Good News Agency – Year IX, n° 8



Weekly - Year IX, number 8 – 6th June 2008

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 (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 



International legislationHuman rightsEconomy and developmentSolidarity

Peace and securityHealthEnergy and SafetyEnvironment and wildlife

Religion and spiritualityCulture and education

World Environment Day 2008: Message of the UN Secretary-General


International legislation



Observers laud landmark cluster bomb ban

Dublin, 28 May (AFP) - Observers on Thursday lauded a landmark treaty agreed by delegates from 111 countries in Dublin to ban cluster bombs, though the deal lacks the backing of major producers and stockpilers.

After 10 days of painstaking negotiations at Croke Park stadium in Dublin, diplomats agreed the wording of a wide-ranging pact to outlaw the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions by its signatories. It also provides for the welfare of victims and the clearing of areas contaminated by unexploded cluster bombs.

The agreement will be formally adopted on Friday, and signed in Oslo on December 2-3. Signatories would then need to ratify it. (...) The cluster munitions ban process, started by Norway in February 2007, took the same path as the 1997 Ottawa Treaty by going outside the United Nations to avoid vetoes and seal a swift pact.

Cluster munitions are among the weapons that pose the gravest dangers to civilians, especially in heavily bombed countries such as Laos, Vietnam and Afghanistan. (...)


Japan adopts legislation to combat biodiversity loss

30 May (IUCN) - Two days after the G8 Environment Ministers Meeting in Kobe, the National Diet of Japan adopted the Basic Act on Biodiversity. The Act formally recognises biodiversity as a challenge all countries must face and one that needs immediate nonpartisan action.

The Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party of Japan and the New Komeito have been instrumental in putting the issue high on Diet’s agenda. The Act was passed on 28 May, two years before the next Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, to be held in Nagoya, Japan in 2010. The future host country believes that it will make a difference in the state of biodiversity worldwide.

The Basic Act on Biodiversity aims to promote conservation and the sustainable use of biodiversity, while identifying the responsibilities of everyone-from business, national and local governments to civil society and individuals.


UN Biodiversity Convention Secretariat teams up with Europe’s Bern Convention to stop the lost of biodiversity in Europe

Bonn - 22 May - To support efforts to meet the 2010 global goal to reverse and stop the loss of biodiversity, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity today signed a strategic partnership with the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, known as the Bern Convention.



Human rights



Colombia: court decision on increased protection for displaced women  

27 May - UNHCR welcomes a decision Friday by Colombia’s Constitutional Court, which ruled that displaced women are particularly vulnerable and ordered the government to create 13 programmes for their protection, and prioritize them for access to emergency humanitarian assistance. The Court also ordered direct protection for 600 displaced women and asked the country’s attorney-general to investigate several cases of sexual and gender-based violence. (...)

Programmes to prevent sexual violence against displaced women, protection of displaced women’s’ health, facilitation of access to land for women, and improved access to education, health and income generation were ordered to be created within three months.

UNHCR offered technical assistance for the development of the new programmes based on the guidelines for the protection of displaced women designed jointly by UNHCR and the government’s Office for Equity Towards Women. (...) The government is markedly increasing its assistance to displaced persons and over the last five years the budget has risen from $80 million to $400 million annually. (...)


UNHCR rushes to transfer refugees to new camp in southern Chad    

by Annette Rehrl

Moula, Chad, May 27 - The UN refugee agency has begun transferring 9,526 recently arrived Central African Republic (CAR) refugees from a transit centre in southern Chad to a newly established refugee camp deeper inside the country. (...)

 “Each refugee family will be granted 2.5 hectares of farmland,” said Fatta Kourouma, head of the UNHCR office in Danamadji. He added that the World Food Programme (WFP) would distribute monthly food rations while the Food and Agriculture Organization would provide the refugees with seeds and tools. The refugees are currently housed in family tents, but will soon start building their own homes from brick and straw. The children will be sent to schools, providing them with an education that offers them hope for a brighter future. (...)

UNHCR operates five camps in southern Chad for more than 56,000 refugees from northern CAR. The agency also operates 12 camps in eastern Chad for some 250,000 refugees from Sudan’s Darfur region.


UNHCR opens information centre for Colombians on Ecuador border  

by Andrea Escalante and Xavier Orellana

Tulcan, Ecuador, 26 May - The UN refugee agency, in cooperation with the Ecuadorean authorities, has opened an information centre on a key border crossing point to inform Colombian refugees and migrants about their rights while in Ecuador.

During Thursday’s opening ceremony at Rumichaca International Bridge, which links south-west Colombia and northern Ecuador on the Pan-Amercian Highway, Pedro Velasco, mayor of the nearby city of Tulcan, said the information centre would allow UNHCR and the government to help those Colombians who needed it most. (...) “The main problems are lack of knowledge about the existence of an asylum system, people’s fear of coming forward, or the concentration of refugees in isolated areas where services and information are scarce or non-existent,” noted Marta Juarez, UNHCR’s representative in Ecuador. She added that while there are an estimated 180,000 Colombians in Ecuador who have fled their own country, only 16,000 have been formally granted refugee status. (...)


