Good News Agency – Year V, n° 3



Weekly - Year V, number 3 – 27 February 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 2,400 media in 48 countries, as well as to 2,500 NGO 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 securityHealthEnergy and Safety

Environment and wildlifeCulture and education

Editorial - 8 March, International Women's Day: Being A Woman Today



International legislation



Rotterdam Convention enters into force

Treaty provides a first line of defence against hazardous chemicals and pesticides

Rome/Geneva, 24 February -- The Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent (PIC) Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade becomes international law and thus legally binding on its members today.  (…) Jointly supported by FAO and UNEP, the Rotterdam Convention enables countries to decide which potentially hazardous chemicals they want to import and to exclude those they cannot manage safely. Where trade is permitted, requirements for labelling and providing information on potential health and environmental effects will promote the safer use of chemicals. (…)

The Convention starts with 27 chemicals, but as many as 15 more pesticides and industrial chemicals, identified during the interim PIC procedure, are flagged also for inclusion at the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties. This includes a range of highly toxic pesticides that are moving in international trade, such as parathion and monocrotophos, as well as five additional forms of asbestos, including chrysotile asbestos which accounts for more than 90% of asbestos presently used and traded. (…)


Council of General Assembly Presidents meet in Valletta, Malta, discusses contributions to UN reform, Assembly revitalization

19 February - The Council of Presidents of the General Assembly of the United Nations held a special meeting in Valletta, Malta on 4 – 5 February 2004.  …) The Council discussed the present and future role of the United Nations, the revitalization of the General Assembly, furthering the objectives of the Millennium Declaration and particularly, how the Council might contribute to the reform of the United Nations, including the revitalization of the General Assembly, and support and promote the ideals of the Charter.(…)

The President of the fifty-eighth session of the General Assembly, Mr. Julian R. Hunte, outlined to the Council the work of the session to date, including the successful outcome of the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development and other important aspects of the work of the session.

President Hunte also outlined the key provisions of resolution 58/126 entitled, “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, which was adopted by the General Assembly on 19 December 2003.  The Council gave its full support to the early and comprehensive implementation of this resolution, which followed on earlier revitalization initiatives and which would enhance the role and authority of the General Assembly and bring about significant improvements in its work methods. (…)


Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants to enter into force 17 May 2004

Geneva/Nairobi, 18 February (UNEP) -- The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) will become legally binding on 17 May 2004, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) announced today. The 90-day countdown to the treaty’s entry into force was triggered on 17 February 2004 when France became the fiftieth State to ratify the agreement. …

Governments will pursue a rapid start to action under the treaty when they meet for the first session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention (COP 1) in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in early 2005.

One of this meeting’s priorities will be to assist countries to combat malaria by replacing DDT with the increasingly safe and effective alternatives.  The COP will also establish a Committee for evaluating other chemicals and pesticides that could be added to the initial target list of 12 POPs (…). Still another key goal for the COP will be to finalize guidelines for promoting “best environmental practices” and “best available techniques” that can reduce or eliminate releases of dioxins and furans (perhaps the most toxic of all the POPs) from a wide range of industrial and other sources. (…)



Human rights



Brazil: New committee on humanitarian law

18 February - Brazil is the latest Latin American country to have set up a national committee responsible for the dissemination and implementation of humanitarian law. The committee was inaugurated on 12 February at Itamaraty Palace, seat of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital, Brasilia, at a ceremony presided over by the minister himself, Celso Amorim. The event was attended by all the committee members, who represent the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, Defence, Health, and Education and Culture, the Presidential Cabinet, the Special Secretariat for Human Rights and the National Congress.

The Brazilian Red Cross and the ICRC, which was one of the motors behind the establishment of the committee, will have permanent observer status. (…)

In parallel, the ICRC’s travelling exhibition Even Wars Have Limits was opened in the presence of the Foreign Minister. This collection of 30 photos of conflict situations and acts of solidarity from around the world illustrate better than any words the importance of respect for humanitarian law.


USA: International gathering of women - March 8 to 13

Women of Vision & Action launched an international project “Gather The Women” in March of 2003, by activating regional meetings in the U.S. and worldwide in 67 countries, and supporting these connections on their website ( ).  Since these initial gatherings the project has grown exponentially. In October of 2003, WOVA hosted an international Gather The Women conference in San Francisco.   The conference entitled “Weaving A World That Works” was attended by representatives from over twenty non-profit organizations in the U.S. (representing 50,000 co-members), and delegates from as far away as The Congo, The Middle East, and Australia.
The purpose of the “Gather The Women”  project is to connect women worldwide, to listen to each other, to learn from our multiple perspectives, and to share our wisdom for the challenge of stepping into feminine leadership roles around the world.  Carol Hansen Grey, Executive Director of WOVA extends this invitation, “We invite women around the world to join in a week of collaborative daily activities that begins on Monday, March 8 - International Women's Day.  The daily activities are designed to help us activate and mobilize the wisdom and power of women to weave a world that works, and we invite you to participate in whatever way is comfortable for you -- personally, locally and/or globally.”



