A culture of peace is emerging in all fields of human endeavour
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 3,000 NGOs and 1,500 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. It is a supporter of the Global Movement for the Culture of Peace. In the final report of the Decade for a Culture of Peace project (2001-2010) provided to the UN Secretary-General for presentation to the UN General Assembly, Good News Agency is included among the three NGOs that have been playing an active role in the field of Information through Internet.*
Denmark destroys its stockpile of cluster munitions strengthening the global ban
March 20 – Denmark made a strong start to 2014 by announcing it has completed the destruction of its stockpile of cluster munitions, in line with its obligations under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. Having ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions in 2010, Denmark finishes its stockpile destruction 4.5 years in advance of the eight-year deadline set by the convention. The Cluster Munition Coalition warmly congratulates Denmark for this great achievement. Denmark joins 18 other states, including other former large stockpilers such as the Netherlands, Belgium, and the United Kingdom, which have also finished their destruction of cluster munition stockpiles. Denmark’s swift ratification of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the early completion of its stockpile destruction demonstrate the country’s strong commitment to the convention and its goal of preventing further harm from the deadly and indiscriminate weapon. More major stockpilers including Italy, Sweden, Germany and Japan have indicated plans to complete destruction within the next two years.
Burmese armed group commits to child protection and the prohibition of sexual violence
March 19, Geneva – Representatives from the Burma/Myanmar armed non-State actor – the Chin National Front (CNF) and its armed wing the Chin National Army (CNA) – signed Geneva Call’s Deed of Commitment protecting children in armed conflict and the Deed of Commitment prohibiting sexual violence in armed conflict and against gender discrimination. The CNF/CNA, which signed a ceasefire with the Government in 2012, has been fighting for more autonomy for the Chin people – an ethnic group living in the north west of the country – for more than three decades. In signing these two Deeds of Commitment, the CNF/CNA commits to the highest international norms in terms of child protection and prohibition of sexual violence. In 2006, the CNF/CAN signed the Deed of Commitment banning AP mines and has taken measures to implement this commitment, including destruction of components previously used to make these devices. By signing these instruments, it becomes the first armed group in Burma/Myanmar to have signed all three of Geneva Call’s current Deeds of Commitment.
UN welcomes International Criminal Court conviction of former DR Congo militia leader
March 7 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and his top envoy for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) today welcomed the verdict issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC) against a former Congolese militia leader for war crimes in relation to a 2003 attack in the country’s east.
As ratifications lag, UN experts renew call for States to sign Treaty on migrant workers’ rights
New York, April 7 – The expert members of the United Nations panel dealing with the rights of migrant workers and their families renewed today their appeal to all countries to sign the international treaty on the rights of those workers, which went into effect almost 11 years ago. After being adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 1990, it took 23 years for the International Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and their Families (ICRMW) to come into force – the longest of any of the 10 core international human rights instruments – due to its very slow ratification rate.
The Committee – composed of 14 independent human rights experts whose task is to oversee the implementation of the Convention by States parties – notes that many of the 47 States parties to the Convention are not only nations of origin of migrant workers but now also transit and destination countries, because of the changing patterns of migration. The Committee estimates that more than 200 million people worldwide are international migrants, 30 million of whom are estimated to be irregular migrants. According to the UN International Labour Organization (ILO), almost 21 million people are trapped in forced labour.
Bridging the gap- -International documentary film festival
Call for entries: regular deadline, 24 May 2014 – the entry form: www.unaff.org
We are delighted to announce the 17th UNAFF (United Nations Association Film Festival), which was originally conceived to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The 17th UNAFF will be held from October 16-26, 2014 in Palo Alto, Stanford University, East Palo Alto and San Francisco. The theme for this year is BRIDGING THE GAP. UNAFF celebrates the power of films dealing with human rights, environmental themes, population, migration, women’s issues, refugees, homelessness, racism, health, universal education, war and peace. UNAFF has screened some of the most awarded and talked about documentaries in the industry including seven that went on to win Academy Awards and twenty-three that were nominated.
Economy and development
Improving national development indicators
Workshop for the UNSD-DFID project on “Improving the collation, availability and dissemination of national development indicators, including MDGs” will take place in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on 21-25 April.
The workshop “CountryData: Building better dissemination systems for national development indicators,” organized by UN DESA’s Statistics Division, is the fourth in a series of international workshops planned by the Statistics Division – Department for International Development (DFID) Project on “Improving the collation, availability and dissemination of national development indicators, including MDGs”.
Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation –
High Level Meeting, Mexico City, Mexico – April 15 – 16
The Global Partnership was created at an important High Level Forum of governments, development agencies (like Oxfam) and businesses on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, Korea in 2011. Attended by over 3000 delegates the forum marked a critical turning point in cooperation between a wide variety of international development agencies.
The Partnership brings together governments, the private sector,and civil society to ensure funding, knowledge and policy produce maximum impact for development. Over 1300 development leaders will join Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurría in Mexico City to:
° review global progress in making development co-operation more effective;
° agree on actions to boost progress; and,
° anchor effective development co-operation in the post-2015 global development agenda.
The leaders who will come together in Mexico City include heads of state and government, ministers, parliamentarians and leaders from international organisations, business, civil society and foundations.
