Good News Agency – Year IX, n° 4
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 (in charge) and Elisa Peduto. 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 4,000 media in 49 countries and to 2,800 NGOs.
It is an all-volunteer 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 http://www3.unesco.org/iycp/uk/uk_sum_monde.htm
Cybercrime: closer co-operation between law enforcement and internet service providers
Strasbourg, 5 March - What can be done to improve co-operation between law enforcement agencies and internet service providers so that the police and judiciary can combat internet-based crime more effectively? The Council of Europe will discuss guidelines for bringing private- and public-sector operators closer together at a conference on 1 and 2 April 2008 in Strasbourg.
Also on the agenda will be closer co-operation between the network of contact points established in States Parties to the Council of Europe Convention on cybercrime (under which points of contact are to be available 24/7) and the G8 High-Tech Crime Subgroup in order to facilitate international investigations and more immediate action. The conference will bring together experts from all over the world, government and police officials and representatives of the private sector.
The only binding international treaty in this field, the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime (2004) has been ratified by 22 countries (including the United States) to date and is a source of inspiration for many others looking to amend their legislation, such as Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Nigeria and the Philippines. Costa Rica and Mexico have been invited to accede to the convention. Representatives of these countries will be among those attending the conference. The Council of Europe would like as many countries as possible to accede to the convention and its Additional Protocol concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems.
5 February - The Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on Financing of Terrorism was ratified by Malta on 31 January 2008. As a result of this sixth ratification, the treaty will enter into force on 1 May 2008.
1 March - In February, it was reported that Assemblies in public places might be held in the future without the need to get any authorization. The organizers will just have to inform the local public administration about the place and time of the assembly, according to a draft law on assemblies that the parliament adopted in the first reading on 14 February. (…) The draft law on assemblies was elaborated in accordance with the stipulations of the Moldova-European Union Action Plan. (Republic of Moldova Official Website). The Law was adopted in the second reading on 29 February, and now awaits promulgation and publication (OSCE Mission to Moldova).
Armenia: Commissioner Hammarberg visits Yerevan to advocate human rights protection after post-election violence
Strasbourg, 11 March - In the aftermath of the post-election violence in Armenia, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg is starting on Wednesday 12 March a three-day visit in Yerevan to meet with the highest national authorities in order to favour an effective protection of fundamental human rights.
During his visit, the Commissioner will meet, among others, President Robert Kocharyan, Prime Minister and President-elect Serghz Sargsyan, former President and candidate Levon Ter-Petrossyan, Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosyan, the Chairman of the Constitutional Court, the Human Rights Defender Mr Armen Harutyunyan, as well as representatives of international organisations, diplomats and representatives of civil society. Commissioner Hammarberg will also visit prisons, police stations and hospitals to meet people affected by the events.
“I am concerned about the human rights situation in Armenia and the consequences of the declaration of the state of emergency” said Mr Hammarberg. “It is urgent to restore a situation where the activities of the media, political parties and non-governmental organisations are not hindered”.
Strasbourg, 10 March - Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, will make an official visit to Norway on 13-14 March.
During the visit, Terry Davis will hold meetings with the Prime Minister, Jens Stoltenberg, the Minister of Justice, Knut Storberget, and the Minister of Education, Bård Vegar Solhjell. He will also hold meetings with parliamentarians in the Storting (Norwegian Parliament) and have an audience with His Majesty King Harald V. During the visit, he will give a lecture on the state of human rights in Europe at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI).
On this occasion, Terry Davis and Jonas Gahr Støre, the Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs, will sign an agreement between the Norwegian Government and the Council of Europe creating a Human Rights Trust Fund. The Fund, which will be financed initially by Norway, will support projects in Europe for consolidating the rule of law and the European human rights legal system.
This year - again in cooperation with the Council of Europe - Norway will also create a European Resource Centre on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Intercultural Education. It will be based in Oslo and financed and staffed by the Norwegian government.
The signature of the Human Rights Trust Fund agreement will take place at 13.30 on 14 March at Kruses gate 9, and will be followed by a meeting with the press.
Council of Europe leaders call for practical steps to fight gender violence on International Women’s Day
Strasbourg, 7 March - Council of Europe leaders today called on European states and citizens to continue to fight violence against women, one of the most common human rights violations, on the occasion of International Women’s Day.
Ján Kubiš, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Lluís Maria de Puig, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, Terry Davis, Secretary General, and Halvdan Skard, President of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, declared:
“We are determined to end the silence and indifference which keeps so many women across Europe imprisoned in the horror of daily violence, isolation and despair. Our two-year campaign is succeeding in changing some laws and regulations, but this is not enough. We need to provide practical, effective, immediate and comprehensive assistance to the victims of violence, wherever they are and whenever they need it.
“This is why we call on all Council of Europe member states and their local and regional authorities to step up implementation of the standards to fight violence against women agreed by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers in November 2007 and the measures called for by the Parliamentary Assembly in its 2004 and 2007 resolutions. These steps can make a real, positive and immediate difference to the lives of victims. This is also the objective of the Council campaign ‘Stop Violence against Women’, which will continue until June”.
Child protection - a solid EU strategy
European forum on the rights of the child - renewed EU commitment to eradicate child poverty, safeguard the rights of the Roma and combat violence.
6 March - The European forum on the rights of the child, bringing together representatives from both international and national level, met in Brussels on 4 March with the aim of developing more effective tools to protect children’s rights. “I like to think of us as the guardian angels of all children. Together we can get real recognition for children’s rights to survival, development and protection”, justice commissioner Frattini said of the forum, which includes representatives from the UN, Interpol and Unicef. The forum also brings in children to inspire and inform its decisions. In this way, children can shape policy outcomes and make their voices heard.
One development is a pan-European telephone hotline for missing children. The “116 initiative” is being set up in various countries and should soon be operational. The hope is that all EU countries will set aside the number 116 000 for calls about missing children.
The recent Safer Internet Day (12 February) served to raise awareness of the risks of communicating online. A new EU programme will make it easier to report illegal or harmful conduct. There are also plans to block online payments for images of children being sexually abused. (...)
A third meeting to address international adoption is scheduled for November 2008.
