Good News Agency October 2009

“…In conveying the appreciation of the Head of State for the passion and the professionalism with which you spread, above all among the young, the culture of “good news”, I would like to take this opportunity of adding my personal greeting”. (From the letter of the Adviser for the Press and Information of the President of Italy, Giorgio Napolitano, to the Editor of Good News Agency, 12 October 2007.)

Good News Agency
Weekly – year 10th, number 161 – 2nd October 2009

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. It is distributed free of charge through Internet to 10,000 media and editorial journalists in 54 countries and to 2,800 NGOs and 1,700 high schools, colleges and universities. It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, an educational charity 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 is a member of the World Association of Non Governmental Organizations.

Contents
International legislation – Human rights – Economy and development – Solidarity
Peace and security – Health – Energy and Safety – Environment and wildlife
Religion and spirituality – Culture and education
Encouraging evidences: Vaccinations are extended – The future is in networks

International legislation
UN treaty on maritime goods transportation set to be signed in Rotterdam
22 September – A new United Nations treaty governing the movement of commercial cargo by sea is slated to be signed on Wednesday in Rotterdam, UN spokesperson Michele Montas announced today. Ms. Montas told reporters that the Dutch city will host a signing ceremony for the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea, also known as the “Rotterdam Rules.”

The Convention, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2008, creates a set of contemporary and uniform rules for the transportation of containers that include an international sea leg, but is not limited to port-to-port shipping of goods. Describing the rights and obligations of all parties involved in shipping goods by sea, the treaty aims to bring clarity regarding who is responsible and liable for what, when, where and to what extent. Among the innovations contained in the Convention, which updates and replaces three obsolete treaties, are provisions covering electronic transport records and container shipping as well as regulations for combined sea and land transport.

The UN estimates that the shipping industry hauled 8 billion tons of cargo in 2007, or 80 per cent of the volume of world trade. Read more…

Lisbon Treaty referendum – 2 October 2009
The Treaty of Lisbon has been signed by all 27 member states but it cannot come into effect until it has been ratified by all of them. Ireland is the only member state where a referendum is constitutionally necessary.

The second referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon will be held in October 2009. The treaty has not been changed, but the European Council has given specific guarantees about how it affects Ireland in a number of areas. These are the areas which the Irish government identified as having caused concerns to Irish people in the first referendum: Taxation policy; The right to life; Education and the family; Military neutrality.

These guarantees are contained in a decision of the European Council. The European Council has also made a declaration on other social issues including the rights of workers. Read more…

See also: http://www.lisbontreaty2009.ie/

Initiative seeks to promote Treaty Ratifications
UNA-USA recently launched a collaborative effort to strengthen US support for international law through the ratification of landmark and broadly endorsed multilateral treaties.

Known as the Conventions Working Group, the initiative brings together the leaders of national coalition groups supporting individual treaties, including the Treaty for the Rights of Women; the Convention on the Law of the Sea; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; the International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute and the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.

The group’s initial activity has produced an op-ed entitled “‘Do as I Do’ Diplomacy“ published September 22 in the International Herald Tribune and available on The New York Times website, as well as a letter to the editor printed in The Washington Times. Read more…

Largest group ever of world investors calls for strong Global Climate Change Treaty
Lord Nicholas Stern and NY State Comptroller DiNapoli join Investors at New York Investor Forum
New York, 16 September – The world’s largest global investors issued a joint call today for strong action this year from international policy makers in the fight against global warming.

Amid the growing focus on upcoming international climate treaty talks, global investors meeting at a Climate Change Forum in New York issued a major policy statement calling for a strong and binding international treaty that will reduce pollution and catalyze massive global investments in low-carbon technologies.

Signed by 181 investors collectively managing more than $13 trillion in assets, today’s investor statement is the largest of its kind on climate change in world history. Co-ordinated by four leading investor groups on climate change the US-based Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR), the European Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change (IIGCC), the Investors Group on Climate Change (IGCC) in Australia and New Zealand and the United Nations Environment Programme Finance Initiative (UNEP FI) operating globally, the statement formalizes the private sector’s requirement for a strong, binding framework to succeed the Kyoto Protocol. Read More…

Audiovisual Library of International Law
The Audiovisual Library is a unique, multimedia resource which provides the United Nations with the unprecedented capacity to provide high quality international law training and research materials to an unlimited number of recipients on a global level.

The Audiovisual Library consists of three pillars: (1) the Historic Archives containing documents and audiovisual materials relating to the negotiation and adoption of significant legal instruments under the auspices of the United Nations and related agencies since 1945; (2) theLecture Series featuring a permanent collection of lectures on virtually every subject of international law given by leading international law scholars and practitioners from different countries and legal systems; and (3) theResearch Library providing an on-line international law library with links to treaties, jurisprudence, publications and documents, scholarly writings and research guides. The Audiovisual Library is available to all individuals and institutions around the world for free via the Internet.

The Audiovisual Library of International Law is funded entirely by voluntary contributions received from States, institutions and individuals. Read more…

Human rights
Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, 28 September – 9 October 2009
Annual OSCE human rights conference opens with calls for improved implementation of international standards
Warsaw, 28 September – The OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, Europe’s largest human rights and democracy conference, opened today with calls on governments to increase efforts to adhere to the commitments they have undertaken as participating States of the OSCE.

“Everyone who experienced the tragedy of living through wars or totalitarian regimes knows about the value of the respect for fundamental human rights and dignity,” Wladyslaw Bartoszewski, former Polish foreign minister, said at the opening. (…)

Some 1,000 government representatives, experts and human rights defenders are attending the two-week meeting, which reviews the progress states have made in putting their international commitments into practice. (…) In addition to regular working sessions, more than 50 side events will focus on specific human rights concerns and country situations. Read More…

UN and partners open new front in war on sexual violence against girls
25 September – The United Nations joined with other partners today to launch a new initiative in the fight against sexual violence against girls, a scourge which affects 150 million victims in a given year and contributes to the spread of HIV and AIDS. The programme seeks to provide funding to expand surveillance of sexual violence against girls in developing and emerging countries, develop a technical package of interventions for implementation at a country level to reduce the incidence of such abuse, and launch a major media campaign to motivate social and behavioural change. (…)

The initiative brings together five UN agencies – the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and the World Health Organization (WHO) – with the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private sector supporters via the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). Read More…

YWCA Canada starts preparing for YWCA Week Without Violence, 12-18 October
23 September – YWCA Canada will focus on the Power of Being a Girl! for the upcoming YWCA Without Violence October 12 -18, 2009. Power of Being a Girl! is a YWCA Canada signature event developed and launched in 2006 in collaboration with Member Associations across the country to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Week Without Violence™ in Canada.

The Power of Being a Girl! is a community conference for girls and young women focused on their developmental needs that meets the mandate of the YWCA Week Without Violence™ to prevent violence in the lives of girls and women. This year, over 20 Member Associations will be hosting this signature event. The Power of Being a Girl will focus on girls and young women ages 12-14 and/or 15-17 years. (…)

Last year more than 45,000 people in over 600 schools, workplaces and community organisations across Canada participated. For over 100 years, the YWCA movement in Canada has provided shelter that is “far more than just a roof” for women of all ages. Their residences were the first safe housing for women seeking refuge from abuse and YWCA Canada is now the single largest provider of shelters and transition houses for women and their children. The Vancouver YWCA opened the first Second Stage Housing in Canada. (…) The World YWCA is a global network of women leading social and economic change in 125 countries worldwide. Read More…

Broad backing for new UN guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination
The government of Nepal is setting an international example in addressing one of the world’s most serious human rights issues. It strongly supports the UN guidelines on caste discrimination as an effective mechanism to eliminate a human rights outrage that affects 260 million people globally.

