Good News Agency – Year VII, n° 1



Weekly - Year VII, number 1 – 20 January 2006

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 2,800 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 in the web site



International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education

The Idea and the Future of the Earth Charter


International legislation



Canada becomes the first State to ratify the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions

December 22 2005, Canada has become the first State to ratify the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which was adopted by UNESCO’s General Conference last October. The Director-General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura, welcomed this first ratification of the new Convention. Stressing that “the defense of cultural diversity is at the core of the Organization’s mandate,” he recalled that “UNESCO has elaborated a range of standard-setting instruments to protect cultural diversity, to be found not only in tangible and intangible heritage, but also in contemporary forms of creativity.”

The result of a long process of maturation, including numerous meetings of independent and then governmental experts, the convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions seeks to reaffirm the links between culture, development and dialogue and to create an innovative platform for international cooperation. It follows UNESCO’s Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity adopted in 2001, which recognized cultural diversity as “a source of exchange, innovation and creativity”, a “common heritage of humanity” that “should be recognized and affirmed for the benefit of present and future generations.”

The new Convention reaffirms the sovereign right of States to elaborate cultural policies with a view “to protect and promote the diversity of cultural expressions and reinforce international cooperation” while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The Convention will enter into force three months after its ratification by 30 States Parties.



Human rights



Georgia: Government meets teachers' demands following rally

January 11 - A rally organised by EI affiliate the Educators and Scientists Free Trade Union of Georgia (ESFTUG) was successful in persuading the Parliament of Georgia to increase the funding of education during the budget discussion. 3000 teachers gathered in Tbilisi on 13th December, marching to the parliament. Regional representatives spoke of their problems and demanded that the government meet them. After the rally, the Georgian Minister of Education & Science invited ESFTUG to discuss their demands. The results of this 3 hour meeting were: the minister promised that no school would be closed without prior consultation with, and consent of, trade union organisations; funding of schools will now be determined according to the needs of individual schools; a joint committee will be established to investigate ways of ensuring an adequate pension for those teachers who have reached retirement age.

Shortly after the rally, the Ministry of Finance allocated additional funding for the education sector with the provision within the 2006 budget for raising further sums.

While welcoming these developments, Manana Gurchumelidze, General Secretary of ESFTUG emphasised that the union is “determined to continue our efforts to provide our teachers with normal working conditions, adequate wages and well-deserved pensions.”


Baha'is honor champion of human rights

London, 3 January (BWNS) -- A former British parliamentarian, Sydney Chapman, received the inaugural Blomfield Award for Human Rights at a ceremony organized by the United Kingdom Baha'i community's national governing council and the Barnet Baha'i community.

The Baha'is of the United Kingdom have established the Blomfield Award -- named after Lady Blomfield, a prominent early British Baha'i -- to present to individuals in British public life who have offered consistent and exceptional support towards the defence of Baha'is in countries where they are persecuted for their religious faith, notably in Iran.  (…)


Sierra Leone / Liberia: 15 families reunited

December 23, 2005 - On 21 December the ICRC reunited 15 Liberian minors with relatives, several years after armed conflict forced them to flee into Sierra Leone, where they lost contact with those at home. Aged between nine and 19, the youngsters lived with foster families in various refugee camps in Sierra Leone. Once the long process of tracing loved ones was complete, they were taken from the camps by road to Freetown and then flown aboard an ICRC aircraft to Monrovia and Voinjama in Liberia, where relatives were waiting for them. For the first time in many years they will be able to spend Christmas with family.

Since the hostilities in Sierra Leone ended in 2002, the ICRC has reunited more than 2,300 minors from Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire with their immediate families or closest remaining relatives in West Africa.



Economy and development



World Social Forum: Critiquing the neoliberal agenda

January 17 (e-Civicus) - The African leg of the World Social Forum (WSF) will be held 19-23 January 2006 in the Malian capital, Bamako. With a host of issues on the agenda including war and militarism, global trade and debt. However, organisers plan to ensure that key development issues such as HIV/AIDS, human rights, democracy and governance will also be discussed in a broader perspective. For more information, visit


UN envoy says South Asian Trade Pact is a boon for Least Developed Countries

New York, 3 January  - The United Nations envoy for the world’s vulnerable countries, Anwarul K. Chowdhury, has hailed the entry into force of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) agreement as a boon to the region’s four Least Developed Countries – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal. SAFTA, which became operational on 1 January 2006, is an agreement between members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, who also include India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. “SAFTA’s recognition of the special needs of LDCs as deserving preferential treatment is an outstanding example of the role regional trade arrangements can play in assisting weaker countries to overcome their vulnerabilities and reap the full benefits of economic integration,” he said. “The agreement will boost the exports of the four LDCs, reinforcing their poverty reduction efforts and propelling them to sustainable development.”

The agreement requires member countries to reduce their tariffs on products from the four LDCs to between zero and five percent within three years, compared to a time-frame of seven years for the other members. It calls upon the member countries to give technical support to the four LDCs to expand their trade with other SAFTA countries. The agreement also urges other SAFTA members to take direct trade measures, such as concluding long and medium-term contracts that enhance sustainable exports from the four LDCs. (…)


New US$15 million IFAD loan to assist the rural poor in Falcon and Lara States of Venezuela

Rome, 29 December 2005 – Poor farmers and wage-worker families living in 28 micro-watersheds in the Falcon and Lara states will benefit from a new development project in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.  The US$23 million Sustainable Rural Development Project for the Semi-Arid Zones of Falcon and Lara states (PROSALAFA II), will be co-financed by a US$15 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and US$4 million from the Andean Development Corporation (CAF). The Government of Venezuela will provide US$3 million and project beneficiaries will contribute US$1 million. (…)