US$34 million IFAD loan and grants to strengthen post-harvest interventions and resilience to climate change in Rwanda
April 7, Rome – A new project recently launched in Kigali by the Government of Rwanda and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will advance the country’s efforts to reduce post-harvest losses. The Climate Resilient and Post-harvest Agribusiness Support Project (PASP) will target over 32,400 rural households (155,518 people) in 10 districts located in Rwanda. The project will provide opportunities for smallholder farmers to acquire the skills, knowledge and access to specialized service providers to create and operate viable businesses capable of delivering larger volumes of improved produce to the market and managing the climate risks in post-production processes.
To buffer growing range of climate-induced stresses, new agricultural investment programmes need to incorporate improved post-harvest processing and storage techniques. This is exactly what the PASP will also do. It is supported by an IFAD loan of US$13.45 million and grants of US$13.45 million and US$7 million provided by IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Program (ASAP). With the total cost of US$83.35 million, the project will be cofinanced by the Government of Rwanda and the beneficiaries through loans from the national commercial banking sector and will be implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources under the supervision of IFAD.
Senegal farmers, entrepreneurs to boost business skills, incomes with volunteer experts’ help
April 2, – The USAID-funded West Africa Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program launched activities in Senegal today, April 2, 2014. Implementers ACDI/VOCA and NCBA CLUSA formally introduced the program’s new phase, which will provide short-term technical assistance to Senegalese farmers and entrepreneurs, helping them gain new business skills and connections. F2F will help nurture the country’s agricultural sector at the grassroots level, working to boost market competition and rural households’ incomes.
The program’s kickoff event—titled “Volunteer Technical Assistance to Improve Food Security and Enhance Competitiveness”—brought together representatives from USAID, Senegal’s Ministry of Agriculture, partner organizations, and potential program participants. Attendees discussed how technical assistance provided through volunteer experts will help Senegal foster agricultural growth. They examined opportunities for sharing knowledge and learning between the F2F volunteers and local farming groups over the next five years. F2F West Africa is a five-year, USAID-funded program implemented by ACDI/VOCA in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, and Liberia, and by NCBA/CLUSA in Senegal.
Women entrepreneurs shine at Kyrgyz Trade Fair: USAID program supports businesswomen at major garment industry event
March 31, Bishkek– The 8th National Garment Trade Fair saw national Kyrgyz garment companies come together in Bishkek. Over 80 garment companies from Bishkek and other regions, as well as providers of equipment and fabrics from Turkey, China, and Europe exhibited products at the event. The event was hosted by the Association of Light Industry Enterprises “LEGRPOM” and sponsored by the Women’s Leadership in Small and Medium Enterprises (WLSME) program.
WLSME is funded by USAID and implemented by ACDI/VOCA and the Bai-Tushum Banking Group. The program promotes the growth of women-owned businesses in the Kyrgyz Republic to fight poverty. Since 2012 WLSME has engaged with close to 600 women entrepreneurs throughout Kyrgyzstan through business and technical training and tailored assistance. This work aims to nurture the growth of female-headed small and medium-sized enterprises and to increase their numbers and business acumen. One major objective is to strengthen the social capital of the women business owners through better connections with suppliers, buyers, industry associations, and service providers.
First six countries to benefit from Africa-led fund
March 28, Tunis – The Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali, Niger and South Sudan signed agreements with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to receive $2 million each from the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund.
The contributions will be used to bolster a wide range of projects to improve food security, nutrition, agriculture and rural development. They include policies and programmes to increase opportunities for youth employment; improve natural resources management and the quality of food production; increase the resilience of livelihoods in conflict-affected areas; and rapidly increase the availability of nutritious food through programmes like cash transfers, school feeding and school gardens.
The Fund was launched officially in June 2013 with a funding package of $30 million from Equatorial Guinea. Additional funding from Angola ($10 million) and a group of civil society organizations in the Republic of Congo have brought the total amount to $40 million. The government of Cameroon has also pledged to add to the fund and other countries are expected to join in the coming months. FAO will provide technical assistance for implementation of the projects in cooperation with partners.
Strengthening livelihoods and resilience to climate change in Viet Nam: IFAD invests in rural communities hit by erratic weather and sea level rise in the Mekong Delta
March 28, Rome – A project supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will improve rural livelihoods and strengthen people’s capacity to adapt to climate change, benefitting 125,000 vulnerable people, in Viet Nam’s Mekong Delta region.
IFAD is providing US$34 million to finance the Project for Adaption to Climate Change in the Mekong Delta in Ben Tre and Tra Vinh Provinces. The project includes a US$12 million grant from the Adaption for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP).
Although Viet Nam became a middle-income country in 2010, growing inequality between rural and urban areas and among ethnic groups threatens overall economic growth and prosperity. The project will target poor communities, specifically female-headed and ethnic minority households. The project will work to develop climate-resilient agricultural systems, salinity tolerant fish varieties and off-farm livelihood opportunities.
Joint action to avoid food crisis in the Central African Republic
March 21, Rome – – The World Bank, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the government of the Central African Republic are joining forces to help prevent a full-scale food and nutrition crisis in the conflict-stricken nation.