Economy and development



USA-UNA: Council of Chapters & Divisions Annual Meeting – New York, March 4-8

The Council of Chapters & Divisions 2004 Annual Meeting - that will take place at the Roosevelt Hotel, 45th Street at Madison Avenue, New York City - will discuss important issues such as: Terrorism and the United Nations’ Role; Millennium Development Goals:Where Are We?  The Role of Civil Society in U.N. Decision-Making; Global Security: Threats, Challenges, and Change; Public Private Partnerships: Financing for Development;  Human Rights Treaties and Accountability;  The International Criminal Court in Action: Democratic  Republic of the Congo;  The U.S.-U.N. Relationship Post-Iraq.  The Arnold Goodman, Earl Eames and Young Advocate Awards will be bestowed during the Annual Meeting's awards banquet on Saturday night.

The United Nations Association of the United States of America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that supports the work of the United Nations and encourages active civic participation in the most important social and economic issues facing the world today. As the nation's largest grassroots foreign policy organization and the leading center of policy research on the U.N. and global issues, UNA-USA offers Americans the opportunity to connect with issues confronted by the U.N., from global health and human rights to the spread of democracy, equitable development, and international justice. Today, UNA-USA is bigger and more diverse than even its founder, Eleanor Roosevelt, could have predicted; they have more than 20,000 members spread among 175 local chapters in 43 states. What's more, they now are comprised of a number of affiliated organizations, including the Business Council of the United Nations, which promotes greater cooperation between the United Nations and the business community; the Council of Organizations, a program of affiliation for national organizations supporting the work of the UNA; and Adopt-A-Minefield, which helps the United Nations' effort to resolve the global landmine crisis by raising funds for mine clearance and survivor assistance.


Brazil's President Lula launches initiative for Caatinga forest and its communities

20 February - President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took an important step to conserve the unique Caatinga forest in drought-prone northeast Brazil through a US$27 million initiative he launched earlier this month. The project will also improve livelihoods in the region, one of the country's poorest, with a population of 18.5 million. (…)

The forest is home to many animals and up to 20,000 kinds of plants.  It covers 10 per cent of the country's land area, and its wood fuels local steel, brick and tile industries and nearly three quarters of small and medium-sized rural homesteads. Excessive tree cutting is causing soil erosion that degrades lands and reduces water quality, substantially diminishing economic productivity and threatening plant and animal life.

The project, administered by UNDP, will develop a framework to guide conservation and sustainable use of forest resources for 160 communities and determine the most appropriate land use for different areas. It will also work with industries and communities to improve wood-fuelled ovens so they burn more efficiently and cleanly. (…)


Economic and Social Council reviews efforts to stem poverty in 50 poorest nations

Day-Long Meeting Preparation for Council’s High-Level Segment 28 – 30 June

17 February - The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) today gathered top United Nations officials, donors and heads of international institutions to examine worldwide efforts to lift the 50 poorest nations –- home to 720 million people -- out of poverty and instability.

During a day-long meeting in preparation for its high-level segment, set for 28 to 30 June, the Council reviewed progress made in mobilizing resources for poverty eradication in the least developed countries since adoption of an action plan in Brussels in 2001.

The Brussels Programme of Action, a set of key commitments for implementing the Millennium Development Goals, includes seven specific commitments made by the least developed countries and their development partners, including mobilization of financial resources as well as governance, trade and sustainable development.

Marjatta Rasi of Finland, the first woman to ever head the 54-member Council, stressed that stemming the tide of poverty for least developed countries would ultimately depend on renewed efforts at the national, regional and global levels, based on the spirit of shared responsibility and global partnership forged at Brussels.  (…)


Governing Body of Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to hold first meeting in Kuala Lumpur, 23 - 27 February

Montreal, 15 February (UNEP) -- More than 1,000 delegates representing governments and relevant organizations will convene in the Malaysian city of Kuala Lumpur, from 23 to 27 February 2004, for the first meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, or COP-MOP 1.

The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety was adopted in January 2000 as a supplementary agreement to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).  Its objective is to protect biological diversity from the potential risks that may be posed by living modified organisms (LMOs), or what are commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms (GMOs), resulting from modern biotechnology.

The five-day meeting will consider a number of issues that are central to the implementation of the Protocol.  These include, among others:  information-sharing and the Biosafety Clearing-House; capacity-building; liability and redress; compliance; and handling, transport, packaging and identification of living modified organisms.  It is also expected that the meeting will adopt a medium-term programme of work for the Protocol over the next 4 to 5 years. (…)


UNCTAD releases new guidelines on corporate environmental accounting, adopted first by CIBA Specialty Chemicals

Geneva, 13 February (UNCTAD) – The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is today announcing the release of new guidelines on eco-efficiency indicators that link the environmental performance of corporations to their financial performance.  The guidelines have now been adopted by Ciba Specialty Chemicals, making it the first multinational company to base its environmental reporting on the UNCTAD model.

