Good News Agency – Year V, n° 12



Weekly - Year V, number 12 – 1 October 2004

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 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




International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and development

SolidarityPeace and securityHealth

Energy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlifeCulture and education

Interview with UN Under-Secretary-General for the Least Developed Countries



International legislation



Geneva and Rome to host Rotterdam Convention secretariat

14 new hazardous chemicals and pesticides added to trade watch list

Geneva/Rome, 24 September -- Geneva and Rome have won the competition to host the permanent secretariat of the Rotterdam Convention. The decision was taken at the first Ministerial Conference of the Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade, which ended today in Geneva. The secretariat will continue to be jointly managed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) office in Geneva.

Ministers and senior officials from 130 Governments also agreed to add 14 new hazardous chemicals and pesticides to an initial "watch list" of 27 substances. There was no consensus on adding a 15th chemical, chrysotile asbestos, at this time. "By increasing the number of hazardous chemicals and pesticides that require prior informed consent before being exported by almost 50 percent, governments have given the Rotterdam Convention an enthusiastic vote of confidence," said FAO Assistant Director-General Louise Fresco.

The conference also established a Chemical Review Committee that assesses future proposals to add new chemicals and pesticides to the Prior Informed Consent list, thus keeping the Convention dynamic and up-to-date. (…)


Campaign for GMO free zones launched

21 September - The Assembly of European Regions (AER) and Friends of the Earth (FoE) launched a joint campaign in Strasbourg on 14 September that aims to protect traditional crops from the consequences of the introduction of new genetic technologies. The AER and FoE will lobby, among other things, for a European legal framework on the coexistence of traditional and transgenic crops as well as a legal recognition of GMO - free zones in Europe.

The two groups call for several measures to be implemented including:

¨Separation distances¨ between Genetically Modified and traditional crops and a register for GMO’s

The introduction of a liability scheme, to compensate for the contamination of conventional or organic crops including their seeds by GMO’s.

The right of Member States and regional authorities to restrict the use and sale of GMO within the common market if there is evidence of a negative impact on the environment or a risk of extensive dissemination.

Regions to be allowed to define all or part of their territory as a GMO - free zone or region, without the decisions being seen as an infringement on the principle of free movement of goods. (…)


Italy pledges five million euros for criminal justice reform in Afghanistan

Vienna, 17 September  (UN Information Service) - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Italy has pledged five million Euros in support of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Criminal Justice Reform Programme in Afghanistan. The money will be allocated to the project "Prison System Reform in Afghanistan -- Extension to the Provinces". UNODC, which is the leading UN agency working on the rehabilitation of the Afghan penitentiary system, will base its work on the lessons learnt from its pilot project in Kabul, also being funded by Italy.

This pilot project which is currently under implementation was designed to revise Afghan penitentiary rules and regulations. Its other activities include the rehabilitation and construction of the main detention centres in Kabul. The activities of the new project are related to penitentiary reform in selected provinces and districts, requested by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), the Afghan authorities and other stakeholders. As is the case with the pilot project, the new project will be implemented in close consultation with the Afghanistan Judicial Reform Commission, the Ministry of Justice of Afghanistan and agencies of the UN family. (…)

Italy is the lead country assisting in reforming Afghanistan’s Criminal Justice System. UNODC developed this project under the guidance of the former President in the Supreme Court of Italy and Special Coordinator for the Italian Lead for Justice in Afghanistan Giuseppe di Gennaro. With this pledge, Italy’s contribution to UNODC’s Criminal Justice Reform programme in Afghanistan has reached 8.5 million Euros.



Human rights



Committee on World Food Security adopts Right to Food Guidelines Breakthrough in negotiations

Rome, 24 September - The FAO Committee on World Food Security (CFS) yesterday evening adopted Voluntary Guidelines to "support the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security." Seen by many as a breakthrough, the adoption of the Right to Food Guidelines comes after two years of often difficult, but constructive negotiations.

The objective of the Guidelines, says FAO, is "to provide practical guidance" to states in implementing their obligations relating to the right to adequate food. This should improve the chances of reaching the hunger reduction target of the World Food Summit.

The Voluntary Guidelines take into account a wide range of important principles, including equality and non-discrimination, participation and inclusion, accountability and the rule of law, and the principle that all human rights are universal, indivisible, inter-related and interdependent.  

According to FAO, various non-governmental stakeholders and intergovernmental organizations contributed significantly to the preparation of the Guidelines. These included the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the North-South Alliance, which is a coalition of a large number of NGOs.  (…)


Jordan: Professors conclude regional seminar on international humanitarian law

16 September - The ICRC recently organized a seminar on international humanitarian law that brought together some 40 law professors from 15 Arab countries and Pakistan. Opening the event in Amman, Jordan's Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, Dr Issam Za'balawi, told an audience of 250 Jordanian and foreign diplomats, law professors, and representatives of the armed forces and civil society that Jordan remained committed to enhancing the teaching of humanitarian law in its schools and universities. He noted that eight law faculties had already started teaching this law and that others were set to follow.