UN agency pledges to help Pakistan tackle abusive child labour practices

22 May - The United Nations International Labour Organization (ILO) has partnered with the European Commission (EC) for a five-year project to help Pakistan curb abusive child labour and take 10,000 children out of hazardous workplaces. The 545 million Pakistani rupee, or €5.2 million Euro, scheme will focus on children working in conditions ranging from exposure to chemicals and other harmful substances to long, tedious working hours. The “Combating Abusive Child Labour II” programme will be implemented by ILO, in cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Manpower, provincial labour departments, employers and workers organizations, local governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), research institutions and the media, among others. (…)


World Day against child labour

12 June - This year the World Day against Child Labour will be marked around the world with activities to raise awareness that education is the right response to child labour: education for all children at least to the minimum age of employment; education policies that address child labour by provision of properly resourced quality education and skills training; and education to promote awareness on the need to tackle child labour. (…) In the Millennium Development Goals the United Nations and the broader international community set targets of ensuring that by 2015 all boys and girls complete a full course of primary education and that there is gender parity in education. These targets cannot be met unless the factors that generate child labour and prevent poor families from sending children to school are addressed. (...)



Economy and development



New UN-backed scheme seeks to boost employment for youth in Middle East

2 June - A new United Nations-backed initiative has been launched to create employment opportunities for young people in the Middle East, where nearly three-quarters of youth are unemployed in some of the region’s countries. (…) Silatech, which means “your connection” in Arabic, is a “major youth employment initiative aimed at connecting young people, particularly first time job seekers, to networks of employers and business partners and at the same time provide them with practical ready-to-use support to build their skills and their access to capital,” Shamil Idriss, Acting Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations told reporters in New York. Initially targeted at four Arab nations - Bahrain, Qatar, Syria and Yemen - it is intended to expand to other areas in the coming years. (…) Silatech, which is currently holding a summit co-hosted by the Financial Times in Doha, Qatar, is taking a three-pronged approach, comprising pushing for policy change; supporting skill building skill-boosting with corporate partners such as Nike and enhancing access to capital; and fostering the entrepreneurial spirit of young people through outreach efforts. (...)


FAO wins leading prize for work in Niger

FAO Representative shows the way towards improving Niger’s food security

Accra, Ghana, 21 May - FAO Representative, Ms Maria Helena di Morais Semedo received Niger’s highest award for her distinguished service to the field of agriculture and the enrichment of the rural population in a ceremony presided over by H.E. M. Mahamane Moussa, Minister of Agricultural Development of Niger. The award, was conferred on Ms Semedo who has headed the FAO office in Niamey, Niger since 2003. Since her arrival, the FAO programme has grown to over US$ 40 million in assistance to the country and its largely rural population. With over 34 percent of the population undernourished, an estimated 4 million people (2006-2007), this landlocked country, which is largely desert and dependent on farming and some mineral wealth, is among the world’s poorest. In 1995, FAO launched the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) in the country which is currently active in six of Niger’s eight regions, involving some 198 villages and affecting an estimated 8 000 households or some 60 000 people, 52 percent of which are women. (…)


Bahá’í-inspired development program highlighted at U.N. meeting

United Nations, 19 May - A Bahá’í-inspired program that has trained thousands of people in Honduras and Colombia to contribute to rural development was highlighted as a model for sustainable development at a major U.N. meeting this month.

The program, known as SAT -- an acronym for Sistema de Aprendizaje Tutorial (Tutorial Learning System) -- was presented in a three-hour workshop during the 16th session of the U.N. Commission on Sustainable Development, held 5-16 May at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The Bahá’í International Community also sponsored two side events at this year’s session of the commission - a panel discussion on “The Ethical Dimensions of Climate Change: Implications for Africa’s Agricultural and Rural Development” and another titled “Sustainable Development Without Rural Women?”

Nineteen Bahá’ís from nine countries attended this year’s commission as civil-society participants, said Tahirih Naylor, a representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the United Nations. (…)


Fresh action on sustainable urban development in the Asia-Pacific

Tehran, 15 May - The second Asia-Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) held in the Iranian capital Tehran brought a fresh focus on sustainable urban development through associating growth with equity and identity. Drawing government ministers and representatives from 37 countries, the three-day meeting 12-15 May 2008, led to the adoption of an action plan to guide regional cooperation in the area of sustainable urban development, which also underpins UN-HABITAT’s Medium-term Strategic and Institutional Plan for 2008-2011. The action plan focuses on five key themes - urban and rural planning management, urban slum upgrading, water and sanitation, housing finance and natural disasters. In his opening address, Mr. Mohammad Saieedikia, Minister for Housing and Urban Development of the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressed concern over the rapid pace of urbanisation in the Asia-Pacific region and the associated consequences for social and environmental sustainability, including growing inequality and threats to cultural identity and heritage. (…)


New ideas to boost the world tea market

Hangzhou to host next intergovernmental meeting on tea

Rome, 14 May - Just like for other tropical products, the world tea market has seen a tendency for increasing supplies to run ahead of demand growth, depressing prices and returns to producers in developing countries. As different attempts to control supplies over the years proved ineffective, tea market experts have switched their attention to demand and especially how to boost demand in producing countries where per capita tea consumption is low, according to an FAO Report prepared for the Intergovernmental Group on Tea meeting in Hangzhou, China (14-16 May 2008). World tea production continued to grow in 2006. The annual growth rate was more than 3 % to reach an estimated 3.6 million tonnes. The expansion was mainly due to record crops in China, Viet Nam and India. (…) The Hangzhou meeting will also examine the establishment of a working group to identify potential geographical indications (GIs) for tea. The main features of GIs will be examined and assessed in the context of the existing international regulatory framework. It is hoped that GIs will help expand tea consumption worldwide. 