The World Bank is funding an $8 million agreement with FAO as part of a $20 million programme to support food aid and agriculture production, which is being implemented in coordination with the World Food Programme (WFP).
Thanks to total funds received so far, FAO will distribute a total of 2 400 tons of staple crop seeds as well as hand tools such as hoes to 105 000 vulnerable families in 15 prefectures by April. But more funds are needed to help farmers in the country: FAO is aiming to provide support to 150 000 families under a plan by the United Nations Food Security Cluster, which is seeking a total of $180 million to assist 1.25 million people. The Organization has called for $45 million and has so far mobilized $25 million with contributions from the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund, Belgium, the Central Emergency Response Fund, the United Kingdom, the World Bank and the United States of America as well as from FAO’s own funding mechanisms.
IFAD and EU join hands to boost sustainable agriculture and food security in Kenya
Innovative public-private partnerships to move smallholder family farmers from subsistence to commercial agriculture
March 19, Rome – The Government of Kenya is partnering to finance a new programme that will support smallholder farmers in the East-African country to increase productivity and profitability. The US$30.1 million Kenya Cereal Enhancement Programme (KCEP) programme is co-financed by the Government of Kenya (€2.4 million), the beneficiaries (€3.6 million), the EU (€17.6 million as a grant), the private sector (€3.6 million) and Equity Bank (€ 2.9 million). Equity Bank will also supply equipment and technology to build the capacity of smallholder farmers allowing them to link up to financial services.
Kenya is a food deficit country which, even in a good harvest year, must import up to 20% of its annual cereal requirements. The KCEP aims to decrease Kenya’s reliance on cereal imports. Implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture of Kenya and under the supervision of IFAD, KCEP will benefit over 100,000 households eight counties. Particular attention will be paid to women headed households and youth given the specific constraints they face in accessing agricultural services. The programme will introduce the electronic scheme to improve farmers’ access to agricultural inputs within the value chain approach.
Swiss contribution will boost nutrition for mothers and children in Sudan
April 7, Khartoum – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) today welcomed two contributions from the government of Switzerland that will improve the poor nutritional status of children, pregnant women and nursing mothers in Sudan. Switzerland is giving WFP Sudan a total of US$5.2 million in two separate contributions including an in-kind donation of 600 metric tons of dried skimmed milk, valued at US$4.1 million, and a cash donation of US$1.1.
WFP will use the dried skimmed milk in its nutritional programme to prevent and treat moderate acute malnutrition and chronic undernutrition among children aged 6 to 35 months old as well as for pregnant and nursing mothers. This in-kind contribution will provide support for 250,000 mothers and children with nutrient-dense food rations for four months. The cash contribution will be used to support WFP’s voucher programme in Kassala State in East Sudan.
Switzerland is currently WFP Sudan’s third largest bilateral donor in 2014. Over the last five years, the Swiss government has contributed more than US$31 million to WFP’s Emergency Operation in Sudan, in addition to US$685,000 for the UN Humanitarian Air Service, which is managed by WFP. Sudan remains one of WFP’s largest and most complex operations.
Australian Bank donates $92-million for IT scholarships
April 3 – The head of Australian bank Westpac announced a $92.4-million donation to fund annual scholarships and awards aimed at boosting women’s participation in the information technology industry, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Starting next year, the gift from the Westpac Bicentennial Foundation will provide aid to undergraduate and graduate students ranging from $9,200 to more than $100,000 a year and send many recipients to study in Asia. Westpac, Australia’s oldest company, will award 200 scholarships in 2017, its bicentennial year, and 100 annually thereafter, operating the program in partnership with the University of Sydney, the University of Melbourne, and the University of Wollongong.
Donors pledge $240-million for push on tropical diseases
April 2 – The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other donors will commit $240-million Wednesday to tackling neglected tropical diseases, the Financial Times writes. The industry’s nonprofit efforts are the focus of a meeting in Paris, where donors will hear a report on progress in fighting Guinea worm, leprosy, and other tropical maladies. The Gates Foundation and the London-based Children’s Investment Fund are to pledge $50-million each, with the World Bank and other contributors supplying $140-million.
The meeting follows GlaxoSmithKline’s announcement of a five-year, $216-million investment in manufacturing and research efforts in Africa. Mr. Gates said progress on tropical diseases, toward which big pharmaceutical firms have donated $13.3-billion in medications, showed the industry “could have the best of both worlds: going after profitable drugs for rich and middle-income countries and providing treatments at cost for the very poorest.”
ADRA International responds to crises in Ukraine and Zimbabwe
by Natalia Lopez-Thismon
March 27 – As violence in Ukraine escalates and the dangers of Zimbabwean floods remain, ADRA International has prepared emergency response plans at both locations. After peaceful protests turned violent in Kiev, Ukraine, more than 1,000 people have been injured and more than 100 are dead. In the wake of this emergency, ADRA is providing long-term mental rehabilitation as well as transportation to and from medical care. ADRA is also distributing nonfood items such as medicine, clothes, and hygiene items to about 1,500 individuals.
Incessant rains in early February resulted in floods that affected inhabitants located under the border of Chivi and Masvingo districts in Masvingo Province. Approximately 2,514 families urgently evacuated, leaving behind all their belongings. In response to the crisis, ADRA has provided transport for evacuation, and is providing emergency food, water, and hygiene and sanitation items including bath and laundry soap, jerry cans and other hygiene products.