The participants were particularly interested in finding out how those who violate international humanitarian law can be held accountable for their actions. This issue was discussed by an expert panel. Chaired by Jordan's Minister of State and Government Spokesperson, Asma Khader, it included Judge Sang-Hyun Song of the International Criminal Court and Judge Amin Mehdi of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

Many participants left the seminar determined to further expand the network of Arab professors who teach international humanitarian law, and with a keen interest in spreading knowledge of its principles and rules at Arab law faculties. (…)



Economy and development



Investors meet to explore opportunities in Albania

New York, 23 September - Albania, a country in transition from crisis and recovery to development and growth, now seeks to increase foreign direct investment. This is the premise of an investor's forum held in New York today. The forum will promote investment opportunities in Albania’s telecommunication and energy sectors, among others, to potential US investors through discussions with the country's leaders, and through a documentary film especially prepared for the event. By creating opportunities for networking among participants, the forum lays the ground for future activities between the Government of Albania, interested investors and supporting agencies and organizations, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). (…)

The investor's forum is convened by the Ministry of Economy of Albania with the support of the UNDP, in partnership with the US Department of Commerce and the Eurasia Group. (…)


Young leaders say "No" to business as usual in Asia and Pacific countries

New declaration calls for youth platform at regional governmental meetings

New York, 22 September - In a declaration adopted in Hiroshima, Japan this week, 100 Asia and Pacific youth challenge the region's premiere international organizations to heed their recommendations for tackling poverty, hunger and disease. The declaration centres around the Millennium Development Goals, eight global benchmarks to be achieved by 2015. (…)

They also highlight their concern that, while some countries in Asia and the Pacific have made significant strides towards the Goals, the region has the highest number of people living in poverty, with close to 700 million of the world's 1.2 billion poor people.

The delegates, who signed on as Millennium Campaign Youth Advocates, promised to do everything possible to encourage their communities to reduce poverty and committed to establish-ing a permanent network of young leaders in their region to shape their common agenda. (…)


IFAD to provide funds for post conflict reconstruction in Burundi to help rural poor people rebuild their lives

Rome, 20 September – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide assistance to rebuild livelihoods of rural communities in post-war Burundi.The USD 32.7 million Transitional Programme of Post-Conflict Reconstruction will help restore the country’s agriculture, infrastructure and social fabric damaged by the civil strife. The programme will benefit about 370,000 people living in the provinces of Bujumbura Rural, Bururi and Ruyigi. Of the total programme cost, IFAD will provide USD 16.3 million in loan that will be used for regenerating people’s livelihoods and restore food security in about 74,000 vulnerable rural households.

The loan agreement was signed today at IFAD Headquarters by the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Burundi, Athena’s Gahungu, and the Vice-President of IFAD, Cyril Enweze.

One of the key aspects of the reconstruction-programme will be community-driven development. The programme will work to establish Community Development Committees (CDC), responsible for development planning, resources mobilization and implementation of related activities. The programme will train some 10,000 people to become CDC members. Civilians will be also trained in legal counselling. A mobile legal clinic will offer legal support to rural women that suffered various forms of violence during the conflict. (…)


UN-HABITAT and UCLG sign historic agreement

Barcelona, 17 September – In a fitting conclusion to the Second World Urban Forum in Barcelona, United Cities and Local Governments (UCLG) leaders and UN-HABITAT’s Executive Director, Anna Tibaijuka, today signed a historic agreement that will elevate the working relationship between the United Nations system and local governments around the world to a new level. The agreement is aimed essentially at localizing the Millennium Development Goals to which world leaders committed themselves in the year 2000.

Headquartered in Barcelona, UCLG is a new world organization dedicated to promoting the values, objectives and interests of cities and local governments worldwide. It is the largest local government organization in the world, with members representing over half the world’s population. UCLG gives a voice to every type of local government – large and small, rural and urban – representing their interests at the global level, and addressing key issues for the future of cities and their citizens.

The new agreement will cover five key areas deemed of crucial importance – governance, local democracy, a new urban millennium partnership to localize the MDGs in cities, an international dialogue supported by the Advisory Group on Decentralization (AGRED), and a stronger UN Advisory Committee of Local Authorities (UNACLA). (…)


European Union and UN-HABITAT in new joint initiative

Barcelona, 16 September - The European Union (EU) and UN-HABITAT this week launched a new joint initiative on making cities around the world more sustainable as part of a new stage of closer cooperation between the two organizations.

For the past three years, UN-HABITAT and the EU´s executive Commission have been engaged in a process of reinforcing collaboration in the implementation of the Habitat Agenda and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs), with specific reference to urban poverty reduction .

