Good News Agency – Year IV, n° 19
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 47 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.
New York, 3 December - Six years ago today, the antipersonnel mine-ban treaty opened for signature. Since then, 141 countries have ratified or acceded to the treaty, sometimes referred to as the “Ottawa Convention.” Another nine countries have signed but have not yet completed their ratification process, bringing the total number of countries supporting the treaty to 150. Forty-four countries have not yet joined the treaty
The landmark agreement, spearheaded by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, bans the use, production, stockpiling, and transfer of antipersonnel landmines. The treaty went into effect in 1999, after the first 40 countries ratified it.
According to the International Campaign to Ban Landmines’ Landmine Monitor Report 2003:
The UN Mine Action Service, along with UNICEF and the UN Development Programme, published today a Portfolio of Mine Action Projects 2004, a compendium of about 300 mine-action project proposals together requiring more than $280 million for 2004. The proposals, prepared by non governmental and UN organizations, cover 36 countries. (…)
Top South East European officials meet to discuss law enforcement and anti-trafficking strategies – Vienna, 15-16 December
Vienna, 12 December (UN Information Service) - Senior government officials from 13 South East European countries are gathering in Vienna on 15-16 December to discuss strategies to curb human trafficking in the region. The meeting, jointly convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Romania, the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD), and the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), will launch a comprehensive law enforcement training programme for general police and special anti-trafficking investigators. (…)
The SEE anti-trafficking training strategy developed by ICMPD and UNDP is unique. Nowhere else in the world have countries jointly adopted such a sophisticated training programme, nor have they harmonized their legislation in line with internationally recognized definitions, while at the same time tailoring laws to the needs and experiences of each country.
SEE anti-trafficking efforts offer a useful tool for the implementation of the UN Protocol on human trafficking that will enter into force on 25 December. Among the countries present at the high-level discussions in Vienna, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, Serbia-Montenegro and Turkey have already ratified the Anti-Trafficking Protocol.
Geneva, 10 December - Today, on Human Rights Day, three UN agencies are launching a colourful, interactive cartoon booklet called "HIV/AIDS Stand Up for Human Rights". The cartoon is part of a global campaign to tackle HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination and other human rights violations. The cartoon, launched by the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNAIDS and WHO, is designed to empower young people to promote human rights in relation to HIV/AIDS, to raise awareness of the key linkages between HIV/AIDS and human rights, to demystify the disease and to combat the myths and taboos associated with HIV and AIDS.
Madagascar, 10 December - At the official launch of a national campaign to end child sexual exploitation in Madagascar, UNICEF and ILO presented the resumes of three studies that highlighted the sexual exploitation of children in Madagascar. According to the UNICEF-sponsored study, between 30 per cent to 50 per cent of all sex workers in two of country's main cities, Nosy Be and Tamatave, were children under the age of 18.
This high profile launching ceremony, attended by the Ministers of Culture, Tourism and Population, along with senior representatives from the Ministries of Justice, Communication and Labor, members of the diplomatic corps, multi- and bi-lateral agencies and the nation's press, was sponsored by the President of the Republic himself.
A key highlight of the event, in addition to the presentation of the studies, was the viewing of a film, produced with UNICEF support, that depicted the story of two sisters and their struggle to overcome adversity. In telling the story of how one sister was lured into prostitution, while her younger sibling remained steadfast in her studies, the film successfully communicates the dangers of sexual exploitation, AIDS and the importance of education.
Chad to receive US$20 million for strengthening agricultural services and producer organizations
Washington, December 12 – The World Bank’s Board of Directors yesterday approved an IDA Credit of US$20 million to finance agricultural services and strengthen the institutional and technical capacities of producer organizations in Chad.