Brazil: Haiti peace-keepers briefed on basic humanitarian principles
Brasilia, 27 February (ICRC) - At the invitation of Brazil’s defence ministry, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) gave a presentation in Brasilia on 21 February on its neutral and impartial humanitarian work and the basic humanitarian principles applicable to the Haitian context.
Some 30 Brazilian army and navy officers serving in ninth contingent of the country’s peace-keeping forces in Haiti attended. The Brazilian armed forces have been in command of the military component of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) since it was established by the United Nations Security Council in 2004.
By taking part in seminars, meetings and conferences organized in Brazil for MINUSTAH troop contingents, the ICRC intends to promote such basic humanitarian principles as the obligation to spare medical facilities and first-aid workers as well as others not participating in hostilities. In addition, it endeavours to ensure that the necessary conditions for carrying out its humanitarian work in the field are fulfilled. Both the ICRC delegation in Port-au-Prince and the ICRC office in Brasilia are involved in these efforts.
The ICRC has been working in Haiti without interruption since 1994. It currently has 60 staff members, including 12 expatriates, in the country. Its main activities include improving access to water and sanitation facilities, ensuring that people wounded as a result of violence have access to medical services, and boosting the capacity of the Haitian National Red Cross Society, especially in the areas of management, emergency-response preparedness of first-aid workers and dissemination of humanitarian principles. In civilian prisons and police stations, the ICRC visits people deprived of their freedom in connection with armed violence and political tensions.
The Jordanian News Agency [Petra] and Amman Center for Human Rights Studies [ACHRS] hold a Workshop on Strengthening human rights
“The role of the media in strengthening human rights”
Amman, 23 February - The Jordanian News Agency [Petra] in cooperation with the Amman Center for Human Rights Studies [ACHRS] held at Petra Training Center a specialized training workshop entitled: “The role of the media in strengthening human rights”. The workshop was held at the Training Center of the Jordanian News Agency [Petra].
The workshop sought to acquaint the Petra media personnel with the concepts of human rights and the role of these personnel in the protection of these rights. The workshop also sought to enhance the technical and scientific skills and competence of the Petra personnel in the field of integrating human rights with their news work.
During the two-day workshop, the participants discussed the sources, systems and criteria of human rights, the right to the freedom of opinion and expression, with emphasis on the role of the media workers in influencing the national legislation for the purpose of guaranteeing the protection of this right. The participants also discussed the mechanisms of protection and defense of newsmen and media workers. (...)
IFAD intervenes to support recovery in aftermath of Madagascar cyclone
Rome, 4 March - Cyclone Ivan struck the island of Madagascar destroying crops, livestock and buildings and leaving more than 150,000 people homeless. (…) Basic infrastructure such as roads, bridges, schools and health centres has been damaged or destroyed. "The rice harvest was due to take place shortly," said IFAD country programme manager Benoît Thierry in a report broadcast on CNN. (…)
IFAD's Rural Income Promotion Project, launched in 2004, had advanced well and achieved results particularly in improving incomes for small farmers (…) Now houses and livelihoods in the area have been destroyed. "It will take many months to rehabilitate the productive capacity of these families," said Thierry. The IFAD project has issued a preliminary report on the destruction caused by the cyclone and it is continuing to assess the damage. The infrastructure put in place by the IFAD project was fortunately cyclone-proof and survived the impact of Ivan. This will provide an important basis for the recovery effort.
The Government of Madagascar through its Disaster Committee BNGRC has called for international assistance on 22nd February. On 3 March a flash appeal was launched by the United Nations. IFAD is lending its whole-hearted support to this international appeal, which is led by UNOCHA, UNICEF and WFP.
As a rural development agency, IFAD does not deal with emergency humanitarian relief, but it is committed to help rebuild the productive capacity and livelihoods of the rural poor people in the area hit by cyclone Ivan. IFAD’s immediate post-cyclone intervention will focus on providing cereals and vegetable seeds, replanting fruit tree nurseries and repairing irrigation channels, so that farmers can replace lost crops - US$500,000 have been set aside for this objective.
Contact information: firstname.lastname@example.org
International Women’s Day: 8 March 2008
Commission on the Status of Women
Meeting from 25 February to 7 March 2008, the 52nd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) considered one priority theme: Financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and examined one emerging issue: Gender perspectives on climate change. The report of the Secretary-General on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women (E/CN.6/2008/2) guided the work of the Commission. It identifies and discusses key issues in financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women and suggests policy recommendations. A second report of the Secretary-General (E/CN.6/2008/5) assesses the extent to which financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women is mainstreamed in policies and programmes at the national level.
The 52nd session of the CSW included a high-level roundtable on financing for gender equality and the empowerment of women. Interactive expert panels were also held, two of them addressed the priority theme, a third one, held on 28 February, focused on the emerging theme gender and climate change, and on 29 February, an interactive dialogue evaluated progress in the review theme “Women’s equal participation in conflict prevention, management and conflict resolution and in post-conflict peacebuilding.” A number of informal events were also held. On 5 March NGLS co-hosted with UNIFEM a side event entitled “From Beijing to Doha: Financing MDG 3.” NGLS and UNIFEM also led a series of “Economic Literacy Workshops” designed to improve the capacity of grassroots women’s groups in national and international finance and budgetary discussions. The CSW officially observed Internat! ional Women’s Day during the morning of 6 March with a commemorative event that included a high-level panel.
World potato photography contest launched
Highlighting the role of potato in the fight against hunger and poverty
Rome, 12 March - A world photography contest to highlight the role of the potato as a source of food, employment and income in developing countries was launched today by FAO and the United Nations. The contest is being held in conjunction with the UN’s International Year of the Potato (IYP) in 2008. IYP aims at raising global awareness of the potato’s key contribution to agriculture, the economy and world food security, and at fostering improved potato-based systems to help countries achieve the Millennium Development Goals.
