Good News Agency – Year V, n° 11
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 3,700 media in 48 countries, as well as to 2,500 NGOs and service associations.
It is a service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, NGO associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information. The Association has been recognized by UNESCO as “an actor of the global movement for a culture of peace” and it has been included as an international organization in the web site http://www3.unesco.org/iycp/
2 September - A series of
round-table meetings was held in
Last week's round tables dealt with the following questions: Why do women become involved in armed struggle? What specific role do they play within armed groups? What problems do women and girls face in the process of disarming, demobilizing and reintegrating into society? What specific difficulties arise for girls involved in armed groups?
The participants exchanged views on knowledge and understanding of humanitarian rules, implementing those rules within armed groups, and their ability, as women, to influence the conduct of the other members of their group. They also discussed the usefulness and judiciousness of promoting humanitarian rules within these groups. The common aim of all the round tables was to better understand how women experience war and how this differs from the experience of men. The report on the exchanges, along with the participants' recommendations, should be published by the end of the year.
United Nations reaches internally displaced persons by air in Democratic Republic of Congo
New York, 19 August - Yesterday representatives of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the World Food Programme (WFP), the United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC), and their partners arrived in the high plains of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to deliver 90 tons of food and basic supplies to some 1,200 internally displaced families. The aid is being flown in by helicopter, since the only way to reach this remote area is by air.
The families fled their homes
near the town of
Because of the influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the area, the population of Shanje has increased by 50 per cent, and that of Numbi by 25 per cent. The result has been a severe threat to an already precarious food security situation, with the host communities’ food stocks already having been entirely consumed. (…)
For many years, both companies have maintained strict codes of conduct for their licensees and manufacturers. These codes address a range of key labor rights issues including the prohibition of forced and child labor and the setting of requirements in such areas as health and safety, working hours, compensation and compliance with applicable laws. (…)
The project has been launched as part of an ongoing effort to strengthen the effectiveness of these labor standards by drawing on the interest and expertise of interested investor organizations and jointly exploring means of promoting 'sustained compliance' with labor codes. This collaborative project seeks to foster the creation and testing of internal systems within factories in order to promote such compliance over time, including enhanced training and education for management, supervisors and workers and potential positive compliance incentives. (…)
Annual DPI/NGO Conference “Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action”
Civil society activists from
around the world are preparing to mobilize broader public support for a major United
Nations initiative, the Millennium Development Goals. The 57th
Annual Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), entitled Millennium
Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action, will take place at United Nations Headquarters in
“This Conference aims to raise public awareness and support for the Millennium Development Goals through the 3,000 NGOs working directly with the UN Secretariat” says Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations, “The involvement of civil society partners in the MDG Campaign is essential to its success.”
At the Millennium Summit in 2000, 189 Member States adopted a Declaration that synthesized the priorities of the international agenda and reflected the commitments that had been painstakingly negotiated during the previous decade of world conferences. The Millennium Declaration, and the eight goals it identified, have become a road map for tackling poverty, instability, HIV/AIDS, gender inequality and violence in virtually all parts of the world.
The Conference provides the opportunity for non-governmental organizations to assess the current status of the MDGs, address the obstacles that threaten their realization, share innovative approaches to partnerships and learn of the civil society campaigns that are most effective in stimulating broader public awareness and support for sustainable and replicable North-South programmes.
Over 2,000 NGO representatives associated with DPI and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) from 90 countries around the world are expected to attend the Conference, which will bring together United Nations officials, government representatives, MDG campaign activists, media representatives, academics and, most importantly, experts on the front lines where the urgent need for the implementation of the MDGs is most clearly felt.
One of the several innovative features of this year’s Conference is an interactive web site where NGO representatives and interested citizens around the world will be able to view the plenary sessions live. The interactive web site is at: http://www.undpingoconference.org in English, French and Spanish. (…)
The Conference marks an important step in United Nations-civil society consultations leading up to the Millennium Summit+5 review in September 2005 and beyond. These changes create more opportunities for Conference participants to voice their ideas and to network before, during and after the Conference. The Conference draws on the many efforts of United Nations and civil society players’ who have sought to define, implement and monitor the MDGs.