At a special event at the Second World Urban Forum in Barcelona, in the presence of representatives from more than 10 EU Member States and other diplomats, the European Commission´s Research Directorate and UN-HABITAT launched a joint publication entitled "Creating a World of Sustainable Cities". Mr. Ponthieu, Head of Sector, Directorate General for Research, European Commission (EC) said that the publication was of vital importance to both UN-HABITAT and the European Commission, as the research carried out by the two institutions was very much driven by the need to resolve urban problems and to apply new cost-effective solutions. (…)


FAO and European Commission forge strategic partnership to achieve development goals

Joining forces to alleviate poverty and hunger in developing countries

Brussels/Rome, 13 September - The European Commission and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today signed a strategic partnership agreement designed to reinforce their joint efforts to reduce poverty, promote agricultural development and fight hunger in developing countries. Specific areas of collaboration will be food security, sustainable rural development and agricultural policies, food safety and quality, natural resources management, statistics and information exchange. (…)

Cooperation between FAO and the European Commission dates back to 1991. It has so far resulted in the implementation of 116 projects with a total budget of approximately 108 million euros (US$131 million). Most of the projects have provided technical assistance to developing countries in the fields of food security, agriculture, forestry and fisheries. In 2003 alone, the EC financed 21 projects for a total amount of 19 million euros (US$23 million).

Since the World Food Summit, convened by FAO in Rome in 1996, the global problem of food insecurity has been drawing increased attention. The EC has consequently increased field operations and activities directly oriented at achieving food security.

Under the new partnership, the Commission and FAO will further enhance policy dialogue at headquarters level and strengthen collaboration, particularly at country level. This will help to bring the country support strategies of the Commission and FAO's technical assistance into closer harmony, resulting in greater synergies and improved efficiency in delivering assistance to developing countries. 






Quality seeds for rehabilitation of rice farming in Sri Lanka

Over 55 000 conflict-affected families in northeastern part of country to benefit

24 September, Rome -- Over 55 000 conflict-affected families in the northeastern part of Sri Lanka will get access to quality rice seed through a recently launched emergency project funded by the Government of Japan, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said today.

The US$1.4 million project will respond to the immediate needs of small-scale farm families affected by 20 years of conflict in the country. It will also support long-term rehabilitation of certified quality rice seed production in the area.

A total of 15 000 returning internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other vulnerable farmers will receive packages of quality rice seed for the Maha season starting in September. Through a revolving seed scheme, a farmer receiving one bushel of quality seed and matching quantity of fertilizer returns two bushels of seed after harvest. These seeds will be forwarded to two new beneficiaries. In addition to receiving rice seed, the farmers will be trained in modern production techniques. (…)


Caritas Responds to Haiti Hurricane Crisis

Caritas Internationalis is launching a nearly 900,000 USD appeal to provide immediate relief to Haitians suffering from the most recent hurricane to sweep through their country. Hurricane Jeanne followed quickly on the heels of other powerful hurricanes and tropical storms and is considered the worst to hit the Caribbean in over a decade. According to local Caritas officials, landslides killed more than 1,000 people in Haiti alone, injuring 100,000.

Haiti has experienced a plethora of natural and man-made disasters in the past year. In March, the Caritas Confederation appealed for 1 million USD to provide emergency medicine and food to victims of the political violence that overran the country. In May, Caritas Internationalis launched another appeal in response to devastating flooding that killed over a thousand people and destroyed countless towns and villages.

This latest appeal following the devastation wrought by Hurricane Ivan is an initial response. The funds will provide food and non-food relief items, such as kitchen utensils, sleeping bags, tents, medicine, chlorine, and clean drinking water to 2,000 families in three different parts of the country. A Caritas Confederation Emergency Response Support Team is leaving for Haiti to assist Caritas Haiti in their assessment of needs. (…)

Caritas Internationalis is a confederation of 162 Catholic relief, development, and social service organisations present in over 200 countries and territories.


WFP relief convoy reaches flooded Haitian city of Gonaives

Port Au Prince, 22 September – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has sent the first humanitarian convoy to the Haitian city of Gonaives, which was engulfed over the weekend by devastating floods that left hundreds of people dead and thousands more in desperate need of food assistance.  The convoy of 12 all-terrain trucks carrying 40 metric tons of rice, vegetable oil and dry rations, reached the city on Tuesday night. The food will be distributed by the non-government organisation, CARE, over the coming days. A second convoy is due to leave Port au Prince for Gonaives later today. (…)

Haiti has been hit several times this year by serious flooding. Thousands of people were cut off in May by floods and landslides, as the country was already struggling to recover from months of civil and political upheaval. WFP provides food to more than 500,000 people in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere. (…)


ADRA continues distributing hurricane aid in Cayman Islands, Grenada, Jamaica

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, 23 September - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is continuing with its comprehensive assistance to those affected by the recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. Yesterday, nearly 8,000 pounds of items were airlifted to the Cayman Islands to be distributed by ADRA. (…)

A 40-foot ocean freight container of relief supplies also sent yesterday to those affected by the hurricane that passed through Grenada will also be distributed by ADRA. The items, valued at approximately $38,000, were donated by the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C. Included in the nearly 24,000 pounds of supplies were toothpaste, soap, canned vegetables, beverages, crackers, cookies, and other food items.  (…)


Democratic Republic of the Congo: Over 5,200 families receive aid in South Kivu

8 September - From 4 to 7 September the ICRC organized the distribution of non-food aid for over 5,200 families in the Fizi region in South Kivu. Trucks setting out from Bukavu carried household kits, each containing a set of blankets, kitchen utensils, clothing, soap, a jerrycan and a hoe.