Geneva, 17 September – A new UN framework to eliminate caste discrimination, one of the world’s most serious human rights challenges, yesterday received backing from a number of international actors, including the government of Nepal, the EU presidency and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Speaking at a side event during the 12th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Nepal’s State Minister for General Administration, Mr Jeet Bahadur Gautam Darjee, outlined his country’s efforts to “eliminate this scourge from our society” and confirmed the Nepalese government’s support for the draft UN principles and guidelines to eliminate caste discrimination.

The Minister described the guidelines as “a good reference in devising the ways and means to address the issue of caste-based discrimination” during the drafting process of Nepal’s new constitution and as “useful tools” to reform and develop anti-discriminatory legislation.

At the side event, Nepal joined forces with victims of caste discrimination, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and a group of international NGOs to promote the first comprehensive UN framework to prevent and address caste discrimination. Read More…

A step towards a new and powerful voice for women at the UN

15 September – After more than three years of work and struggle by women’s rights advocates worldwide, the UN General Assembly yesterday took a momentous step forward. In a unanimous vote, they adopted a resolution pledging to create a new UN agency for women.

To date, the efforts of existing UN entities related to women’s rights issues have been undermined by their lack of funding and political clout. Unlike many other UN agencies, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), are not headed by an under-secretary-general, the third highest ranking position in the UN system. All of these factors have combined to weaken the status of women’s rights at the UN. All of this is set to change with this week’s historic resolution.

The new UN women’s agency is set to be created in early 2010, out of the consolidation of the four existing women’s entities, and led by an under-secretary-general. The resolution charges Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with creating a detailed plan for the organization, funding and composition of the new agency.

The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign, mobilizing over 300 international organizations, has for years fought to change the status quo for women’s rights at the UN. Read More…

Economy and development
Multinationals join forces to fight hunger
WFP has launched a groundbreaking programme which harnesses the power of leading multinational companies and focuses it on the job of ending hunger and malnutrition among children in the developing world.

Rome, 25 September – Project Laser Beam (PLB), announced by former US President Bill Clinton at a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, will combine the know-how of WFP with the business expertise of private sector partners, such as Unilever, DSM, Kraft Foods, Heinz and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

Over the course of the five-year initiative, WFP will raise a collective US$50 million from these and other companies. “With the numbers of hungry going up, we need the private sector to join us in the fight,” said WFP’s Executive Director Josette Sheeran. “It’s a battle that’s too big for any one player but together we can find new ways to radically reduce malnutrition.”

WFP Executive Director Sheeran called on other prospective partners in the public and private sector to join the initiative and fight hunger. [9 ways business can help fight hunger]. Read More…

At Clinton Global Initiative, CARE’s partner commitments help women and girls access education and financial services

New York, 25 September – This week at the Clinton Global Initiative, the poverty-fighting group CARE and its partners announced four unique commitments that help connect women and girls in the U.S. to women and girls in poor countries.

CARE’s partners include Gap Inc, General Mills, Girl Scouts of the USA, Seventeen Magazine, The Documentary Group and UPS. ‘‘CARE’s work around the world could not be achieved without the support of our corporate partners. Through their commitment, in the form of funding, consumer and employee engagement and expertise-sharing, we’re creating programs that bring sustainable change to the world’s poorest communities,’’ says Radha Muthiah, CARE’s vice president for Strategic Partnerships and Alliances. ‘‘Working together, we will make a positive difference in the lives of women and girls.’’ Read More…

WIPO partners with actors and musicians to boost performers’ rights
Geneva, 24 September – The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) signed on September 23 an agreement with the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and the International Federation of Actors (FIA) to support efforts to improve recognition of the significant contributions made by actors and musicians around the world.

The agreement, signed by WIPO Director General Francis Gurry, FIA President Agnete G. Haaland and FIM President John Smith, seeks, in particular, to help improve the status of performers in developing countries. The agreement highlights the connection between IP and labor and the special concerns of cultural workers from the viewpoint of development and cultural diversity. It provides for the organization of joint activities to strengthen performers’ networks and improve their economic and legal status, as well as for raising awareness of the need to support performers. Actors and musicians are an essential element in the development of the creative potential of all economies, particularly in developing countries. It is further anticipated that the agreement will help to galvanize support for the protection of performers at international level. Read More…

UNDP human development initiatives in the Arab World
22 September – UNDP directed US$579 million in human development aid to the Arab region in 2008, an increase of 21 percent from the year before in a region that is experiencing a number of conflict and post-conflict recovery situations. Indeed, the bulk of the funds, 70 percent, went toward programmes in Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Palestine supporting the rehabilitation of socio-economic infrastructure and the creation of temporary employment for the millions of people who suffered devastating losses as a result of violent conflict.

Earlier this year, UNDP’s Arab Human Development Report 2009 identified human insecurity stemming from political conflict, poverty, lack of freedoms, the heightening effects of climate change and barriers to women empowerment as significant challenges to human development in the region. Conflicts have triggered widespread migration within and between a number of countries. Refugees account for at least 10 percent of the population in Lebanon and Jordan while one out of 10 people are internally displaced in Iraq and Somalia. As a result, a number of UNDP’s initiatives targeted the return and reintegration of internally displaced persons and refugees. Read More…

IFAD Executive Board approves US$ 217.82 million for rural poverty work worldwide
Executive Board concludes two-day meeting in Rome
Rome, 15 September – Poor farmers seeking to better their lives against the backdrop of climate change received a boost this week. During its two-day meeting here, the Executive Board of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) approved more than US$161.56 million in loans and $56.26 million in grants – many of them for projects helping smallholder farmers adapt to a changing climate and contributing to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

These include projects to: enable Chad’s water network to support the seasonal movement of shepherds and livestock, encourage small-scale water resources management to increase yields in Bangladesh and strengthen water harvesting and soil conservation measures in Lebanon.

The Board also approved $3.35 million in grants to international research centres and intergovernmental organizations. Read More…

Mozambique: Strengthening communities through integrated programming project
11 September – ACDI/VOCA has received a $5.8 million subaward under the new USAID-funded Strengthening Communities through Integrated Programming (SCIP) project, a five-year, multisector grant to improve the health and economic livelihoods of families in Zambezia.

As in much of rural Africa, residents of this underdeveloped province suffer from high rates of disease and are isolated from markets and innovative agricultural practices. (…) SCIP will simultaneously address both barriers to improved family livelihoods by investing in health infrastructures and farmer access to markets and agricultural technology.

ACDI/VOCA leads the agribusiness and rural enterprise development component of the program, which is led by World Vision. The project employs a value chain approach (VCA) to link smallholder farmers with downstream market actors, such as processors and regional exporters. By improving local market information systems and building relationships along the value chain, the project helps farmers negotiate favorable production contracts with buyers capable of offering higher prices and providing agricultural inputs on credit. Read More…

World Food Day, 16 October
Achieving food security in times of crisis
The crisis is stalking the small-scale farms and rural areas of the world, where 70 percent of the world’s hungry live and work. With an estimated increase of 105 million hungry people in 2009, there are now 1.02 billion malnourished people in the world, meaning that almost one sixth of all humanity is suffering from hunger.