The Manual for the Preparers and Users of Eco-efficiency Indicators is one of the first publications in the field of corporate environmental accounting to standardize the presentation and disclosure of a company’s environmental performance and how this relates to financial results.  It describes a method for providing systematic and consistent information on environmental performance over time. Such information cannot be assessed by the conventional accounting model but is increasingly demanded by stakeholders, especially in the post-Enron era.  The guidelines meet this need by using financial and environmental performance indicators together to measure a company’s progress in attaining eco-efficiency or sustainability.  (…)


UNEP champions sustainable consumption approach

EU funded project enables transfer of lessons from Europe to Asia

Bangkok, 9 February (UNEP) -- A new United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) project has been launched to help make growing middle class consumerism in Asia more in tune with the environment. With recent figures showing Thailand’s stock market more than doubling its value in the past year and China officially projecting its economy to quadruple by 2020, UNEP says there are now more ‘middle to high income’ consumers -- those earning more than $7,000 per annum -- in Asia and the Pacific than in Western Europe and North America combined.

And if roads of the region’s mega cities aren’t crowded enough, UNEP points out 200 million new vehicles could be on the planet’s roads -- twice the number as those in the United States today -- if India, Indonesia and China reach the average global car ownership figures.

The European Union funded project, called Sustainable Consumption Asia or “SC.Asia”, aims to transfer knowledge and experience of consumption issues from European to Asian countries.

According to the project manager, UNEP’s Bangkok-based Industry Officer Niclas Svenningsen, Asia would face an ecological disaster if consumption levels reached those currently seen in Europe or North America. (…)


Economic and Social Council decides, on exceptional basis, on NGO participation in Commission on Sustainable Development

6 February - Adopting a draft decision this afternoon, the Economic and Social Council decided, on an exceptional basis, that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and other major groups accredited to the World Summit on Sustainable Development could participate in the first two-year implementation cycle of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

That decision applied to those NGOs and other major groups that had submitted their applications for consultative status with the Council or that had expressed, during the first implementation cycle and preferably by 14 April, their wish to participate in that cycle.

Speaking after the Council’s adoption of the text, the representative of the Russian Federation said that finding agreement had required a lengthy negotiating process.  The participation of NGOs in the work of the United Nations should help to increase their real contribution to the implementation of the Organization’s tasks and goals. (…)  The representative of the United States said the decision marked an important moment to enhance the work of the Commission on Sustainable Development and underscored the need to harness the collective powers of all stakeholders in order to achieve the internationally agreed development goals.  The United States favoured efforts to streamline and enhance the effectiveness of the process by which NGOs engaged in the Commission’s work. (…)







Pediatricians to award Rotary International for Polio Project

Washington, D.C., February 20 - The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) will present its Excellence in Public Service Award (EPSA) tomorrow to Rotary International for its work to eradicate polio worldwide. Each year, the AAP honors national officials and organizations for distinguished service on behalf of children and adolescents and their health care.

"Rotarians are child advocates in action. They have raised $500 million, and delivered vaccine around the globe to prevent children from contracting a crippling and life-threatening disease," said AAP President Carden Johnston, M.D., "Rotarians, like pediatricians, know prevention is much better than treatment."

The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 57,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents, and young adults. The Academy is a partner in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, spearheaded in part by Rotary, that has helped reduce the cases of polio from approximately 350,000 cases in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 cases in 2003.


UN-HABITAT to help Iran earthquake victims

Bam, Iran, 19 February - UN-HABITAT has been invited by Iran to assist with reconstruction in the historic Silk Road city of Bam following a devastating earthquake that claimed more than 43,000 lives and destroyed homes, schools, offices and other infrastructure. (…)

With aftershocks frequent, the city is covered in rubble, and those families whose houses were not completely destroyed are afraid to return, while others remain too traumatised to start clearing it. But with the support of least 75 NGOs, international agencies and UN humanitarian organisations the government has been able to sucessfully undertake relief operations.

The Iranian government is now poised to launch a reconstruction programme, which it intends to carry out on the basis of revised master plan of the city. A two-member UN-HABITAT assessment team, which visited Bam 5-14 February, reviewed how to effectively address the shelter needs of families affected by the earthquake. (…)


CARE launches emergency relief effort in Haiti

Largest urban food distribution in Agency’s 50 years in the country

Gonaïves, Haiti, February 17 - CARE is launching the largest urban food distribution in its 50 years of work in Haiti, the international humanitarian organization said Tuesday. The emergency relief action should be enough to meet important needs of the entire population of the city of Gonaïves. Civil unrest has effectively cut off Gonaïves from the rest of the country, creating food shortages and high prices. (…)

CARE's warehouse in Gonaïves contains food donated by the U.S. Agency for International Development's Food for Peace program, used in regular aid activities. Food for Peace has approved the release of supplies for emergency relief. CARE said the distribution should reduce but not eliminate the risk of looting. (…)

Representatives of CARE, the Government of Haiti, the Resistance Front, the Haitian Red Cross, and other civil society groups are cooperating on relief efforts, and the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross are overseeing negotiations aimed at opening humanitarian corridors.