The report, "Economic Security for a Better World," (Note 1) includes estimates for countries representing more than 85 per cent of the world's population, and says such economic security -coupled with democracy and government spending on social security - not only benefits growth but can also promote social stability. The report cautions, however, that economic security remains out of reach for the vast majority of the world's workers, about three-quarters of whom live in circumstances of economic insecurity that fosters what the report calls "a world full of anxiety and anger". Only 8 per cent of people - fewer than one in ten - live in countries providing favourable economic security, said the survey produced by the ILO's Socio-Economic Security Programme.
"Coming shortly after the report of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, this book should enrich the debate on how we can build a fair globalization," says ILO Director-General Juan Somavia. "Unless we can make our societies more equal and the global economy more inclusive, very few will achieve economic security or decent work." (…)
2 September - Equity Building Society (EBS), a
micro-finance bank catering to
Eradicating poverty through profit: making business work for the poor
An international conference on the private sector and the public good. Keynote addresses, panels, workshops and other presentations will focus on private sector approaches to development -- how business can "do good and do well" at the same time.
The conference is intended for all professionals from the business, policy-making, academic, and social entrepreneurial communities with an interest in base of the pyramid business engagements, including COOs, line business managers, corporate social responsibility officers, triple bottom line investors, sustainable development entrepreneurs, and funders.
The conference will bring together leading corporations from both North and South; international agencies working on pro-poor policies and projects; entrepreneurs – business and social – who are alleviating poverty through innovative business approaches. Many voices will be present; all will speak with authority from extensive first-hand experience. (…)
1 September - For the first time,
mobile banking will hit the road in
FAO partners with Indian institutions to improve land and water management in drought-prone areas
Rome, 13 August -- As
part of an innovative model of development assistance that puts project
management in the hands of national institutions, FAO signed agreements this
week with three Indian organizations to strengthen land and water management
for poor farmers in drought-prone areas of the country. The projects,
funded with 13.9 million euros from the
Under such agreements, FAO no longer has direct responsibility for the technical choices made in project implementation, but rather assists national implementing institutions in making appropriate choices. (…)
European Commission provides a further
€1.35 million in aid for victims of house demolitions in Rafah
Funds aim to turn back tide of children going into institutions.
Tokyo/Geneva/New York, 31
August - The Government of Japan is
donating more than
US$ 2 million
to UNICEF to
get children out of orphanages and
other residential institutions
across Central Asia. The announcement coincides with
a tour of
children in institutions
in Central Asia,
plus 30,000 families that are
at risk of
children, will benefit from the contribution of approximately 235 million
yen. The funds will be
divided between the five Central Asian countries, with US$ 444,000 for
The funds, from the Japanese Trust Fund for Human Security, will go to the UNICEF supported-project: “Every Child Has a Right to Grow up in a Family Environment”, aiming to turn back the tide of children going into institutions in these countries. The Soviet legacy of state care for children in difficulties, coupled with rising poverty, means that around 200,000 children are growing up in long-term residential care across the region – almost 84,000 of them in Kazakhstan alone. The major stumbling block to getting them out of institutions and back into a family environment is the lack of alternatives, with few social workers or services to help families in difficulties, few regulations on domestic adoption, fostering and guardianship, and the absence of proper norms and standards on child protection. Meanwhile, new children’s homes are still being opened. (…)
"There are tremendous
needs and only a handful of humanitarian organizations are working here",
explained Reto Stocker, who heads the ICRC delegation
During the emergency phase of
the conflict last year, the ICRC helped thousands of displaced people and ran
the surgical centre at the
by Vukoni Lupa-Lasaga, Rotary International
2 September - As in many
impoverished communities throughout
In the past three years, local
and visiting Rotarians have often volunteered time and money to assist with
reconstruction efforts. Following in their footsteps, Alf Vasey,
of the Rotary Club of Newtownabbey,
Linking up with teams from
The new houses are built with
local materials costing the equivalent of a modest $3,000. Nevertheless, they
are financially beyond the reach of poor residents, who mostly depend on meager
incomes from growing and selling bananas and other tropical fruits. Thus, in
addition to paying their own way to
The Technical Experts Conference on 7 and 8 September, held by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) will be the first of its kind. The aim of the conference will be to share international organizations’ experience in promoting more effective border management and security, and to develop a more strategic and coordinated approach to delivering international assistance.