The Agricultural Services and Producer Organizations Project (ASPOP) aims to increase agricultural productivity and rural income while preserving the natural resource base. The project will finance productivity-raising operations and improve the institutional and technical capacities of producer organizations, government institutions and private support services. Activities under the project focus on promoting sustainable growth in agricultural production and capacity building for agricultural services. (…)
Rome, 9 December - The Federal Republic of Germany has agreed to provide 8.6 million euros for development projects to be carried out by FAO next year, the UN agency said in a statement today. Germany will mainly finance several projects in Afghanistan and a project for HIV/AIDS affected children in Lesotho and Malawi. (…) The project aims to assist in resettling returnees, increase food production and improve the livelihoods of vulnerable households.
Another project will focus on training for Afghan women and men who are members of village groups for poultry and dairy production. Working with local farmers, FAO has set up milk collection centres and started poultry production for women in several Afghan cities. The project will help to extend these activities. It will also assist the Afghan authorities to support livestock development through a better animal disease monitoring system. In addition, veterinary health services will be strengthened.
Germany will also support the formulation of a medium-term national food security strategy. A comprehensive and user-friendly food security surveillance database will be established. (…)
Washington, December 9, 2003 - The World Bank today approved two loans for a total amount of $324.3 million for irrigation modernization and community forestry projects in Mexico.
The $303 million loan for the Integrated Irrigation Modernization Project aims to improve the competitiveness of irrigated agriculture and the efficiency of irrigation water use. The $21.3 million loan for the Second Community Forestry Project seeks to assist indigenous communities and ejidos (land-holding in communal resources) to improve the management and conservation of their forest resources, and to generate alternative sources of income in a sustainable manner. (…)
The Integrated Irrigation Modernization Project will support the modernization of the existing irrigation infrastructure, increased productivity of irrigated agriculture and diversification into high-value crops, consolidation of the transfer of irrigation infrastructure to water users, and institutional strengthening of water users’ organizations to enhance their participation in irrigation infrastructure and investment decisions. The project is expected to benefit directly about 110,000 farmers. (…)
Monday, 8 December - Equatorial Guinea, long poor and neglected, achieved the world's fastest economic growth during the past decade — 19 per cent a year — as companies tapped huge oil and gas reserves. This offers the opportunity for the small west African country to reduce grinding poverty, get all children through primary school, curb HIV/AIDS and malaria, and make progress towards other Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015.
Average income per person will reach nearly US$4,500 this year, but many have yet to benefit from the boom, with 60 per cent living in poverty. Only half the children attend primary school, and 7 per cent of people ages 15 to 49 are living with HIV/AIDS.
A workshop in the capital Malabo for 40 journalists recently made a start in raising awareness about the goals. The Ministry of Information, the UN country team and the UNDP Communications Office in New York organized the event, with participants from government and private media, international correspondents and UN agencies. (…)
Norway contributes over $1 million to UN-HABITAT's Water and Sanitation Trust Fund.
Nairobi, 5 December - The Norwegian government has signed an agreement with UN-HABITAT committing 10.24 million Norwegian Kroner (US $ 1.3. million) to the agency's Water and Sanitation Trust Fund. The Norwegian Ambassador Mr. Kjell Harald Dalen, Permanent representative of Norway to UN-HABITAT, signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Norway. Mrs. Anna Tibaijuka, Executive director of UN-HABITAT, thanked Norway for its contribution observing that the contribution to Water and Sanitation Trust Fund will help to leverage further investments in the provision of water and sanitation for the poorest of the poor, and to fund projects to improve the governance of water and sanitation in urban areas. (…)
The number of urban dwellers not receiving safe water had reached an all time high of 118 million by 2000 and continues to rise, an increase of 62 million over the comparable figure in 1990. The situation with sanitation is much worse, with more than three times as many people denied even minimal sanitation facilities. (…)
Regional meeting concludes with pledge to strengthen ILO role in African development - "Decent Work for Africa's Development"
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 5 December ILO news) – After four days of discussion, the International Labour Organization's Xth African Regional Meeting concluded today with a broad set of recommendations on putting employment at the centre of Africa's development strategies and strengthening the organization's role in poverty reduction on the continent. Delegates agreed to activate the ILO's tripartite network to support the Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Alleviation in Africa to be convened by African Union (AU) Heads of State and Government in Burkina Faso in 2004. (…)