ADRA Afghanistan strengthens community-based healthcare

Kabul, Afghanistan, February 17 - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) office in Afghanistan has been awarded funding worth $1.99 million from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to implement a three-year basic health project in Panjab and Waras districts of Bamyan province. Begun in October 2003, the REACH project seeks to improve the health of women of reproductive age and children age five and younger by reducing the most common causes of mortality and morbidity. (…)

The REACH program is focusing on strengthening the capacity of the health system to provide quality health services, with an emphasis on maternal and child care, Ministry of Health oversight, and development of each communities' capacity to manage health services to create relevant, accessible and acceptable services. (…)

In the past, access to healthcare for women has been severely restricted. A recent study by UNICEF in four Afghan provinces indicates the country still has one of the highest maternal mortality ratios in the world, estimated at 1,600 deaths per 100,000 live births.


A unique local community development programme in Afghanistan

Kabul, 16 February  - A new National Solidarity Programme aimed at strengthening a network of some 30,000 self-governing local community institutions in Afghanistan has been established by the government with the support of UN-HABITAT. The programme, started in December 2003 and set to expand rapidly in coming months, represents an important milestone in the Afghan Government’s reconstruction efforts to help rebuild trust among themselves and with the government. The flagship NSP is the largest and most visible of the government’s development programmes and pivotal to its strategy to rebuild the country after 23 years of war.

With more than a decade of experience in urban Afghanistan, UN-HABITAT is the largest of more than 20 partners working on the programme with core funding from the World Bank and co-financing from a number of additional donors. A total of US$ 302,550 in grants was approved for projects ranging from schools, to public baths, water supply, roads, bridges, carpet weaving and micro-hydroelectric power.

The communities themselves have committed over US $30,000 of support in-kind. They will work with the government through representatives elected by secret ballot to their own Community Development Council (CDC). Regular consultations and consensus among community members is a very important principle of the program. (…)



Peace and security



The Jewish Arab Center for Peace: a new issue of Crossing Borders youth magazine

February 18 - As political leaders disputed over the slow-moving and often problematic road map to peace in the Middle East, Jewish and Arab youth from the region were able to express their personal and political thoughts on what it is like to grow up amidst the conflict. The January/February 2004 issue of the literary Middle Eastern youth magazine, Crossing Borders, serves as an open forum for young people to share their thoughts and experiences with one another.  In Israel, the project is managed by Givat Haviva’s Jewish-Arab Center for Peace.

Crossing Borders opens with two powerful editorials, written by Jihan Abdallah of East Jerusalem and Bakria Mawasi of Nazareth.  Their words convey a hopeful vision for Palestinian and Israeli co-existence, and a message for young people that the power of positive change lays in their hands. Jihan Abdallah asks, While violence, hatred, and discrimination were surrounding us, what did we do?  Did we try to make a difference or were we mere spectators?  

It is evident that the young people who fill the pages of this edition of Crossing Borders with their hopes and disappointments, triumphs and personal tragedies, are changing the political and social landscape of their communities.  Their essays reflect on their personal struggles with identity, as Jews, Muslims, and Christians; and as Palestinians, Arabs and Israelis. They grapple with questions of justice and morality, and express their views on social inequalities. (…) 


Burundi: Former child soldiers reunited with families

16 February - Last week, 10 boys were reunited with their families in rural Burundi after being used as child soldiers in violation of international law.

The details of their stories may be quite different, but their ordeal was the same. Some had fled Burundi with their families following the outbreak of fighting in 1993, and were living in refugee camps in Tanzania when they were recruited by armed groups who took them off to fight in Burundi and later in the eastern Congo. Others were abducted by armed groups while attending school in Burundi, and then also taken to fight in eastern Congo. All of them were less than 15 years of age – the youngest only 11 – when this happened. Most were sent into combat; others carried munitions. Several were wounded or fell sick and were simply left by the wayside to fend for themselves.

One way or another, all 10 ended up in transit centres in eastern Congo, where they were visited by ICRC delegates. The organization traced their families in Burundi and put them in touch by means of Red Cross messages (brief personal messages to relatives made unreachable by armed conflict). Both the children and their families said they wanted to be reunited. (…)


Viet Nam - Germany to provide $1 million to landmine & UXO clearance this year

12 February - Germany will donate $ 1 million in aid to help central Thua Thien Hue and Quang Tri provinces to remove landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO) this year, announced the German Embassy in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi yesterday. (…)

Germany will help the provinces raise local people's awareness of the threats and dangers of the ordnance, marking explosive areas and training troops for the job. On the Vietnamese side, around $ 500,000 will be spent on improving infrastructure facilities in the areas.

Thua Thien Hue and Quang Tri provinces were hard hit by the war, with nearly 50% of their land unavailable for use because of the amount of unexploded mines and bombs. Since 1975, UXO has claimed more than 3,000 lives and wounded 6,000 others in Quang Tri.