High-level conference on world food security: the challenges of climate change and bioenergy

Rome, 3-5 June - FAO will host a high-level international Conference on World Food Security and the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy in Rome from June 3 to 5, 2008. Heads of State and Government and ministers will discuss the current global food situation with soaring food prices, how climate change affects agriculture, and how agriculture can contribute to reduce climate change. The objective of this conference is to assist countries and the international community in finding sustainable solutions by identifying the policies, strategies and programmes required to safeguard world food security. (…)






South Africa: ICRC supplies aid for victims of violence

Pretoria, 29 May - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has handed over 7,600 blankets in support of the South African Red Cross Society’s (SARCS) efforts to help people affected by the recent violence in South Africa. According to humanitarian organizations present in the country, attacks on foreigners have displaced more then 50,000 people, most of them from Mozambique and Zimbabwe, primarily in the central part of Gauteng province. (…)

The ICRC, together with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, has been supporting the work of the SARCS since violence broke out more than two weeks ago. In particular, the ICRC is helping the SARCS to re-establish contact between separated family members. (...)


Senegal: ICRC distributes food and seeds in Sindian, Casamance

Dakar, 28 May - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has begun distributing food supplies and rice and groundnut seed to 18,200 people living in Sindian, Casamance. “Low rainfall in 2007 badly affected the harvest, and people need help to get through this period,” said Juan Coderque, head of the organization’s delegation in Senegal.

In the weeks to come, the ICRC is planning to provide similar aid in northern Guinea-Bissau, where a number of Senegalese have sought refuge. Distributing this relief is part of the ICRC’s humanitarian work in Casamance and based on a needs assessment carried out in March, after the organization’s return to Sindian. (…)


Raul prize money donated to FAO’s Telefood

Spain’s Real Madrid soccer captain donates €30.000 for hunger projects

Madrid/Rome, 28 May - Spanish soccer captain and FAO Goodwill Ambassador Raúl González was awarded the first edition Spanish prize for solidarity in sports for €30.000, which he has requested be donated to the FAO special projects fund known as TeleFood.

The first edition of the “Premios a la solidaridad en el deporte” was awarded by the Spanish Olympic Committee, the Spanish Paralympics Committee, the Region and the City of Madrid with the SOS Foundation. Promoted by the International Olympic Committee, the award is intended to highlight the importance of sport as an instrument of solidarity and as a means for promoting humanitarian projects. In making the award, the jury considered the role of Raúl as FAO Goodwill Ambassador and the proposed FAO TeleFood projects the most valuable examples of how sports can support concrete projects. Altogether, five TeleFood projects will be supported by the Award in Ecuador, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lebanon and Nicaragua. (…)


Examples of solidarity in Myanmar

Caritas helps 60,000 cyclone survivors

19 May - The Caritas network has scaled up its emergency response in Myanmar despite ongoing difficulties with access for international aid teams. The international Caritas relief effort is now targeting over 60,000 people through local partners with food, temporary shelter, health care, and other aid items in four of the most seriously impacted areas. (...)

Save the Children receives $1 million from the Gates Foundation to aid children

Westport, Conn. USA, 28 May - Save the Children today announced a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for its immediate and long-term relief and recovery efforts in cyclone-stricken Myanmar. The grant was received within days after the cyclone hit, allowing Save the Children to quickly deliver humanitarian aid. (…)

ShelterBox containers reach devastated areas

Rotary International News, 27 May - Almost two weeks after Cyclone Nargis devastated the delta region of Myanmar, an aid flight carrying 1,050 containers of relief supplies arrived from the United Kingdom on 16 May at the Yangon airport. The plane was chartered by Cornwall-based charity ShelterBox, a grassroots disaster relief organization supported by Rotary clubs around the world. ShelterBox was one of the first outside relief organizations to be allowed into the country, where the powerful 3 May cyclone left more than 134,000 people dead or missing. (…) Working with local authorities, the team unloaded the containers onto trucks for transport to the outlying Irrawaddy Delta region, where the need is the greatest. (…)

Gates Foundation awards $1 million to World Vision for emergency relief efforts

Seattle, 9 May - Humanitarian agency World Vision today announced a $1 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support its emergency relief response to last weekend’s devastating cyclone in Myanmar. (...) The grant will fund the purchase and distribution of food and water, as well as shelter, hygiene, and cooking materials. It will also help with longer-term rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts, and will focus on the most vulnerable groups affected by the cyclone, including women and children. (...) World Vision has worked in Myanmar for some 40 years and currently assists children and families across the country through food assistance, agriculture, health, clean water, education, income generation, anti-trafficking and nutritional assistance programs.



Peace and security



UN marks 60 years of peacekeeping operations

29 May - Today is the International Day of UN Peacekeepers. The day marks the 60th anniversary of the date in 1948 when the UN Security Council established the first UN peacekeeping operation -- the UN Truce Observer Organization (UNTSO). In a message marking the occasion, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says peacekeeping has now developed into a flagship enterprise of the United Nations with more than 110,000 men and women deployed in conflict zones around the world.

“In the past year, I have visited peacekeepers in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. In states emerging from conflict, I have seen refugees returning home, children heading back to school, citizens once again secure under the rule of law. I have seen whole societies moving, with the help of the peacekeepers, from devastation to rebirth.”

The Secretary-General says the anniversary is not just an occasion to celebrate, but also to mourn our fallen colleagues.

Over the six decades, 2,400 men and women have died serving the cause of peace.