Noting the value of autonomous, democratic and representative organizations of employers and workers to good governance and the efficient and equitable function of economies, delegates urged the forthcoming Summit to recognize the value of well-functioning mechanisms of social dialogue based on fundamental principles and rights at work. The meeting called on African governments and their development partners to ensure the greater involvement of these organizations as the representatives of main economic actors. (…)
New US$ 600 million fund to improve African water resources
A special new fund is to be set up to improve desperately scarce water resources in Africa, where two thirds of the population have no access to drinking water. An African ministerial council on water said the European Union had promised additional finance to preserve Africa's scarce water resources. The news comes at a time that international trade negotiators are being urged to look at the impact of their proposals on how water is used by the world's farmers. Salif Diallo, the minister from Burkina Faso responsible for water, told the new fund totalling US$ 623 million (EUR 524 million) would be set up with the backing of the African Development Bank. French President Jacques Chirac announced financial support of EUR 10 million (EUR 8.4 million) towards managing the Niger River. The World Bank's vice president Ian Johnson said his institution plans to increase funding of agriculture and water projects in Africa. "We have dedicated funding to CGIAR, half of the funds received by the organization comes to Africa," Johnson said. "We are doing so because we realize that we are living in a more and more water-stressed environment," he added. Source: World Bank Press Review, 3 Nov 2003 quoted in Source Water and Sanitation Weekly, No. 45-46, 20 November 2003
12 December - Between 6 and 12 December, the ICRC distributed such essential items as clothing, soap, hoes, shovels, machetes, buckets, blankets and kitchen utensils to people in Ikela, a region of Équateur province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"Bless you! Thank you!" exclaims Marie Spéciose. She has walked 180 km in four days to reach Opala (one of two ICRC distribution points) from her home village of Bomandja. "Everyone had forgotten us, but you were there. We don't regret the long walk, because this is really a wonderful present." She sets off home with a package on her back and a big smile on her face.
This distribution of supplies took place in the former "disengagement zone", which has been difficult to enter for many years because of the war. The beneficiaries were those most in need, which meant 7,400 families, or almost 37,000 people. The ICRC had prepared everything well in advance. For logistical reasons, goods had to be transported by air, river and road (which meant bicycle and motorbike!) from Kinshasa and Bukavu. The ICRC carried out the operation in cooperation with the local authorities, to make sure that supplies were distributed fairly. (…)
Rome, 10 December – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today Italy’s donation of one million euros to WFP’s humanitarian operation in Georgia.
The donation, which will be used to buy 2,000 metric tons of wheat flour and 500 tons of sugar, will be used in WFP’s Food-for-Work activities which assist ten of thousands poor farmers and their family members in six of the poorest regions of Georgia. In addition, some of the food will be distributed among the estimated 4,000 Chechen refugees in the Pankisi Gorge. (…)
The humanitarian agency has been working in Georgia since 1993. The latest three-year operation, which will assist a total of more than 200,000 people, was launched in July, 2003.
While this is not Italy’s first donation to WFP’s work in Georgia, the recent contribution is timely. The operation, which will cost over US$23 million, is only 24 percent funded. (…)
New Delhi/Kabul, 8 December – More than one million schoolchildren in Afghanistan will receive a nutritious snack in school thanks to a new donation of 61,000 metric tons of wheat made by the Government and people of India to the United Nations World Food Programme, WFP officials said today. The Indian wheat is being converted into biscuits fortified with micronutrients that will boost children’s nutrition and enhance their ability to learn. The biscuits – totaling 7,496 metric tons and worth an estimated US$7.2 million – are the second tranche of an overall pledge of one million metric tons of wheat by India to WFP. (…)
In an effort to encourage attendance, WFP provides 150,000 schoolgirls in the country with a four-litre tin of cooking oil to take home to their families. The oil serves as an extra incentive for parents to keep their daughters in school. In the last two years, the overall gender ratio among sample schools has improved: from three girls for every ten boys to six girls for every ten boys attending school. (…)
United Nations, 11 December 2003---The United Nations Development Group today invited donors to contribute to the newly established International Reconstruction Fund Facility For Iraq, a mechanism which will allow governments to contribute to the rebuilding of Iraq's economy and infrastructure through projects administered by UN agencies and the World Bank.