On the occasion of World Food Week and World Food Day 2009, let us reflect on those numbers and the human suffering behind them.

The World Summit on Food Security proposed by FAO for November 2009 could be fundamental for eradicating hunger.

Why a World Food Summit in 2009?
The global economic crisis is aggravating the situation by affecting jobs and deepening poverty. FAO estimates that the number of hungry people could increase by a further 100 million in 2009 and pass the one billion mark. FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf has proposed a World Summit on Food Security to agree key actions to tackle this crisis. He comments: “The silent hunger crisis – affecting one sixth of all of humanity – poses a serious risk for world peace and security. We urgently need to forge a broad consensus on the total and rapid eradication of hunger in the world.” Read More…

Solidarity
Caritas targets 50,000 people in Philippines after devastating flooding.
28 September – Caritas Philippines (NASSA) is rushing aid to people in the Philippines after the worst flooding in some areas in nearly half a century.
Tropical Storm Ketsana (also known as “Typhoon Ondoy”) hit Saturday. A month of rain fell in just 12 hours, submerging 80 percent of the capital Manila and affecting 27 provinces in total. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes and over a hundred people have been killed. Caritas will initially provide aid for a total of 10,000 families (50,000 people) in the seriously affected areas.

Caritas has bought 650 bags of rice for Antipolo in Rizal, Bulacan, Pampanga, Cavite, and San Pablo in Laguna and will evaluate further needs as the crisis progresses. There is also an ongoing repacking of sets of relief goods (kitchen wares, shelter aid materials, personal hygiene items and other food stuff) at the St. Paul University in Manila. They are intended for the first 5,000 families in these areas. Students and staff of the University are helping Caritas prepare the packs. Read More…

Azerbaijan: ICRC restores water supply to frontline school and health point
Baku, 25 September (ICRC) – A health point and a secondary school serving over 3500 returnees of the two frontline villages of Yuhari Qiyamadinli and Mirzanagilar in Agjabadi district, now have access to clean water thanks to work carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in cooperation with local authorities and community members. Now that a water borehole situated between the school and the health point, and shared by both villages, has been repaired and put back into operation around 650 schoolchildren and 10 patients will have safe drinking water every day. About 150 local residents living nearby will also have access to clean water.

Since 2008, the ICRC, in cooperation with local authorities and community members, has also upgraded the water supply system in the village of Ayridara, along Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia, and in the village of Shukurbayli, in Fizuli district, not far from the Line of Contact. As a result, about 1,400 residents of the two villages now have access to clean water. Read More…

Back to school: ADRA completes school and clinic rehabilitation project in rural Albania

22 September – On Monday, September 15, students returned to classes at the Rove Elementary School located in a rural community just south of Albania’s capital after a long and hot summer vacation. As the children filed into their old classrooms, they could not believe their eyes. The newly repaired kindergarten and elementary school is the latest in a series of rehabilitation projects implemented by ADRA Albania to support the educational and health needs of vulnerable communities in the region. With the participation of local villagers and more than 100 international volunteers, the renovations to the school’s interior and exterior are nearly completed.

ADRA is also putting the finishing touches on the rehabilitation of the local health clinic, a facility that normally serves approximately 7,500 people from 14 villages in the surrounding area. Once completed, an inauguration ceremony will be held for both the school and the clinic, which are both located in the community of Baldushk, approximately 15 miles from Albania’s capital city of Tirana. The project, valued at more than $150,000, was first launched in June 2009. Read More…

Nutrition emergency in Central African Republic – MSF is there to help
Barcelona/Paris/New York, 22 September – The southwestern area of Central African Republic (CAR) is facing a severe nutritional emergency, with more than 1,000 children at grave risk, said the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) today. After being alerted by local authorities, MSF medical teams have opened four feeding centers in the past month in Carnot, Boda, Nola, and Gamboula. MSF has also implemented a number of outpatient treatment programs. Initial assessments in some areas have revealed severe malnutrition rates over the emergency threshold of two percent. In barely six weeks, more than 1,300 children, mostly suffering from severe malnutrition, have been admitted to MSF treatment programs.

MSF has been working in CAR since 1997. Currently, the organization is implementing projects to provide care to people affected by violence in north-eastern areas of the country, in Kabo, Batangafo, Boguila, Markounda, Maïtikoulou, Paoua and Bocaranga. Read More…

Peace and security
US Leadership for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World at the UN
On September 24, 2009, President Barack Obama chaired a special session of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) focusing on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The UNSC unanimously passed Resolution 1887, which calls for a nuclear weapons-free world. Read More…

White House fact sheet on UN Security Council resolution 1887 – September 24, 2009
“We harbor no illusions about the difficulty of bringing about a world without nuclear weapons. We know there are plenty of cynics, and that there will be setbacks to prove their point. But there will also be days like today that push us forward – days that tell a different story. It is the story of a world that understands that no difference or division is worth destroying all that we have built and all that we love. It is a recognition that can bring people of different nationalities and ethnicities and ideologies together. In my own country, it has brought Democrats and Republican leaders together.”

President Barack Obama
In an historic meeting, the United Nations Security Council today convened at the head of state/government level and unanimously cosponsored and adopted a resolution committing to work toward a world without nuclear weapons and endorsing a broad framework of actions to reduce global nuclear dangers.

The meeting, which was called for and chaired by President Obama during the United States’ Presidency of the Security Council, shows concrete progress and growing international political will behind the nuclear agenda that President Obama announced in his speech in Prague in April 2009. The session was the fifth Summit-level meeting of the Council in its 63 years of existence and the first time that a Security Council Summit has been chaired by a U.S. President.

The new measure, UNSC Resolution 1887, expresses the Council’s grave concern about the threat of nuclear proliferation and the need for international action to prevent it.  It reaffirms that the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their means of delivery are threats to international peace and security and shows agreement on a broad range of actions to address nuclear proliferation and disarmament and the threat of nuclear terrorism. Read More…

Advocacy package on Military Spending compared to Development Aid The Story of ‘the Elephant in the Room’
As part of the Disarmament for Development Campaign, the Secretariat of Pax Christi International prepared an advocacy package called military spending and Development Aid or the Story of ‘the Elephant in the Room’.

The idiom ‘elephant in the room’ refers to the fact that in spite of being obvious – or precisely because of it – remains ignored by the majority of people.
Pax Christi International considers the military spending being such an elephant in the room, having in mind the failure of the world’s richest countries to offer enough resources for the UN Millennium Development Goals to be achieved by 2015.

The document can be used for educational purposes and be downloaded from the website www.paxchristi.net – News archive – Read in 2009-0586-en-gl-SD.pdf

UN welcomes Sudanese order to lift censorship on newspapers
29 September – The United Nations today welcomed the reported decision by President Omar Al-Bashir to immediately lift censorship on Sudanese newspapers.

“This decision will advance the implementation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and is an important step towards creating an appropriate environment for the multi-party elections scheduled for April 2010,” the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) said in a statement.

UNMIS voiced hope that the implementation of the decision announced by Mr. Al-Bashir on Sunday, along with other measures under consideration, “will enable all Sudanese to freely exercise their rights of franchise and expression.”

It also reiterated its commitment to stand by and support the efforts of the parties to implement the 2005 CPA, which ended Sudan’s north-south civil war.
The pact requires a comprehensive review of national laws to bring them into line with the Interim Constitution and the country’s international human rights obligations.  Read More…

UN blue helmets help advance de-mining effort in southern Lebanon
25 September – Some 7,500 square metres of land in southern Lebanon that was cleared of mines by United Nations peacekeepers were returned this week to farmers and landowners in the town of Hiniyyeh, the world body reported. The de-mining was carried out by the Italian battalion of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), according UN spokesperson Michele Montas.