The IYP World Photography Contest, “Focus on a global food”, invites photographers to capture the spirit of the International Year in images that illustrate potato biodiversity, cultivation, processing, trade, marketing, consumption and utilization. (…) Sponsored by Nikon, the IYP photography contest is an opportunity for photographers to showcase previous work or to capture new images that depict the many activities related to this vital crop. (…)
The winning photographs will be chosen by a selection panel that includes some of the world’s leading professionals in the field of photography. Winners in the professional and amateur categories will be awarded cash prizes totalling some US$11 000 as well as Nikon cameras. The deadline for entries is 1 September 2008.
Jewish Funds for Justice, Calvert Foundation create JFSJ Community Investment initiative for underserved communities
New York, NY, 19 February - The Jewish Funds for Justice (JFSJ) and Calvert Foundation today announced the launch of the JFSJ Community Investment Initiative, which will allow individuals to purchase investment notes for as little as $1000 and thereby provide affordable capital to low-income communities across the United States. The Initiative aims to encourage American Jewish participation in the growing field of community investment.
This is the first time that Calvert Foundation, a national non-profit leader in the field of community investing in the United States, has collaborated with a Jewish organization on a private investment note. For the last ten years, the Jewish Funds for Justice has been involved in socially responsible investing through its TZEDEC initiative, the only national Jewish program for investing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, which has catalyzed more than $30 million in loans to Community Development Financial Institutions nationwide. (…)
Investors in the Initiative will be able to direct their investments toward one of eight regions in the United States or allow Calvert Foundation to allocate the investments where they are needed most. Investors will choose a rate of return ranging from 0% to 3% and a loan period between 1 and 10 years. On the ground, experienced community development lenders such as banks, credit unions, and loan funds will deploy the funds to help members of lower-income communities buy their first homes, build small businesses, or develop community facilities. (…)
FAO Goodwill Ambassador Miriam Makeba to visit D. R. of Congo 10-14 March
Visit to focus on assistance to women survivors of sexual violence, HIV/AIDS-affected families and others left vulnerable amid a fragile peace.
Singer-activist Miriam Makeba, FAO Goodwill Ambassador since 1999, and winner of the Dag Hammarskjöld Prize for Peace in 1986, will be in Kinshasa, DRC. During a four-day official visit in her capacity as FAO Goodwill Ambassador, Miriam Makeba will focus on the need to step up humanitarian assistance in DRC, where 70 percent of the population has experienced food insecurity for the last 20 years, due to violence, displacement, disease and other factors. Makeba will tour farm projects implemented by FAO in collaboration with local and international NGOs to provide assistance to women survivors of sexual violence and HIV/AIDS-affected families, meet with First Lady Olive di Sita and high-ranking government and UN officials, and attend a cultural event featuring Congolese performers. Makeba will hold a news conference on Thursday 13 March. http://www.fao.org/newsroom/
Heavy lifting for new homes
by Maureen Vaught
7 March (Rotary International News) - Rotaractors from the University of New South Wales in Australia will travel to India and Mongolia in July as part of Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village Youth Program, which sends volunteers ages 14-25 to other countries to help needy people build new homes.
Since 2004, the Rotaractors have traveled on the program to Cambodia, Fiji, the Philippines, and Thailand. They’ve paid their own travel and lodging expenses with help from corporate donations and eight Rotary clubs in New South Wales. Rotaractor Yiling Cheah went on the Philippines trip in 2005 and led another trip in 2007 to Cambodia. There, she and 10 others built two houses in six days and donated money to build a home for a blind elderly woman and her grandson.
Covered with mud and sweat, the volunteers in Cambodia mixed cement, laid bricks, and hauled soil in wicker baskets. The work was exhausting, but the bigger problem was the ankle-deep water caused by flooding. “The soil we carried was wet, meaning that it was a lot heavier to carry. It also meant that we had to work with things hidden in the water, whether it was our tools or parasites”, Cheah recalls.
The hard work seemed worthwhile when the homes were presented to their new owners in a special ceremony. (...)
Namibia Red Cross brings emergency assistance to flood victims
by Nooshin Erfani-Ghadim
7 March - Namibia has been affected by a new series of floods that hit six regions in the North East and North West of the country on 4 March. Authorities have declared a national emergency.
The Namibia Red Cross Society (NRC) is working with the Government Emergency Management Unit to limit the consequences on affected communities. The NRC is currently conducting an assessment of the needs and has also brought emergency relief assistance.
Thousands of blankets, tents, hygiene kits and water purification units are being rushed to communities that have been displaced. Donations of these essential items have been received from other Red Cross societies, companies and individuals and distributed by Namibia Red Cross.
The NRC is also assisting in the relocation of communities that have been stranded as a result of the heavy flooding of the rivers. It is estimated that 12,000 people have been displaced or stranded after unusually heavy rains, which have affected the whole region, causing the normally dry floodplains to flood, washing away roads and bridges.
Intensive downpours from the neighbouring country, Angola, had a direct impact in Namibia, with extensive destruction of houses and schools, causing several deaths, thousands of displacements, loss of domestic animals and destruction of farmlands. (...)
On 13 February, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies launched a revised emergency appeal for 11.4 million Swiss francs (US$ 10.3 million | € 7.1 million) to respond to the flood crisis affecting many countries in southern Africa. In January, it had warned that rains could continue until April, causing severe flooding in some areas.
Colombia: over 3,000 people receive food aid
Geneva/Bogotá, 29 February (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has distributed food supplies to over 3,000 people - around 800 families - living in 21 settlements near the town of Samaniego in Nariño department, Colombia. The inhabitants of this rural area are currently facing a critical situation as a result of the armed conflict in the region. After gaining access to the area and assessing the needs of the affected population, the ICRC distributed a total of 25 tonnes of food. (...)
The armed conflict has had serious consequences for the civilian population. Scarcity of food is the main problem but the provision of health care and education has also been affected, as all medical staff and teachers have left the settlements.
In line with its mandate to provide protection and assistance to the victims of armed conflict, the ICRC will closely monitor the situation in Samaniego in order to be able to respond to the inhabitants’ most pressing needs.
Save the Children provides relief to families in flood-stricken Bolivia
La Paz, Bolivia, 14 February - Save the Children is working to meet the survival and protection needs of children in Bolivia, where unusually heavy flooding has affected more than 55,000 families. The situation is expected to worsen over the coming weeks.