Security reports show that
3 September - Kosovo recently launched a campaign in Pristina to reinforce the role of civil servants and citizens in the fight against corruption. A working group comprised of both civil servants and civil society will be carrying out the UNDP-supported campaign through advocacy, education and debates at the municipal level. “The Fight against Corruption” report, sponsored by the government and UNDP was also presented. The report evaluates the perception of corruption in public institutions, and presents various recommendations based on the Balkan experiences in fighting corruption.
The women were speaking at a
meeting organized in
The meeting, which brought together over 200 women from an association of female ex-combatants called Ndabaga , was also attended by Rwandan Minister for Gender, The Hon. Valerie Nyirahabineza, who said that peacekeeping missions must have a gender perspective, and that Ndabaga members could lend valuable contributions. (…)
The historic Nairobi Summit on a Mine-Free World (29 November – 3 December 2004) will showcase considerable achievements worldwide in eliminating antipersonnel landmines, but urgent efforts are needed to bring Asia in line with the rest of the world. (…)
More than 500 delegates, including decision makers at the highest levels, Nobel peace prize winners and campaigners are expected at the landmark Nairobi Summit at the end of the year. (..)
UN Drugs and Crime Office to provide assistance to Pakistan’s Intelligence Agencies
Vienna, 23 August (UN
Information Service) -- The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
and the Ministry of Interior and Narcotics Control of Pakistan have signed an
agreement on a new technical assistance project to enhance the intelligence
capacity of key law enforcement agencies in Pakistan. Syed
Faisal Saleh Hayat,
Minister of Interior and Narcotics Control of Pakistan and Bernard Frahi, a senior representative of the UNODC met on
Saturday, 21 August, in
The agencies will be offered
advisory services, training and relevant equipment. Immediate beneficiaries
include the Anti Narcotics Force, the Frontier Corps (
Investigating and dismantling
criminal groups engaged in drug trafficking and organized crime requires a
strong intelligence capacity. In the context of an increased need for
strengthening law enforcement capacity in countries surrounding
UN completes largest de-worming campaign in history for 4.5 million Afghan children
The cost of the campaign came to some US$476,000 – just over 10 US cents per child treated. (…)
Helps Fund Polio Immunizations in
Part of rapid response plan to stem the spread of the poliovirus in non-endemic countries
campaigns will be conducted in late July and August to protect approximately
1.3 million children under the age of five against polio in three
global investment of over US$3 billion since 1988 for the eradication effort,
including more than US$500 million contributed by Rotary International,
responding to this looming epidemic will require an additional US$100 million,
of which US$25 million is urgently required by August.
The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by the World Health Organization, Rotary International, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
Oprah Winfrey To
Receive Global Humanitarian Action Award At 2004 UNA-USA Global Leadership
Awards Dinner – September 30,
Joan Ganz Cooney and Pete Peterson to receive Global Leadership Award
Oprah Winfrey will receive the
United Nations Association of the
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and many U.N. ambassadors and corporate and community leaders will attend the dinner. Dinner chairs include Victor F. Ganzi, President and CEO of the Hearst Corporation, Robert A. Iger, President and COO of the Walt Disney Company, Kenneth D. Lewis, CEO and President of the Bank of America Corporation, H.R.H. Princess Firyal of Jordan, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador, David Rockefeller and John C. Whitehead.
Gland, Switzerland, 3 September - WWF and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Lines, one of the world's shipping leaders, have recently signed an agreement that will promote conservation of the high seas — areas of the open ocean outside a nation's exclusive economic zone.