Conference on Disarmament decides to enhance engagement of Civil Society in its work

Geneva, 12 February (UN Information Service) -- The Conference on Disarmament today approved by consensus a decision concerning the enhancement of the engagement of civil society in its work.  It also heard statements from Poland, China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the United States on how to start substantial negotiations in the Conference, as well as on issues concerning non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament.

Among other things, the decision concerning civil society states that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) shall be entitled to make written material available to the members of the Conference outside the Council Chamber twice per annual session.  After the Conference adopts a programme of work, it will allocate one informal plenary meeting per annual session to NGOs to address the Conference.  Only NGOs whose activities relate to the work of the Conference will be able to address it, and a formal selection process will be put in place to consider requests from NGOs to participate. (…)


Over $500 million pledged at International Reconstruction Conference on Liberia

UN Secretary-General, US Secretary of State, French Foreign Minister among those calling for effective action

6 February - “Let us all seize this opportunity to end a long-running nightmare that has disgraced humankind.  Let us consolidate the peace, and make the peace process irreversible”, Kofi Annan, United Nations Secretary-General, said as a two-day international conference aimed at addressing Liberia’s reconstruction needs concluded with a ministerial-level pledging event today.

Organizations and governments pledged more than $500 million towards reconstruction and humanitarian assistance, against a $660 two-year assessment need.  However, five major donors only pledged for 2004 and indicated possible additional pledges for 2005.  Other assistance, such as training and technical assistance and alleviation of the debt burden, was also pledged.

Co-sponsored by the United States, the World Bank and the United Nations, the Conference was organized by the United Nations Development Group (UNDG).  (…)

The conference was meant to demonstrate international solidarity with Liberia at a decisive moment.  At the same time, Liberia’s reconstruction was also a regional issue, he said.  There was a pressing need to curb the ominous, continuous movement of mercenaries and flows of illicit arms. In that area, subregional organizations such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union could play a significant role. (…)


Public debate on the perspective for a Ministry for Peace in Great Britain

In London on 3 April there will be an all-day conference open to the public, entitled 'Britain's Role in the 21st Century - Peace Builder?'  Featuring a range of expert speakers, it will explore the difference having a Ministry for Peace in government could make to life here and overseas. 

The process we have adopted for our work is open, democratic, transparent, co-operative and creative with the emphasis on non-violent communication and on non-confrontational approach. The intent is that the means will reflect the ends. Full details can be found on the MfP website -






West Africa mobilizes for final assault against polio: 63 million children to be immunized in 10 countries as Nigerian outbreak threatens African success story

Dakar/New York/Geneva, 23 February - One month after an emergency meeting of Health Ministers committed to end polio transmission in 2004, Africa is responding with a massive, synchronized polio immunization campaign, aiming to vaccinate 63 million children over the next few days. From 23 February, 10 countries will hold simultaneous polio immunization campaigns, targeting 63 million children in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon (20 February), Central African Republic, Chad (joining in March), Ghana, Niger, Nigeria and Togo.  Political, religious and traditional leaders will team up to launch the activities, and tens of thousands of vaccinators will go house-to-house to administer the vaccine directly to every child over the following three days.
In recent months, polio has again spread across west and central Africa, paralyzing children in seven previously polio-free countries - most recently the Central African Republic - and putting millions more at risk.  But partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative say that if upcoming campaigns over the next several months reach every child, polio in Africa could be stopped in its tracks in 2004.

The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is spearheaded by WHO, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF.  The poliovirus is now circulating in only six countries, down from over 125 when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative was launched in 1988.  The six countries with indigenous wild poliovirus are:  Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt.


MSF launches day center for mental health in Tchambarak, Armenia 

The 'Day Centers' aim to be a place for learning and mutual understanding to bridge the gap between MSF beneficiaries and society 

Yerevan/Tchambarak, 20 February - Today, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) expands its mental health program in the Armenian province of Gegharkunik, with the official opening of a 'Day Center' for mental health in the town of Tchambarak. The 'Day Center', which is being launched in partnership with the NGO 'Mission Armenia' and the cooperation of the municipality of Tchambarak, aims to improve support for people with mental health problems.

This is the second 'Day Center' for mental health that MSF has opened in the region. A third is due to open in the town of Gavar at the beginning of March. The centers, which are free of charge, guarantee confidentiality to their visitors. A wide variety of therapeutic activities are provided with the assistance of the services of psychologists, animators, and social workers. (…)


Over 200 volunteers from the US, Canada and Europe will travel to India to immunize children against polio

Part of global effort to eradicate polio worldwide

Evanston, Ill., USA, 16 February - As global health officials expect to stop the spread of the poliovirus by the end of 2004, about 200 business professionals from the US, Canada, and Europe departed for India, where the last vestiges of this crippling disease are persistently holding on, in mid Februrary. These volunteers are members of Rotary, which has made eliminating this crippling disease its flagship humanitarian program.