The Fizi region, situated some 250 km south of Bukavu on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, has been the scene of several armed conflicts since 1998. The population has suffered tremendously all these years – from looting, destruction of infrastructure (schools, hospitals and administrative buildings) and frequent displacement due to insecurity. Relative calm has reigned in the area, however, since the end of 2003, and those who fled the fighting have begun to return.

The region's economy is based mainly on agriculture but owing to the succession of armed clashes, harvests have dwindled to such an extent that many households have had trouble setting aside enough seed for planting during the past few farming seasons and are finding it difficult to get production going again.



Peace and security



TRANSCEND – Advanced International Training Programme on War to Peace

Transitions and Post-War Recovery, November 22 – 26, 2004, Romania

Peacebuilding, Conflict Transformation and Post-War Rebuilding, Reconciliation and Resolution (PCTR) is one of TRANSCEND’s most advanced international training programmes for practitioners, UN staff, international and national aid and development workers, and those working in post-war rebuilding, rehabilitation and reconciliation, and war to peace transitions.  The programme also includes special modules on (i) peacebuilding and conflict transformation before war and violence to transform conflicts before they become violent and to prevent the outbreak of war, (ii) mobilising, empowering and strengthening resources and local and international capacities for peace and conflict transformation for ending violence during wars, and (iii) developing strategic frameworks and integrated approaches for peacebuilding and conflict transformation at the local, national and regional levels for local and national NGOs, international actors, and UN agencies.

For more information please visit: PCTR or where you will find the announcement for the programme on the right column at the top, or write to:

Calina Resteman,






WHO issues revised drinking water guidelines to help prevent water-related outbreaks and disease

Marrakech/Geneva, 21 September 2 - Ensuring drinking water is safe is a challenge in every part of the world, from water piped into people's homes, to rural wells and water provided to refugee camps in an emergency. Contamination of drinking water is too often detected only after a health crisis, when people have fallen ill or died as a result of drinking unsafe water. Today, WHO is releasing new recommendations which will help pre-empt drinking water contamination.

WHO advises national and local drinking water regulators, and the enterprises and organizations which actually provide drinking water to five billion people around the world, that the challenge of providing safe drinking water is growing. WHO's updated Guidelines for Drinking-water Quality (GDWQ) will help regulators and water service providers the world over maintain and improve the quality of their drinking water. (…)


ECHO donates 1.6 million euros to UNICEF for Zimbabwe's children

Harare, Zimbabwe, 20 September - The European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) in Zimbabwe has contributed EURO 1,600 000 to UNICEF for providing targeted assistance to the country’s most vulnerable women and children. (…)

The funding comes at a time when many families and communities continue to struggle with the consequences of diminishing access to basic social services, the aftermath of three years of drought and the impact of the AIDS pandemic.  Zimbabwe, with an estimated HIV infection rate of 24.6% and approximately 1,820,000 living with the disease, currently faces one of the highest AIDS prevalence rates in the world. The number of orphaned children continues to grow, with close to 800,000 children under the age of 18 having lost one or both of their parents to AIDS (Children on the Brink, 2004).  Of the more than one million orphans, many children are dependent on elderly grandmothers or live in child headed households, having to care for younger siblings and forced to survive on their own.

The contribution will target malnourished children, orphans and other vulnerable children, especially child headed households, as well as the families and communities supporting these children. It also builds on the existing UNICEF programmes that were initiated with ECHO support received in 2003/2004. (…)


Up to 13 million children under age five in eight northern Nigerian states were targeted in Subnational Immunization Days (SNIDs) held 6-9 September

17 September - The door-to-door event was aimed at countering the effects of a yearlong suspension of immunization activities in several states in northern Nigeria, in reaction to widespread rumors there that the oral polio vaccine might be harmful to children. This was the second round of SNIDs held in northern Nigeria since July, when the affected states declared the vaccine safe and lifted the controversial suspension.

Participants and various news agencies reported that despite continued resistance to immunization activities from some parents, the four-day event was largely a success.

"After a lull of almost 11 months, it will take some time and efforts in advocacy and social mobilization to be able to reorientate the parents," says Ade Adefeso, chair of Nigeria's National PolioPlus Committee, who participated in the SNIDs alongside Rotarians in Kano. The state led the suspension of immunization activities and later became the epicenter of a polio outbreak that spread to 10 previously polio-free African countries. (…)

Representatives of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, including local Rotarians, are currently working closely with governmental, religious, and traditional leaders to accelerate immunization activities in Nigeria. (…)

To interrupt the transmission of the wild poliovirus that has spread from Kano since October 2003, Nigeria and 21 other countries in Central and West Africa will conduct synchronized National Immunization Days in October and November 2004.