At least 27 percent of project resources will be used for the rehabilitation and conservation of micro-watersheds, helping to promote the sustainable use of natural resources. The project will launch training and environmental education programmes geared towards providing a better understanding of the importance of existing natural resources. The project will also support soil and water conservation measures, an incremental water supply for drinking and agricultural production as well as a more efficient use of semi-arid rangelands for goat-raising. In addition, the project will assist small entrepreneurs, rural youth and groups of small farmers through training, capacity-building, natural resource management and technical assistance services. (…)


US$29.3 million IFAD loan will empower remote rural households in China

Rome, 16 December 2005 – A new development programme will benefit more than 300,000 poor rural households in China’s South Gansu Province. The US$81.0 million programme will be financed partly by a US$29.2 million loan from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). The Government of China will contribute US$31.9 million. An additional US$4.7 million grant will be provided by the World Food Programme. (…)

The programme will create the basis for economic production by promoting irrigation, terracing and tree planting to arrest soil degradation and increase agricultural output. It will also improve infrastructure, ensuring better access to clean drinking water, health services, education and financial services. Through training and capacity building, the programme will help rural poor people increase production of both on and off-farm activities, and increase their food security. Literacy classes and skills training will enable women and girls to become active decision-makers and confident borrowers, helping them generate more income. (…)






Voices Against Poverty: Say “No Excuses!”

January 17 (e-Civicus) - To raise awareness of the world's commitment to end poverty, the United Nations Millennium Campaign has produced a global media initiative entitled "Only with your Voice". The campaign urges people to insist "no excuses, promises must be met" and become a friend of the Campaign by signing the Millennium Campaign Pledge. For further details, see

The Norwegian MDG Campaign

January 17 (e-Civicus) - The Norwegian MDG Campaign has kick-started its 2006 campaign with the slogan "Et løfte er et løfte - Keep the promise". The word "Løfte" ("promise") will serve as the essence of the campaign which will especially address families with children under the age of 12. The Norwegian MDG Campaign was launched in 2004, spearheaded by UNICEF, the UN Association, UNDP Nordic Office and FK Norway. For more information, see:


CCF assists famine stricken areas in Kenya

January 13 - Christian Children’s Fund (CCF) is assisting families in drought stricken areas of Kenya with provision of water, food and essential items such as clothing, jerry cans and utensils. In addition, CCF is continuing its ongoing program of deep well drilling to lessen the effects of the drought and resulting famine.

Kenya has been experiencing a prolonged drought in most areas since late 2004, and the drought is projected to continue well into 2006. The result of the prolonged drought is famine which now has affected 10 percent of Kenya’s population; that number is expected to increase significantly during February and March, which are traditionally extremely hot, dry months in Kenya. Nine out of 22 semi-arid and arid districts are the most severely affected. Deaths as a result of the famine are being reported. As the drought and famine continue, it is expected that without increased intervention, children will drop out of school and deaths among the most vulnerable (children, expectant mothers and the elderly) will increase. (…)


Government of Japan provides US$2.256 million to Liberia’s children

Monrovia, Liberia, 12 January  -- The Government of Japan has contributed US$2.256 million to UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, to protect Liberian children from infectious diseases, including malaria and acute respiratory infections. (…)

The funding is targeted to provide Expanded Programme of Immunization (EPI) services to more than 450,000 Liberian children and will fund training and supplies to strengthen the capacity of health care workers at the community level to treat and prevent childhood illnesses. To protect children from malaria, long lasting insecticide treated bed nets will be distributed to every child under the age of five and to all pregnant women in Lofa, Grand Gedeh, and Maryland counties. Pregnant women in the three counties will also be targeted to receive two-doses of the ant-malarial drug sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine.(…)


Gates Foundation grants two Africare food security projects

Washington, January 10  -- Africare is pleased to announce receipt of two generous grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which will support responses to drought and food crises in Niger and Zimbabwe. Funding in the amount of $1,022,686.00 will go toward two critical emergency programs which will address drought resistance crop production in both Niger (Improve Agriculture Production and Natural Resource Management) and Zimbabwe (Gokwe Integrated Recovery Action (GIRA)).

The provision of funding for two independent projects will energize Africare’s longstanding commitment to empowering communities throughout Africa. Two separate proposals were submitted to the Global Health Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in a very competitive pool for project funding. These awards will span the period of December 1, 2005 through June 1, 2007. (…)

Africare developed in 1970 in response to a severe West African drought that plagued Niger and neighboring countries in the Sahel. Since its formation, Africare has demonstrated the same vigor in emergency responses and long-term sustainable development. (…)


ADRA receives nearly $15,000 from Hamburg Church in Pennsylvania

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, January 10 -The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) received a generous donation of $14,749 from the Hamburg Community Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hamburg, Pennsylvania, as part of their annual Christmas offering to benefit ADRA projects. (…) The money will be used in a variety of projects listed in ADRA’s Original Really Useful Gift Catalog, an annual catalog produced by ADRA. (…)

Some of the projects chosen by the Hamburg Church include medical kits for a ADRA health center in the Philippines, providing access to clean water for a village of 40 families in Somalia, distributing emergency relief supplies for typhoon and flood survivors in Vietnam, and sending children to school in the Philippines.

ADRA is present in 125 countries, providing community development and emergency management without regard to political or religious association, age, or ethnicity.


2005: Record year of EU contributions to WFP

WFP's operation in Pakistan is the latest to receive a contribution from the European Commission

Brussels, 30 December 2005 - With a contribution of a 4 million euros from the European Commission Humanitarian Office (ECHO) for Pakistan today, the European Commission (EC) has provided its largest contribution since 1992 – some 214 million euros - to WFP operations around the globe in its effort to save lives and feed the hungry poor. (…)

The EC has been instrumental in helping WFP to alleviate hunger in more than 28 poor countries across the world where hundreds of thousands of people were threatened by starvation during a year of intense man-made and natural catastrophes. (…) As in previous years, the EU has again been a strong supporter of WFP in Uganda, Southern Sudan and Eritrea, to name only a few of the crises that do not make everyday headlines.