Olympique Marseille soccer club supports children in Central African Republic
March 26, Paris – France’s Olympique Marseille (OM) soccer club is supporting the World Food Programme’s food assistance operations in the Central African Republic (CAR), a country teetering on the brink of humanitarian catastrophe. In the latest example of the sporting world joining the fight against hunger, Olympique Marseille has donated $15,000 to WFP school meals programmes in the Central African Republic.
This year, despite logistical and security challenges, WFP has provided food to more than 250,000 people a month in CAR. With the money raised by the soccer club, WFP will feed children through a school meals programme, preventing malnutrition among those who have been forced from their homes due to the on-going violence.
The OM kicked off its partnership with WFP last autumn on World Food Day and aims to raise awareness of the issue of hunger and encourage people to donate to WFP.
Peace and security
Global Day of Action on Military Spending – 14 April
The International Peace Bureau is happy to announce that the 4th edition of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending will be held on Monday, 14 April 2014. The GDAMS initiative was cofounded in 2011 by the International Peace Bureau (IPB) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
The International Peace Bureau is dedicated to the vision of a World Without War. We are a Nobel Peace Laureate (1910); and over the years, 13 of our officers have been recipients of the Nobel Peace Prize. Our 320 member organisations in 70 countries, together with individual members form a global network, bringing together expertise and campaigning experience in a common cause. Our current main programme centres on Disarmament for Sustainable Development.
UAE contributes to WFP saving lives in Syria conflict
April 1, Rome/Geneva – The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) has welcomed a generous contribution of US$31 million from the Government of the United Arab Emirates towards its emergency humanitarian operations in Syria.
Last month, a lack of funding forced WFP to reduce by 20% the March food basket provided to vulnerable families inside Syria. As a result, families did not receive sufficient nutrients to stay healthy (1,530 kilocalories, compared with the planned 1,920 kilocalories). The UAE donation will allow WFP to continue to provide food assistance to vulnerable people impacted by the conflict.
WFP has appealed for US$2 billion to feed around 7 million Syrians displaced in their country or who have fled to neighbouring countries, where over 1.5 million Syrian refugees depend on the UN food agency’s food vouchers. WFP often uses vouchers to provide assistance where markets are functioning but people cannot afford to buy food. Vouchers provide people with more choice; they can buy fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables and milk that are not normally included in conventional food rations. In 2013, through the voucher programme, WFP injected over US$400 million into the local economies of neighbouring countries. WFP plans to expand its voucher assistance to reach over 2.9 million Syrian refugees this year.
Central African Republic: aid for more than 4,300 people in north-east
April 1, Bangui – More than 4,300 people in the city of Ndélé, in the north-eastern part of the Central African Republic, received food and other basic necessities last week in a distribution carried out by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in cooperation with the Central African Red Cross Society.
The violence that has shaken the country since December 2012, and that has intensified over the past three months, has obliged large numbers of people to flee the capital Bangui and other parts of the country and take refuge, in the north in particular, many miles from their homes. With the aim of improving and diversifying people’s diets, the ICRC distributed vegetable seed to 350 farmers in February. It also provided five farmers’ groups with mosaic disease-resistant cassava cuttings, which will be distributed onward to more than 1,500 people during the next planting season. Alongside the farm aid it is providing, the ICRC has been maintaining the water distribution network, which supplies 250,000 litres a day, since December 2012.
New support to tackle dire food security situation in South Sudan
March 31, Juba/Rome – The Government of the United Kingdom has released $13.7 million in emergency funding to FAO to help conflict-affected families in South Sudan restore their agriculture-based livelihoods and stave off an increasingly alarming food security situation. The support for FAO’s work from the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) comes at a critical time.
DFID’s grant will ensure that FAO is able to reach households in time so that they can get seeds in the ground during the current planting season. FAO has appealed for $77 million to assist about 2.3 million people with immediate support designed to help them plant rapidly-maturing vegetables and staple crops, as well as to catch fish and contain livestock diseases.
Farmers are concerned that the crisis has disrupted input supply chains, markets and development initiatives throughout the country. FAO aims to help them gain access to quality seeds, tools, training and other support needed to ensure reasonable production in 2014. This is important for ensuring food availability later this year, particularly given the country’s current cereal production deficit of 400 000 tons.
Towards the creation of a network of women for a culture of peace in Africa
an article by UNESCO news
“Build an integrated Africa, with prosperity and peace, governed by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.” This vision, supported by the African Union, is central to the Priority Africa strategy of UNESCO. UNESCO has reasserted this message recently on the occasion of the first Crans Montana Forum for African Women held in Brussels from 19 to 22 March 2014, chaired by Ms. Irina Bokova, Director- General of UNESCO along with the Director General of ISESCO. (…)
The closing session of the Forum, chaired by Ms. Lalla Aïcha Ben Barka, Deputy Director-General of UNESCO for Africa, was the occasion to present the objectives and actions of a new network dedicated to “Women for a culture of peace in Africa.” Its goal is to bring together African and non-African organizations involved in promoting the central role of African women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts. (…)
World Malaria Day – April 25
2014 theme: Invest in the Future: Defeat Malaria
The global fight towards zero malaria deaths is one of the great stories of our time. A partnership of over 500 UN agencies, governments, organizations and stakeholders are working together in the Rollback Malaria Partnership.