Afghanistan: household surveys motivate healthy water practices

8 September - Household survey results from six months of repeated door-to-door household visits in Aqali Shams, Kabul, Afghanistan by Population Services International (PSI)-trained female health educators reveal a dramatic increase in healthy behavior relevant to safe water practices and storage. PSI educators measured initial knowledge, attitudes and practices of safe water and water storage, and instructed Afghan mothers with illustrated picture cards on proper water storage and treatment with PSI's safe water solution Clorin. The interpersonal education was successful in motivating positive behavior: in the first month, 722 respondents reported their water storage container was unclean and by the sixth month there were only seven.  (Water and Sanitation, no.35-36)



Energy and safety



California:  Saving water cuts energy use, reveals report

8 September - While California faces both an increasing demand for electricity and a drought, a new report [1] shows the hidden connection between two scarce resources, energy and water. Saving water is an untapped way to save energy and to cope with peaks in demand for electricity. California's State Water Project (SWP), which transports water from Northern California to Southern California is the state's largest single energy user, consuming 2-3 per cent of all electricity.

Water supply and wastewater plants are also energy consumers. Yet policymakers rarely consider the energy costs – and potential savings - in water supply planning. At the consumer level, using energy efficient water appliances can help cut both water and energy bills. The report lists five key findings: (1) water conservation lowers energy use and energy bills; (2) water recycling is a highly energy efficient water source; (3) retiring agricultural land may increase energy use if the water is transferred to other agricultural or urban uses; (4) retiring agricultural land can save energy if the water is dedicated to the environment; and (5) diverting water above dams costs power and money. [1] Cohen, R ; Nelson, B. and Wolff, G. (2004). Energy down the drain : the hidden costs of California’s water supply. New York, NY, USA, Natural Resources Defense Council. vii, 78 p.  (Water and Sanitation, no.35-36)


Wastewater Reuse: treating urban wastewater for local gardening

8 September - Research is underway in Dakar, Senegal, using pistia stratiotes (water lettuce) to treat wastewater that can be safely reused in market gardening for the urban poor. Now in its second phase (2004-2005), this research is being undertaken by a multidisciplinary team of biologists, urban planners, engineers and others with support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

During the first phase of the project (1999-2002), researchers found that some vegetables irrigated with wastewater produced higher yields, compared to plants irrigated with tap water and fed fertilisers. Another finding was that malaria-carrying mosquitoes could not breed in the wastewater ponds. However, researchers also found some of their test plants could not survive in the basins while other plants were unable to produce water that complied with World Health Organization (WHO) recommendations.

The second research phase now seeks to produce water that can be reused in market gardening, in accordance with WHO recommendations, while seeking ways to make use of treatment by-products. For example, the plants, once dried, could be used as a high-protein source of fodder for livestock.  (Water and Sanitation, no.35-36)



Environment and wildlife



International meeting on sustainable development of mountain regions

FAO Headquarters, 4-5 October

Rome, 29 September - The second meeting of the "Adelboden Group" on Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development in Mountain Regions will take place at FAO Headquarters in Rome 4-5 October 2004. Governments from developing and developed countries, several UN and non UN organizations, civil society including major groups representatives will attend this international meeting. Discussions will focus on an interregional and multi-stakeholder project to be launched early next year.Supporting  specific policies, institutions and legislations, the project will aim at enhancing sustainable livelihoods of mountain people.

This meeting is a follow-up to the Adelboden Conference (Switzerland, June 2002) which -- on the eve of the Johannesburg Conference on Sustainable Development -- drew the attention on the vulnerability of the mountain people and the need for a sustainable agriculture and rural development in mountain regions.


US park management company pledges CO2 reductions

Washington, DC, USA, 22 September - As part of WWF's Climate Savers Initiative, Xanterra Parks & Resorts, America's largest park and resort management company, has announced its commitment to cut its heat-trapping carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

 “WWF is excited that approximately 17 million people who visit the parks and resorts where Xanterra’s lodges, restaurants and retail operations are located will be able to see and hear about the solutions to global warming,” said Katherine Silverthorne, WWF-US Climate Change Programme Director. “Ultimately, the survival of many of our national parks depends on such solutions," she added. "It’s fitting that Xanterra, as the nation’s largest park management company, leads the way in helping to slow global warming and protect wildlife and wild spaces.”

Working with WWF and the Center for Energy & Climate Solutions, Xanterra projects that it will reduce its CO2 emissions 10 per cent below its 2000 emissions levels by 2015. This target represents an approximate reduction of 9,308 tons of CO2 by 2015.

Under the Climate Savers agreement, WWF and Xanterra will also work together to educate the public about available solutions to climate change, including on-site education of Xanterra’s customers in national parks. (…)


USD 1.55 million in IFAD grants will battle desert locusts in West Africa

Rome 20 September - To stop the spread of the desert locust the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has approved USD 1.55 million in grants. The 12 grants will also help to form the basis for longer-term solutions to prevent future attacks. So far, emergency efforts to spray locust-infested fields have not been sufficient to contain the large swarms sweeping across more than ten countries in northern and western Africa, devouring crops and grasses. (…)

Ten of the twelve grants will provide immediate assistance to train personnel, pay for supplies and equip laboratories in Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Sudan. Another two grants, totalling USD 0.5 million, will be used to continue efforts to offer long-term solutions to recurring outbreaks of desert locusts throughout Africa.