Floodwaters have impacted lowland communities in six of Bolivia’s nine departments: Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando La Paz and Chuquisaca. Families have lost homes, crops and livestock, and they are now living in shelters. Clean water is in short supply. In addition, more than 300 schools have been damaged or destroyed. (...)
Save the Children has distributed a dozen 1,000-liter water tanks to provide clean water for approximately 1,260 families. The agency has provided blankets, medicine, mattresses and water cans to 300 families in Yapaquani and Puerto Villaroel, and it has distributed food and medicine in affected areas. In addition, Save the Children is providing latrines for rural and urban shelters, and is helping to vaccinate farm animals brought to the camps.
The agency also is assessing the needs of children and families in shelters in Trinidad, capital of the department of Beni. The city, nearly cut off by flood waters, hosts 16 urban and six rural camps for displaced families. (...)
Washington D.C. locals run to raise money for water project in West Africa
"Running for life. Running for water in Niger."
Washington, D.C., March 22 - To commemorate World Water Day and bring water to people in Africa dying of thirst, a group of runners will cover more than 60 miles—or the distance of three marathons—in a relay March 22 through the streets of D.C. The run, a fundraising event to support the not-for-profit well-digging project Amman Imman, signifies the distance many children served by the project must travel—up to 35 miles through Niger's desert—to find water for their families. (…)
The children and their families benefiting from the run live in what is referred as the Azawak Valley of Niger. (…) Unlike throughout the rest of Niger, the Azawak is largely abandoned (…) there are no roads or trails leading to or from the Azawak. Few schools exist in the area. The closest health center is a two-day trip by donkey. And half of children born there die before they turn five; one quarter die from dehydration alone. (…)
Money from the run will go toward building Amman Imman's second borehole well. The program built its first well, which serves the needs of up to 10,000 people and their animals, last summer.
Program Amman Imman is a Washington, D.C.-based program, working in partnership with the American non-profit The Friendship Caravan. For more information, please visit: www.waterforniger.org
UN coordinates demining in southern DR Congo after anti-tank devices found
5 March - The United Nations and its partners are clearing a road in Katanga province in the south of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after two anti-tank mines were discovered on a key route, the UN peacekeeping mission in the country said today.
Led by the UN Mine Action Coordination Centre (MACC), the operation focuses on demining eight kilometres of the road linking the towns of Kabalo and Katutu, which was shut down in December after local residents came upon the explosives.
The non-governmental organization (NGO) Danish Church Aid and the South African mine clearance company Mechem are part of the joint effort.
Meanwhile, the peacekeeping mission - known as MONUC - reports that 25 former Rwandan rebel troops and their 13 dependents were repatriated to Rwanda in February, as part of the renewed drive to disarm and reintegrate members of armed groups spurred by the Nairobi agreement reached between Rwanda and the DRC in November last year.
Advocacy Coalition leverages $100,000 in traffic safety equipment
4 March - A Coalition of NGOs campaigning for improved traffic safety and private businesses has constructively engaged with local authorities to improve investment is traffic safety in the town of Sumgayit (population 300,700), Azerbaijan. The coalition is about midway through a 12 month campaign, and already authorities and coalition members have worked on traffic safety investments in roads, lights and crosswalks valued at AZN 83,200 (nearly $100,000). Activities of the campaign include polling, distribution of traffic safety information, television debates, and petitions to local government for increased investment in traffic safety measures. In a recent meeting to discuss the coalition’s advocacy work that was attended by USAID’s Administrator of the Bureau for Europe and Eurasia, Douglas Menarchik, and Country Representative Scott Taylor, the Mayor’s office expressed interest in discussing funding of similar activities through the municipal budget. The Coalition receives advocacy training, technical, and financial assistance from USAID’s Civil Society Project, implemented by Counterpart International. The $100,000 investment in traffic safety was leveraged by an $11,000 grant provided to the coalition by the project.
The Mine Ban Treaty: showing the way forward in efforts to ban cluster munitions
Author(s): Site Admin
Geneva, 29 February - As the world moves closer to a new treaty to ban cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians, the Mine Ban Treaty provides a solid example of how committed governments can successfully cooperate to eradicate inhumane weapons, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) said today. The ICBL urges governments to show once again courage and vision and negotiate a strong and comprehensive treaty where the lives of civilians are not traded in for military or economic interests
The Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Antipersonnel Mines and on their Destruction (Mine Ban Treaty) entered into force on 1 March 1999. Eighty per cent (156) of the world’s states have adhered to the Mine Ban Treaty and the stigma attached to the use of antipersonnel mines means that in 2007 only two governments - Burma and Russia - and a handful of non-state armed groups employed these weapons.
The same humanitarian concern that led to a ban on antipersonnel mines is now informing the process to prohibit cluster munitions. Negotiations for a new treaty to ban cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians will take place in Dublin, Ireland, in May 2008. (...)
LSTM to lead $30 million research programme into malaria in pregnancy
7 March - The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine has received a $30 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to improve the control and treatment of malaria in pregnancy in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The five year programme will directly benefit the 50 million women who face exposure to malaria whilst pregnant every year.
The grant will fund research at Liverpool and at 38 partner institutions in 27 countries around the world. The research consortium is also supported by the European Union, and is seeking additional funding from other donors.
Malaria in pregnancy is a major cause of severe maternal anaemia and preventable low birth weight in infants, which greatly increases risk of death. It is estimated that more effective control of malaria in pregnancy could save the lives of up to 100,000 children every year in Africa alone.
There is less detailed information on the effects of malaria in pregnancy outside Africa. Although transmission rates are lower, natural immunity is also lower, therefore the consequences of malaria infection are more often severe, with a much higher risk of the death of the mother, baby or both. (…) http://www.liv.ac.uk/lstm/about/communications/press_releases/mipresearch.htm
Getting the message across in Balochistan
Provincial team trained in social mobilization tools
7 March - More than 50 polio team members in Balochistan province of Pakistan participated in a joint UNICEF-WHO communications training, learning to use social mapping and data to develop and evaluate their communication strategies. The interactive, hands-on training was held under the leadership of the provincial EPI government team and is part of capacity-building to support the critical role of communications and social mobilization in the overall eradication strategy.