Throughout the past decade, as a result of this effort, deaths from malaria have steadily declined. It is a distinct possibility that by 2015, Goal 6 of the Millennium Development Goals, will be met, ensuring that malaria is no longer a major cause of mortality and no longer a barrier to social and economic development and growth anywhere in the world.
International Council of Nurses and the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth join forces to advance eHealth knowledge
Geneva, Switzerland, Luzern, Switzerland, 9 April 2014 -The International Council of Nurses (ICN) and the International Society for Telemedicine and eHealth (ISfTeH) today announced a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that formalises the relationship between the two organisations. ICN and ISfTeH have collaborated for more than five years to advance eHealth and telehealth knowledge and understanding in their respective, but complementary, spheres of influence. Areas of continued collaboration will include communications, conferences and resources.
The ICN eHealth Programme, established in 2011, envisions a transformation of nursing through information and communication technology. ISfTeH fosters the sharing of knowledge and experiences across organisations and across borders and aims to promote the widespread use of ICT tools and solutions in health and social care.
Battling fear and stigma over Ebola in West Africa
By Moustapha Diallo, IFRC
April 1 – In Guinea, a west African country, which is currently experiencing a rampant spread of Ebola cases, fear and stigma related to the disease are becoming increasingly visible. With support from IFRC, the Red Cross Society of Guinea is working closely with the Ministry of Health, WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Trained Red Cross volunteers are working in affected areas, identifying and tracking those who have come into contact with suspected cases, disinfecting the homes of Ebola victims, and raising awareness among communities on how to protect themselves from becoming infected.
IFRC has released 142,102 Swiss francs from its Disaster Relief Emergency Fund to support at-risk communities in Conakry, Guéckédou, Kissidougou and Macenta. Aside from raising
awareness among communities on how to prevent the spread of Ebola, Red Cross volunteers are also providing psychosocial support to families affected by the outbreak, and are assisting in the management of dead bodies. In neighbouring countries, Red Cross National Societies are also on alert, in the event suspected cases are confirmed and a response needs to be launched.
Rotary brings free health services into underserved communities
March 28, Evanston/Illinois — Rotary clubs of South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho, Nigeria, Uganda, and Ghana team up with NGOs, businesses and governments for Rotary Family Health Days (RFHD)– an innovative international campaign providing free health-care services to underserved families — launches its fourth edition in April 2014, aiming to reach 350,000 people in Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho. The program, led by Rotary’s mobilizing arm – Rotarians for Family Health & AIDS Prevention – addresses Africa’s most pressing health challenges, including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and reproductive health, as well as conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. An important component is immunizing children against polio, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
The Rotary-led program is sponsored by The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, the South Africa Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC, USAID, the SABC and Caxton as primary media partners as well as YFM, Media 24 news and Independent Newspapers in the Western Cape.
Southeast Asia declared polio free
Dan Nixon, Rotary News
The World Health Organization certified on 27 March its 11-country Southeast Asia region has eradicated polio, a long-awaited declaration given that five years ago India represented nearly half of all polio cases worldwide. The region’s last wild polio case was reported in West Bengal, India, on 13 January 2011.
“This achievement is an important milestone for the Global Polio Eradication Initiative [GPEI],” said Rotary Foundation Trustee chair Dong Kurn Lee at the WHO’s South-East Asia Regional Certification Commission for Polio Eradication meeting in New Delhi, India, on 27 March. “We have beaten polio in Southeast Asia, and now we must do the same in the rest of Asia and Africa.”
The region includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Timor-Leste. Its more than 1.8 billion people represent over 25 percent of the world’s population.
Southeast Asia joins WHO’s Region of the Americas (1994), Western Pacific Region (2000), and European Region (2002) in eradicating polio, marking another vital step toward a polio-free world by 2018. (…) The GPEI’s challenge now is to eradicate polio in the three countries where the disease has never been stopped: Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria. And recent outbreaks in the Middle East and Horn of Africa are stark reminders that polio anywhere is a threat everywhere.(…)
Mexico: agreement between MSF and state government will help prevent Chagas disease
March 14 – The inhabitants of San Pedro Pochutla municipality and Mazunte town, in Oaxaca state, Mexico will be able to access Chagas disease diagnosis and treatment as a result of the agreement signed by the international medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the Secretary of State for Health.
Through the project MSF plans to provide technical support to health facility staff in the intervention area with the objective to attract, diagnose and treat patients living with Chagasdisease. The estimated prevalence of the disease among the population in the area ranges between 4% and 12%.
Energy and safety
UN launches decade-long initiative to promote sustainable energy for all
New York, April 9 – The United Nations launched today the Decade of Sustainable Energy for All (2014-2024), an initiative aimed at promoting renewable energy and energy efficiency worldwide, with a forum to take place annually, starting this coming June.
The initiative, announced in New York at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance Summit, has three main objectives: ensuring universal access to modern energy services, doubling the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and sharing renewable energy globally.