UNIFIL, established in 1978, is tasked with ensuring that the area between the Blue Line and the Litani River is free of unauthorized weapons, personnel and assets, and it also cooperates with the Lebanese armed forces so they can fulfil their security responsibilities. It also carries out some humanitarian de-mining activities to assist the civilian population, under the coordination of the Lebanon Mine Action Centre. As a part of this coordinated effort, UNIFIL de-mining teams have to date cleared more than 4.7 million square metres of affected land and destroyed more than 32,000 unexploded ordnances and mines in southern Lebanon. Read More…

Burundi: Combatting the risk of weapons trafficking
MAG is improving security at Burundi’s police stations and armouries in the run-up to next year’s crucial general elections
21 September – Following decades of dictatorship and a 12-year long civil war that killed over 300,000, these first elections after the transition elections will be determining for the country’s future. With the Burundian population and international community fearing electoral violence amid rising tensions, MAG is helping the Burundian police to control its weapons, limiting the risk of stocks falling into civilian or rebel hands. In all armouries, gun racks are being installed to store weapons and bullets under lock and key. In addition, storage sites are being equipped with reinforced doors and protection on windows.
These measures – part of a comprehensive Physical Security and Stockpile Management project with the Police Nationale Burundaise (PNB) – are necessary to decrease thefts and trafficking which feed the civilian market. (…) Improving the physical security of the PNB armouries was one of the main recommendations from the survey of PNB Small Arms and Light Weapons carried out last year. Read More…

Landmine Surivivor farmers’ co-op in Cambodia doubles in size
Posted by: James Hathaway

Seam Village, Battambang Province, 7 September – Life was a struggle for Ream Luong before he joined the farmer’s cooperative set up by Clear Path International and its partner in one of Cambodia’s most heavily mined regions. This spring, the partners doubled the co-op to 150 households from 75, expanding an enterprise that’s helping many landmine accident survivors succeed as rice farmers. Disabled by a landmine accident when he was 23 and now going on 50, the father of three whose wife died of a sudden illness was deep in debt to loan sharks.

Thanks to low-interest spring-time micro loans, agricultural training, better crop seed and a chance to store his rice at the partners’ rice mill, Ream is now virtually debt-free except for what he owes the project. He and his three children are now among the 750 direct and indirect beneficiaries of the farmers’ co-op, which issued $30,000 in $200 loans to the members at an interest rate of 2 percent per month and provides many other services to the households. Read More…

Health
Pedaling health care
by Nicole Charky
Rotary Canada, October 2009 – Eight Namibian men walk through the desert. Four of them carry an injured person on a stretcher. The other four walk alongside and wait until the first four get tired. They switch off, hoisting the person and continuing along the unpaved ground.

This is the way people in rural Namibia usually reach a hospital. Kilometres from the nearest health care facility, villagers living with HIV/AIDS often miss their treatments because they have neither transportation nor enough income to charter private vehicles. But today, Namibians are getting an opportunity to reach clinics from the most isolated places – and a better chance at survival – because of bicycle ambulances.

The Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) Namibia is a nonprofit organization that started out providing bicycles as transportation. It launched a bicycle ambulance project after noticing that health care workers used their bikes’ luggage racks to transport patients to hospitals and clinics.

To bring bike ambulances to the country, the organization looked to the Rotary Club of Windhoek, Namibia, for support and adopted a design from Canadian Niki Dun. Dun, cofounder and director of Design for Development, a Vancouver-based charity, had come up with an innovative concept: a bicycle that could tow an adjustable stretcher, already being used in Malawi, South Africa, and Zambia. Read More…

World Heart Day, 27 September
Cardiovascular diseases are the world’s largest killers, claiming 17.5 million lives a year. Risk factors for heart disease and stroke include raised blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels, smoking, inadequate intake of fruit and vegetables, overweight, obesity and physical inactivity.
In partnership with WHO, the World Heart Federation organizes awareness events in more than 100 countries – including health checks, organized walks, runs and fitness sessions, public talks, stage shows, scientific forums, exhibitions, concerts, carnivals and sports tournaments. Read More…

Religious encouragement to vaccinate against polio
Leading Islamic academy issues edict
17 September – The International Islamic Fiqh Academy (IIFA) has issued a strong statement encouraging vaccinations against polio as a matter of urgency, and calls on Ministries of Health in Muslim countries to intensify their efforts to eradicate polio. The statement calls on parents and guardians – to ensure that their children benefit from all polio vaccination efforts – and on religious scholars and mosque leaders to encourage communities to support polio eradication campaigns. The edict was researched at the request of the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Conference, H.E. Prof. Ekmelddin Ihsanoglu. The request reflects the OIC’s concern that polio is still endemic in many of its member states, and addresses the critical need to raise awareness in Muslim communities about the benefits of polio vaccination campaigns. Quoting extensively from the Qu’ran, the edict lays out the duty to protect children when disease is preventable. Read More…

ADRA fights TB epidemic in India as cases soar
Tamil Nadu, India, 15 September – In India, tuberculosis (TB) remains a serious health concern, with nearly two million people in india developing the disease every year, and an estimated 330,000 people dying from it. To reduce the disease’s deadly impact, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) has provided preventive care and health services to 191,000 people living in areas of southern india that have become increasingly vulnerable since the Asian tsunami. The three-year Treatment of One is Prevention for All (TOPA) program, which ended in August 2009, was implemented in 138 villages in the Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Kanyakumari districts of Tamil Nadu, emphasizing prevention, detection and care especially among beneficiaries between the ages of 15 and 50. (…)

The project, launched in May 2006 in response to an increasing TB epidemic in the region, was implemented in close collaboration with RNTCP using health education and community outreach. TOPA was financed by Aktion Deutschland Hilft (ADH) through ADRA Germany and had an approximate value of $589,776. Read More…

Energy and safety

ISES Solar World Congress 2009, Johannesburg, South Africa, 11-14 October
The ISES Solar World Congress 2009 will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, from 11-14 October. With its theme of Renewable Energy: Shaping Our Future, this 29th international Congress will focus on Africa and the role that renewable energy (RE) can play in the sustainable development of poor and rural communities in Africa.

Thus, the ISES Solar World Congress 2009 will provide a platform where international, regional and local experts can discuss the potential solutions that renewable energy resources can provide in solving the global energy crisis, as well as the opportunities for the industry at large.

The programme will cover five thematic areas, namely Resource Assessment; Solar Heating and Cooling; Solar Electricity; Solar Buildings; and Solar Energy and Society. 370 abstracts representing 55 countries have been submitted for consideration. Plenary session will feature presentations by top international experts on the latest developments and technological advances.

The International Solar Energy Society, a Global Alliance, is a non-profit global NGO relying on personal and corporate memberships and donations/grants to do its work. Read More…

2009 Solar Decathlon starts soon…..
The next “Solar Decathlon“ begins October 9th!

For three weeks in October 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy will host the Solar Decathlon – a competition in which 20 teams of college and university students compete to design, build, and operate the most attractive, effective, and energy-efficient solar-powered house. The Solar Decathlon is also an event to which the public is invited to observe the powerful combination of solar energy, energy efficiency, and the best in home design. Read More…

DOE and Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology co-host first ever Electric Vehicle Forum
Beijing, China, 30 September – Yesterday, the first-ever U.S.-china Electric Vehicle Forum concluded in Beijing, China, bringing together more than 140 U.S. and Chinese officials from government, industry, academia and advocacy groups to discuss progress made in the electric vehicle industry to date and opportunities for collaboration and progress moving forward. DOE Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs David Sandalow joined with Minister Wan Gang of the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology to co-host the event and highlight the rapidly growing electric vehicle industry in both countries.