The European Commission is the second largest donor to WFP, but its contribution goes beyond the signing of a cheque. (…)

2005 has been the most challenging year the humanitarian world has faced since World War II, with disasters affecting tens of millions of people across the developing world like the Indian Ocean Tsunami, drought and locusts in Niger, the continuing conflict in Darfur, the hurricanes Katrina and Stan, and finally the devastating earthquake in Pakistan. There is little reason to think that the challenges in 2006 for the humanitarian and development community will not again be immense. (…)


Save the Children receives $500,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation for South Asia earthquake response

Westport, CT, USA, December 21, 2005 – Save the Children today announced that it has received a 1-year, $500,000 grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation to address the long-term recovery needs of families, with an emphasis on women and children, affected by the October earthquake that struck Pakistan and India. This is one of four grants that the Hilton Foundation has made to help the Pakistan earthquake victims, bringing its total commitment for the South Asia earthquake to $1.2 million. (…)

Based in Los Angeles , the Hilton Foundation was created in 1944 by the late hotel entrepreneur and business leader, Conrad N. Hilton, who left his fortune to the foundation with instructions to help the most disadvantaged and vulnerable throughout the world without regard to religion, ethnicity or geography. (…)


"Age of Connectivity" - Caring Communities for the 21st Century: Imagining the Possible
10 February 2006, International Conference   10am - 6pm   UN Headquarters, New York

The quantity of life change has become a quality of life challenge! Join experts from the fields of urban planning and development, information and communication technologies, finance, government, business, and health,  to discuss and exchange ideas. As part of a series of Interlinked Congresses addressing the "Age of  Longevity" held in cities around the world, this conference is organized in coordination with the United Nations Programme for Human Settlements (UN-Habitat), UN Programme on Ageing, Department of Economic and Social
Affairs, Department of Public Information, NGOs, and the private  sector.  The Conference is in support of the Commission for Social  Development and highlights the winning projects of the 2005 ICT Student Design Competition. (…)

Keynote Speaker: Mr. Kim Hak-Su (invited), Under-Secretary-General.Executive Director, United Nations Economic and Social Council of Asia  and Pacific (ESCAP). Co-Chairs: Dean Fadi Deek, Professor of Information Systems and  Mathematical Science, College of Science and Liberal Arts, New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) and Dr. Michael Gurstein, Clinical  Professor, School of Management, New Jersey Institute of Technology ( NJIT), Chair, Community Informatics Research  Network. (…)

Registration Deadline 3 February 2006:



Peace and security



Overview of ITF donations received and memorandum of understanding signed in Dec. 2005

January 5 - In December 2005 ITF received four donations in total amount 3.200.319,64 USD.  On 13 December 2005 United Nations Development Program donated funds earmarked for ITF demining activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) in amount 340.000,92  EUR. On 16 December 2005 BiH (Ministry of  Treasury) donated funds earmarked for ITF structure support in amount 2.200.000,00 USD. On 23 December 2005 Walnut Creek donated funds earmarked for ITF demining activities in BiH in amount 2.512,81 USD.  On 30 December 2005 Austria (Austrian Development Agency) donated funds earmarked also for ITF demining activities in BiH in amount 500.000,00 EUR. In year 2005 ITF raised 27.785.654,66 USD of donations. On 20 December 2005 ITF signed Agreement with Austrian Development Agency in amount of 500.000,00 EUR – funds are earmarked for ITF demining activities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. (…)

International Trust Fund For Demining and Mine Victims Assistance (ITF) is a humanitarian, non-profit organization devoted to eradication of the landmines from the ground in the region of South-Eastern Europe and the world.


A unique approach to mine risk reduction: Azerbaijan’s “Safe Play Areas”

Author: Kendrah Jespersen

Baku, Azerbaijan, 19 December 2005 -  Fifteen new “Safe Play Areas” opened in the past month in some of Azerbaijan’s most mine-affected communities. These playground areas, built to provide a mine-free place for children to play safely and to promote mine risk reduction messages, were built and designed by community volunteers in a unique initiative by the ICRC and local branches of the Azerbaijan National Red Crescent Society. (…)

The “Safe Play Area” project is a unique ICRC initiative that involves engaging communities and local Red Crescent Society volunteers in the planning, design, construction and maintenance of children’s playgrounds in mine-affected communities located close to Azerbaijan’s frontline areas. These playgrounds provide an alternative safe place to play for children who are otherwise often restricted to their own yards, or else venture into open fields and places where there is a high risk of encountering a mine. This project has been implemented with the intention of moving beyond traditional mine risk education (MRE) methods such as posters, stickers and booklets which can sometimes fail in their effectiveness or loose their sense of importance over time. (…)


European Commission provides €8 million for victims of crises in Northern and Southern Caucasus (EU)

13 December 2005 - The European Commission has adopted two new humanitarian aid decisions totalling €8 million for victims of the ongoing crises in Chechnya (€6 million) and Georgia (€2 million). In Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, this decision finances the distribution of basic and supplementary food for the most vulnerable people, supports primary education and vocational training as well as psychological assistance for people, especially children, affected by war-related trauma. It also provides mine-risk education

The first aid package will complement the previous decision for victims of the conflict in Chechnya. The recipients will include internally displaced persons (IDPs) and vulnerable groups in Chechnya as well as IDPs in Ingushetia and Dagestan. The second aid package will support the most vulnerable people in Western Georgia, in particular those affected by the unresolved conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia.

Funds are being allocated via the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Department (ECHO) under the responsibility of Commissioner Louis Michel and will be channelled through international agencies operating in the region. (…)


The Amahoro (Peace) Coalition Open Center

Appeal for an Open Center for Peace and Reconciliation !