“The speed and scale of interventions we need to transform our current energy system and ensure shared prosperity lie in the private sector,” said Kandeh Yumkella, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the Sustainable Energy for All Initiative, as he called on the private sector to innovate and invest in order to help reach the initiative’s three objectives by 2030.
In his address, Mr. Yumkella also announced that the UN will convene the first annual Sustainable Energy for All Forum on 4-6 June at its New York Headquarters, working with the World Bank and other key partners.
A European First: UK Government launches Solar Strategy
April 4, London – The UK government today announced its Solar Strategy, the first such strategic document dedicated to solar by any European Union government. It will entail the creation of “solar hubs” whereby commercial and public sector buildings deploy solar arrays onsite, effectively shifting the focus of the market towards mid to large scale rooftop installations. It also reasserts the government’s goal to deliver 20 GW of solar capacity by 2020 and sets out a new ambition to double the number of domestic rooftop solar arrays in the UK to one million homes by 2015. The announcement made by Minister Greg Barker Solar Strategy at SunSolar Energy in Birmingham, is a statement of intent by the UK government that it is seeking to play a more influential role in the global solar sector market, estimated to be around 46 GW by analysis from Deutsche Bank. That 46 GW represents a 50 percent increase in existing installed capacity.
Green Transition Scoreboard® tops $5.3 trillion privately invested in the Green Economy
March 31, St. Augustine- Again for 2014, the Green Transition Scoreboard® (GTS) finds, with $5.3 trillion in private investments and commitments since 2007, the green economy is on track to reach $10 trillion in investments by 2020 to effectively scale innovations and reduce costs in green technologies as the world transitions to the Solar Age. The 2014 GTS report Plenty of Water! focuses on the many water investment opportunities as global policy makers, businesses and civic society realize water is critical to environmental, social and human capital, and must be integrated into financial markets rather than overlooked as an externality. The Water sector added $484 billion to the GTS, 9% of the overall total and more than either Green R&D or Cleantech.
Environment and wildlife
Global Ocean Action summit for food security and blue growth
The Hague, Netherlands, April 22 – 25
Ocean health and productivity must be at the heart of global efforts to eradicate poverty, strengthen food security and build resistance to climate change.
For the first time, with a view to improving food security, eradicating poverty and delivering shared prosperity, global leaders, ocean practitioners, scientists, and representatives from government, business, civil society and international organizations will come together to explore action-oriented partnerships, governance arrangements, investment frameworks and new financing vehicles to turn the tide on the health of Oceans.
‘Remarkable social progress’ when forests are FSC certified – new study confirms
April 07- Forests FSC certified for their sustainable management provide more benefits to communities than uncertified forests, according to a new study of Congo Basin logging concessions by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Conducted in 2013-2014 across three Congo Basin countries—Cameroon, Gabon and Republic of Congo—the WWF supported study matched nine certified and nine noncertified concessions, or forest management units (FMUs) to compare how well they delivered social benefits to workers and communities. The study looked at measures such as employee living and working conditions, equitable distribution of resources, social infrastructure such as schools and community buildings, and impacts on customary rights such as agriculture and hunting. The study found that FSC certified concessions establish more effective and better organized institutions for communication with communities and equitable financial support to development projects, in clear contrast to past and nearby uncertified forestry operations. In light of the results of the Congo Basin research, WWF Forest Director Rod Taylor reaffirms WWF’s commitment to investments in FSC certification.
Countries renew plan to protect mountain gorillas
7 April – The three countries home to mountain gorillas have agreed on new measures to conserve the critically endangered animals, and to maximize the economic benefits they bring to local communities. National park officials from Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have renewed their joint commitment to protect gorilla habitat spanning their shared borders, and recognized the importance of attracting tourists for lucrative gorilla treks. Mountain gorillas are the only type of great ape in the world that are experiencing an increase in number, yet only about 880 individuals were counted at the last census. Gorilla family groups in each of the range countries have been habituated to the presence of people, and can be visited on carefully controlled tours.
New banner bag collection by BlueAvocado reduces waste and creates jobs for refugee women
April 3, Austin/Texas – BlueAvocado has partnered with BuildASign.com and Open Arms to launch an eco-friendly, upcycled bag collection just in time for Earth Day – the Banner Bag Collection by BlueAvocado. The collection consists of unique one-of-a-kind bags made from donated vinyl banner waste from BuildASign.com, which is then transformed by women refugee war survivors working for Austin manufacturer Open Arms into unique hand-made products.
Each bag repurposes roughly six square feet of vinyl, is lined with 100% upcycled t-shirt material, has seat belt strapping and provides roughly an hour of employment for a refugee woman.
EU Council announces first-ever seafood trade ban against illegal fishing nations
March 24, Brussels – Today, four leading environmental groups – Environmental Justice
Foundation (EJF), Oceana, The Pew Charitable Trusts and WWF have welcomed a decision by the EU Fisheries Council to place trade restrictions on Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea for failing to cooperate in fighting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. The decision means EU member states are now required to ban the import of fish from Belize, Cambodia, and Guinea and ensure that EU fishing vessels do not operate in the waters of these nations.