“The U.S. and china share a strong common interest in putting millions of electric vehicles on the road soon, which will lessen our dependence on foreign oil and help address the global climate challenge,” said Sandalow.  “Working together, we can accomplish more than acting alone.”

The U.S. and China are the two largest auto markets and energy consumers, and together emit more than 40 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases. The Electric Vehicle Forum provided a venue for experts to exchange recent developments and identify promising opportunities for technical and policy collaboration. Read More…

USA: Treasury, Energy Surpass $1 Billion Milestone in Recovery Act Awards for Clean Energy Projects
Washington, 22 September – This morning, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Energy Secretary Steven Chu hosted a group of clean energy developers and manufacturers at the White House to discuss how the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (Recovery Act) is creating jobs and helping expand the development of clean, renewable domestic energy. At the meeting, Secretaries Geithner and Chu announced $550 million in new awards through the Recovery Act’s 1603 program, bringing the total to more than $1 billion awarded to date to companies committed to investing in domestic renewable energy production.

“This Recovery Act program is an example of a true federal partnership with the private sector,” said Treasury Secretary Geithner. “Not only are our Recovery dollars meeting an immediate funding need among innovative companies, they are also jumpstarting private sector investment in communities across the country – with benefits for the renewable energy industry and our economy alike.” Read More…

20 year plan for offshore energy grid presented to Commission
15 September – A 20 year plan for the development of European offshore wind power was presented to governments and EU officials by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) yesterday at the world’s largest-ever meeting on harnessing Europe’s most plentiful energy source.

EWEA’s 20 year offshore network development plan, launched to 4,000 business and government participants at the European Offshore Wind 2009 Conference today in Stockholm, provides a comprehensive approach to constructing a transnational offshore power grid. Building on the 11 grids already in place and the 21 being studied by grid operators in the North and Baltic Seas, EWEA proposes eight additional offshore grids by 2020 and six more by 2030.
2010 is a key year for planning Europe’s future electricity grid, which needs massive upgrading, as the European Commission is due to publish a Blueprint for a North Sea Grid while European electricity network operators will publish a 10 year plan for developing a truly European grid – essential for a single European energy market, harnessing renewable energies and improving security of supply. Read More…

Environment and wildlife
Water, Cultural Diversity and Global Environmental Change: Emerging Trends, Sustainable Futures? – 1-3 October, Kyoto, Japan
The objective of this international symposium is to encourage global recognition of, and respect for, cultural diversity in water resources management, in order to facilitate collaborative actions for sustainability of water and cultures. The symposium is part of a series of activities that have been implemented on the topic, most notably public sessions held in the past four World Water Forums. The symposium will be held as an activity of the UNESCO-IHP Project on Water and Cultural Diversity, whose objective is to contribute to the achievement of MDG 7: “ensure environmental sustainability” by mainstreaming cultural diversity in water resources management. By bringing together various institutions and experts and by taking an integrated and transdisciplinary approach, the symposium will consolidate suggestions on ways to incorporate cultural diversity concerns into watershed management and water resource development. This will constitute a substantial step towards development of culturally sensitive studies and policies on water. Read More…

HSBC Eco-Schools Climate Initiative
Lisbon, Portugal, October 1 – Today climate change becomes an international theme for schools supported by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) through the HSBC Eco-Schools Climate Initiative. Eco-Schools from 12 FEE delegations around the globe will take part in this initiative. The Eco-Schools Programme incorporates seven steps which schools at any level can adopt. These include doing an environmental review, drawing up an action plan, implementing it and measuring the impacts.  Successful Eco-Schools are awarded the ultimate Green Flag, an internationally acknowledged symbol for environmental excellence.

Examples of best practice will be shared through the website to make schools aware of what can be done to address the issue of climate change. A Teacher’s Manual will also be published providing teachers with support materials. The HSBC Eco-Schools Climate Competition will stimulate the students’ creativity by encouraging them to share their work on climate change by entering a poster competition.

The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) is a non-governmental and non-profit organisation aiming to promote sustainable development through environmental education (formal school education, training of staff and general awareness raising).
www.eco-schools.org

Conference about coastal waters management
Granville, France, 30th September – 1st October
New bathing water directive, shellfish water directive, public health and hygiene measures…
Europe has revised its directives and fixed new goals, putting the quality of its coastal waters at the top of its list of concerns. In this context, the SMBCG (French public entity formed by local communities in the Granville Coastal Basin), in charge of water quality protection and the “MARECLEAN” Life Environment project, is organizing a European conference in Granville with its partners (E.U., Veolia Eau, Veolia Environnement, IFREMER, Météo France, French Water Agency, IRH Ingénieur Conseil, SAUR…) to provide a complete overview of the reduction in the quality of coastal waters in wet weather, on 30th September and 1st October 2009. The conference will focus on the theme of the pollution of coastal waters, including: a summary of the regulations and the latest developments introduced by the new directives; the methods available of identifying these pollution phenomena (definition, identification and grading of the sources of contamination); the solutions developed to date, encouraging active management and sustainable preventive measures in these coastal waters – public information and management issues. Read More…

New Zealand: Palau creates shark sanctuary to protect tourism and prevent overfishing
27 September – Palau’s President says his decision to declare his country’s exclusive economic zone a shark sanctuary will help both humanity and Palau’s tourism industry.

In a speech to the United Nations General Assembly, Johnson Toribiong declared his country’s entire Exclusive Economic Zone, an area of 629 thousand square kilometers, or roughly the size of France as a “shark sanctuary,” which will ban all commercial shark fishing.

President Toribiong says he hopes other nations will follow Palau’s lead to end overfishing, shark-finning and destructive fishing. Read More…

IAEA offers climate change strategies
Roundtable highlights IAEA services to lessen climate change impact
24 September – During the IAEA General Conference, a roundtable received the first comprehensive presentation of the Agency’s work to help Member States reduce, mitigate and adapt to climate change’s impact upon their populations. The IAEA’s nuclear research to extend scientific understanding of this phenomenon and inform policy decision-making on climate change responses was also showcased. The meeting also looked forward to the global climate negotiations, the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (CoP15), to be held in Copenhagen in December. The CoP15’s main challenge is to negotiate a new international environmental agreement to take effect after 2012. Read More…

The Roundtable on the “IAEA and Climate Change”, co-sponsored by Canada, China, India, Japan and the United States, was chaired by France.

This September Earth Charter features high on Dutch agenda
On the 21st, the International Day of Peace, Peace was celebrated by Dutch Youth. During the “Night of Peace” youth from all parts of society came together to participate in debates, workshops, a network lounge, and many other festivities. To open the event, former Prime-Minister and Earth Charter Commissioner Ruud Lubbers presented the launch of the Dutch version of the Brazilian Earth Charter television spot.