The Facility will have two trust funds operating under joint UN-World Bank coordination. Donors will have the option of channeling resources through the World Bank Iraq Trust Fund, to be administered by the Bank, and/or the UNDG Iraq Trust Fund, to be administered by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on behalf of itself and other participating UN organizations. Beginning in 2004, funding from the Facility will be used to address priorities identified in the Needs Assessment carried out in Iraq this past summer by the World Bank and the United Nations Development Group (UNDG), in consultation with the International Monetary Fund.
IAEA Deputy Director General Ana María Cetto has been named one of Mexico's Women of the Year. With a shared Nobel Peace Prize already to her credit, Dr. Cetto's latest award places her in rare and distinguished company. The softly spoken physicist received the honour in Mexico City on 10 December 2003, along with two other scientists, Julieta Fierro and Linda Manzanilla. The honour reflects her intense commitment to science over the past 35 years and the breakthroughs she made to our understanding of how light and matter interact in the quantum world.
Dr. Cetto has co-authored some 70 research articles, and the book The Quantum Dice, An Introduction to Stochastic Electrodynamics. But her work is not just about discovery and microscopes. It is the ethics behind the science that has driven her decades of involvement in the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons. (…)
Further to his speech on 23 September 2003, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has appointed a 16 person panel of eminent personalities to examine new global security threats and propose international responses.
Former Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun of Thailand will chair the high level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. The panel will be “tasked with examining the major threats and challenges the world faces in the broad field of peace and security, including economic and social issues insofar as they relate to peace and security, and making recommendations for the elements of a collective response.”
In a letter addressed to the President of the General Assembly, Julian Robert Hunte, Annan said, “The past year has shaken foundations of collective security and undermined confidence in the possibility of collective responses to our common problems and challenges.” He added, “It has also brought to the fore deep divergences in opinion on the range and nature of the challenges we face, and are likely to face in the future.”
Source: UN News Centre, 5 November 2003.
4 December - The 1997 international treaty banning landmines has steadily reduced the number of mines being used and the dead and maimed they claim each year, but much remains to be done, U.N. officials said on Wednesday. 'The international community has come a long way in relatively little time, but a steady effort over the years is needed to succeed,' Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno told a news conference marking the sixth anniversary of the pact being open for signature. U.N. agencies used the anniversary as an occasion to ask governments to pledge $280 million for projects in 36 countries threatened by landmines and other unexploded ordnance in 2004. Most of the projects are in Asia and Africa.
Since 1997, 141 countries have ratified the treaty -- known as the Ottawa Convention for the central role played by Canada in its negotiation. Nine other countries have signed it but not ratified. But a few dozen others, including the United States, China and Russia, remain outsiders.
The treaty commits countries never to use, develop, produce, stockpile or transfer anti-personnel mines. It also obliges states to destroy stockpiled mines and get rid of mines on the ground within their territory. As a result of the convention, 'production of new mines has dropped dramatically, international trade in anti-personnel mines has virtually stopped, fewer mines are being laid. The number of new victims is down,' Secretary-General Kofi Annan told a luncheon of peace activists in Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Global Child Survival Partnership initiates efforts in Ethiopia to Stop preventable child illness and deaths
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 16 December - The Child Survival Partnership, a new alliance between UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), today announced that it is initiating efforts in Ethiopia to improve child health and save children dying of preventable causes. (…)
The agencies represented in The Child Survival Partnership joined together to direct global attention and action on the unfinished child survival agenda. Through coordinated action among international partners and using existing resources, funding and coordination mechanisms more efficiently and effectively, the Partnership will increase attention paid to child survival within priority countries, and scale up known, effective child health interventions like immunization, Vitamin A supplementation and treatment of diarrhea, pneumonia and malaria.