New weapon against mines in Afghanistan

28 May - Danish Demining Group has introduced a new tool in the fight against mines in Afghanistan - the Minewolf - an armoured bulldozer guided by remote-control with the capacity to increase both safety and speed. In the beginning of June Minewolf will be ready to start the hunt for mines in Afghanistan and push the speed of the general operation. (...) At the same time Minewolf increases the safety by relieving the pressure on the manual teams. (…)

In spite of the difficult safety-situation in Afghanistan the DDG has 30 teams in Afghanistan, working with mine-clearing, unexploded ordnance and mine awareness campaigns. All in all the DDG has cleared more than 1 million square-meters of Afghan soil. An effort worth while in a country where somewhere between 60 and 100 people most of these women and children are mutilated daily by landmines. The Minewolf is financed by Royal Netherlands Government.


The Polisario Front carries out third landmine destruction operation

Geneva/Tifariti, 21 May - On 21 May, the Polisario Front destroyed 2’000 antipersonnel (AP) mines in Tifariti, Western Sahara. This is the third such stockpile destruction operation (totaling 8’642 AP mines) since the Polisario signed the Geneva Call Deed of Commitment for Adherence to a Total Ban on Anti-Personnel Mines and for Cooperation in Mine Action in November 2005. By signing the Deed of Commitment, the Polisario Front committed to renouncing the use of AP mines, to destroying all AP mines stocks in its possession and to facilitating mine action activities. Abdelkader Taleb Omar, Saharawi Prime Minister, and other Polisario officials attended the event. Geneva Call, the Saharawi Campaign to Ban Landmines (SCBL), and Landmine Action UK - which provided technical assistance - observed the destruction site before and after the operation. Government representatives and the international media also witnessed the event. (...)


Norway again contributed more than 3.7 millions EUR to ITF

19 May - Since 1999, Norway contributed to ITF more than 24 million EUR for demining and mine victims assistance programs and remains one of the most regular supporters of ITF activities in the region of South East Europe. (...)

During the 10 years of ITF presence in the region of South East Europe, ITF with the widespread community of its donors raised more than 318 million EUR, cleared more than 83 million square meters of land, rehabilitated more than 1000 mine victims and enabled mine risk education to more than 100.000 children in the region of South East Europe.

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.






MSF vaccinates over 300,000 people against meningitis in Niger

29 May - A meningitis mass vaccination campaign launched by MSF in Niger, in co-operation with the local Ministry of Health, has just been brought to an end. The aim was to prevent a large scale epidemic after a number of cases had been reported in late March. (…) Over 300,000 people were vaccinated in 20 days with very positive results as the epidemic soon started to dwindle. In addition to vaccination, the team also treated patients and trained local staff. (...) Thanks to the presence of an MSF team in the area - where the organisation has been working in a nutrition project for years - response was swift. As the alert was sounded, the decision to launch a mass vaccination to prevent the disease from spreading was made. In the first phase of the intervention, the MSF teams provided support to the Ministry of Health that had started a vaccination campaign in the Birnin Koni district, the most affected area when the epidemic broke out on the border with Nigeria. Then, when support teams joined in, another campaign was launched in the Madaoua district and finally in the area of Bouza. (…)


Burkina Faso launches private/public partnership to save lives and combat childhood blindness

Bobo Dioulasso, Burkina Faso, 29 May - As part of its effort to control vitamin A deficiency (VAD), the Government of Burkina Faso officially launched vitamin A fortification of cooking oil this afternoon. VAD is a major contributor to child deaths and the leading cause of childhood blindness. In the 8 nations that comprise the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (UEMOA) zone, it is estimated that controlling VAD will avert over 100,000 child deaths every year, including 20,000 in Burkina Faso alone. Several complementary approaches exist for combating VAD, including vitamin A capsule supplementation and dietary diversification, both of which are part of the Government’s overall approach to combat VAD.

Food fortification is emerging as one of the most cost-effective and sustainable strategies to help control VAD. Industries incorporate fortification into their corporate social responsibility and it adds value to their products in a competitive marketplace. (...)


MSF treating 435 severely malnourished children in stabilisation centres in Ethiopia’s Oromiya region with new nutritional intervention

28 May - Two weeks ago the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) launched a nutritional intervention in some areas of the southern region of Oromiya, Ethiopia, following assessments that showed alarming levels of malnutrition among children under five.

MSF has set up three inpatient clinics - also called stabilisation centres - for the most severely malnourished children who also have medical complications, such as pneumonia or anaemia, and need intensive medical care. The centres are located in the towns of Ropi, Senbete Shinquille and Shashemene in the Siraro and Shashemene districts. As of May 27, MSF was treating around 435 children in these three centres. (…) Given that the next harvest is only expected to occur in August to September, MSF remains prepared to respond on a larger scale if necessary and will continue nutritional surveillance in the area.


Achievements offer new prospects for success in global efforts to help Africa’s children

New UNICEF report sheds light on successes and impediments to child survival in Africa

Tokio, 28 May - UNICEF today called for large-scale, focused investments in improved health systems for sub-Saharan Africa, to capitalize on recent achievements and help children who have inadequate access to health care. The call came as the children’s agency launched its first The State of Africa’s Children 2008 report at the Fourth Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD IV) in Japan. “Every year, nearly 10 million children die before their fifth birthday and one half of these deaths occur in Africa,” said Ann M. Veneman, UNICEF Executive Director. “Where community-based integrated health systems are in place, lives can be saved.” (...) The State of Africa’s Children 2008 provides data and analysis of the situation of the continent’s children, outlines recent successes, and proposes concrete actions and programmes that can save children’s lives. (…) The report also emphasizes the need for a continuum of care across time and place: from pregnancy, childbirth, postnatal and newborn periods into childhood and adolescence, and extending from the household and community, to the local clinic, the district hospital and beyond. (…)


Sichuan Healing Arts Program announced

23 May - The International Child Art Foundation announced today plans to expand its Healing Arts Program to China to help children in the Sichuan province and its surrounding regions recover from the shock and trauma caused by the May 12th earthquake. (...)