TFF Amahoro (Peace) Coalition in Burundi, December 6, 2005 - Twelve of the best Burundian NGOs - youth, women, teachers, media, scholars, former militaries, etc - have joined forces to set up the first ever learning center in support of one of the world's most promising - but internationally unknown - peace processes.

Competent and experienced, they will foster peace and improve life among their 7 million fellow citizens in Burundi, the world's third materially poorest country with so much talent and energy. Burundi must be rewarded for having recognised in earnest that war is rubbish and peace is realistic and possible. This is your 2006 people-to-people peace project. It's a TFF-initiated project. Do something positive today: read, spread the message and donate! Even the smallest support will make a huge difference.

Burundi - Isn't it time we rewarded this country for its peace process?  When someone wants to start a war, there are always arms dealers standing ready. Seemingly unlimited resources are made available. When people decide to put war behind them, media pays no attention and wealthy governments ignore them unless, that is, it is a "strategically important” country. Burundi is another name for one of the world's most impressive and promising peace processes. A good story. But it doesn't receive a fraction of the small humanitarian aid it needs; more and more Burundian are starving - as can be seen from some of the news articles below.

TFF is one of the few organisations that follow and support the peace process in Burundi - through 12 fine civil society organisations in the country. You can read much more here, at our Burundi Forum.






Helen Keller International exceeds vitamin A supplementation goal

Conakry, Guinea, January 5 – Helen Keller International (HKI) exceeded its goal for vitamin A supplementation in Guinea, reaching more than 2 million children from November 10-13, 2005.  The days were part of the country’s second national vitamin A distribution campaign, which targeted children from six months to five years old using an innovative door-to-door strategy.  First Lady of Guinea Madame Henriette Conte launched the campaign in Conakry with representatives from HKI, UNICEF and the World Health Organization in attendance.

This most recent campaign coincided with the fourth National Immunization Days for the eradication of polio and received great support at both the national and local levels. (…)

A recent HKI study in sub-Saharan Africa showed that 42.4% of children under five are at risk of vitamin A deficiency, though as many as 65% are at risk in some regions of Guinea.  Vitamin A supplementation has been proven to reduce under-five child mortality by 25% to 35%, saving the lives of over 645,000 children per year.  HKI set and ambitious target to reach 1.9 million Guinean children with supplements and exceeded that goal by reaching more than 2 million. (…)


Rotary members begin the New Year by protecting children from polio in India

Evanston, Illinois, USA, 2 January — Over the holidays, Canadian and US Rotary members prepared for their trips to India, where they will help immunize approximately 75 million children against polio — a crippling and sometimes fatal disease that still threatens children in parts of Asia and Africa.

The Rotary members — all contributing their personal resources to cover trip expenses — will depart for India on or around January 5, and will return toward the end of the month. While in India, the volunteers will participate in an intense vaccination campaign with the goal of immunizing every child under the age of five against polio in the northern states of India, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. They will systematically go house-to-house and village-to-village, to administer the drops of the oral polio vaccine children.

India is one of three countries in Asia and only six in the world classified as polio-endemic (Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nigeria, Niger and Egypt). India, which once held more than 70% of the global burden of polio cases, could be polio-free within the next six months, having only reported 57 cases so far in 2005. (…)

Through Rotary International, the fight against polio has been largely driven by volunteers. Never before have individual volunteers and the influence of the private sector played such a core role in a global public health effort. "Rotary and its 1.2 million volunteers worldwide is an integral part of the global polio eradication effort. It is this volunteer network that is at the heart of Rotary's role in the global effort to eradicate polio. Rotarians are making a difference — whether that be in collectively committing well over US$600 million to the effort, or participating in immunization campaigns in the remaining polio-affected countries." Dr LEE, Jong-wook, Director-General, World Health Organization. (…)


Pakistan: Relief work continues despite poor weather

January 3 - After being grounded for two days by torrential rains in Muzaffarabad, in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, ICRC helicopters were able to take to the air on 3 January and re-supply basic health-care units in Cham, Pathika and Chinari.

ICRC medical teams reported that many tents in villages and settlements had collapsed under the weight of rain and snow when the bad weather set in on 1 January. No major increase in the number of patients coming to the basic health-care units with illnesses related to the cold weather has yet been observed. However, it is expected that many patients will arrive in the coming days should the cold snap continue, as forecast. (…)

On a happier note, a baby girl was born in a basic health-care unit run by the German Red Cross in the afternoon of 2 January. Both mother and daughter were fine and went home before nightfall.


Two new malaria treatments available in 2006

First medicines developed by Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDi) will be easier to use and less expensive than current ACTs, but action is needed to make sure the treatments reach patients. 

Washington, DC, 13 December 2005 - Two new, non-patented malaria treatments will be available in the global fight against the disease by the second half of 2006, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) announced today at 54th annual American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (ASTMH) Conference. (…)

DNDi's innovative FACT Project (fixed-dose, artemisinin-based combination therapy) has brought together academic, public and private partners from around the world to address the need for more effective tools to battle malaria. These two new ACTs are the first medicines developed by DNDi since its inception in 2003. (…)



Energy and safety



Green Power 5 - Development & Management of Resources and Energy Security

International Conference on Sustainable Power Development - IndiaCore, Council of Power Utilities and World Energy Council 2-3 February 2006, New Delhi, India

January 17 (e-Civicus) - This biennial conference focuses on sustainable energy development. Green Power 5 will explore the latest, most relevant technologies and examine them in the context of current and future energy requirements while addressing the concerns related to energy security. It will analyse the numerous benefits of adopting these technologies even while it provides a realistic framework for incorporating them. For more information, visit



Environment and wildlife



Will 2006: Environment is a trade union priority

Brussels, 16 January (ICFTU Online) - The World Trade Union Assembly on Labour and the Environment was officially opened on Sunday 15 January in Nairobi, at the head office of UNEP. Trade unions from all over the world are debating the best ways to engage in concrete action in the struggle for a sustainable environment.