Ethiopia is the first target country of the Partnership because of the Government's commitment to child survival. While Ethiopia has made great strides in improving child health, much of its rural population has limited access to modern health-care services. (…)
The Partnership will support the Government of Ethiopia's efforts to improve coverage of key maternal and child health interventions like immunization, improved nutrition, and treatment of child illnesses, help communities achieve better health, support the integrated training for frontline health workers and support for the implementation of the Government's new Health Extension Package.
11 December, Geneva - The World Health Organization (WHO) announced today the launch of the Health Academy, in collaboration with Cisco Systems, Inc. The Health Academy is a novel approach to improve health through information technology. It will provide the general public with health information and knowledge required for preventing diseases and following healthier lifestyles. The mission of the Health Academy is to demystify medical and public health practices and to make the knowledge of health specialists available to all citizens of the world through Internet-based technology. It will promote good health by explaining essential public health functions in a language that all people can understand, taking into consideration their individual cultural sensitivities.
Two pilot studies spanning the 2003-2004 academic year have just begun, one in Egypt and the other in Jordan. The studies are directed at 12 to 18 year old students in 20 schools in Egypt and 21 schools in Jordan. Based on this experience, the Health Academy may be expanded in the two pioneer countries as well as in other countries and regions of the world. (…)
40,000 people partner with ADRA to commemorate World AIDS Day
Silver Spring, Maryland, December 10 - In commemoration of United Nations World AIDS Day today, nearly 40,000 people wore red ribbons provided by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International. To promote World AIDS Day, ADRA International provided a World AIDS Day awareness and event planning kit, a video featuring ADRA's AIDS projects, and red ribbons. (…) Those that wore red ribbons include students at high schools, colleges, and universities; members of several denominations; HIV/AIDS support groups; and other non-profit organizations. ADRA's kit, video, and ribbons were also requested for use in countries such as Croatia, Togo, South Africa, Canada, Madagascar, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Nigeria, Hong Kong, Denmark, and India.
According to the United Nations, there are 42 million people worldwide with HIV/AIDS. Every day nearly 14,000 new HIV cases are added while nearly 8,500 die from AIDS. In North America nearly one million people have HIV, including 10,000 children. (…)
Washington, 9 December - A global competition to find innovative new ways to fight the global HIV/AIDS epidemic has awarded $460,000 to teams of NGOs from Brazil, Ethiopia, Kenya and Romania. In announcing the winners of the 2003 Development Marketplace (DM) Global Competition, World Bank President James Wolfensohn, said the quality and commitment of the different project teams showed "development at its best."
Tehran/Ankara/Geneva, 9 December – UNICEF said today that Iran and Turkey have launched the largest and most ambitious measles campaigns in the world, reaching a combined total of 53 million people over the next year. The Iranian campaign targets 33 million people between 5 and 25 years of age, all of whom it hopes will be immunized before the new year, while Turkey plans to reach 20 million children aged 9 months to 15 years over the next 12 months. Iran will also introduce the rubella vaccine as a part of its immunization schedule for the first time. The campaigns in both countries are being financed and implemented by their governments, and will enlist support from the media, health professionals, schools, local communities and parents. (…)
3 December - Visiting Rotarians are among thousands of volunteers and health professionals working together to help kick polio out of Niger, which is one of four African countries and a total of seven worldwide where children still suffer from the crippling disease. The 12 U.S. Rotarians are assisting with administering drops of oral polio vaccine to children and delivering the vaccine to health clinics, as well as recruiting fellow volunteers during Niger's National Immunization Days (NIDs) launched on 3 December. (…)
According to global health officials, the nine cases of polio in Niger reported so far this year are due to cross-border transmission from neighboring Nigeria, which currently has the highest number of polio cases worldwide with 233 as of November 2003. Along with India, which has reported 179 cases this year, and Pakistan with 81 cases, these three countries contain the majority of the world's 520 polio cases reported so far this year. (…)