The ICAF’s Healing Arts experience reveals that creative expression is an important part of the recovery process for children who have experienced traumatic events and catastrophic disasters. Art activities offer children an opportunity to express their feelings, perceptions, thoughts, and memories in ways that words cannot. With guidance and support, such activities can help traumatized children to communicate grief and loss, and become active participants in their own healing process. Art therapy can also help identify children who are severely traumatized and in need of psychological intervention. (...) The ICAF was founded in 1997 as the national art and creativity organization for American children and the international art organization for children around the world in order to harness their imagination for positive social change.


Malaysia doubles its contribution to polio eradication

Health Minister announces US$ 1 million in funding at World Health Assembly

21 May - Malaysian Health Minister Datuk Liow Tiong Lai pledged US$ 1 million on behalf of his government to support the global effort to eradicate polio. This new contribution, announced as health ministers called for an intensified push against polio in the final four endemic countries, brings Malaysia’s total funding to US$ 2.13 million.

Attending his first World Health Assembly, the Minister said, “Malaysia is fully supportive of WHO’s initiative for global polio eradication and to date, Malaysia has contributed US$ 1.13 million towards the initiative and will make a further US$ 1 million contribution towards the programme”. The contribution from Malaysia, a leader among Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) members, will assist in eradicating polio from the last 4 polio-endemic countries, 3 of whom are OIC members.


New report examines progress and challenges of health-related Millennium Development Goals

20 May - High officials of United Nations agencies in the region launched today in Costa Rica the report Millennium Development Goals. Progression towards the right to health in Latin America and the Caribbean, which reviews the achievements and obstacles to meeting health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDG), analyzing their causes and dimensioning the efforts needed to fulfill those commitments.

Between 1990-2007, two-thirds into the target date of 2015 to attain the MDGs, Latin America and the Caribbean made significant progress in the health conditions of their populations, especially with regard to children, says the report. Child mortality diminished notably, and life expectancy at birth was on the rise. Maternal mortality has also dropped, although the rate has somewhat stalled in the past few years. There have also been advances in reducing diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis. There are also other positive trends, such as the decrease in extreme poverty in the region in 2007, and important steps taken by governments to lower global malnutrition and fulfill the millennium goals on hunger. (...) bin/getProd.asp?xml=/prensa/noticias/comunicados/7/33067/P33067.xml&xsl=/prensa/tpl-i/p6f.xsl&base=/tpl-i/top-bottom.xsl


Pacific Health Summit - Seattle, USA, 16-18 June

The goal of the Pacific Health Summit is to connect science and policy for a healthier world. Every June, high-level decision-makers in science, policy, industry, medicine, and public health are invited to discuss how to ensure a healthier future by effectively using scientific advances in combination with appropriate policies. This year’s theme is “the global nutrition challenge”.

At this year’s meeting, WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan will present a key-note speech on this subject. Assistant Director-General for Noncommunicable Diseases and Mental Health Dr Ala Alwan will also participate.

The summit will focus on the following two major issues:

·    the complex challenge of too little of the right nutrition for vulnerable populations;

·    the rapidly emerging threat of too much of the wrong nutrition in both developed and developing world.


European ministerial conference on health systems - Tallinn, Estonia, 25-27 June

The WHO Regional Office for Europe is organizing the first European Ministerial Conference on Health Systems, with the theme “health systems, health and wealth”. Hosted by the Government of the Republic of Estonia, it will take place in Tallinn, Estonia from 25 to 27 June 2008.

The conference aims to place health systems high on the political agenda. Specifically it will:

·    lead to better understanding of the impact of health systems on people’s health and therefore on economic growth in the WHO European Region; and

·    take stock of recent evidence on effective strategies to improve the performance of health systems, given the increasing pressure on them to ensure sustainability and solidarity.

It will bring together ministers of health from the 53 Member States in the WHO European Region. Up to 500 participants are expected to attend the event. High-level delegations will be invited, as well as health systems partners, experts, observers and representatives of international and civil society organizations and the media.



Energy and safety



Energy efficiency for global climate change mitigation

Geneva, 27 May - A global consensus on climate change mitigation has established energy efficiency as a key priority to address this growing problem. Government and business leaders at recent G8 Summits, the 2007 APEC Summit in Sydney, the Energy Charter and the European Union have confirmed this in their statements and agreements.

As a result, three international organizations concerned with energy cooperation in Europe are launching a combined effort to address this issue through a conference on International Cooperation on Energy Efficiency on Wednesday 28 May in the Palais des Nations. The Energy Charter, International Energy Agency (IEA) and United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) will explore future action on common themes. The conference will be addressed by the senior officials from each organization, together with the State Secretary for Energy from Switzerland, the host country of the United Nations Office in Europe. (…)


U.S.: Wind can provide 20% by 2030

Wind power is capable of becoming a major contributor to America’s electricity supply over the next three decades, according to a report released today by the U.S. Department of Energy.

13 May - Included in the report are an examination of America’s technological and manufacturing capabilities, the future costs of energy sources, U.S. wind energy resources, and the environmental and economic impacts of wind development. Under the 20% wind scenario, installations of new wind power capacity would increase to more than 16,000 megawatts per year by 2018, and continue at that rate through 2030.