While in India, the Rotary group will participate in an intense vaccination campaign on February 22, which is supported by the Indian government, Rotary International and its partners of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative; the World Health Organization, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF. The volunteers will administer the drops of oral polio vaccine to children, deliver the vaccine to health clinics and recruit fellow volunteers. The goal will be to immunize every child under the age of five against polio. (…)


National campaign to end fistula launched in Uganda, supported by First Lady

New York, 13 February (UNFPA) -– A national campaign to end fistula -- the most devastating of all pregnancy-related disabilities -- was launched in Uganda this week with the participation of the First Lady, Janet Museveni.  Through the campaign, 12 regional hospitals will receive much-needed equipment and supplies for fistula surgery, and local doctors will be trained in surgery and post-operative care.  Advocacy activities will also take place to raise awareness about the problem and efforts will be made to include fistula training in the curricula of medical institutions. (…)

Obstetric fistula is a preventable and treatable condition, yet more than 2 million women remain untreated in developing countries.  Fistula is caused by prolonged and obstructed labour, coupled with a lack of appropriate medical intervention -- typically a Caesarean section -- to relieve it.  The woman is left with chronic incontinence and in nearly all cases the baby dies. (…)

The UNFPA is leading the first-ever Global Campaign to End Fistula.  The long-term goal is to make fistula as rare in developing areas as it is in industrialized countries today.  The campaign is currently providing support to more than 20 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, ArabStates and South Asia.  Fistula initiatives in Uganda are largely supported through grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Government of Finland.



Energy and safety



Denmark supports energy initiative in 14 Pacific countries

Friday, 13 February 2004: UNDP, with funding from Denmark, is helping 14 countries in the Pacific develop national energy policies and action plans to bring electric power to poor communities. Access to electricity and other modern forms of energy is crucial to improving lives and livelihoods, and by supporting efforts to expand access, the initiative will help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the rate of extreme poverty by 2015.

Participating countries include Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.

The proportion of their people without access to electricity varies widely, from 10 per cent to nearly 100 per cent. There are a number of strategies to widen energy access, including doing more to encourage the use of renewable sources, such as solar and wind power, and promoting regional cooperation. These countries face such challenges as providing power to small, isolated island communities, high prices and limited storage areas for petroleum fuels, and environmental vulnerabilities, including the threat of a rising sea level related to global climate change, risk of storm damage, and threats to fragile ecosystems such as coral reefs from pollution. (…)


UN ICT Task Force Global Forum on Internet Governance to be held, 25 – 26 March

New York, 5 February (UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs) -- A Global Forum on Internet Governance will be held on 25-26 March 2004 at United Nations Headquarters in New York, to bring together leading actors and all relevant stakeholders, including Member States, civil society and the private sector, interested in Internet governance issues.  Organized under the auspices of the United Nations Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) Task Force, the Global Forum will be an opportunity to engage in an open discussion on all aspects of Internet governance.

The views expressed from around the world in on-line discussions to be organized with other partners in the weeks ahead will contribute to the Forum to ensure as broad and comprehensive a reflection of perspectives and ideas on the issues to be addressed.  The Global Forum will contribute to the world-wide consultation process to be organized by the Secretary-General. (…)



Environment and wildlife



CBD moves forward on protected areas, stumbles on oceans

The decision of the Parties to call on the UN General Assembly to act urgently to protect deep water corals and sea mounts is particularly noteworthy.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 20 February – The 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD CoP7) has ended with a major advance on protected areas, WWF said today. However, by failing to agree on clear measures to preserve rich and productive marine and coastal areas, governments missed a unique opportunity to significantly boost the protection of the oceans, the conservation organization added.  

WWF deplores the fact that although only 0.5 percent of the oceans are currently protected – against 11 percent for terrestrial areas – the parties to the CBD postponed the adoption of targets that would have given the green light to activities to halt the current loss of marine biodiversity, and to restore the health and productivity of the world's oceans and coasts.

These targets will now be deferred to the next Conference of the Parties in 2006 in Brazil. (…)


UN Environment Programme announces launch of tool to map mysterious lives of marine turtles

Cambridge/Bangkok, 13 February (UNEP) -- The first comprehensive online system to map the nesting and migrating habitats of endangered sea turtles is being launched today.  Despite years of intensive study, relatively little is known about the life history of these ancient mariners once they leave their natal beaches.  The new system, focused initially on the Indian Ocean/South-East Asia region, comprises an interactive mapping tool that will help policy-makers, scientists and conservationists alike to understand and better protect these unique species. (…)

The Marine Turtle IMapS will allow researchers worldwide to pool basic information collected locally, in order to get a bigger picture of the status of marine turtles. (…) The first phase of the Marine Turtle IMapS has been developed to support an international conservation agreement known as the Indian Ocean-South-East Asian Marine Turtle Memorandum of Understanding, based in Bangkok, Thailand.  It is the latest in a series of collaborative projects undertaken by UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) on behalf of the global Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), to which the IOSEA Marine Turtle MoU is affiliated. (…)


UNDP partnership announces winners of Equator Prize 2004 to recognize local conservation efforts

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 19 February - Seven communities from throughout the tropics received international recognition today as winners of the United Nations Equator Prize 2004. The Prize honours their extraordinary work to reduce human poverty while conserving biological wealth.