The three countries were initially amongst eight countries identified by the European Commission in November 2012 for inadequate monitoring of their fishing fleets, neglecting to impose sanctions on illegal fishing operators, and failing to develop robust fisheries laws. In 2013 the Commission announced that Fiji, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Vanuatu had improved but that Belize, Cambodia and Guinea had not. Today’s Council decision confirms the Commission recommendation that the countries be formally blacklisted or “red-carded” and prevented from trading fish with the EU.
Religion and spirituality
In an unprecedented symbolic act senior cleric calls for religious co-existence in Iran
7 April, New York – In a symbolic and unprecedented move, Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran announced today that he has gifted to the Baha’is of the world an illuminated work of calligraphy of a paragraph from the writings of Baha’u’llah, the Prophet-founder of the Baha’i Faith.
This move comes in the wake of several recent statements by religious scholars in the Muslim world who have set out alternative interpretations of the teachings of Islam in which tolerance of every religion is, in fact, upheld by the holy Qur’an. “This is a most welcome and hopeful development with possible implications for the coexistence of the peoples of the world,” said Ms. Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations.
Ayatollah Tehrani states on his website that he prepared the calligraphy of the verse as a “symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and avoidance of hatred, enmity and blind religious prejudice.”
Pakistan – Religious scholars adopt Charter of Peace
Representatives of different religions support coexistence, peace for every one
March 13 – Representatives of Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhs and Baha’is on Wednesday adopted Charter of Peace during an Interfaith Consultative Conference, arranged by the Peace & Harmony Network Pakistan (PHNP) at the Ambassador Hotel in which they urge clerics of all religions to include the message of peace and social harmony, brotherhood, acceptance and coexistence during prayer sessions – Friday prayer and Sunday Mass.
Through the Charter of Peace, the religious scholars asked the people to restore compassion, respect and tolerance to the centre of morality and religion, to teach each other that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence or hatred is illegitimate, to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other religions, traditions and cultures and also to encourage a positive appreciation of religious and cultural diversity, interfaith and intercultural harmony.
The United Religions Initiative (URI) keeps on spreading
URI provides a forum for proactive interfaith engagement, where religious differences can be transformed from a source of division and conflict into a wellspring for positive social change. In exploring this area, Peacebuilding, you will find stories of success in interfaith peacebuilding. You will also find articles of interest, training resources, blogs (The Latest) and forums in which effective tools and practices are shared. Our intention is to expand the ability of people of diverse traditions to generate a culture of peace on our shared Earth. Cooperation Circles (CCs) are transcending religious and cultural divisions all around the world to create inclusive, on-the-ground solutions to critical issues facing their communities and regions.
Culture and education
Global Charity improves life for the poor as it restores historic Muslim sites
by Nicole Lewis
March 23 – Four hundred years ago, the widow of the second Mughal emperor of India built her husband a grand mausoleum in what is now Delhi. Recognized as one of the world’s heritage sites by Unesco, Humayun’s Tomb—an architectural precursor of the Taj Mahal—and its surrounding gardens gradually fell into disrepair. Today its marble dome shines brightly, lush grass grows alongside its walkways, and its pools and fountains are repaired. The painstaking restoration by local master craftsmen helped attract 300,000 people last year, more than 300 times the number of visitors before the makeover. The building’s physical transformation, as well as myriad improvements to the surrounding community, was made possible by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, a nonprofit organization that focuses on revitalizing communities in the Muslim world through physical and social improvements and other efforts. The group restores landmark buildings and parks in urban areas while also working to meet the needs of local residents, who are surveyed to determine what projects should be undertaken in areas such as education, health, and employment.
U.S. Agency for International Development and 32 partner organizations launch U.S. Global
Development Lab to help end extreme poverty by 2030
April 3, Washington D.C.– U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah will announce today the establishment of the U.S. Global Development Lab at an event in New York City. The Lab and its 32 inaugural Cornerstone Partners will advance a science-and technology-based approach to development, creating a new global marketplace of innovations and taking them to scale to help end extreme poverty by 2030.
The Lab will support breakthrough solutions in water, health, food security and nutrition, energy, education, and climate change, reaching 200 million people in the next five years. To advance this approach, USAID is also increasing the number of scientists and technology experts in the Agency, including 65 fellows from the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Reflecting the proven impact of science and innovation, USAID has increased its investments. In 2008, USAID spent roughly $127 million to support research and development. Today, the Agency spends $611 million – not only on research, but innovation and applied solutions in science and technology.
Winners of 2014 EU Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards announced
The Hague/Brussels, 20 March – The winners of the 2014 European Union Prize for Cultural Heritage / Europa Nostra Awards are unveiled today by the European Commission and Europa Nostra. The 27 laureates, selected from 160 nominated projects across 30 countries, are honoured for achievements in four areas: conservation; research; dedicated service; education, training and awareness-raising. The award ceremony will take place on 5 May at the Burgtheater in Vienna, under the patronage of the President of Austria, Heinz Fischer. Androulla Vassiliou, European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth, and Plácido Domingo, the internationally-renowned opera singer and President of Europa Nostra, will jointly present the awards. About each winning project: information and jury’s comments, high resolution photos and videos
Rotaract, Interact, and Ryla
Leadership is an essential aspect of Rotary. Through these groups, participants strengthen their leadership skills, serve their communities, increase their world understanding, build friendships.