On the 22nd, the Dutch premiere of “The Age of Stupid” took place in the Amsterdam Tuschinsky theatre. This enormously ambitious drama-documentary-animation hybrid stars Oscar-nominated Pete Postlethwaite as an old man living in the devastated world of 2055, watching “archive” footage from 2008 and asking: why didn’t we stop climate change while we had the chance? Immediately after the film, the Dutch Earth Charter video was shown on big screen as well. Closing words by Earth Charter Commissioner Awraham Soetendorp inspired the whole audience.  On the 27th, the festival Seeds of Change is the closing event of the Week of Peace. The theme of the second edition of this annual festival is “Towards a new climate of peace”. With various cultural activities, this event raises attention for all four principles of the Earth Charter. Read More…

Avaaz.org: the Global Climate Wake-up Call
2632 events in 134 countries
On Monday, September 21, at events in more than 130 countries worldwide, people gathered to send a deafening wake-up call on climate change to world leaders. Check out the video – and join the real-time global discussion about this amazing day of action.

Avaaz.org is a community of global citizens who take action on the major issues facing the world today. The aim of Avaaz.org is to ensure that the views and values of the world’s people shape global decisions. Avaaz.org members act for a more just and peaceful world and a globalisation with a human face. Read More…

The Earth Charter at the VI Latin American Congress for Environmental Education
The VI Congreso Iberoamericano de Educación Ambiental took place in San Clemente del Tuyú, Argentina on September 16-19, 2009.  The meeting gathered educators, researchers, NGOs and governmental representatives, students, youth and business people from Latin America, Spain and Portugal. At this event, the Earth Charter Secretariat led a workshop called “Bringing Sustainability to Classrooms: An Earth Charter Workshop” on 16 September 2009.
The general objectives of the congress were to promote EE as an estate policy and strengthen public management in building sustainable territories, and to contribute to the EE with the input of environmental educators from their own perspectives and realities. Read More…

Religion and spirituality
Week of Prayer for World Peace, 11-18 October

Each year, an anthology of prayers from various faith traditions is compiled, for shared inter faith worship during a designated ‘Week of Prayer for World Peace’. This initiative, founded in 1974, has gone from strength to strength, with many people throughout the country taking part each year. The prayers included in the anthology draw attention to the shared values found across world faiths, with each day of the week bearing a different universal theme. This year, themes include Hope and Caring for Each Other. The first Chairman of the Week, the late Dr. Edward Carpenter, established the guiding principle of the Week in his words: ‘The peace of the world must be prayerd for by the faiths of the world’. (…)

For more information on ordering the anthology, and on how to set up an inter faith worship event, visit the Week of Prayer for World Peace website.

Living Letters team to visit India, 21-27 September
A team of church representatives from Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia will pay a solidarity visit to churches, ecumenical organizations and civil society movements in India from 21 to 27 September

17 September – The focus of the seven-day long visit will be on the Indian churches’ witness to peace with justice in a context of mass poverty, social exclusion and violence against women, Dalits and Christians. There will also be encounters with church leaders, peace activists, and representatives of interfaith peace initiatives and of Dalit movements. The visit will bring the team of Living Letters to the country’s capital city, New Delhi, and to the South Eastern states of Orissa and Andhra Pradesh.

Living Letters are small ecumenical teams visiting a country to listen, learn, share approaches and to help confront challenges in order to overcome violence and promote and pray for peace. They are organized in the context of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence as a preparation for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011. Read More…

“Lourdes” Wins SIGNIS Award in Venice 2009
Venice, 13 September (SIGNIS) – At the 66th Venice Film festival (Mostra), the SIGNIS Prize was given to the film Lourdes from Jessica Hausner (Austria). “The SIGNIS Prize is awarded to writer and director Jessica Hausner for Lourdes, not because the film is set in an essentially Catholic context but because it raises fundamental human questions: faith, physical suffering, hope, miracles and the inexplicable. With remarkable technical and artistic skills, the director leads us to frontiers of human expectations, allowing the audience to discover the meaning of human freedom and divine intervention.” This film was also awarded the Fipresci (International Federation of Film Critics) Award. Read More…

Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue, 7- 8 September in Kraków
Leaders of the world’s great religions, heads of state and men and women of culture will gather in Krakow from September 6 to 8 upon the invitation of the Community of Sant’Egidio and Cardinal Stanislao Dziwisz. The “spirit of Assisi” returns to Poland, this time to the native city of John Paul II, where the great pope got his cultural, humanistic and spiritual training.

The religious leaders thus agreed to meet at a crossroads of European history, paving the way for a pilgrimage, unprecedented in size and representation, to the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp, as a token of reconciliation and peace and a symbol of a radical rejection of violence and war as a way of solving international conflicts.

It will also provide a special occasion for retracing over twenty years of dialogue, inaugurated by John Paul II, in the region where he spent the dramatic war years and where he discovered the art of dialogue through the acquaintance of a Jewish friend. It was probably in the years spent in Krakow that he developed the intuition that would come about in Assisi and lead to the historic World Day of Prayer and Fasting for Peace on October 27, 1986: an appeal to the God of all religions on the planet so that He grants peace to a world marked by profound injuries of division and war. Read More…

Culture and education
International Day of Older Persons, 1 October
The United Nations’ International Day of Older Persons is celebrated annually on October 1 to recognize the contributions of older persons and to examine issues that affect their lives.

The theme this year is: “Celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the International Year of Older Persons: Towards a Society for All Ages”. See the Message of the Secretary-General.  Read More…

1st Conference on Arab Women in Science and Technology, 28-30 September, Raffles Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
The Arab Science & Technology Foundation is organizing a conference on the theme of empowering women in science and technology in the Arab world, in cooperation with the Dubai Business Women’s Council. The conference is being organized in collaboration with UNESCO and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO), as well as a number of scientific entities from the region and beyond. It is being held in Dubai (United Arab Emirates), under the Patronage of HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein.

The conference offers an opportunity for the professional exchange of knowledge and skills related to engage women in the socio-economic development of the Arab World. Over 300 people are expected to participate from the entire world. They will have the opportunity to learn from over 60 international and national speakers via their valuable presentations including workshops, panels, and paper sessions. The conference will be the platform for leading women scientists; eminent researchers specialized in gender-specific topics, and representatives of Arab and international organizations that are concerned with women’s research, development, and innovation. Read More…

Tourism plays key role in preserving world’s rich diversity, says UN official
27 September – Tourism can play a vital role in preserving the rich cultural and natural diversity across the world by promoting sustainable development and global understanding, says a senior United Nations official.

In a message for World Tourism Day, the acting head of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) noted that while globalization can be a means to improve economic collaboration and understanding, it cannot come at the cost of diluting the world’s rich cultural diversity. (…)

World Tourism Day, observed annually on 27 September, is being celebrated this year in Accra, Ghana, and features a think tank around the theme

“Tourism: Celebrating Diversity.”
This year’s celebration marks the 30th anniversary of the Day and aims to highlight the wealth of cultural and natural diversity across the globe as well as the role of sustainable tourism in preserving this diversity. Read More…

World Teachers’ Day 2009 – “Build the future: invest in teachers now”
World Teachers’ Day 2009 (October 5) puts the spotlight on the global teacher shortage and the challenges of being a teacher today
23 September – In our rapidly changing and interdependent world, teachers not only have to ensure that students acquire solid skills in basic subjects, but also that they become responsible local and global citizens, at ease with new technologies and able to make informed decisions about health, the environment and other challenges.