“The report shows that wind power can provide 20% of the nations electricity by 2030, and be a critical part of the solution to global warming,” said AWEA Executive Director Randall Swisher. “This level of wind power is the equivalent of taking 140 million cars off the road,” he said. “The report identifies the central constraints to achieving 20% - transmission, siting, manufacturing and technology - and demonstrates how each can be overcome. As an inexhaustible domestic resource, wind strengthens our energy security, improves the quality of the air we breathe, slows climate change, and revitalizes rural communities.”[tt_news]=150&tx_ttnews[backPid]=4&cHash=685ee00c8a


Asia-Pacific countries agree to cooperate on renewable energy

Resolution adopted at ESCAP annual session

Bangkok, 1 May - Countries from across Asia and the Pacific have agreed to cooperate proactively on the development of renewable energy in an effort to reduce dependency on fossil fuels and enhance long-term energy security. The decision, adopted Wednesday in Bangkok before the closing of the annual session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), calls on countries in the region to share experiences in developing renewable energy technologies and to rapidly disseminate such technologies to developing countries. (...)


European Wind Day 2008: “Discover unlimited power” - 15 June

The second edition of the European Wind Day will take place on 15 June 2008. The European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) is organising a pan-European campaign to highlight the benefits of wind energy - an infinite, renewable and indigenous energy source. 18 countries have already confirmed their participation in this year’s Wind Day and will organise hundreds of activities across European regions and cities. These will include wind farm inaugurations and open days, concerts, conferences, information days with schools, debates, races, contests and much more. 

Discover unlimited power at the hundreds of activities taking place on the European Wind Day 2008:[tt_news]=1331&tx_ttnews[backPid]=259&cHash=27b62af241



Environment and wildlife



About World Environment Day - 5 June

“Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy”

World Environment Day, commemorated each year on 5 June, is one of the principal vehicles through which the United Nations stimulates worldwide awareness of the environment and enhances political attention and action.

The World Environment Day slogan for 2008 is “Kick the Habit! Towards a Low Carbon Economy”. Recognising that climate change is becoming the defining issue of our era, UNEP is asking countries, companies and communities to focus on greenhouse gas emissions and how to reduce them. The World Environment Day will highlight resources and initiatives that promote low carbon economies and life-styles, such as improved energy efficiency, alternative energy sources, forest conservation and eco-friendly consumption. (…)


Brazil announces new Amazon protected areas

30 May - Brazil’s Environment Minister Carlos Minc announced today, May 29th, at the 9th Conference of the Parties (COP9) of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), in Bonn, a commitment to create 4 new protected areas, 3 of them in the Brazilian Amazon. Mr. Minc’s met with the donors of the Amazon Region Protected Areas Programme (ARPA): WWF, World Bank and German Development Bank (KfW). During the meeting he also showed his commitment to zero net deforestation by 2020. (...)

ARPA, the world´s largest tropical forest conservation programme, is coordinated by Brazil’s Ministry of the Environment and implemented by ICMBio (Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation) in partnership with 7 state governments from the Amazon region. It is funded by the World Bank, the German Development Bank (KfW) and WWF, and administered by the Fundo Brasileiro para Biodiversidade (FUNBIO - Brazilian Fund for Biodiversity). The German Technical Cooperation (GTZ), a German government aid agency, and WWF-Brazil provide technical support to ARPA.


Great ape conservation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo gets a more than $360,000 boost from Spain

News comes as historic gorilla agreement between ten nations comes into effect

Bonn/Nairobi, 29 May - The Spanish government has contributed USD 368,000 to a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) led initiative to help protect gorillas, chimpanzees and their habitats in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). (...) The Spanish funds will be channeled through the Great Apes Survival Partnership (GRASP) as part of UNEP’s programme to help improve the conservation of endangered and economically important animals and ecosystems there as requested by the DRC government. UNEP is assisting the national authorities in drafting and developing national environmental laws, facilitating dialogue in the region and helping boost cooperation to tackle the country’s environmental challenges. Meanwhile the first international agreement for the conservation of gorillas enters into force on 1st June, offering hope for a new era of stronger protection for the apes. (…) The forests of DRC, which cover one million square kilometers, are a treasure trove for biodiversity. They house some of the world’s rarest and most remarkable species, including (...) the rare mountain gorilla. More than half of the 720 mountain gorillas left in the world live in Eastern DRC. (...)



Religion and spirituality



Churches respond to 60 years of conflict in Israel and Palestine with a global week of actions for peace

4-10 June - A common prayer and message for peace in Palestine and Israel is ready for use in about 100 countries. Churches in 17 countries, plus two international ecumenical organizations, are planning various education and advocacy activities. These and more are part of a global week of action led by the World Council of Churches (WCC), 4-10 June 2008. This year marks 60 years since the partition of Palestine and 41 years of occupation.

“After 60 years of peace denied in the Middle East, churches on five continents are demonstrating their concern together,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia in announcing the week. “It is encouraging to see so many churches speaking out together for peace. The message for the action week says It’s time for Palestinians and Israelis to share a just peace.” (...)

The common prayer for the week, sent out by the heads of churches in Jerusalem, asks that God “send us leaders ready to dedicate their lives to a just peace for their peoples.” The action week message calls for equal rights for both parties to the conflict and an end to discrimination, segregation and restrictions on movement. “It’s time to respect human lives in the land called holy,” the message says, “time to do away with double standards (…) time for healing to begin in wounded souls.” It was developed by participants in the week. (...)  Preview of the week’s events


14th edition of the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music: 6-14 June

by Mohammed Kabbaj

At the dawn of its 15th birthday, the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music remains the incontrovertible appointment of the dialogue of cultures and religions in land of Islam.