Since the 1980s, IFAD has worked along with its United Nations partners, especially the Food and Agriculture Organization, to test biologically-friendly control methods that treat locust invasions while protecting the health of livestock and the environment. Pheromones are used to disorient the locusts, preventing them from swarming. Another safe option, the naturally occurring fungus Metarhizium, is sprayed on locusts, invading them and killing them within one to two weeks. (…)


UNEP and Iraqi Environment Ministry to assess key polluted sites

Nairobi/Geneva, 14 September – Environmental ‘hot spots’ in Iraq are to be investigated as part of a long term plan to clean up the country after well over a decade of instability and conflict, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today.

Iraqi scientists, trained in the latest laboratory and field testing skills, will be carrying out tests at a handful of contaminated sites in order to assess their threats to human health, wildlife and the wider environment. Under the project, coordinated by UNEP in close cooperation with the Iraqi Ministry of the Environment, the scientists will share samples with UNEP’s Post Conflict Assessment Unit (PCAU) in Geneva so that testing can be carried out both in Iraq and in independent and reputable laboratories in Europe.

The new initiative underlines the Iraqi government’s commitment to put environmental issues in the centre of the reconstruction efforts, despite the continuing difficulties prevailing in the country. (…)



Culture and education




Children Urged to Express their Fears and Hopes for World’s Cities

International Children's Painting Competition on the Environment - 2004

Nairobi, 24 September - The majesty and misery of the world’s cities will be at the heart of this year’s International Children’s Painting Competition, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the Japan-based Foundation for Global Peace and Environment (FGPE) and Bayer AG, a German-based chemical and health-care company. The painting competition, the fourteenth of its kind, has been held since 1990 and has received over 160,000 entries from children in more than 150 countries.

The 2004-2005 competition will focus on the theme Green Cities. For the first time, the competition will begin in each region of the world with participants being asked to submit their entries to the nearest UNEP Regional Office - in Thailand, Switzerland, Mexico, USA, State of Bahrain or Kenya. Paintings may be submitted as hard copies or through the internet at The Painting Competition opens today, 24 September 2004. All paintings should be submitted to UNEP’s Regional Offices before 31 January 2005.

Prize winners in each region will be announced on Earth Day, 22 April 2005 and the first prizewinner, and their parent or guardian, will be funded to travel to San Francisco where the main international celebrations for World Environment Day will be held on June 5, 2005. (…)


Earth Charter motion at the IUCN World Conservation Congress

Bangkok, 17 - 25 November 2004

The 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress will be held from 17-25 November 2004 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Congress will be the key event of the year to address the worlds most pressing challenges of environment and development.

At this meeting the UICN Council will present a motion on the Earth Charter in which they are asking the Congress to endorse the Earth Charter and consider it as an ethical framework for their policies and programs, as well as an instrument for education on sustainable development, among other things.


2nd IWA Leading-Edge Conference on Sustainability, Sydney, Australia , 8-10 November

Organised by the International Water Association (IWA), the theme of the conference is Sustainability in Water Limited Environments. The conference will consist of presentations and an orchestrated disputation (forum).

Conference topics: challenges of water limited environments; new approaches to decision making: beyond cost benefit analysis; the human dimension in sustainability; systems planning for sustainability; leading-edge technologies for sustainability; health, hygiene and risk; governance for sustainability. (Water and Sanitation, no.35-36)


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Next issue: 22 October 2004.


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Interview with Mr. Anwarul K. Chowdhury, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries (LDC), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDC) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).




Good News Agency: The International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey (March 2002) aimed at providing a base for establishing an era of new partnerships “with shared responsibilities and mutual accountability.”  How would you describe the progress of this perception among the leaders and the people of the least developed countries and its translation into reality?


Anwarul K. Chowdhury:  I believe that this conference on Financing for Development (which resulted in what is known as the Monterrey Consensus) brought in a significant dimension in partnership.  It re-established the notion that without partnership, global development cannot take place; and also that partnership is essential for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

   Secondly, it has shown that the countries also need to look beyond traditional areas earlier considered relevant for development.  In that context, the most important element which emerged very strongly in Monterrey was the issue of good governance.  This means it is no longer only a “one way street” of Official Development Assistance (ODA) going to the developing countries.  It is very necessary that developing countries take steps to put “their house in order,” to follow the right path, to make their systems more accountable and transparent, and to fight corruption. This will enable these countries to make the best use of the resources they have received. In the process of implementing the Monterrey Consensus, we really need to see that there is a genuine desire to implement commitments made.


Are the industrial and developing countries fulfilling their ODA commitments?


Some commitments made in Monterrey are being reflected, though partially, in a slight increase in ODA.  For the first time, in 2003 ODA showed an increase, and that is wonderful.  ODA in 2003 reached a figure of US$68.5 billion.  This is a very positive sign of countries fulfilling their ODA commitments.  And within this larger figure – ODA for the LDCs has increased from US$12 billion in 2002 to US$15 billion in 2003.

   While this is a very encouraging sign, ODA -- while it is very essential-- by itself will not contribute to development.  We need to develop capacity.  The capacity to utilize and absorb the assistance and the capacity for sustainability are key factors.  These countries must have the necessary skills, capacity and infrastructure to develop on their own.  All of these elements are needed to create the right conditions.  ODA can then be a boon.