Rotaract brings together people ages 18-30 in universities and communities worldwide to organize service activities, develop leadership and professional skills, and have fun. Rotary clubs sponsor them, but Rotaract members manage and fund their clubs independently.
Interact is a club for youth ages 12-18 who want to connect with others in their community or school. Interact club members have fun while carrying out service projects and learning about the world. Interact clubs organize at least two service projects a year: one that benefits their community and one that encourages international understanding.
Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is a leadership development program run by Rotary. While participants can be any age, most events focus on secondary school students, university students, or young professionals. RYLA events are typically 3–10 days long and include presentations, activities, and workshops that cover a variety of topics, including: Leadership fundamentals and ethics – Communication skills – Problem solving and conflict management – Community and global citizenship.
Harvard University, The Pluralism Project – 2014 Summer internships
The Pluralism Project at Harvard University is seeking applications for research internship positions for Summer 2014. Internship projects will vary depending on the student’s interests/experience but might include conducting ethnographic research and field visits to study religious diversity in a particular city of their choosing and/or working directly Pluralism Project senior staff to enhance the Pluralism Project’s web and archival resources at our Cambridge, MA office.
All interns will be expected to participate in weekly intern cohort meetings via Skype and will work closely with Pluralism Project senior staff throughout the internship. Research results may be published as a part of On Common Ground: World Religions in America or elsewhere on the Pluralism Project’s website, pluralism.org. Internships are unpaid, although we are happy to work with candidates to secure academic credit or internship compensation through their home institution.
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THE FUTURE OF MY PEOPLE
By Alessandro Ghebreigziabiher
On a ship. On the sea. Somewhere.
“Are you listening?”
“Yes I am.”
“But you’re not looking at me …”
The man turns round to satisfy his nephew. “Don’t worry,” he says, raising his left eyebrow, “my ears work well even without the help of my eyes …” And he turns to study the waves.
The boy, not much more than six years old, looks at him doubtfully; however, he trusts him and starts again: “Uncle … do you know Italian well?”
“Of course, I’ve already been there twice.”
“Do you really know all the words?”
The nephew looks round, as if he were afraid to be heard by others and comes to the point: “What does community outsider mean?”
The man, tall and thin, is thirty years old, but his grey beard gives him at least another ten. As soon as he catches the child’s last word, he swivels round and looks him straight in the eyes.
A brief instant, like an eternity, passes between them, only possible on a journey in which life is at risk.
“Community outsider, you say?” he repeats, giving the ghost of a sincere smile. “Outsider is a most beautiful word. Community people are those who all live in the same community, like the Italians, and the community outsider is one who arrives from far away and comes in to be a part of it. As soon as the members of the community see him they understand immediately that he has something which they don’t have, something they’ve never seen, an extra, that is, something more. That’s it, a community outsider is someone who comes from far off to bring something more.
“And is this something more a beautiful thing?”
“Of course!” exclaims Amadou heatedly, “you and I, once we reach Italy, will become community outsiders. I am so-so, but you are certainly a beautiful, very beautiful thing.”
The man goes back to running his gaze over the surface of the water, but Ousmane informs him that the questioning isn’t yet finished: “What does immigrant mean?”
This time his uncle seems better prepared and answers immediately: “Immigrant is an even more beautiful word than outsider. You should know that when we outsiders arrive in Italy and start to live there, we will become immigrants.”
“Yes, you too. An immigrant child. And as you are also a community outsider, that is, someone who brings some beautiful addition to the community, all the Italians with whom we become friends will say thank you to us, they will be grateful to us. Therefore immigrants. Is that clear?”
“Yes, that’s clear, uncle. First community outsiders and then immigrants.”
“Fine,” says Amadou approvingly and goes back with satisfaction to admiring the sea which is hugging the ship. However, he has no time to let himself be attracted by the waves again before the child demands his attention once more. “Uncle …”
“Yes?” says the man, turning round for the hundredth time.
“And what does clandestine mean?”
This time Amadou makes an enormous effort to smile but succeeds.
“Clandestine … you know, this is the most important word. We community outsiders, before becoming immigrants, are clandestine. The members of the community, like almost all the Italians whom you will meet in passing, very probably do not yet know that you have a beautiful extra thing and one of them may on the contrary insinuate that it is something ugly. You must never believe these people. Promise!” The man’s tone suddenly becomes aggressive, though Amadoudoesn’t notice.
“I promise!” the child hastens to say, though he is not at all frightened.
“In spite of the people who may deny it,” continues his uncle, “you are a beautiful extra thing and this is true in spite of whether you become an immigrant or not, in spite of what others think. And you know why?”
“Because you are clandestine. You are the destiny of your clan, that is of your family. You are the future of your dear ones …”
The man turns to watching the sea again.
Ousmane at last stops staring at his uncle and he too turns towards the waves.
More precisely, he looks above and beyond them, at the horizon. “I am the future of my people …” thinks the child. The words are a mixture of pride and emotion, joy and delight. And who can be so ingenuous as to think he can stop him?
Taken from the recent book Il dono della diversità (The Gift of Diversity), published by Tempesta.
(Translation from Italian by Jancis Browning)
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Next issue: 9 May 2014.
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