Be it a question of music or word, Fes claims to be, in a world largely characterized by multiple convulsions - at the first rank of which strong introverted assertions of identity - a place of tolerance, opening to the other and peaceful coexistence. All the virtues which contribute to the famous “Spirit of Fes” symbolized by the extraordinary encounter between Averroes and Maimonides.

Faithful to its tradition and always searching for enrichment, the Festival tries its best to make it perpetual, hoping to be a model of the values that it conveys and progress oriented for the 21st century. The spiritual and cultural capital of Morocco, which celebrates this year its 1200 years, was and continues to be designated to fulfil this noble mission.


Harmonizing the actions of nations: how can we help?

A Seminar held in observance of World Invocation Day to invoke and evoke healing energies for the United Nations and Planet Earth - 19 June, LaBouisse Hall, UNICEF House, U.N., New York

Inspired by the United Nations’ recent attempts to revitalize the work of the United Nations General Assembly and Article 1:4 of the Charter of the United Nations which states that one of the main Purposes of the United Nations is “to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations.”

Join us for an afternoon of keynote talks, sacred music, discussion and meditation, featuring Rev. Dr. James Forbes, Jr., Founder, Healing of the Nations Foundation, and Former UN High Representative, Ambassador Anwarul K. Chowdhury. At this time of planetary crisis all spiritual workers can contribute to building a thoughtform of solution to world problems.

Since 1952 World Invocation Day has been observed as a global day of spiritual healing.


Training seminar “Inter-religious dialogue” – Amman, Jordan, 22-30 June

Dialogue is “a necessity for all societies

Jordan seeks to be a model of modern Arab state that identifies stability, acceptance and tolerance as a priority for the region. It is through constructive dialogue that harmony is to be achieved. This year is the European Year for Intercultural Dialogue and it is important to implement activities in the region where Dialogue is curial for humanity, where conflict is mostly focused on religion. Jordan is the first Mediterranean country to Host such a unique EuroMed Activity. (...)

The main aim of this training seminar is to prepare youth workers and future leaders in promoting dialogue among the different religions, spiritual and humanistic traditions mainly in the Euro-Med context where conflicts are increasingly associated with religious belonging.

It stresses the reciprocal interactions and influences between, on the one hand, religions, spiritual and humanistic traditions, and on the other, the need to promote understanding and mutual respect. (...)



Culture and education



Indonesia, Nias community learns how to prepare for future disasters

by Vina Agustina

30 May - Dozens of children crowd excitedly around Juwita Kristina Zebua, a 24-year-old Indonesian Red Cross volunteer in Nias. They watch with fascination as she demonstrates cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid using mannequins. (…) The children are participating in the Red Cross “Raise and be Aware” exhibition to commemorate the third year of the Nias earthquake. Watching the presentation with close attention, the students realize that first aid requires a lot practice and concentration. (…) The Red Cross is using the commemoration to help increase the awareness and importance of disaster risk reduction amongst the communities on the island of Nias. (…) The Indonesian Red Cross in Nias started a disaster management program this past February. Integrated with community-based first aid program, Red Cross volunteers spread the disaster preparedness information throughout villages. This programme will soon be expanded to 24 villages in Lahewa sub-district. (…)


Teacher Trade Unions meet in Georgia

27 May – Education International has brought together representatives of the teacher unions from the non-EU countries in southeastern Europe to discuss the strengthening of their organisations and the kind of support which they would like to receive from EI.

Leaders from eleven teacher unions in eight countries are present at the conference which is taking place in Tibilisi on 27/28 May. The conference is discussing trade union organisation and structures, human and trade union rights and building social dialogue. It is intended that the views of the unions will be taken into account in developing a programme of support for the development of the unions in the future.


UNESCO launches new portal on higher education institutions

23 May - Students can now choose recognized programmes of study worldwide thanks to the new UNESCO Portal on Higher Education Institutions.

This online tool provides students, employers and other interested parties with access to authoritative and up-to-date information on the status of higher education institutions and quality assurance in selected countries. (…) This project is part of the follow up to the UNESCO/OECD Guidelines on Quality Provision in Cross-Border Higher Education. The Portal aims to respond to the increase in the number of fraudulent providers of higher education, while encouraging the development of quality cross-border higher education.


2008 Cannes festival shows ever-growing success of EU-funded films worldwide

In Cannes, European cinema shines as ambassador for creativity, exchange and dialogue

21 May - Fourteen films jointly funded by the EU media programme have been selected to appear at the 61st Cannes international film festival. The EU media programme funds European audiovisual projects, promoting the continent’s cultural diversity through film. (…) On 19 May, during the sixth “Europe day” at Cannes, EU representatives sat down with European film ministers and producers to discuss how to stimulate more international cooperation in the audiovisual industry. (…) The MEDIA Mundus programme, announced at this occasion, has the aim to expand the circulation of content to other parts of the world and work more closely with film industries outside the EU. Such international partnerships will further aid the production and distribution of European films. (…)


WIPO to launch pilot training program for indigenous communities

Geneva, 20 May - The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) will launch in September 2008 a pilot program to assist indigenous communities to document their own cultural traditions, archive this heritage for future generations, and safeguard their interest in authorizing use of their recordings and traditions by third parties. (...)