The provincial polio team emphasizes the development of district-specific plans which take into account the local challenges and realities. New communications staff members have been recruited for the high-risk districts to support the district teams in intensifying social mobilization activities. Challenges include low levels of awareness and accessibility, refusals, low female participation and reaching highly mobile populations. Offering the tools to address such challenges, the trainings have inspired renewed interest and enthusiasm for communications and social mobilization. Participants included district support officers, surveillance officers and communications officers.
HKI Announces the launch of food fortification in Côte d’Ivoire.
Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, 27 February - Helen Keller International (HKI) in partnership with the Ministry of Public Health for Côte d’Ivoire and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) announces the official national launch of fortification of cooking oil and wheat flour with essential life-saving vitamins and minerals in Côte d’Ivoire. The State Ministry of Mines and Energy, representing President Laurent Gbagbo, and other high-ranking officials launched the initiative which represents the country’s commitment to fighting the devastating effects of vitamin and mineral deficiencies (VMDs) which plague more than two billion people worldwide. (...) VMDs are responsible for 10% of the world’s global health burden.
Working with the profession association of cooking oil producers in the eight-nation Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (AIFO-UEMOA), HKI engaged the public-private sector in dialogues on fortifying commonly consumed staples and condiments beginning in 2005. With financial support from GAIN, HKI aims to improve the nutritional statute of the population by reducting VMDs through strengthening structures already in place. Since cooking oil and wheat flour are staples in many traditional meals, fortifying them has the potential to provide 50% of the daily vitamin A needs and 30% of iron and folic acid.
The private sector, the producers of wheat flour (Les Grands Moulins d’Abidjan) and vegetable oil (Unilever, Cosmivoire, Trituraf, United Oil Company) are key partners in these efforts. HKI will work closely with them to provide training, training manuals, equipment, and support for a legal framework to guarantee quality controls. To improve compliance and acceptance of the products, HKI will also help implement an intensive marketing campaign that includes public health messages to promote the consumption of fortified foods.
International Year of Sanitation: World Water Day 2008
20 March - World Water Day
2008 will be celebrated by the UN on Thursday, 20 March. In 2008 the day will
highlight issues on sanitation in accordance with the International Year of
Sanitation 2008. People around the world are encouraged to celebrate the day to
draw attention to the world's sanitation challenge. HRH the Prince of Orange
will attend the celebrations in Geneva.
For more information visit the International Year of Sanitation (IYS) website
Commissioner Piebalgs outlines EU renewable energy policy at International Renewable Energy Conference
The Washington International Renewable Energy Conference, WIREC 2008, is the third global Ministerial-level conference on renewable energy, following similar events in Beijing in 2005 and Bonn in 2004. Leaders from around the world will address topics such as the benefits of large-scale renewable energy deployment on energy security; climate change; air quality and economic growth; multiple policy options and best practices in boosting renewable energy up-take.
The European Commission has recently put forth a far-reaching package of proposals that will deliver the European Council’s commitments of March 2007 to fight climate change and promote renewable energy. The EU aims to demonstrate to its global partners that strong action to fight climate change and increasing the use of renewable energy is compatible with continued economic growth and prosperity.
Hundreds of hydrogen cars are on world’s roads; early applications growing
Washington, 4 March - As a fuel source and an energy carrier, hydrogen - the most abundant element in the universe - is beginning to move from science fiction and basic research to the world’s warehouses, airports, cell phone towers and highways.
Hydrogen is the most versatile of renewable energy resources - a universal fuel that can be burned in an engine or used in a fuel cell to power vehicles, buildings and homes, utility power plants and anything else that uses electrical energy. When burned in an engine, hydrogen is about 30 percent more efficient than gasoline. When a fuel cell is used to power a vehicle, the fuel cell is 100 percent to 200 percent more efficient than gasoline. Hydrogen engines do not emit carbon dioxide, and the only byproduct of fuel cells is clean water.
In a fuel cell, hydrogen is an energy carrier rather than a fuel. An energy carrier is a substance or system that moves energy in usable form from one place to another. Electricity, the best-known energy carrier, moves the energy stored in coal, uranium and other sources from power plants to homes and businesses. (...)
Fuel cells can be used to make up for the intermittent nature of wind and solar power, for example, and to extend the limited range of batteries in electric vehicles.
Brussels, 13 February - The 2008 European Wind Energy Conference (EWEC), organised by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA), will provide vital input to the recently proposed renewables legislation. This event will also demonstrate why the 20% renewables target is a unique opportunity for Europe.
The European Commission’s proposal sets out a clear pathway towards a new generation of energy supply. If the 27 Member States swiftly commit to their national targets, Europe could witness a massive expansion of wind energy. This would help combat climate change, limit dependency on fuel imports, promote jobs and economic growth in Europe and provide secure and affordable energy to all consumers. (...)
The EWEC 2008 event will bring together over 4,000 decision makers and key players from the wind energy and electricity sectors, who will debate these challenges and opportunities during four days of intensive networking, business development and information exchange.
Conference sessions include 500 oral and poster presentations, which will provide up-to-date information and a perceptive analysis of many relevant topics, including the economic, environmental and social benefits of wind energy. (...)
Leading California companies announce buyers’ group for renewable power
Cupertino, California, 26 February - With today’s announcement by fourteen of California’s most prominent energy buyers, green power becomes an even more integral part of doing business in California. The partnership is called the “Green Power Group - California Affiliates”.
Advanced Micro Devices, Apple Inc., BT Americas, Cisco Systems, eBay, Google Inc., Hewlett-Packard, Intel Corporation, Intuit, Levi Strauss & Co., News Corporation, Pactiv Corporation, Patagonia, and Wal-Mart Stores, Inc will be sharing best practices for purchasing and developing new sources of renewable energy. The partnership will help enable them to meet environmental goals, reduce exposure to volatile electricity prices, and support new clean technologies.