This meeting - a joint initiative of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Sustainlabour and the Varda group - brings together more than 160 trade unionists from all over the world. Non-government organisations and employer representatives have also been invited to
take part. The primary objective of the meeting is to ensure more effective trade union action on the environment. Three working days have been set aside to review concrete case studies of practical initiatives in the sixty-odd countries represented in Nairobi.

The debates cover a range of topics such as corporate social responsibility, health and safety at work and trade union action for equitable and sustainable access to resources and services, along with climate change and energy policies, their mitigation and adaptation measures and their consequences on labour.  Campaign action on asbestos and AIDS also features on the agenda. The conclusions of this extensive programme is expected to result, on Tuesday morning, in a series of recommendations and concrete trade union actions. (…)


Rotary at work in Nigeria: “Improvement of Maternal Health – Prevention and Treatment of Obstetric Fistula”

A project of the “Rotarian Action Group for Population & Development”(RFPD)

The Rotarian Action Group for Population & Development was founded in 1996 and has 20.000 members worldwide, about half of them each in developing and developed countries. RFPD creates awareness and takes action on population issues through Rotary Clubs, Rotaract Clubs (Rotarian youth) and Inner Wheel clubs (spouses).

With a project called “Improvement of Maternal Health –Prevention and Treatment of Obstetric Fistula” in Kaduna and Kano State, Nigeria, amounting to one million Euros,  the Rotarian Action Group (RFPD) contributes to the UN-Millenium Development Goals. The target group includes approximately 5 million women of child-bearing age and their families. In a comprehensive approach maternal mortality, which is unusually high in these areas of Nigeria, will be reduced. At the same time the project tackles the increasing fistula problem in developing countries, the “Leprosy of the 21st Century” as it is called.

The general project “Improvement of Matermal Health” started in July 2005 and is supposed to be completed by June 2008. Info: Prof. Dr. Robert Zinser,


Liberia: UN envoy hails youth participants in clean-up campaign

14 January – The senior United Nations envoy for Liberia today praised thousands of the country's youth who have participated in a campaign to clean up Monrovia ahead of Monday's historic inauguration of President-elect Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Alan Doss made his comments at a ceremony in the capital which marked the culmination of a 10-day exercise called “Youth in Action,” involving nearly 4,000 young volunteers who helped beautify the city through a massive clean-up effort. “Several years ago you might have carried guns, but you put them down and you picked up spades” Mr. Doss told participants. “It is these spades which will rebuild this country. It is you that will rebuild this country.”

Over the past ten days, the young volunteers removed more than 250 truckloads of garbage, brushed and painted roadsides, patched potholes and repainted many buildings, bridges and road signs throughout the capital, according to the UN peacekeeping mission in the country (UNMIL), which provided logistical support.

In its own efforts to help clean-up Monrovia, UNMIL has removed over 100 wrecked vehicles from the roadsides, repaired potholes, removed nearly 200 truckloads of trash, and made repairs to Roberts International Airport and other vital infrastructure. (…)


WWF associate organization signs sustainable tourism agreement in Patagonia

Buenos Aires, Argentina, 6 January – WWF's associate organization, Fundación Vida Silvestre Argentina (FVSA), has signed a cooperation agreement with local authorities to promote conservation in the United Nations-protected Valdés Peninsula in the Patagonia region of Argentina. The cooperation agreement — signed with Argentina’s Chubut Province and the Península Valdés Natural Protected Area Administration — seeks to implement a sustainable tourism plan for the protected area, including the establishment of a visitors centre at the whale watching town of Puerto Pirámide. (…)

In September 2005, FVSA acquired 7,360ha of the San Pablo de Valdés wildlife reserve, which includes 12km of pristine coastline. The acquisition gives FVSA access to management decisions in the nearby Valdés Peninsula coastal and marine protected area and UNESCO World Heritage site. (…)

Peninsula Valdés is marked by its vibrant coastlines, a stunning array of tall cliffs, rocky reef and exotic marine mammals, including the southern elephant seal, sea lion, southern right whale, and Magellan penguins. The area is also home to more than 60 species of birds, as well as several species of terrestrial mammals, such as the grey fox, guanaco, and mara. (…)



Religion and spirituality



US Seminar: Faith and Social Responsibility
Washington, United States, 15 December 2005 (BWNS) -- Suheil Bushrui, the holder of the Baha'i Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland, participated in a seminar on "Faith and Social Responsibility" with His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales last month. Held at Georgetown University on 3 November 2005, the seminar brought together 40 senior religious leaders and scholars from various faiths. The purpose of the event was for faith leaders to discuss best practices on faith-based practical initiatives on employment, education, and community regeneration. 
The seminar featured a round table discussion in the presence of Prince Charles, who was visiting the United States. Seminar moderators were Dr. Jane McAuliffe, Dean of Georgetown College, and Professor John Esposito of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. During the exchange of ideas, Professor Bushrui said that although beliefs and social ordinances differ among faith traditions, all the religions are fundamentally united. (…)

Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in America, was founded in 1789 by Archbishop John Carroll. (…) Source: Bahá'í International Community (For a story on Professor Bushrui, see: )



Culture and education



Human Rights Advocates Programme

Centre for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University, August - December 2006, New York, USA - Application Deadline: 28 February 2006

January 17 (e-Civicus) - This programme brings human rights leaders from the Global South and marginalised communities in the U.S. to Columbia University to engage national and international policymakers on impacts of the global economy on their communities. In order to advocate more effectively, HRAP builds crucial skills for strategic planning, fundraising, utilising the press and media, and building sustainable organisations. During their residency, the Advocates are given numerous opportunities to engage NGOs, corporations, governments, foundations, the United Nations, and international financial institutions. For more information, visit


Tsunami, one year later—School for International Training and Sarvodaya launch Master’s Program

January 5 - Responding to the needs of communities affected by damage from the December 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, World Learning’s School for International Training (SIT) has collaborated with Sarvodaya—one of Sri Lanka’s most respected development NGO’s--to offer a one-year service-learning Master of Arts in Sustainable Development. Based entirely in Sri Lanka, the program is designed to provide a 12-month M.A. degree in sustainable development while contributing to the recovery efforts of local communities.