In addition to protecting children from polio, members of the group — all contributing their personal resources to cover trip expenses — each carried along a second piece of luggage filled with children's clothing and other basic items to donate to various charities and orphanages. (…)
Trachoma: Pfizer donates antibiotics worth US$ 500 million
The drug company Pfizer Inc. is donating more than US$ 500 million (EUR 420 million) worth of the antibiotic, Zithromax, to fight trachoma, the world's leading cause of blindness. The donation, which amounts to 135 million doses of the drug, is part of the Pfizer-sponsored International Trachoma Initiative (ITI) that aims to eliminate the disease by 2020. The patent for Zithromax expires in two years. "The drugs are critical, but they are not the entire program," said Dr. Jacob Kumaresan, president of the ITI. The Initiative has a four-pronged approach to fighting trachoma - called SAFE, which stands for surgery, antibiotics, face washing, and environmental change. Environmental change refers to improving access to clean water and improved sanitation. "If you do the social change - improving hygiene, washing hands and faces - then it will be a sustainable thing for people," Kumaresan added. Source: Source Water and Sanitation Weekly, No. 45-46, 20 November 2003
Copenhagen, 2 December - Seven of the central and eastern European countries that plan to join the European Union are on track to achieve their targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto climate change protocol, in most cases by a wide margin, their latest projections show. Slovenia is the only one of the 10 acceding and candidate countries in central and eastern Europe that currently expects to miss its target, according to the projections compiled by the European Environment Agency.
Overall emissions of the six greenhouse gases declined substantially in most countries in the region during the 1990s, mainly due to the introduction of market economies and the consequent restructuring or closure of heavily polluting and energy-intensive industries. However, greenhouse gas emissions from transport are a growing concern, as they are in the European Union. (…)
In the latest year for which complete data are available – in most cases 2001 - the 10 countries’ greenhouse gas emissions, taken together, were an estimated 36% below base year levels. The reductions ranged from 60.8 % in Latvia to 17.8 % in Hungary. The only exception was Slovenia, whose greenhouse gas emissions are estimated to have increased by 1.4 %. (…)
Global wetlands surveyed from space
On 20 November the European Space Agency (ESA) formally began a project to map wetlands from space, providing data on around 50 sites in 21 countries worldwide. ESA's new €1 million Globwetland project is producing satellite-derived and geo-referenced products including inventory maps and digital elevation models of wetlands and the surrounding catchment areas. These products are intended to aid local and national authorities in fulfilling their Ramsar obligations, and should also function as a helpful tool for wetland managers and scientific researchers. The project will be carried out by an international consortium headed by the Canadian high-tech company Atlantis Scientific Inc., and the team is completed by the Dutch company SYNOPTICS, the German company Remote Sensing Solutions GmbH, and Wetlands International. Source: Ramsar quoted in European Water Management News, 26 November, 2003
White Water to Blue Water Initiative
The White Water to Blue Water (WW2BW) Initiative, first announced at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg, in September 2002D, is underway in the Wider Caribbean Region. Recognizing the fragile state of the coastal and marine environment of this region, WW2BW has been launched to bring about new results in conservation efforts. The initiative is designed to promote the practice of integrated watershed and marine ecosystem-based management in support of sustainable development within the Wider Caribbean Region. WW2BW will specifically focus on enhancing integrated approaches in areas such as wastewater and sanitation, sustainable agricultural practices, integrated coastal management, sustainable tourism, and environmentally sound marine transportation. The initiative strives to create dynamic partnerships between public and private entities and funding sources to promote its goals as well as to implement international agreements such as the GPA (Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-Based Activities), International Coral Reef Initiative, Convention on Biological Diversity and others. The GPA and many other global, regional and national partners will support WW2BW.