The Green Power Group - California Affiliates is the third commercial and industrial partnership convened by the World Resources Institute (WRI). The first two partnerships, the U.S. Green Power Market Development Group and the European Green Power Market Development Group, have facilitated the development of over 600 megawatts of renewable energy through on-site projects and green power purchases. The California Affiliates will build on this experience to bring corporate renewable energy purchasing to significant scale in California. (...)
Brussels, 6 February - The Global Wind Energy Council today confirmed its earlier estimate that over 20,000 MW of wind power was installed in 2007, led by the US, China and Spain, bringing world-wide installed capacity to 94,122 MW. This is an increase of 31% compared with the 2006 market, and represents an overall increase in global installed capacity of about 27%.
“The growth rates we are experiencing in wind energy continue to exceed our most optimistic expectations,” said GWEC Secretary General Steve Sawyer. “Globally, wind energy has become a mainstream energy source and an important player in the world’s energy markets, and it now contributes to the energy mix in more than 70 countries across the globe”.
The US reported a record 5,244 MW installed in 2007, more than double the 2006 figure, accounting for about 30% of the country’s new power-producing capacity in 2007. Overall US wind power generating capacity grew 45% in 2007, with total installed capacity now standing at 16.8 GW. It can be expected that the US will overtake Germany as the leader on wind energy by the end of 2009. (...)
The top five countries in terms of installed capacity are Germany (22.3 GW), the US (16.8 GW), Spain (15.1 GW), India (8 GW) and China (6.1 GW). In terms of economic value, the global wind market in 2007 was worth about 25bn EUR or 36bn US$ in new generating equipment.
Biofuels Summit 2008 - Bangkok, Thailand, 27-29 March
Global biofuel production has tripled from 4.8 billion gallons in 2000 to about 16.0 billion in 2007
Sustained high oil prices and environmental pressures are directing governments and the industry to research and develop renewable energy sources and the technologies to produce them.
With crude oil prices hovering above US$90 a barrel, biofuels are economically viable and there are future growth opportunities for the industry. This summit will bring to you the latest on the issues affecting you and your industry and network with senior executives from across the biofuels sector and leading investor organizations from across the region.
WWF’s Elephant Flying Squad celebrates new recruits
Tesso Nilo National Park, Sumatra, 6 March - Communities on the fringes of Sumatra’s Tesso Nilo National park mixed tradition and conservation on March 1, with a party to name and welcome the newest members of the WWF’s Elephant Flying Squad. In Riau Province, the flying squad are four adult elephants and eight mahouts patrolling an area along the National Park boundaries, keeping wild elephants away from local communities and teaching villagers non-lethal ways to protect their crops. (...) The head of Tesso Nilo National Park noted in a speech the success of the Flying Squad in minimizing human-elephant conflict around the park.
The park head called for greater collaboration for effective human-elephant conflict mitigation in the park and for efforts to safeguard the national park.
WWF is working to see the park expanded from 38,000 to 100,000 hectares to ensure enough habitat for a viable elephant population in Riau Province. (…)
EPA finally sets plans for mercury limits on cement kilns
Years of delay means thousands of pounds of mercury pollution have gone unchecked
Washington, D.C., 6 March - Under intense pressure from states and local and national environmental and public health groups, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced in a recent court document plans to regulate mercury pollution from over 100 cement kilns across the country by September 2009. The announcement marks a dramatic shift in EPA policy which, until now, had been to resist requiring mercury controls for cement kilns. (...)
Three times in the last ten years, federal courts have ordered EPA to set emission standards to control cement kilns’ mercury emissions. Until now, EPA has ignored these orders or sought to evade them. EPA finally indicated that it would set mercury emission standards in papers filed on February 20, 2008, in a fourth case brought by Earthjustice on behalf of Sierra Club, Downwinders at Risk (TX), Friends of Hudson (NY), Montanans Against Toxic Burning, Desert Citizens Against Pollution (CA), and the Huron Environmental Activist League (MI). The States of New York, Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania also filed suit. (…)
A centennial project built to last
by Lisa Baker
5 March (Rotary International News) - The Rotary Club of Del Mar, California, USA, started a community service project in 2005 that will leave a lasting impact on the San Dieguito River Park and the Del Mar community.
The San Dieguito River Park runs 57 miles from the Pacific Ocean at Del Mar to Volcan Mountain. When the park is completed, it will include connecting paths for hiking, biking, and horse trails. Lagoons, wetlands, and ponds will extend three miles inland.
The Del Mar club’s project to commemorate the Rotary centennial was initially aimed at constructing a quarter-mile trail from the park’s parking lot to the information center. The club paved the trail and put up trail markers under the supervision of a club member who is a contractor. According to Del Mar Rotarian Bob Fuchs, the club members enjoyed the project and wanted to do more. (...)
The park’s director asked the club if it would install wood planks on an existing base to create a boardwalk over the wetlands, which will give visitors the sensation of walking on water. Using recycled wood from a demolished bridge, 50 Rotarians completed the project in one day, saving the park more than $40,000 on construction costs.
The Del Mar club recently started the Donate a Plank fundraising effort to build a trail stretching from the boardwalk to several miles inland. For $100, the donor gets a nameplate on a boardwalk plank. So far, members have raised more than $30,000. (...)
UN and WCC general secretaries forge closer partnership on climate change and democracy issues
3 March - In a wide ranging discussion at the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC) the UN secretary general, H.E. Ban Ki-Moon and WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia found agreement for the two world bodies to work more closely on several global issues, particularly climate change. “Global warming will only be resolved through a global common response and we need your help”, Ban Ki-Moon said to Kobia and several staff gathered.
Kobia opened the meeting with a brief description of how WCC and its member churches are working to mobilize churches toward a better understanding of the impact of global warming and the need to follow through beyond the Kyoto Protocol. (...) “Your spirit of caring is based in Christianity,” Ban Ki-Moon said. “I am glad the WCC is one of the strong partners of the UN.”
North American Environmental Atlas now online
Montreal, 20 February - A new online information tool from the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) provides a suite of materials that allows users to visualize significant North American environmental issues at a continental scale.
The North American Environmental Atlas, which brings together maps, data, interactive map layers, and links to other related materials, is available at: http://www.cec.org/naatlas.