   The other important factor in the context of development is whether developing countries have been able to arrange their governance structures appropriately.  Governance issues also are important not only in the national context but also in the global context.  We must assure that global decision-making is more democratic and participatory.  The recipient developing countries should be assured substantial input into decisions affecting their own countries and their development.  This will increase their capacity to absorb external shocks, because one of the indicators defining an LDC is its vulnerability to absorb drastic changes. 

   It is rather early to say whether Monterrey is making progress, but indications of progress are visible. Monterrey emphasized global partnerships for development in a much more focused way; in a way that was meaningful and practical.  If implemented, this will result in enhanced development.


While ODA in 2002 had made some modest gain, these gains had been more than offset by the largest-ever net resource transfer from the developing to the developed world over the same year by US$200 billion.  “If what we say about financing for development is not to ring hollow, if financing for development means anything, we must reverse the negative balance sheet and fix the system so that all countries, and all people, especially the poorest, can benefit,” commented the U.N. Secretary-General, Kofi Annan.  How does this negative balance hit the LDCs, the LLDCs and the SIDS, and what ways do you see as viable in the medium term to reverse this?


This is an aspect of resource transfer that has not been emphasized. When we find that ODA is declining and there is no progress on debt cancellation – it creates a problem.  There are many reasons for this, and the Secretary-General Kofi Annan has very rightly emphasized how necessary it is that this flow be reversed.  This can be done in several ways.  Most important is the cancellation of debt for the LDCs.  They are spending more for debt service than for their own commodity export.  We are putting more and more responsibilities on the LDCs' shoulders to shape up their governance structures, to devote more resources, for education, health and empowerment of people, etc., but instead of providing them with more resources the developed world is removing those resources!   So it is very necessary that the debt for these 50 LDCs – and all of them are not heavily indebted, though most are – be cancelled once and for all; so they can utilize their export earnings for development purposes. 

   The other aspect would be to encourage increased foreign investment in the private sector -- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).  The report by UNCTAD has for the first time demonstrated an increase in FDI in the developing countries – this can contribute to the reversing of the flow.

Another factor would be to open up markets of the industrial countries and of the developing countries, specifically the LDCs.  They can get a better deal on their exportable products if the markets are open and if there is duty- and quota-free access, not only in the industrial but also in the other developing countries.  There are potentials for doubling, tripling, quadrupling the international resources and export earnings through these new markets!  The developing countries face more trade barriers from other developing countries than they face from developed countries. 


So what is the role of the Office of the High Representative?

The role of my office is to highlight the need to provide new trade opportunities for the LDCs; to give them totally duty-free and quota-free access.  The LDCs have a very minor share of world trade -- less than half a per cent.  To provide them markets would not disrupt world trade in any way.  That is what we have been lobbying about – to give the developing countries more market access, cancel their debts, and increase Foreign Direct Investment.  All these strategies would have an effect on reversing the flow. 

   Our statistics show an increase for the first time in ODA.  Member countries of the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) increased their official development assistance to developing countries by 3% in real terms from 2002 to 2003, following a 7% real increase between 2001 and 2002.  These “real terms” data are adjusted both for inflation and for the large fluctuations in exchange rates over the past two years. Total Development Assistance Committee ODA reached US$68.5 billion in 2003.  This is the highest-level increase ever both in nominal and real terms.  This 2003 total represented 0.25% of DAC members’ combined gross national income, up from 0.23% in 2002 and 0.22% in 2001.  So in real terms we have experienced a US$2.3 billion rise in 2003.


How has this ODA been distributed?


Some of this assistance has gone to two conflict-ridden countries -- Afghanistan and Iraq.  So much of that assistance is post-conflict assistance for nation building and categorized as ODA.  You’ll remember the United States promised US$5 billion extra for the next five years – and that has now been put into “The Millennium Challenge Account,” providing US$1 billion per year for five years.  Recently 16 Countries were identified to receive the resources from this Account.  Of these, eight are LDCs so our Office is pleased. We feel that our advocacy efforts are paying off. 

   In terms of ODA, LDCs get priority for two reasons – they form a “group” based upon their economic and social development situations and because of their structural inadequacies for having sustained development.  The other point for which LDCs are the focus is that out of 31 Landlocked Developing Countries, there are 16 LDCs.  So there is an overlap; and out of 42 Small Island Developing States, 12 are also Least Developed Countries.

   To impact this resource reversal, debt cancellation is the first priority.  The debts must be cancelled, and we should ensure that these developing countries do not incur future debt.  They should be bound by certain disciplines that will require them not to incur new debt.  This will require some structural changes within their societies and also the commitment of their development partners to see to it that they have the resources they need to improve the lives of their people. 

   ODA has been increasing even though much of this funding goes to fight the war on terror.  The Secretary-General has said that the war on terror, while necessary and relevant to make the world secure and peaceful, should not lead to the diversion of resources already committed to development.


Which of the Millennium Development Goals that all U.N. Member States have pledged to reach by 2015 are the most critical for the LDCs, the LLDCs and the SIDS, and which are the main programmes that have the highest potential to reach these goals or at least to get significantly closer to them?