3 December - For their centennial project, five Rotary clubs in District 3450, Hong Kong, will contribute HK$500,000 (US$65,000) to renovate an existing community nature center and also build a wetland conservation research center. The Rotary clubs of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Island West, Hong Kong Northwest, The Peak, City Northwest Hong Kong, and Mid-Level will join forces to upgrade the Peter Scott Field Studies Center at Mai Po Nature Reserve to help promote wetland education among the public. The clubs will also build a Rotary Centennial Institute for Wetland Conservation inside the newly renovated center. "We want to expand wetland conservation education to all sectors of the public, not only students, but business leaders, city officials, and engineering professionals who have an impact on the success of the conservation," says Jason Chan, president of The Peak Rotary club. (…)
Upgrades of the facility, which is part of the World Wide Fund for Nature Hong Kong, will start in December and should be complete by January 2005. (…) The funds for the project will come from joint golf tournaments, book sales, and charity actions organized by the five clubs. Hong Kong Rotarians will also provide manual labor for the project, Chan says. Rotarian structural engineers and designers will help with the professional work.
12 December - About fifty religious leaders from West Africa will gather in Abuja (Nigeria), from December 15 to 17 for an international congress - organized by the Nigerian government with support from UNESCO - on “Dialogue of Civilizations, Religions and Cultures in West Africa”. (…)
The congress will address the following topics: How religions in West Africa could work together towards common goals: well-being of local people and sustainable development on the basis of the best local practices; How religious leaders can contribute to diffusing ethnic, cultural and religious conflicts and tension; How can women, working with religious leaders, ensure religious freedom, teach and transmit to children and youth, mutual respect and peaceful co-existence through education; and how can mediation, peace-keeping and reconstruction in West Africa become a cultural experience?
The role of religious leaders and religious organizations in the fight against HIV/AIDS will also be discussed during a round table which will take place on the second day of the Congress. (…)
UNU to sign general agreement with Aoyama Gakuin University
9 December - United Nations University (UNU) has reached an agreement with Tokyo-based Aoyama Gakuin University to strengthen and expand cooperation between the two institutions of higher learning through the joint undertaking of interdisciplinary research projects, advanced study and training programmes, and the dissemination of knowledge. (…)
This agreement will govern a new and comprehensive collaborative relationship with Aoyama Gakuin University, a neighbour institution of UNU in Tokyo. The aims of this accord are the furtherance of academic research and the bolstering of advanced study and training programmes and educational activities. This will be accomplished through the planning, implementation, etc., of collaborative research projects; joint lectures, symposiums and other related events; and projects and programmes. (…)
150 new Community Multimedia centres to be set up in Africa
8 December - UNESCO and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) will launch a multi-million dollar project to provide marginalized communities in Mali, Mozambique and Senegal with access to information and communication technologies, including the internet.
The project, drawing on UNESCO’s experience in establishing Community Multimedia Centres (CMCs), aims to meet the needs of local populations in getting and exchanging information in their language and to provide them with learning and training opportunities. The CMCs combine radio, telephone, fax and computers connected to the internet. Some of the services they offer are commercial, helping them become financially self-sustaining.
The project for the creation of 50 CMCS in each of the three countries, i.e. a total of 150 new centres, marks a huge up-scale for UNESCO’s CMCs project, which to date numbers 20 pilot centres in the continent. (…)
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This is the text of the opening address by Secretary-General Kofi Annan at a seminar in New York City on 7 October 2003 to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of the Papal Encyclical, “Pacem in Terris”. Only the introductory greetings are omitted. Good News Agency believes these reflections could well accompany each conscious citizen of the world into the New Year.
(…) It is fitting that today we should be commemorating an encyclical issued in 1963 by another great Pope, John XXIII, who was then in the last months of his life. It is fitting that we should do so here at the United Nations. For in one of the most striking passages of that document, Pope John expressed his “ardent desire that the United Nations Organization may be able more and more to adapt its structure and its methods of operation to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks”.
If that wish was justified in 1963, it is perhaps even more so now. In fact, it is the same wish that I have expressed recently, in my report on implementing the Millennium Declaration, and in my speech to the General Assembly just two weeks ago.
As you know, I am concerned by the apparent breakdown of global consensus on some of the most basic rules of international relations. I have been urging Member States to reflect seriously on the threats and challenges we face in the twenty-first century, and to examine whether our rules and institutions may need adapting. If we are to find a collective response to those challenges we need to consider this seriously. And I am about to appoint a Panel of wise men and women whom I will ask to make specific recommendations.