Following deliberations by a distinguished international Jury––including economist Jeffrey Sachs, Nobel Peace Prize winners Oscar Arias and Rigoberta Menchu, Yolanda Kakabadse of IUCN, and Princess Basma of Jordan––seven winners were announced for the prestigious Equator Prize 2004. Representatives from the winning communities each received US$30,000 at a special gala ceremony held on the closing day of the Seventh Conference of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Kuala Lumpur. (…)  Full details on the seven winners, and all 26 finalists, are available on the Equator Initiative website. (…)



Culture and education



TRANSCEND: Two of the forthcoming seminars:

The TRANSCEND Approach to Nonviolent Conflict Transformation - Trainer: Johan Galtung  March 31, Berkeley, USA

Why is there so much misery in the world despite an abundance of human intelligence and imagination?  Professor Galtung's innovative methods for conflict transformation address this question and offer a refreshing approach to resolving our pressing social, economic, and political
Contact Person: Marilyn Langlois

The Philosophy and Theory of Nonviolent Actions: “From Gandhi to Modern Social and Political Movements” Trainer: Jorgen Johansen - May 5 – 6, Cluj-Napoca, Romania

A two-days international training programme organised by the Romanian Peace Institute (PATRIR) in cooperation with TRANSCEND. - Throughout the 20th century non-violence was used as an effective tool for overthrowing violent, dictatorial and colonial regimes.  The focus of this training programme will be on the large scale use of non-violent means to transform and overcome direct and structural violence in conflicts.  Drawing upon case-studies and experiences from around the world, The Philosophy and Theory of Nonviolent Actions will help practitioners and scholars to weave together a cohesive view and understanding of the legacy and contributions of non-violent struggles in the 20th, and 21st centuries. Contact Person: Alex Moldovan Training Programmes Coordinator, PATRIR


Mosaic Harmony:  Unifying the world, one song at a time

As a human mosaic, we strive to illustrate and encourage unity in the midst of diversity
Washington, DC, 10 February -  Mosaic Harmony is a multi-faith, interracial community choir that draws on the rich heritage of African-American Gospel music to celebrate the rich diversity of the human condition.  Now in our eleventh year, and growing in size and complexity, we remain committed to the challenges of living as one human family.

The types of events where we perform reflect that commitment.  We sing in many different settings (…) Other community-outreach concerts include singing for disturbed youth through ChildHelp USA and with youth belonging to nine major world religions through the Interfaith Council of Washington.  Given our interracial membership, we are often asked to perform at events honoring the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King.

As we prepare to release our second CD, we have just learnt that we have been nominated for two Wammie Awards by the Washington DC Area Music Association.  It is a joy to be recognized, but what we recognize all the time is how this music creates joy and the feelings of unity wherever we find ourselves. As a human mosaic, we strive to illustrate and encourage unity in the midst of diversity, one song at a time.


Bringing the soul to work:  how women's leadership can transform the workplace

one day workshop with Debby Edelstein on 25 March, Johannesburg,  South Africa

There's a quiet revolution going on as more and more working women choose to work from home and negotiate flexitime options so that they can care for their children in addition to playing an increasingly vital role in the growth of the economy. These workplace pioneers are reinventing the way they work because they are no longer prepared to lose at life in order to win at work. Many of them are unaware of the radical transformation of the workplace they're helping to affect.

The workshop will take place at the Sunnyside Park Hotel, Parktown. A selection of the workshop content:  Women as Peacemakers,  Women as Rulebreakers, Trends of the New Leadership and the Feminine Advantage,  Simple Ways to Bring Your Soul to Work, How to Nurture Your Inner Warrior. The workshop objectives include: to develop confidence in the leadership ability of participants; to develop strategies for fulfilling leadership potential; to become more comfortable with developing the 'warrior' archetype; To develop a support network for Women leaders.



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Editorial - 8 March: International Women’s Day:

Being a woman today

by Sergio Tripi



International Women’s Day is celebrated by women’s associations and groups all over the world and is a national holiday in many countries. It has been defined by the United Nations as the “Day for women’s rights and international peace” since 1977. Few causes promoted by the UN have generated more intense and widespread support than that generated by the campaign to promote and protect women’s rights.

   It is now an established fact that in every part of the world women are in worse conditions than men. They have less power, less liberty, less money, more work and more responsibility. The UN’s researches indicate that the women in the world work about two-thirds of all the working hours. One of the few generalizations which is valid everywhere is that unpaid domestic work is considered as “women’s work”. Actually, it is hard and important work, which has for a long time been awaiting a just recognition and consideration by the institutions and the male population. In fact, still today domestic work is not considered “real work”, is unpaid and is taken for granted. Yet the value of women’s work only in the domestic sphere, if it were given an economic value, would increase the gross national product of the world by a third. And what about all those women in our western countries who, besides taking care of the children and looking after the house, have professional commitments or carry out a work activity in the office or the factory?