The three-year agreement aims to strengthen the work of WWF's global Marine Programme on high seas conservation and WWF-Norway’s Endangered Seas Programme. Wallenius Wilhelmsen's welcome support will help WWF work to improve high seas governance as well as creating and developing practical conservation solutions, such as High Seas Marine Protected Areas (HSMPAs). WWF's high seas conservation strategy also aims to reduce the threats of illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and to develop means to better manage global tuna fishing fleets and reduce bycatch of marine species like dolphins, marine turtles, and sharks. (…)
Mexico City, Mexico, August 25 - Mexico today launched a new partnership that makes it the first country to adopt internationally-accepted standards to measure and report business greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions for establishing a voluntary national program.
The partnership, called the Mexico
GHG Pilot Program, was launched with the signing of an agreement between
The two-year partnership will
develop a voluntary reporting platform for Mexican businesses, following the
internationally accepted Greenhouse Gas Protocol, developed by WRI and WBCSD.
It hopes to assist businesses in
Clean Up the World is a community based environmental campaign that inspires and empowers communities from every corner of the globe to clean up, fix up and conserve their local environment. In conjunction with Primary Partner the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Clean Up the World brings together businesses, community groups, schools and governments in a range of activities and programs that positively improve local environments. Since the first campaign in 1993, Clean Up the World has inspired more than 40 million volunteers in over 100 countries each year to take action.
Clean Up the World promotes community action as the key to long-term environmental change. The campaign welcomes participation from all nations and Members range from individual groups working independently in their local community, to national initiatives where the work of many groups is coordinated across an entire nation.Clean Up the World encourages and supports Member activities year-round, while the third weekend in September (Clean Up the World Weekend) serves as a global celebration of Members’ environmental actions and achievements.
So far, a total of $32 million
from the international community have been approved or are in the pipeline.
Some of the funds have been provided bilaterally direct to the countries, but
the great majority has been routed through FAO. An additional $5 million have
been provided from FAO's own resources. Affected
countries have mobilized their own resources for national locust control
Carried out by the UK's largest independently-owned market research company Market & Opinion Research International (MORI; 1), the poll found that 95 per cent of residents are willing to recycle more and 84 per cent would reduce the amount of water they use. Overall, more than four in five were in favour of lifestyle change, with 82 per cent willing to help reduce pollution and consume less in order to lessen their impact on the environment.
These views, welcomed by WWF,
are reflected in the UK South East Regional Assembly’s new framework that will
lead the way in tackling over-consumption and cutting pollution. If everyone in
the world lived a typical
Every year the United Nations calls upon individual people of goodwill and organisations to observe this International Day with activities dedicated to the creation of a culture of peace, and to a day of global cease-fire and non-violence. To support this special Day on a spiritual level, a group of organisations representing a wide variety of religious and spiritual traditions has, since 2002, co-ordinated an International Day of Peace Vigil, encouraging local groups and individuals to hold a 24 hour Vigil in houses of worship and places of spiritual practice.
As a contribution to this global focus the United Nations Days & Years Meditation Initiative and Intuition in Service have, since 2002, co-ordinated an international Vigil of meditation and prayer for the 24 hours of September 21st from midnight to midnight GMT. The 24 hours are divided into 15 minute periods. The aim is to have individuals or groups commit themselves to spend specific 15 minute periods in prayer or meditation for world peace. You can choose the 15-minute time slots you will participate, and see the list of all participants, in your own time zone. When you select your country and time zone you will be able to register your times in your time zone.
Events in: Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Chile, Croatia, France, Ghana, Greece, Germany, Hungary, India, Kazakhstan, Korea, Morocco, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nigeria, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Tibet, Uganda, 40 cities throughout the U.S. - over 100 cities worldwide
11 Days of Global Unity is an extraordinary convergence of peace and sustainability events that will take place in over 100 cities around the world culminating on Sept. 21 the UN-designated International Day of Peace. 11 Days is being connected and promoted by We, The World and is designed to inspire, inform and involve increasingly large numbers of people in creating a world that works for all! To see our latest listing of events click on 11 Days Calendar and scroll down. The Calendar is being hosted by 11 Days partner organization Transitioners.org. Featured 11 days events coming up:
Children's Global Summit - San Francisco, September 3-5, 2004. Remarkable, courageous, international young people (ages 14 to 28) who have faced extreme circumstances in war and other conflict, have organized their first global summit. The purpose is to develop clear solutions and a call to action for the adults of the world to pay attention.