Sustained investment is required to develop a well-trained and motivated teaching force. An estimated 10.3 million new teachers must be recruited worldwide by 2015 just to meet the goal of universal primary education. At a time when the global economic slowdown risks putting tight constraints on education budgets, it is critical that governments support the recruitment, training and professional development of teachers. Read More…

Reconstructing Iraq’s education system
17 September – From printing new textbooks to supporting the launch of an educational television channel, UNESCO is actively engaged in the reconstruction of Iraq’s education system. These activities are highlighted in an exhibit on Iraq and UNESCO’s post conflict/post disaster (PCPD) responses. (…) Key achievements also include the printing of 18 million new textbooks and the creation of a website containing electronic versions of textbooks targeting internally displaced persons and refugee populations.

On the ground, UNESCO works with international and national NGOs, as well as with the national and local authorities and in cooperation with other UN agencies. The office has implemented projects worth $114 million since 2003; 80% of which are for education. The major source of funding has been through the UNDG Trust Fund for Iraq which has financed some $1.2 billion in UN projects in the country. Major funders for UNESCO under the Trust Fund have been the European Commission, Japan and Germany, while Qatar is the major bilateral funder along with the Government of Iraq itself. Four major projects, focusing on literacy, higher education, curriculum development and teacher training, have recently been signed with the office of Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, Consort of His Highness the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani. Read More…

Kids read to benefit Save the Children’s U.S. programs as part of the scholastic summer challenge
More than 60,000 children ages 8-14 read for over 83 million minutes
Westport, Conn., USA, 15 September – This summer, Scholastic, together with the National Summer Learning Association, launched the Scholastic Summer Challenge™, a free summer reading program and interactive website designed to help kids avoid the “Summer Slide,” a common loss of skills due simply to being out of school. As part of the initiative, Scholastic will make a financial contribution to Save the Children’s U.S. Programs on behalf of all the summer program participants. More than 60,000 kids ages 8-14 read for more than 83 million minutes during the four-month period.

In addition to keeping their reading skills sharp, teams visited the Summer Challenge website to learn about critical issues kids face in the areas of early childhood development, literacy, physical activity and nutrition and emergency preparedness and response, which are at the core of Save the Children’s work in the U.S. (…) On top of the financial contribution, books will be given to Save the Children’s U.S. emergency relief programs in honor of the winning Scholastic Summer Challenge team, the Purple Sea Stars. Read More…

Rotary  –  Building peace, one act at a time
by Arnold R. Grahl
Rotary International News, 14 September – Lisa Monette knew she wanted to do something for her class project that would have a lasting impact. Monette, a Rotary World Peace Fellow at Chulalongkorn University, joined forces with three other peace fellows who were thinking along similar lines. Together, they dreamed up A Million Acts of Peace, an effort they launched online 27 August to encourage one million people to carry out one act of peace each. “The idea sort of grew out of the thought that people can do little things that may not mean that much,” Monette says. “But if you have a million people doing little things, you can have a big impact.”

Monette’s collaborators include Gregorio Hernandez Jr., a major in the Philippine army; Raseema Alam, a peace-building trainer and consultant from Canada; and Virender Singh Malik, a retired colonel from India. All have now completed the three-month program. In addition to the Web site, the peace fellows created a page on Facebook and are heavily promoting their effort through Twitter. Their Web site defines an act of peace as “anything you do to further your understanding of another person, place or culture.” It can also include efforts that help the vulnerable, outcast, or needy. So far, Monette says the group has tallied about 150 acts of peace, counted as people e-mail them or contact them via Facebook.  (…)

Monette was sponsored for the Rotary World Peace Fellowships program by the Rotary Club of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. She took a short leave from her job as a spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, specializing in issues related to Asia and terrorism and security worldwide. Read More…

Sino-Japan Youth Conference success
A group of UWC students and graduates have organised a new youth conference to promote understanding between China and Japan
9 September – A group of UWC students and recent graduates from China and Japan developed the idea for the Sino-Japan Youth Conference through a shared concern of the lack of mutual understanding between the two countries. Using their experiences at UWC, they decided to create a program based on the UWC values so that they could draw from their two-year learning and pass on some of their experiences to other young people. 24 Chinese and 24 Japanese young people took part in the conference, held at Li Po Chun UWC of Hong Kong in August for 9 days. (…) The conference also involved discussions and presentations on current issues, exploration of shared traditional arts and dances., and a service excursion to an isolated village in Guangdong Province, China. (…) The Chief-organiser of the conference, Chishio Furukawa, a Japanese graduate from Li Po Chun UWC (…) concluded “The conference has achieved indescribable impact on the minds of the participants. Seeing participants grow and learn day by day reassured me the value of youth education in reconciling antagonism between countries and cultures.” Read More…

New Student Alliance Program officially under way
UNA-USA is pleased to announce its new Student Alliance Program, an action-oriented member force to help students in middle school, high school and college become stronger, smarter and more effective advocates in fixing the world’s problems.

The program’s three areas of focus are human rights and international justice; climate change; and strengthening the United Nations. Each area has a “take action” page of fact sheets and suggestions for educational and advocacy activities. Student Alliance groups can also choose their own topics. A guidebook is included in the program on how to get a group started, either through a UNA-USA chapter or through a school. Read More…

“Ceasefire” wins the Ecumenical Prize in Montreal 2009
Ecumenical Prize winner “Ceasefire” focuses on human suffering in war
Montreal, 7 September (SIGNIS/Interfilm) – As chosen by the six members of the Ecumenical Jury, coming this year from Austria, Canada, United-States and Italy, the Ecumenical Prize in the 33rd edition of the Montreal World Films Festival was awarded to German director Lancelot von Naso for his film Waffenstillstand (Ceasefire).

“During a 24-hour ceasefire between US and Moudjahidin forces, a medical convoy including two journalists, risk their lives to bring supplies to a hospital in war-torn Fallujah, Iraq. Ceasefire is a timely film where the physical journey parallels the inner transformation of the characters who go to their limits to help others under the most extreme circumstances. The Jury believes this film deserves the Ecumenical prize because of its focus on human suffering in war, and because it offers a different perspective from the usual war reporting. First-time feature director Lancelot Von Naso skillfully places the viewer directly into the situation of the protagonists through the cinematography. The movie challenges the audience to examine their perspective on the consequences of war and our responsibility in the face of human suffering.” Read More…

General anti-crisis measure: increase awareness that what many do for a better future is already changing the world.
Vaccinations are extended – The future is in networks
by Michele Dotti
It is true that a lot still needs to be done but it is not correct to maintain that things are getting worse and worse. Such an attitude could lead to a perilous sense of impotence which represents the first step to resignation and idleness: paradoxical feelings at a moment when the possibility of attaining meaningful results for humanity is truly possible, results which were unimaginable even for the generation of our grandparents.

Vaccinations are extended
Smallpox is defeated – After thousands of years of epidemics which have killed hundreds of millions of people and thanks to a global and planned effort, the scourge of smallpox has finally been defeated. In 1796 Edward Jenner demonstrated the possibility of using an animal-based vaccine to prevent smallpox: this discovery constituted the technological basis for finally eradicating the disease. Most of the developed world had already been free of smallpox since 1950, but the disease kept on killing people in poor countries where vaccination was quite scarce. In 1967 the disease was in fact still affecting between 10 to 15 million people every year killing between 1.5 to 2 million of them. In that year WHO (the World Health Organization) founded the Smallpox Eradication Unit and initiated a worldwide mass vaccination campaign supported by a strong vigilance and disease control operation in the affected areas. In the year 1980 WHO declared the disappearance of the disease worldwide: their campaign had in fact reached even the most remote regions of the planet, including the poor internal regions of Asia and Africa and those regions still involved in violent wars and conflicts. (Cfr. Jeffrey D. Sachs, La fine della povertà, (The end of poverty) Mondadori, Milan 2005, p. 276.)