For the LDCs, the most important is goal number one, which is the Poverty Reduction Goal. On the basis of the reduction of poverty, will depend on how these countries will advance in other areas of development.  That is why I believe that poverty reduction is very important.  Out of these eight Millennium Development Goals seven are the responsibilities of the developing countries; and Goal Eight, which speaks about Partnership, brings in the industrial countries.  Even Goal Eight mentions the needs of the LDCs in a very clear, targeted way.  It says that the needs of the LDCs for more ODA, FDI and market access must be addressed by development partners.  So that’s why for the LDCs, Goals One and Eight are the most important.

   Poverty reduction is difficult for many of the LDCs.  However, in terms of the other Millennium Development Goals, such as those addressing infant and maternal mortality, serious efforts are being made and in these areas we can show very substantive progress at the end of the Millennium target year, 2015.


The international community is becoming increasingly aware that the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is a crucial passage to our sustainable future on this planet. In the LDCs, LLDCs and the SIDS, what is the present role of NGOs in this respect, and are plans underway to enhance recognition of their roles with the aim of increasing their influence in the decision-making and implementation processes?


The LDCs have a Programme of Action called the “Brussels Programme” which covers the period from 2001 to 2010.  For the Landlocked countries at a Conference last year in Kazakhstan, we adopted “the Almaty Programme of Action.”  And then, for the Small Island Developing States, we adopted “the Barbados Programme of Action” in 1994, and in January 2004 we are going to have a 10 Year Review at an International Meeting in Mauritius.  These are the three Programmes that had highlighted clearly the role and involvement of NGOs and the support these most vulnerable countries can get from civil society organizations.

   Support for NGOs is a major area of emphasis for our Office.  We believe that without NGOs many of the programmes and activities within the LDCs will not make much headway.  They participated in the Brussels Programme design, and now it is very necessary that they participate in its implementation.  NGOs are able to help LDCs in two ways: first, through national level support to the government or to their own fellow organizations to promote development programmes; and second, they can be global advocates for the LDCs.  We work very closely with NGOs.  

   Our Office has regular contacts with NGO groups and caucuses within the UN.  We work also with academic and educational institutions to highlight the cause of the LDCs and with caucuses of NGOs. I believe that without the spearheading of the NGOs in the development programmes in the LDCs, progress would be slow.  Last year in Geneva when the Brussels Programme was taken up by ECOSOC for review, the NGOs had significant input and we involved them in the process in a big way. In Geneva there was an NGO pre-discussion event, and we involved them in the participatory level during the 2004 ECOSOC to discuss the resource needs of the LDCs.  Public-Private Alliances are key factors in involving NGOs.  The first Public-Private Partnership for rural development has been started in Madagascar, an LDC.  It is a good opportunity to show that such a Public-Private Alliance can work.


In view of the International Meeting to Review the Implementation of the Barbados Programme of Action for the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States from 10 to 14 January 2005 in Mauritius, what ways do you see as viable to mobilize the international community, and what role could civil society play in this process?


It is very important to focus global attention on the Small Island Developing States.  The Barbados Programme was adopted 10 years ago.  During the course of this decade the attention to SIDS has declined.  We need to bring back international attention, and to achieve this we are working with these governments as well as with the media, NGOs, academic institutions, etc., to highlight their needs.

   It is very necessary that we prioritize the 14 Priorities of the Barbados Programme; the 14 points for implementation.  We’ve made progress, but it’s not broad enough to make a difference without prioritizing.  Another very important element in the implementation of Barbados is an effective follow-up and monitoring mechanism at the country level.  Many of them have not even taken up the issues or done the follow-up in their own national contexts.  It is very necessary that they realize that without such an effort on their part the response from development partners may not be very positive. 

   For the SIDS there exists a tremendous opportunity for South-South cooperation amongst themselves, as these countries can benefit from one another’s experience and be supportive.  Civil society for the Barbados Programme has a major role because NGOs are very vocal in many international fora, and speak for the concerns of these countries -- on sea-level rise, climate change, global warming, etc.  The SIDS are also confronting the pandemic of HIV/AIDS and the fear of international terrorism.  Most of these countries are idyllic, but also vulnerable to natural disasters.  Now with their threat of international terrorism, it has become very expensive for them to undertake broad-based development efforts. 


Do you think it is possible that the increased knowledge of NGOs’ roles and work on the part of public opinion can trigger an increased positive influence on governments’ decisions regarding their allocation of resources for bilateral as well as multilateral programmes of development cooperation?


It is very necessary to understand that NGOs are an indispensable partner in the implementation process of the outcomes of all major UN conferences.  NGOs have been very well organized in terms of preparing for these conferences.  They have been effective in organizing lobbies and advocating for these causes and can be equally effective if not more in implementing the outcomes of these conferences.  The role of NGOs should be understood globally and internationally and I believe that active NGO groups at the national level can surely influence government policies in a positive way.  NGOs have a strong role to play in advocacy – both in their own countries and outside, for the LDCs.  They have been lobbying very hard for the LDCs in their respective countries and working with their governments to reflect in their ODA policies a larger share of development assistance for the least developed countries.




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