But I would not do justice to this anniversary if I did not also note the specific way in which Pope John XXIII wanted to see the United Nations adapt itself. “May the time come as quickly as possible”, he wrote, “when this Organization can effectively safeguard the rights of the human person; those rights, that is, which derive directly from the dignity of the human person, and which are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable”.
Those words challenge us today as they did 40 years ago. That great reforming Pope, whose transparent love and compassion touched the hearts of all humanity, had grasped a fundamental point about the nature and purpose of our Organization.
He had understood that, although we are an organization of sovereign States, our founders acted in the name of the peoples of the United Nations, and that their determination to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war was intrinsically connected to that “faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”, which they reaffirmed in the very next paragraph of the preamble to our Charter.
Again and again we have seen this connection demonstrated, as in country after country abuses of human rights have led to large-scale conflict. Again and again, the United Nations has found itself dealing with the consequences. Clearly, it should be dealing with the causes, and preventing these tragedies before they start.
Pope John XXIII also saw, very clearly, that the reality fell short of the ideal. He knew that, in practice, many human beings have not found in this Organization an effective safeguard of their personal rights.
The problem is, of course, that if people look to an international organization to safeguard their rights, they do so because they have not found that safeguard in their own State. Yet in the governing bodies of the United Nations they find themselves represented by the same State that they are appealing from. That State is likely to argue that the case is a matter “essentially within its domestic jurisdiction”, in which the United Nations is expressly forbidden to intervene, under Article 2.7 of the Charter; and other Member States of the United Nations are likely to agree, fearing that if they were to encourage intervention they will set a precedent that may later be turned against them.
In the 40 years since the Encyclical, this problem has become much, much more widely acknowledged. In the mid 1990s, especially, we were all ashamed by our failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda, and in the former Yugoslavia, and this led to a vigorous debate about the responsibility to protect.
I believe this debate is healthy and necessary, and I should like to think that the United Nations will act more swiftly and vigorously to respond to such shocking challenges in the future -– though I am bound to say I am not greatly encouraged by our hesitant and tardy response to the events in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and in Liberia, this very year.
At the same time I think it is unfortunate that the debate has concentrated so much on the issue of military intervention. This clearly is an extreme remedy, which is bound to cause death and suffering, often on a large scale. It can only be justified in extreme cases, when death and suffering on a very large scale are already happening, or are imminently threatened.
We must all wish that things would never reach that stage, in any country. And we should all do whatever we can to prevent them reaching that stage, by seeking to safeguard human rights at an earlier stage, by means other than military intervention.
The United Nations does seek, in many ways, to promote better observance of human rights throughout the world, and it does have mechanisms through which groups and individuals can appeal to it to safeguard their rights. It has a Commission on Human Rights, and a Human Rights Committee. It has Special Rapporteurs on certain themes, and on certain countries, and many specialized subcommittees and working groups.
It also has a High Commissioner for Human Rights, whose staff work tirelessly in some countries to monitor the observance of human rights, and in many countries to help the authorities improve domestic safeguards.
At the expert level, all these bodies generally work well. But the closer a case gets to the political level, where it is necessary for Member States to take clear positions, and to say things that may be embarrassing to the government of another Member State, the more reluctant and cautious they become.
In the Commission on Human Rights, especially, we have increasingly seen States motivated more by political solidarity with each other than by an impartial concern to uphold human rights throughout the world.
This is why I think that the encyclical “Pacem in Terris” still challenges us, as much as it did in 1963. In this respect, too, it is necessary –- and I believe confidently that it is possible –- to adapt the structure and methods of operation of the United Nations to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks, so that people everywhere can indeed look to it to safeguard their personal rights.
We must always remember that States exist to serve and protect people, and not the other way round. And we should be grateful to those great spiritual leaders, like Pope John XXIII, who remind us of that essential truth.
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