   In fact, the world is predominantly a world of men. Men hold the major positions of power, wealth and decision-making, thus reinforcing the domination of the masculine principle throughout society. From this point of view, ours is a seriously unbalanced world. This imbalance faces us with a crisis of extreme urgency. It is not that feminine or masculine characteristics are superior; they all have an equal value and are certainly complementary. The present human problems demonstrate the danger which arises when one of the two elements predominates and the other is suffocated and denied self-expression. The qualities closely related to masculinity are extolled and the systems with patriarchal values cultivate a sort of contempt for those qualities described as “yielding” or feminine. On the other hand, if we are to live in peace, care for the environment, protect the weak and undefended, choose as our priority tasks the satisfaction of the real human needs – in other words, if the human species is to survive and have the kind of world which we would like our children to inherit – this will happen because feminine values will have begun to gain weight. They are the values of compassion, of forgiveness, of cooperation, of the life of relationship and of justice with pity, values which constitute the key to our very survival.

   One of the most important changes which are improving the state of women in the world today is a better access to education. And it is undoubtedly very significant that the Ministers of Education of the nine most densely populated countries, Bangladesh, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Nigeria and Pakistan, reaffirmed at their fifth ministerial meeting, which took place in Cairo last December, their commitment to dealing with the educational needs of their respective populations and to wishing to collaborate more closely to reach the six goals fixed at the World Forum on Education held in Dakar, Senegal, in 2000. This renewed commitment is a fact of no little importance in the global process of spreading literacy, which is directed in primis to women and children, since in those nine countries, which constitute the so-called E-9 group, more than half the world population lives and it is estimated that it includes 70% of illiterate adults, especially women. In a declaration published shortly before the meeting in Cairo, the E-9 Ministers of Education highlighted the improvements obtained in their countries in the last four years, including an increase in enrolments and an improvement in the rate of enforcement of compulsory schooling (especially for women), but also recognized “they still had many challenges to face”, among others, poverty and “the unequal access to quality services by disadvantaged children, particularly girls”.

   Another observation should be made about the gap in education, which is certainly diminishing but is still significant. The first years of infancy are passed above all in the company of the mother or of other female relatives or helpers. These first years of life are the most easily influenced years and so the role of women on the future generation is very significant and their attitudes and their vision of the world are of critical importance for the education of the new generations. This social situation indicates clearly the evident necessity of intensifying the training process of girls and women, who are naturally in charge of carrying out such an important role in the development of the young.

   Today there is a tendency, at least in principle and particularly in the western countries, towards an egalitarian participation by men and women in social and institutional life. Numerous international agreements have  been negotiated by the United Nations to guarantee the equality of the sexes in areas such as political rights, employment, matrimonial rights and the concept of equal retribution for work of equal value. One result of these agreements is that most states (but not all) have included in their constitutions and their legislature the principle of equal rights between the sexes. This, however, is only the first step towards guaranteeing equal rights to women before the law. Now it is necessary to give substance to these principles, annulling those laws which allow discrimination to continue and promoting concrete programmes which support equality in an affirmative, open and declared way.

   From a pragmatic point of view, an important step towards this important goal has been the success which many women have had in gaining access to influential positions in the existing social structure, even though it must be recognized that this is only the beginning and that these women are still a small minority. The process of transformation of the feminine role is, however, in progress and is destined to have a profound effect on society. It is an extremely significant recognition, which has taken shape through the growing awareness of the need to balance male and female characteristics in society and that these two great psychological forces are in fact already present in every person. The masculinist picture of the hard and aggressive man is a stereotype which debases what a complete and balanced man should be. At the same time, the prospect of growth in the feminine world consists in having faith in exploring and maintaining the real feminine values and in finding the necessary strength and capacity to bring these values into every aspect of family and social life.

   Doing justice to the highest spirit of femininity, the women’s movement has transcended the illusion of being “anti-men” and is emerging as a movement for equality, life, peace and justice. The future which awaits us now largely depends on the voice of women as a voice which is finally listened to and taken into consideration. This new era depends, more than anything else, on the united action of women and men, on their reciprocal comprehension and on their working together creatively in a relationship of equality. In this frame of reference, the results are positive from all points of view: fullness of relationships in the family and in society;  balancing of all the qualities which constitute our human race and full utilization of its intellectual, moral and material resources for balanced social progress.

   One of the most beautiful thoughts, perhaps the most beautiful, which synthesizes poetically the absurd imbalance between the masculine and feminine role and which at the same time allows one to glimpse the beauty and fullness of a new equilibrium, is that expressed by the Russian writer Helena Roerich: “The flight of humanity’s spirit cannot be supported by a single wing”. Here is the synthesizing force of a poetical expression! Nothing else needs to be added, don’t you think?


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Next issue: 19 March.


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