This site builds on the work of CEC’s National Atlas partners - Natural Resources Canada; Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics, Geography, and Informatics; and the US Geological Survey - to create harmonized base map layers of North America. These base layers of political boundaries, populated places, roads and railroads, coastlines, lakes and rivers, and other geographic features offer a consistent North American mapping framework for future cooperation.
To this framework, the CEC has added thematic map layers for priority conservation areas, renewable energy capacity, and other environmental topics. The atlas also features the CEC’s terrestrial ecological regions of North America. New map layers, including protected areas, marine ecoregions, and land cover, are currently under development and will be added to the North American Environmental Atlas in the coming months.
The CEC is also exploring innovative mapping and information access methods, including the industrial pollutant map layer <http://www.cec.org/naatlas/prtr/> recently released for use with Google Earth. (…)
Tetere, Solomon Islands, 3 March - Radio Bosco FM 89.9 celebrated its third anniversary of community broadcasting on 2nd March, 2008, on the plains of Guadalcanal, in the Solomon Islands. “It’s the first community radio station in the country and it has come a long way in reaching out to the community and making an impact to the lives of the people around Tetere”, said Fr. Ambrose Pereira sdb, SIGNIS Pacific Delegate and Board member, who spearheaded the launch of the station. He said the aim was to link the communities and give the youth a chance to express themselves under the slogan: “Empowering people, building community”.
According to Fr Ambrose, the young people from the community are engaged in running the station. “And it is making a difference to the lives of the people”, he said. (...)
Radio BOSCO is supported by the Salesians of Don Bosco, Catholic Communications Solomons, the Community Sector Programme, SIGNIS, the World Catholic Association for Communications and WACC, the World Association for Christian Communications and many other friends and well wishers.
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, President Emeritus, wins prestigious 2008 Niwano Peace Prize
Work in Israel-Palestine relations highlighted by committee
New York, 27 February - HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, President Emeritus of Religions for Peace - the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition - today was named winner of the 2008 Niwano Peace Prize. The prize, in its twenty-fifth year, is awarded by the Niwano Peace Foundation. (...) Prince Hassan (...) has devoted his life to building peace with justice in the Middle East based on his understanding of human dignity informed and inspired by his faith. He has been a bridge builder across existing political and religious divides. He is well known and respected internationally as a man who translates vision into actions.
In selecting Prince Hassan as an awardee, Mr. Doudou Diene, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and a member of the Peace Prize Committee, said the prince “highly deserves the prize for three reasons: his firm commitment to peace and inter-religious dialogue, his permanent message for the understanding and practice of Islam as a religion of peace, and his high ethical credibility”.
The Niwano Peace Prize was established in 1983 to honor and encourage individuals and organizations that have contributed significantly to inter-religious understanding and cooperation, thereby furthering the cause of world peace. (...) The foundation promotes research and other activities based on a religious spirit and serves the cause of peace in such fields as education, science, religion and philosophy.
Minsk, Belarus, 22 February - The International Catholic Festival of Christian Films and TV programs Magnificat 2008 screens the works of international and Belarusian masters in cinema and TV aimed at evangelization of the society and support of human values, created in various Christian traditions. The Festival takes place in Belarus in June annually and is held under patronage of the Bishops Conference in Belarus. The Festival is open to participants belonging to various Christian confessions (...) Organizational committee divides the works into two groups: for competition and information programs. Selection for the competition and informational programs is done by the Selection committee appointed by the Organization committee. Films are to be selected and participants informed during the period from March 16 till April 15 2008.
WCC central committee: Making a difference together
21 February - The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee closed its 13-20 February meeting after having chosen the venue for the 2011 International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, achieved progress towards a broader WCC Assembly, welcomed new member churches, appointed a search committee for a new general secretary and celebrated the Council’s 60th anniversary. The WCC main governing body also put its stamp on a number of public statements, policy concerns and programme plans. (...) The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, reminded the congregation that the WCC has provided “an ideal platform” for churches to engage in dialogue and promote Christian unity, as well as to respond to the needs of society”. (...)
At the 60th anniversary celebration, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I suggested that in the context of a reconfigured ecumenical movement in the 21st century, the place for the WCC should be “at the centre of the life of the global ecumenical village”. (...)
Toronto, 19 February (WACC) - Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is set to address a global gathering of communicators focussing on the important role played by the world’s media in reporting on violence and reconciliation.
The World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) has confirmed that Tutu will speak October 6 at the Atlantic Conference Centre in Cape Town, South Africa during the opening ceremony of Congress 2008, a conference for communicators and peace advocates from faith-based and civil society organizations. The five-day event builds on the theme “Communication is peace: Building viable communities.” (...)
WACC promotes communication for social change through the activities of its network of communicators, rights advocates and academics in 115 countries. Congress 2008 is the fourth global conference sponsored by the organization and the first to be held in Africa. The programme will focus on communication rights, media and gender justice, coverage of conflict and peace, and information technologies and peace building. Info. on the Congress www.waccglobal.org/congress
Seeds of Compassion gathering - Seattle, WA, USA, 11-15 April
Each of us has the power to make a difference
Seeds of Compassion is honored to welcome His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Seattle to participate in dialogue with leading educators, researchers and policy makers during the 5-day event. An unprecedented gathering to engage the hearts and minds of our community by highlighting the vision, science, and programs of early social, emotional, and cognitive learning.
Anchored by the deep wisdom of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, this community-focused event will celebrate and explore the relationships, programs and tools that nurture and empower children, families and communities to be compassionate members of society. Each of the five days will provide parents, educators, business and community leaders with an opportunity to better understand the real benefits of compassion, and concrete steps on how to bring compassion into their lives. http://www.seedsofcompassion.net/event/
Cartoon art goes on show at United Nations headquarters, 13 March
New York, 13 March - An exhibition of cartoon art from around the world, entitled “Cartoon Art for World Peace”, is on display in the Main Gallery of the Visitors’ Lobby and will be formally launched on Thursday, 13 March 2008 at 6 p.m.