SIT has long been a provider of innovative experientially-based Masters programs designed to develop global citizens with knowledge and skills required to be effective change agents. Sarvodaya is a leading NGO in the sustainable development field. World Learning CEO, Carol Bellamy, commented, “at a time when educational institutions are being challenged to contribute to society, this program stands out. Students will acquire a world class education, while also contributing to the rebuilding efforts.”

The M.A. program begins this week, with 22 students from 14 U.S. states, 1 from Washington DC, and 4 students from Sri Lanka set to participate. (…)


Newport doctor will return to Pakistan with film crew to show aid efforts there after October quake.

By Michael Miller

January 4 - Salman Naqvi has ventured to Pakistan twice in the last three months, witnessing firsthand the devastation that an earthquake brought to the country. In October, the Newport Beach physician spent eight days in a medical tent, treating any patients who walked in; just before New Year's, he returned to visit tent villages where survivors were huddling in the winter chill. Later this month, Naqvi is heading to his country of birth again -- and this time, he's taking the world along for the ride. Naqvi, 43, who runs his own pulmonary and critical-care practice, will venture to Pakistan on Jan. 23 with a documentary film crew sponsored by Relief International. The film, narrated by actor Ben Kingsley, is part of a larger series that Relief International is planning on natural disasters around the world. Naqvi will assist the crew as a translator, consultant and liaison with Pakistani authorities. "There's a lot left to do, but hopefully we've started something that will progress into something big," the Irvine resident said about his work in the ravaged country.

In December, Relief International -- a Los Angeles-based organization that sponsored Naqvi's previous trips to Pakistan -- hosted a party in Beverly Hills with Naqvi, Kingsley and film director Richard Attenborough in attendance. Relief International had recently launched the Gandhi Project, in which aid workers screened Attenborough's 1982 film "Gandhi" in Palestinian schools and refugee camps to teach them about nonviolence.

With the Gandhi Project accelerating, Relief International opted to begin a film series of its own. Public relations director Jennifer Norris said the final results would be short documentaries, about a half an hour in length, that the agency would market to public television stations. At the party, Naqvi met Kingsley and Attenborough and agreed to participate in the film project. (…)


Free computer courses lead to jobs

Banjul, The Gambia, 1 January (BWNS) -- A graduation ceremony last month has boosted the number of computer graduates from classes offered free by the local Baha'i community to more than 900. Since 1998, the Baha'is have arranged the classes to help people who cannot otherwise obtain computer skills to get a job.  Students have ranged from teenagers to the middle-aged, and include both men and women, said local Baha'i spokesman Faramarz Shams. Many graduates use their newly-gained skills in jobs that they have obtained after completing the courses, Mr. Shams said. "The students come from the Islamic, Christian, and Baha'i communities and include teachers, students, and business people," he said. The courses, offered at basic and advanced levels, usually involve two sessions of two hours per week for three months. The teachers are Gambian Baha'is and Baha'i youth volunteers from the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The country's only television station and both its major newspapers regularly cover the graduation ceremonies. On 18 December 2005, 56 students received their graduation certificates.


Transcend Peace University -March Semester 2006

Johan Galtung, the Rector of TPU and one of the founders of peace studies, invites you to join practitioners and students from around the world on-line.

With faculty and Course Directors drawn from amongst the leading scholars and practitioners in their fields internationally, TPU is the world's first truly global, on-line Peace University designed for government and NGO practitioners, policy makers and students at any level working in the fields of peace, conflict transformation, development and global issues. Since 1996 450+
on-site skills institutes have been offered for 9,000+ participants around the world, using the TRANSCEND manual "Conflict Transformation by Peaceful Means," published by the United Nations. In the 2006 March Semester TPU will offer 32 courses (posted on the web site).

Starting date: March 20, 2006. Ending date: June 15, 2006



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by Vicky Rossi – TFF Peace Antenna


Peace Antenna Interview with Mr Federico Mayor Zaragoza, Earth Charter Commissioner, Chairman, Fundación Cultura de Paz, former Director-General of UNESCO. Rossi interviewed Federico Mayor at the Earth Charter +5 Conference, Amsterdam, 7-9 November 2005.


Background to the creation of the Earth Charter

The idea of creating a new charter to promote the fundamental principles for sustainable development was declared by the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987. However, despite the impetus of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, the drafting of the Earth Charter remained incomplete. In response to this delay, in 1994 Maurice Strong, the secretary general of the Earth Summit and chairman of the Earth Council, joined together with Mikhail Gorbachev, founding president of Green Cross International, to launch a new Earth Charter initiative. In 1997 an Earth Charter Commission was created to oversee the initiative and an Earth Charter Secretariat began work within the Earth Council in Costa Rica.

Contributions from individuals and organisations, from experts and grassroots communities, were compiled by the Earth Charter Commission's drafting committee and finally approved at a meeting in the UNESCO HQ, in Paris, in March 2000. On 29 June 2000, the Earth Charter was officially launched at the Peace Palace in The Hague. Its mission is to establish "an ethical foundation for the emerging world community" and "to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace."

The Earth Charter has 4 main principles/pillars, each of which has 4 sub-principles:

1) Respect and Care for the Community of Life

i) Respect Earth and life in all its diversity.

ii) Care for the community of life with understanding, compassion and love.

iii) Build democratic societies that are just, participatory, sustainable, and peaceful.

iv) Secure Earth's bounty and beauty for present and future generations.