Art Exhibition Bridging the Gap - Celebrating 11 Days of Global Unity Through the Arts - Brunei Mission to the U.N. in New York City. Reception Sept. 10 with UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor. Exhibit Sept 11-21 (Admission Free)
Interdependence Day Festival 2004 - New York City Sept. 12 featuring speakers, performers and workshop presentations.
Our Voices, Our World - New York City Sept. 21st culminating 11 Days broadcast event featuring Dr. Jane Goodall DBE (Founder, The Jane Goodall Institute, and U.N. Messenger of Peace), William Schulz (Executive Director, Amnesty International USA), Marianne Williamson (author and public speaker), Clarence Jones (Speech writer and lawyer for Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.) and many other visionary speakers and performers celebrating the U.N. International Day of Peace in New York City.
Ndola, Zambia, 31 August – The second phase of UN-HABITAT’s Values-based Water and Sanitation Education programme is now underway in Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia following a Water for African Cities training workshop in the Zambian Copper Belt city of Ndola. (…)
Over the past three years, UN-HABITAT has been implementing the Values-based Water and Sanitation Education programme in six demonstration countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal and Zambia – as part of its Water for African Cities Programme. With support from the Swedish International Development Agency, the water education programme has proven a truly innovative and successful education initiative in Africa. (…)
The water and sanitation education initiative is part of UN-HABITAT’s support to African countries in the development of a new ethic for water governance and conservation in cities. By complementing the technical and regulatory measures put in place to address this avoidable wastage, Values-based Water and Sanitation Education plays a strategic role in bringing about positive attitude changes, and in the longer term, helps develop a new water-use ethic in society.
30 August - Jordan’s National Strategy for the Youth, to be launched in October, has been formulated with the participation of young people to address a range of issues, including education, vocational training, labour, health, IT and communications, environment, recreational activities, civil rights, culture and media. The initiative is one of the first serious attempts to address gaps and loopholes facing today’s youth, according to the Higher Council for the Youth, which developed the strategy with UNDP’s help.
The Exhibition will feature the winning projects of the 2004 Student Design Competition. This Competition is open to all undergraduate and graduate students in schools of architecture around the world. Competition awards: First prize $10,000; Second prize $5,000; Third prize $2,500. Prizes will be awarded during the International Conference “Caring Communities for the 21st Century: Imagining the Possible” on Friday, 11th February at United Nations Headquarters prior to the Exhibition opening.
Entry forms will be accepted until 15 October 2004 and projects are due 31 December 2004. The jury will meet 24 January followed by an exhibition of winners at the National Arts Club from 26 January to February 6. Additional exhibitions are schedule at Toyo University, Tokyo in mid-May, and other venues around the globe.
The Competition is organized in conjunction with United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the Programme on Ageing, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
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Good News Agency’s editorial for the 57th Annual DPI/NGO Conference “Millennium Development Goals: Civil Society Takes Action”
“Our chances of success depend in great part on the degree to which you, the individuals and groups that make up civil society, mobilize around this [MDG] mission.”
For the careful observer, consciousness is changing. We are rapidly accepting the fact that we cannot go on as before and we are becoming more and more open to new possibilities. A wise use of the creative imagination is essential in order to recognize, among these new possibilities, those which are most able to improve the quality of life. There are now many signs that indicate how the cultivation of creativity is becoming an accepted aim, not only in the education of the young, but also in the world of adults. There is a growing recognition of the importance of inventiveness and imagination in the growth process of the young. And there is a growing interest in courses in creative thought in the world of work, particularly among the leadership. These tendencies, if extended and projected into the future, show what is in store: a global culture, in which regional and national differences are preserved in order to enrich each other, with an accent on creativity in its myriad forms. William James said: “The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can change their lives by changing their mental attitudes”. It is a revolutionary discovery, because it assigns to humanity as a whole, but also to every single inhabitant of this planet, including me and you who are reading these lines, the ability and the responsibility to contribute to creating a better future from the point of view of unity in diversity.