The exhibition features a selection of prize-winning cartoons from the annual international competition held by the Aydın Doğan Foundation of Istanbul, Turkey, for 25 years. Each year, more than 3,000 cartoons are entered into the competition, 300 of which are presented to an international jury. Some of the members of the jury have included well-known cartoonists and illustrators from around the world, such as Adolf Born ( Czech Republic), Steve Brodner ( United States), Roberto Fontanarrossa ( Argentina), Anita Kunz ( Canada), Ralph Steadman ( United Kingdom) and Roland Topor ( France), among others. To date, more than 7,200 artists of diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds representing more than 128 countries have submitted entries for this competition. (…)
The exhibition is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations and the Aydın Doğan Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of education, supporting media studies and promoting cultural and social advancement in Turkey.
North-American, Australian, South-Korean, UK and Caribbean teachers’ chorus of opposition to video game condoning bullying in school
6 March - A coalition of eight teacher organizations representing over 4-million teachers in North America, the United Kingdom, South Korea, Australia and the Caribbean has joined in an unprecedented effort to condemn bullying and cyberbullying in all its forms. The outcry by teacher organizations is sparked by the pending release of “Bully - Scholarship Edition”.
The coalition spearheaded by the Canadian Teachers’ Federation (CTF) includes the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ/Canada), the National Education Association (NEA) in the United States, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) in the United Kingdom, the Scottish Secondary Teachers’ Association (SSTA) the Australian Education Union (AEU), the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations (KFTA) and the Caribbean Union of Teachers (CUT). The teacher organizations are all members of Education International (EI), which also endorses this initiative.
“Educators around the world are deeply concerned about the impact of violence in media, especially when it is marketed as entertainment”, says Fred van Leeuwen, General Secretary of Education International, the Global Union Federation representing teachers and education workers worldwide. “Clearly these violent video games undermine our efforts to create safe schools where children can grow and learn in an atmosphere of respect. As educators, it’s our professional duty to speak out against this kind of bullying behaviour, whether it’s in the community, the classroom or on the computer screen.” (...)
Launch of the European Quality Assurance Register for higher education (EQAR)
On 4 March, EI took part in the official launch of the European Quality Assurance Register for Higher Education (EQAR) in Brussels.
5 March - A milestone in the cooperation among European countries in the assurance of the quality of higher education within the context of the Bologna Process reforms, EQAR was the result of a decision taken at the Ministerial Conference on the Bologna Process held earlier in May 2007. The mandate to work on the register was given to the ENQA, ESU, EUA and EURASHE.
EQAR is an important step for more objective information about trustworthy quality assurance agencies working in the “Bologna area” and beyond. The purpose of the register is to allow all stakeholders and the general public open access to objective information about trustworthy quality assurance agencies that are working in line with the European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance (ESG). It will therefore enhance confidence in higher education in the EHEA and beyond, and facilitate the mutual recognition of quality assurance and accreditation decisions.
The register will be voluntary, self-financing, independent and transparent. Applications for inclusion on the register should be evaluated on the basis of substantial compliance with the ESG, evidenced through an independent review process endorsed by national authorities, where this endorsement is required by those authorities.
Together with 19 BFUG governments and Business Europe, Education International was admitted as a member. The Founding Assembly approved the Register Committee which comprises 11 independent quality assurance experts who will decide upon applications. It is anticipated that agencies will be able to apply for inclusion from summer 2008.
Further information can be found in the EQAR information document.
Children of West Darfur are getting an education
Enrollments increase, but most children still lack access to school
Westport, CT, USA, 28 February - Tens of thousands of Darfur’s displaced children are in school today thanks to the efforts of organizations like Save the Children, which serves more children and families in West Darfur State than any other independent humanitarian agency.
More than 22,440 children in camps and towns throughout West Darfur State are attending classes with the assistance of Save the Children, in spite of ongoing hardship and a recent upsurge in banditry and violence. Other organizations are also helping educate children.
Despite gains in enrollment - and the critical, positive impact it has on children’s and their country’s future - at least half of all children in the entire Darfur region, as many as 650,000, are still not receiving an education.
In marking the fifth anniversary of the Darfur crisis, where over 1 million children have been displaced by devastating violence, Save the Children today urged donor nations to provide greater assistance for education programs in conflict zones such as West Darfur State, where current support fails to meet the educational needs of children. (…)
In addition to its education programs, Save the Children also delivers food, water and sanitation, healthcare, livelihood and protection programs (for women and children) to over half a million people in West Darfur State. (…)
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New York, 22 March 2008 - This year, World Water Day coincides with the International Year of Sanitation, challenging us to spur action on a crisis affecting more than one out of three people on the planet.
Every 20 seconds, a child dies as a result of the abysmal sanitation conditions endured by some 2.6 billion people globally. That adds up to an unconscionable 1.5 million young lives cut short by a cause we know well how to prevent.
Poor sanitation combines with a lack of safe drinking water and inadequate hygiene to contribute to the terrible global death toll. Those who survive face diminished chances of living a healthy and productive existence. Children, especially girls, are forced to stay out of school, while hygiene-related diseases keep adults from engaging in productive work.
Leaders who adopted the Millennium Development Goals in 2000 envisioned halving the proportion of people living without access to basic sanitation by the year 2015 – but we are nowhere near on pace to achieve that goal. Experts predict that by 2015, 2.1 billion people will still lack basic sanitation. At the present rate, sub-Saharan Africa will not reach the target until 2076.
While there have been advances, progress is hampered by population growth, widespread poverty, insufficient investments to address the problem and the biggest culprit: a lack of political will.
With the right resolve, there are many steps that members of the international community can take. The Commission Sustainable Development in 2005 outlined a series of measures aimed at securing meaningful progress, holding Governments of affected countries primarily responsible. It also called for international support through a conducive policy environment, financial resources and the transfer of technology to countries in need.
If we take up the challenge, the positive impact will reverberate far beyond better access to clean water. Every dollar invested in water and sanitation yields an estimated seven dollars worth of productive activity. And that comes on top of the immeasurable gains in cutting poverty, improving health and raising living standards.
World Water Day offers a chance to spotlight these issues, but this year let us go beyond raising awareness – let us press for action to make a measurable difference in people’s lives.
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