2) Ecological Integrity

i) Protect and restore the integrity of Earth's ecological systems, with special concern for biological diversity and the natural processes that sustain life.

ii) Prevent harm as the best method of environmental protection and, when knowledge is limited, apply a precautionary approach.

iii) Adopt patterns of production, consumption, and reproduction that safeguard Earth's regenerative capacities, human rights and community well-being.

iv) Advance the study of ecological sustainability and promote the open exchange and wide application of the knowledge acquired.

3) Social and Economic Justice

i) Eradicate poverty as an ethical, social and environmental imperative.

ii) Ensure that economic activities and institutions at all levels promote human development in an equitable and sustainable manner.

iii) Affirm gender equality and equity as prerequisites to sustainable development and ensure universal access to education, health care and economic opportunity.

iv) Uphold the right of all, without discrimination, to a natural and social environment supportive of human dignity, bodily health and spiritual well-being, with special attention to the rights of indigenous peoples and minorities.

4) Democracy, Non-violence and Peace

i) Strengthen democratic institutions at all levels and provide transparency and accountability in governance, inclusive participation in decision-making and access to justice.

ii) Integrate into formal education and life-long learning the knowledge, values and skills needed for a sustainable way of life.

iii) Treat all living beings with respect and consideration.

iv) Promote a culture of tolerance, non-violence and peace.


Earth Charter +5 Conference, Amsterdam, 7-9 November 2005

On the occasion of the Earth Charter +5 conference held at the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, 7-9 November, I spoke to the former Director-General of UNESCO (1987-1999) Mr Federico Mayor, one of the Earth Charter Commissioners and Chairman of the Fundación Cultura de Paz.


Vicky Rossi: How would you summarize the ethos and intention behind the Earth Charter?


Federico Mayor: The Earth Charter is the final result of a big disappointment because we were working very, very hard in the year 1992 for the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro on sustainable development and particularly on the environment. We must take into account now that we have an environment and that we must transfer this environment and this Earth that we are utilising to the next generations. We realised that that was not the case, so we prepared - I can assure you - one of the best UN summits that has ever been prepared. We were working very hard and very late, and we were drafting documents related to the soil, the oceans, the air - everything was taken into account.

   As you know, Agenda 21 contains all sorts of excellent recommendations, but we realised, when leaving Rio de Janeiro, that the United Nations was not really taken into account. After the end of the Cold War there was a dynamic aimed at not reinforcing the United Nations, but rather keeping the UN as it was, and instead creating things like the G7 and G8. At the time, we had the feeling - I say "we" as I was Director-General of UNESCO then - that we must take the excellent guidelines of Agenda 21 and reflect on these main points in one topic through what could be a World Council on Earth. Particularly in order that the education of the children, but also education at different levels, could transmit the essence - let us put it this way - of Rio de Janeiro. And this was done.

   Maurice Strong, who was at that time also the secretary general of the Summit in Rio de Janeiro, created the Earth Council in Costa Rica. Then different people were asked to participate in the drafting of what is now the Earth Charter: Mikhail Gorbachev, who at that time was President of the Green Cross, was requested to participate; so too was Ruud Lubbers, who was then the Prime Minister of this country - the Netherlands - and also very supportive of the Green Cross; then of course UNESCO was asked to participate because we were one of the leaders - we have the Oceanographic Commission, for example, we have hydrologic programmes, we have so many projects related to what is now the Earth Charter. So those are the origins of the Earth Charter. We wanted to provide the world with the essence of the Rio World Summit.


Vicky Rossi: You made reference to a World Council, where would you place the Earth Charter Initiative in terms of its similarities and differences vis-à-vis the World Wisdom Council of the Club of Budapest or the World Future Council?


Federico Mayor: We consider that we must be seen to be those who have produced this particular tool, but we do not want to have any kind of "structure", although that is valid for the Club of Budapest. I have even suggested that the Culture of Peace concept should also be brought in. The same goes for declarations like the Declaration of Human Rights. Otherwise, we give the impression that we are the "sellers" of this one document. No, no, no. If we are the sellers of anything, it is of the ideas that lie behind the Charter and these ideas are things like human dignity, respect for all other persons, respect for nature, equality and solidarity. These are the important things.

   Today, at the session of the Earth Charter Commission, at the proposal of Steven Rockefeller, it was decided not to change the preamble to the Earth Charter because we consider that it really gives three or four elements for general awareness raising and, in particular, for those who are in power, that are essential for good governance: that is, you must be responsible, you must realise that in this world we are all in the same boat.


Vicky Rossi: Would you say, then, that the Earth Charter is in essence a Charter of Human Duties and Responsibilities similar to the "The Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities" by the InterAction Council, the "Trieste Declaration of Human Duties" (also known as the "Carta of Human Duties") by the International Council of Human Duties and the very comprehensive "Declaration of Duties and Human Responsibilities" by the Valencia Third Millennium Foundation?


Federico Mayor: Of all the documents that I am currently familiar with, I think that there are two which are particularly related to human responsibilities such as those outlined in the Valencia Third Millennium Foundation Declaration. One of them is the Earth Charter because it emphasises that we must respect each other and we must always have in mind the human race. The Charter says that we are "committed" to doing certain things and this, in my view, is the strongest expression of responsibility. I am "committed", not I am aware or I am involved. I am "committed".

   Let's look at the Earth Charter preamble itself, which I think is very important. Here you have the mission. It says, "We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a Culture of Peace." But then it says that in order to fulfil these four broad commitments, it is necessary to….. These are the commitments (pointing to the 4 main principles/pillars of the Earth Charter) - and this is the action (pointing to the sub-principles below each of the 4 main pillars). So, each of us must behave in such a way that we "respect Earth and life in all its diversity", "care for the community", "build democratic societies" and "secure Earth's bounty and beauty".


Vicky Rossi: Would you say that the 1st Earth Charter principle, "Respect and Care for the Community of Life", is an over-arching principle comprising the other three?


