDS? What can be said of this terrible threat which has been defined “a time bomb”? The mobility of the inhabitants of the planet has made the spread of the disease of the century dramatic, which will be defeated only if, with the support of WHO, the most recent medicines, like the so-called “retroviral” ones, are made available to the peoples of the planet, all the peoples, even those poor ones who cannot afford them. In order to deal with serious diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria,  a significant step has been taken in the right direction: the agreement signed at the end of August in Geneva by the 146 nations who make up the World Trade Organization allows the poor countries to import at low cost generic medicines produced by other countries, “legally” copying those protected by a patent. Bu if  this is not followed by action, we will have defended short-sightedly the interests of pharmaceutical research, but we will not have stemmed the spread of a planetary scourge which requires a global answer outside sectorial interests. Not to mention the vaccinations costing a few cents for illnesses which in the western world are now laughable but which decimate infants in the Third World. UNICEF has made considerable conquests, but they are as yet insufficient on account of limited means. So who, if not the UN, will be able to change these situations once and for all?

When the common good requires a renunciation of national sovereignty, the nations are tested and nationalistic egoism is put face to face with the need for international cooperation. Before the world community, this then is the question which dominates all the others: will the sovereign nations be disposed to renounce their nationalistic interests and limited objectives with the aim of working together to establish a world of peace and progress? The pessimists among us will say no. The realists will say that there is no other choice and the sooner the better; and if this conviction prevails, if delegation of authority and  adequate resources are provided with the intention of seeking the common good, then the right measures will also be found for reforming this Organization constructively, which is not perfect, but necessary, or rather indispensable.



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Next issue: 26 September.


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