Polio has almost disappeared – In 1988 the World Health Assembly, namely the organization which controls WHO, launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. At the time, polio was still endemic in more than 125 countries, whereas nowadays it can be found only in six countries (Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Niger, Afghanistan and Egypt) and even in these countries the disease is under control. In 2003 only 784 cases were reported in the world compared with 350,000 in the year 1988. Since then about two billion children have been vaccinated and this result has been achieved thanks to 20 million volunteers and international financing of three billion dollars. (Cfr. Jeffrey D. Sachs, op. cit., p. 278.)

Measles is significantly decreasing  – There are seven and a half million less deaths caused by measles. According to the numbers published by the medical magazine “The Lancet”; as a result of vaccination campaigns in several countries, there has been a drop of 60% of deaths compared to the estimates for the year 1999. The media have been covering the good news on measles for quite a few years now. This positive direction had been confirmed in September 2005, by an evaluation of results obtained in the African continent and published in “The Lancet”. According to this report, between the years 2000 and 2003 in 19 African countries there had been a drop of 90% in the number of infections At the beginning of 2007, the estimated percentage of reduced mortality reached 60%.  The new goal, set in 2005, namely to reach a reduction by 90% of what was the death rate for the year 2000 by the year 2010, is leading in the same direction.

Other mass vaccinations – In 1982 the General Manager of UNICEF at the time, Mr. James Grant, launched the Children’s Survival Campaign, promoting a series of projects known with the name of GOBI, aimed at controlling the healthy growth of children, the introduction of oral rehydration against dysentery, promoting breast-feeding to feed and immunize them and spreading immunization against six killer diseases of children, tuberculosis, diphtheria, whooping-cough, tetanus, polio and measles. With the goal of reaching at least an 80% coverage of immunizations, dozens of poor countries have engaged in a massive campaign in order to introduce such preventative measures. The results have been astonishing: the rate of child mortality has dropped dramatically in all areas of the poor countries, Africa included. It is estimated that in ten years this campaign has saved 12 million lives.

High hopes for AIDS too – In the case of AIDS also,  it seems that after years of constant growth the trend is finally changing direction. This is thanks to a better awareness of the risks and methods of transmission and also to the rapid spread of modern contraceptive methods among couples in the developing countries. According to the UNFPA (United Nations Population Fund) barely 10 to 15% were using them back in 1970 compared to 60% in the year 2000. After the peak around the years 1997-98, we can finally see a decrease in the spread of the disease both in sub-Saharan Africa, where however the greatest incidence of the disease remains (23 million cases) and worldwide. (UNAIDS-WHO, The 2007 AIDS epidemic update report, 19 November 2007.)

The future is in networks
Wider communication possibilities – A couple of lines would be enough to give a clear idea of what we are talking about. It is estimated that in 1953 there were about 100 computers in the world, while now there are more than 430 million terminals linked to the Internet and 126 million web sites. In fact it is in communication that the globalization phenomenon has produced the greatest changes and it is by looking at telecommunications that we find the most astonishing results. Back in 1965 there was just one transatlantic telephone cable which could transmit a maximum of 89 calls simultaneously between Europe and America. In order to make a telephone call it was necessary first to book the call, exactly as we do now when we have to go to the dentist. Today the cable network and the satellite system enable us to make more than one million calls at the same time between Europe and America and reach in a matter of a few seconds any of the terminals located in 190 countries, which amount to over 1.2 billion. If one takes into consideration such numbers, it is easy to understand how the world has suddenly become small and united, exactly like a village, and how this globalization process is involving people from all over the world and creating endless relations of interdependence among them.

The language of life – From the vertical, strongly centralized structure – characteristic of the feudal system  – which still controls a huge part of the media, commerce, the communication system and energy, managed by large economic groups, we are moving incredibly fast into the reality of the web – the only truly democratic structure – formed of millions of people, who not only communicate among themselves but also distribute information and culture independently. Fritjof Capra states that the scientific idea that we still have in the world belongs fundamentally to the nineteenth century. We still have a hard time accepting a new way of thinking which is equal to the new vision produced by the scientific discoveries of the twentieth century. We tend to remain tied to the idea of the universe as a “mechanism” (under the influence of the philosophy of Descartes and the physics of Newton) and a vision of social life mainly based on competition and struggle for survival (inherited from social Darwinism); all strongly supported by faith in unlimited material progress to be pursued through economic and technological growth.

These are not the principles which shape nature and human relations. Capra exhorts us to promote right from primary school an ecoliteracy, to enable us to organize sustainable human communities. Sustainable inasmuch as they are based on the same logic as that which regulates ecological communities. “In the last few years sociologists, physicists and biologists have discovered very many correlations between the functioning of human society and that of other seemingly distant realities, such as the cell, the global ecosystem, the Internet, the neural apparatus and the road or railway system of a country. A new science, called the science “of the networks”, is deciphering the organizational structure underlying these worlds and has been able to demonstrate that personal relationships, our brain, the spread of viruses, communication and transportation all work according to the same schemes. Everything is a network and the relations between the different components obey laws which are always the same. Rivers, bacteria, social organizations… up to the World Wide Web seem to follow a higher will, to be related to an intrinsic intelligence of the networks.” (Mark Buchanan, Nexus. Perché la natura, la società, l’economia, la comunicazione funzionano allo stesso modo/Why nature, society, economics and, communication all function in the same way, Mondadori, Milan 2003.)
There are organizational principles which are the basis of each living system, whose structure seems to rest on a few fundamental principles:
interdependence, cycles, non-linearity, self-organization, cooperation, mutual assistance and diversity. After having pursued for centuries the idea of shaping the world according to unsustainable principles, it is now the time to re-imagine and re-create societies on the basis of the fundamental principles we have just noted: exchange networks, purchasing groups, self-managed energy and ethical banking all seem to be going in this direction.
***
(Extract from the book “It is not true that everything is getting worse” written by Michele Dotti and Jacopo Fo, published by EMI 2008. Three other articles have already been published  by Good News Agency May 29th,June 19th and July 10th, 2009 and can be read on: www.goodnewsagency.org Translation by Angela Lombardi)
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Next issue: 23rd October 2009.
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Good News Agency is published in English on one Friday and in Italian the next. Past issues are available at www.goodnewsagency.org . Rome Law-court registration no. 265 dated 20 June 2000.

Managing Editor: Sergio Tripi, Ph.D. Editorial research by Fabio Gatti, Maria Grazia Da Damos, Arianna Cavallo, Azzurra Cianchetta. Editorial Secretary: Maria Grazia Da Damos. Webmaster: Fabio Gatti.

Good News Agency is distributed free of charge through Internet to 10,000 media and editorial journalists of the daily newspapers and periodical magazines and of the radio and television stations in 54 countries: Albania, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bermuda, Bosnia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Caribbean Islands, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Oceania, Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad & Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela, USA. It is also distributed free of charge to 2,800 NGOs and 1,700 high schools, colleges and universities.

It is an all-volunteer service of Associazione Culturale dei Triangoli e della Buona Volontà Mondiale, a registered educational charity chartered in Italy in 1979. The Association operates for the development of consciousness and promotes a culture of peace in the ‘global village’ perspective based on unity in diversity and on sharing. It is based in Via Antagora 10, 00124 Rome, Italy.