Federico Mayor: Yes, that is exactly the way, but each of the four main Earth Charter principles is also itself an over-arching point of reference; so, to put these four main commitments into practise (pointing to the 4 main principles/pillars of the Earth Charter), you need to carry out the action plan (pointing to the sub-principles below each of the 4 main pillars).

   In the same way, if you take the Declaration of a Culture of Peace, you will see there are declarations and then a plan of actions. It states that to achieve A, you must do the following things. For example, in education, you must do 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 - as examples of concrete actions. To promote democratic principles, you must carry out the following 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 actions. To ensure equality between women and men, you must do the following 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 actions.


Vicky Rossi: Could you provide some examples of the kinds of initiatives that are going on at the governmental, civil society and grass roots levels to promote the Earth Charter?


Federico Mayor: There are very many different initiatives being implemented, for example, there are some Central Asian countries [e.g. Tatarstan] that have already officially recognised the Earth Charter, at the governmental level. Then in my country [Spain], I have been discussing world citizenship education with government ministers and I have suggested that they should refer in particular to the Declaration of Human Rights, the Declaration on Tolerance, which is currently very important for the co-existence of different immigrant groups, and the Earth Charter. The Spanish government has now advised the autonomous regions that they should follow this lead. Then, the Catalan government has integrated the Culture of Peace into their statutes, so now the Culture of Peace is officially incorporated into all of the schools there.

   It is our intention with the Earth Charter to "advise" - because it is not necessary to put this as a "compulsory" thing - at all levels of government. I have focused especially at the city level. When we think about "power", we tend to think about power in the government, but we have other local powers too. One very sure place to go is the city because "citizens" live in the "city" and as such one of the most important ways of mobilizing support for the Earth Charter is in the cities.

   On another point, although it is wonderful if we can from time to time appear in the most well-known journals and newspapers - through an editorial or an article - there are publications which exist apart from the normal mass media, that is, there are hundreds of thousands of people who receive free of charge their bulletin, their proceedings. For example, in Spain, all teachers receive 2 kinds of journals related to their teaching profession. These professional publications are very good for wide-spreading things like the Earth Charter because they are free of charge. So, it would be good to be in the journals for lawyers or the journals for health professionals, etc. This is a wonderful way of wide-spreading the concept of the Earth Charter because if you are reading the newspaper, perhaps you would not take as much notice of an article on the Earth Charter as you would if you were reading one in a professional, monthly publication. So this is another way of concrete action.


Vicky Rossi: As well as finding new ways of raising awareness amongst people and governments on the Earth Charter, what do you hope the Earth Charter +5 conference here in Amsterdam will achieve?


Federico Mayor: Normally, I must tell you sincerely, that most of the +5 meetings are meetings of complete disappointment. Most of them. With regards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), these were a necessity because we realised that instead of getting better we were going backwards. For example, in the very important issue of people that are living on less that $1 a day, we were seeing that instead of reducing the numbers, we were getting worst. So the MDGs were a real necessity, but the Millennium +5 was a disaster. It is true that in the middle was 11 September 2001, but the net result has been "nothing" - very, very little has been done - and this happens in nearly all the +5.

   The Earth Charter, however, I must tell you is another kind of event as you can see. The people who have been working with the Charter have been doing quite a good job. Many NGOs and institutions around the world have realised that the Earth Charter is a good thing. In particular, the reaction of young people has been very interesting. I can accept that young people can find many answers in the Earth Charter. So, in short, I think the +5 of the Earth Charter is much better than the normal +5. In any case, it is having a catalyst effect, which is good, because even if somebody thinks they haven't really done a lot yet with the Charter, now they will have a new impulse for action.


Vicky Rossi: Is there a link between the 3rd Earth Charter principle, "Social and Economic Justice", and the drafting of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)?


Federico Mayor: I see the Earth Charter as a tool for the MDGs because it is more of an over-arching declaration. In turn, the MDGs are an expression of how to put into practise many of the principles contained in the Earth Charter. [Vicky Rossi: In a speech on Tuesday 8 November, Maurice Strong indicated that the MDGs came after the Earth Charter -the drafting of the Charter began in 1997 - and that the MDGs were in many ways stimulated by the Earth Charter.]

   As I said before, at the Millennium +5 nothing happened despite the "solemn" declarations made by governments. However, on 22 July 2005, Secretary General Kofi Annan gave proposals for the Millennium +5 saying, "Well, whatever we have done or not done, let us now concentrate on…." But then "Hurricane Bolton" came and well… Nevertheless, the outcome has not been bad as now they say that they recognise that the United Nations is indispensable. This is not bad. It was better in the Declaration and it was better, in my view, in the document of the Secretary General, but the official outcome, "We recognise that now more than ever the United Nation…", means that we must try an in-depth reform, but not just of the Security Council. For example, we should make the General Assembly 50% States, 30% elected people from the different countries - then we will be "We, the peoples" - and 20% NGOs and institutions. If they say, "No, this is impossible", well, the League of Nations was like this. The only institution that remains from the former League of Nations is the ILO (International Labour Organisation). The ILO has one third States, one third patronat and one third workers. Then, this is a good example. You see, before the War they already recognised that if you say, "We, the peoples", then you cannot only put the States.

   On another theme, now they are saying that we must work to establish what unites the different cultures and not what separates them. Here again is an immense space for work because this is the Alliance of Civilizations. What we need to say is that we can accept everything except imposition, except violence. But we can accept everything. We must also accept that we are not the good and the others are not the evil. We must accept that all of us need to make many improvements in our beliefs. For example, in the context of the Alliance of Civilizations, one European leader said, "We, the civilized…" And I thought, "Oh, no, that's exactly against what we're talking about here." An Alliance of Civilizations means that we cannot say that we are the civilized ones. We are one civilization that is willing to have contact with other civilizations.


 *This transcript represents an accurate but non-verbatim representation of the original interview.


(Courtesy of the Author and TFF, the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research)



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Next issue: 10th February.


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