There emerges in consciousness today the need for, and at the same time the initial evidence of, a new and global system of ethics, which can only spring from the new concept of brotherhood which many people of advanced consciousness have already begun to make their own: the concept, precisely, of unity in diversity. It is a concept of explosive power: it knocks down the barricades erected by different doctrines, overcomes the barriers of different conceptions and behaviour and conquers the incomprehension, animosity and hatred which these differences, sometimes exasperated to the point of fanaticism, have originated and consolidated. From this revolutionary concept, easy to speak of but difficult for many to assimilate, it will certainly be possible to elicit the right reply to those questions which humanity is asking itself in order to rebuild the science of human relationships. And concepts such as tasks, duties and responsibilities will take on a spiritual dimension and a new meaning in the beautiful battle of consciousness to build a new age of peace.
To go from theory to practice, I have some difficult questions to ask. Have we perhaps sown thoughts of comprehension and respect for the weakest in the consciousness of our youth? Have we perhaps taken to heart the tremendous historical results of an education and teaching centred on the principle of force as the greatest social law, results that, especially in the twentieth century, have been devastating, horrible? Have we perhaps indicated to our young people examples of real servants of humanity, stirring in their consciousness the light of comprehension and the responsibility of sharing? Have we perhaps brought to the school desks and the universities, in a predominant way, those principles of fairness which can give rise to responsible social behaviour and constitute strong brakes on those whose consciousness is still immature? Or haven’t we perhaps proposed to them, in the occurrences of every day, models of conduct which exalt personal achievement to the detriment of the collective interest? And in the media, with few exceptions, haven’t we perhaps accepted the indication to our young people, and sometimes the exaltation, of egoistic and venal values which give rise to and feed materialism, individualism and exasperated and unrestrained social climbing, which takes on, in its worst form, the concept of the end that justifies the means? Haven’t we perhaps produced a virtual reality in which violence and cruelty are spotlighted in minute details, almost with satisfaction? Haven’t we perhaps accepted as unavoidable the fact of living an existence of well-being side by side with extremely hard and cruel realities which see thousands of children die of hunger every day? Haven’t we perhaps accepted without objection, in the virtual reality which now envelops us, protagonists of infinite television stories in which hatred, betrayal, promiscuity and unrestrained social climbing constitute the basic elements for perverted designs and for crimes pursued with wickedness and ruthlessness? Haven’t we accepted, even legitimised, these types of behaviour, which are characteristic of some social groups, insidiously and ambiguously proposed as a model and a point of arrival for our young people?
Let us, then, assume our responsibilities. Is it too late to change this situation? In spite of everything, I think not. Innovative teachings begin to clear a path in schools and universities. In some high schools, far-sighted cultural and didactic associations are presenting to the young, with a real spirit of service, those problems of strong socio-economic imbalance which have brought about very serious situations in many parts of the world. And in some universities a new viewpoint of evaluating world problems and the responsibilities which derive from them is beginning to penetrate: faculties like Political Science, Economics, Jurisprudence, Sociology and Science of Communications are beginning to acknowledge new subjects of study, which incorporate responsibilities, tasks and innovative prospects for future levies of management. Moreover, the hundreds of non-governmental associations, the many thousands of non-profit associations and the many millions of people dedicated to voluntary service bear witness to the fact that a silent revolution of consciousness is already in progress. It is an inexorable movement which it will be impossible to stop. It is our best guarantee that we will gradually know how to build a society which is juster and more inwardly aware and thus really happy, and it is our best evidence that each one of us, in his family, in his profession, in his own place of work and in his free time can immediately bring his own contribution. And I ask those who tend to be discouraged, because they see that these new people, these consciences awakened to the real personal and social values, are still in a clear minority, to bear in mind the scientific concept of “critical mass” and to ask themselves this question: at what level will this growing minority of the population reach a critical mass which will bring about spontaneous modifications in the social tissue? When it will have reached 15 percent? We are already there. Twenty percent? Perhaps, and we are not so far off. Twenty-five percent? Almost certainly, and it will not be long before that level is reached and man will at last be able to show that he knows how to take care of this planet. Pure optimism? Not at all: it is the awareness of not being any longer far from that level of critical mass which I have mentioned, coupled with the certainty that we don’t have much more time to change the quality of life on Earth, by resolutely travelling the road of sustainable development. In other words: virtue of necessity.