The pilot program will begin in September 2008, when two members of a Maasai community from Laikipia, Kenya and an expert from the National Museums of Kenya will travel to the American Folklife Center (AFC) and then to the Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) in the United States of America for intensive, hands-on training in documentary techniques and archival skills necessary for effective community-based cultural conservation. WIPO staff will provide intellectual property training. WIPO will also provide the Maasai with a basic kit of field equipment, computers and software for their own use when they return to Kenya. (...)

This pilot project forms part of WIPO’s Creative Heritage Project, which is developing an integrated set of practical resources and guidelines for cultural institutions such as museums and indigenous communities on managing intellectual property options when digitizing intangible cultural heritage.


Different, but still alike: ADRA Norway completes first musical

Silver Spring, Maryland, USA, 19 May - The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) in Norway has recently completed “Different, But Still Alike”, a new musical designed to promote children’s education and teach Norwegian children and young adults about diversity. (…) The musical, composed of stories about children from Peru, Cambodia, Ethiopia and Norway, targets children between the ages of six and 13 and can be used in its entirety, or separately, as a tool to promote discussions in the classroom. One of its main goals is to elevate awareness about ADRA’s work, humanitarian development issues, and social responsibility among children.

ADRA Norway has begun selling CDs of the musical to choirs, schools, libraries, and to the general public in an effort to raise funds for children education projects. (…)


UNESCO supported children’s media literacy project completes its initial stage in Jamaica

Kingston, 16 May - The initial pilot stage of a project launched in 2007 by Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica and UNESCO to train children in media literacy has now been completed. Testing of the project material involved 910 students in 10 schools. The results of the findings and lessons learnt will soon be made available on the Caribbean Network of Information/Media Literacy Clubs website. In 2007, the Broadcasting Commission of Jamaica and UNESCO joined together to launch a media literacy project geared toward children in primary schools in Jamaica. The project, which is welcomed and supported by the Ministry of Education, is premised on the notion that training in media literacy helps children take an informed approach when interacting with electronic media or making decisions about what to listen to and watch, especially where parental supervision is absent or inadequate. (...)


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“(…) Often we need a crisis to wake us to reality. With the climate crisis upon us, businesses and governments are realizing that, far from costing the Earth, addressing global warming can actually save money and invigorate economies. (…) Around the world, nations, cities, organizations and businesses are looking afresh at green options.(…)”


Message of the UN Secretary-General for World Environment Day 2008


     Addiction is a terrible thing.  It consumes and controls us, makes us deny important truths and blinds us to the consequences of our actions.  Our world is in the grip of a dangerous carbon habit.

     Coal and oil paved the way for the developed world’s industrial progress.  Fast-developing countries are now taking the same path in search of equal living standards. Meanwhile, in the least developed countries, even less sustainable energy sources, such as charcoal, remain the only available option for the poor.

     Our dependence on carbon-based energy has caused a significant build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Last year, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put the final nail in the coffin of global warming sceptics. We know that climate change is happening, and we know that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we emit are the cause. 

     We don’t just burn carbon in the form of fossil fuels.  Throughout the tropics, valuable forests are being felled for timber and making paper, for pasture and arable land and, increasingly, for plantations to supply a growing demand for biofuels.  This further manifestation of our carbon habit not only releases vast amounts of CO2; it also destroys a valuable resource for absorbing atmospheric carbon, further contributing to climate change.

     The environmental, economic and political implications of global warming are profound.  Ecosystems -- from mountain to ocean, from the Poles to the tropics -- are undergoing rapid change.  Low-lying cities face inundation, fertile lands are turning to desert, and weather patterns are becoming ever more unpredictable. 

     The cost will be borne by all.  The poor will be hardest hit by weather-related disasters and by soaring price inflation for staple foods, but even the richest nations face the prospect of economic recession and a world in conflict over diminishing resources. Mitigating climate change, eradicating poverty and promoting economic and political stability all demand the same solution: we must kick the carbon habit. This is the theme for World Environment Day 2008. “Kick the Habit: Towards a Low Carbon Economy”, recognizes the damaging extent of our addiction, and it shows the way forward. 

     Often we need a crisis to wake us to reality. With the climate crisis upon us, businesses and governments are realizing that, far from costing the Earth, addressing global warming can actually save money and invigorate economies.  While the estimated costs of climate change are incalculable, the price tag for fighting it may be less than any of us may have thought.  Some estimates put the cost at less than one per cent of global gross domestic product -- a cheap price indeed for waging a global war.

     Even better news is that technologies already exist or are under development to make our consumption of carbon-based fuels cleaner and more efficient and to harness the renewable power of sun, wind and waves.  The private sector, in particular, is competing to capitalize on what they recognize as a massive business opportunity. 

     Around the world, nations, cities, organizations and businesses are looking afresh at green options. At the United Nations, I have instructed that the plan for renovating our New York headquarters should follows strict environmental guidelines.  I have also asked the chief executives of all UN programmes, funds and specialized agencies to move swiftly towards carbon neutrality.

     Earlier this year, the UN Environment Programme launched a climate neutral network -- CN Net -- to energize this growing trend.  Its inaugural members, which include countries, cities and companies, are pioneers in a movement that I believe will increasingly define environmental, economic and political discourse and decision making over the coming decades. 

     The message of World Environment Day 2008 is that we are all part of the solution.  Whether you are an individual, an organization, a business or a government, there are many steps you can take to reduce your carbon footprint.  It is message we all must take to heart. 


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Next issue: 27 June 2008.


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