At least three different levels of values should be included in the vision of sustainable development. At the first level, the most tangible, there are the intelligent calculations made by the scientists or the economists concerning human survival. At the second level there are the compassionate concerns for human justice to which all the movements involved in development and human rights give voice. The third and most inward level, the source of vision, goes beyond the interests only of humanity to include all life. This is the level at which the unity of creation and the subtle interdependence of all creatures are perceived. It is the level to which the religions bear witness, even if it is not necessary to be formally religious to recognize it. It is supported by the understanding of ecology. It can be defined as the spiritual level. There is an urgent need to integrate these different levels of values so that the guidelines and the programmes outlined at the Summit of Johannesburg honour all three dimensions: those of the mind, the heart and the human spirit.
A fact which is often forgotten regarding human development is that it does not necessarily imply an ever growing production of goods and services. It is true, for example, that buildings and textbooks are necessary to supply the basis for the education of the population; but human potential is something subtle and subjective, and it is from the relationship that we create between ideas and facts that knowledge, wisdom and culture emerge. A growing number of people is supporting the idea of a culture which is simple in its means and rich in its goals and which deliberately includes not only human beings but all creatures. There is little doubt that such an approach is necessary, particularly in those countries which are already following a course of intense production and consumption. The statistics are convincing: and we are all aware that, if every person in the world consumed as much as the average person in the high-income western countries, we would need another three Earths to sustain us. Thus the goal of sustainable development cannot be a continuation, an expansion of such as intense exploitation of natural systems. We must learn instead how to extend our comprehension and our respect in order to ensure the sustainability of their usage, also from the viewpoint of future generations, making this the tangible evidence of our degree of free identification with the new emerging values.
In each of the fields of expression of human activity institutions and practices exist, both at the national and the international level, which materially condition the extent to which individuals can exercise their own liberty. Much has been written about the different, complicated systems on the basis of which such institutions interact within the different societies all over the world. At the centre of this complicated network of conditioning factors are the people, the individuals, with their attempts to exercise their own will freely. The meaning of liberty concerns essentially the capacity to make choices and it is thus a question of values. Liberty of action must therefore be exercised responsibly, given that every choice made by us, every value proclaimed by us, concerns those who surround us and inscrutably extends its sphere of influence outwards. This flow of thought is most valid when it is a question of exercising one’s liberty in the choice of fields and programmes of service which, as such, though they start from us, extend outside us and provide tangible evidence of how delicate the exercise of this faculty is.
More and more groups characterized by the common desire to serve a cause have been established in the last fifty years and their number continues to grow. In these days, the Non-Governmental Organizations associated with the UN Department of Public Information are participating to the 57th NGO/DPI Annual Conference at the UN Headquarters coming from the four corners of the world. “This Conference aims to raise public awareness and support for the Millennium Development Goals through the 3,000 NGOs working directly with the UN Secretariat” says Shashi Tharoor, Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information of the United Nations, “The involvement of civil society partners in the MDG Campaign is essential to its success.” And the recognition of the significance of a minority, any minority, working for the common good was splendidly expressed by the American sociologist Margaret Mead, who said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Yes, this too is a fine expression of critical mass!
(Translation by Jancis Browning)
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It is a service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered non-profit educational organization chartered in Italy in 1979 and associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations.
The Association operates for the development of consciousness and promotes a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective based on unity in diversity and on sharing.
Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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