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.*
The UN and Global Economic Governance
Thematic debate, UN General Assembly, New York, April 15
In recent years informal groupings of governments, such as the G20, have become a forum in which economic decisions are made. These decisions then have a significant impact on all countries, affecting every UN member states economic, social and political development.
This important thematic debate, called by the President of the General Assembly, seeks to enhance communication between international financial institutions, the G20 and non-G20 Member States, by providing a platform to reflect on common concerns, as well as exchange views and share information.
Chad ratifies cluster bomb ban
27 March —Chad has become the 80th State Party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, having deposited its instrument of ratification on 26 March. Chad will formally become a State Party on 1 September 2013, after the waiting period mandated by the Convention. Chadactively engaged in the Oslo Process that created the convention and supported a comprehensive ban on cluster munitions. Chad attended the Accra Regional Conference on the Universalisation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Ghana, 28-30 May 2012, which resulted in 34 African countries adopting an action plan with the ultimate aim of a cluster munition-free Africa.
Pakistan: We stand with the children and teachers!
3 April – The United Nations Envoy for Global Education, Gordon Brown, Education International and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) are demanding of the authorities in Pakistan that they enable girls to go to schools which are safe and secure.
In the past eight days two teachers have been assassinated and children have been seriously injured when their schools were attacked by extremists trying to prevent girls’ education.
In a statement, which is also signed by the teachers’ unions and labour federations of Pakistan, the international group urges the people of Pakistan to stand up for girls and their teachers, and to join a growing grassroots movement for girls’ education.
The statement is issued two weeks before a ministerial meeting at the World Bank in Washington when new plans will be discussed to achieve the right to universal primary education of 60 million children who are still without a school today, of which 32 million girls. Particular attention will be given to countries that are not making enough progress, such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
The statement also announces the establishment of a Scholarship Fund for Girls Education to commemorate the brave teachers that were killed while defending the right of girls to go to school. The Scholarship Fund will be officially launched in Karachi on 28 April.
Angelina Jolie visits CARE project addressing gender-based violence in the DRC
UN Special Envoy Jolie, British Foreign Secretary, see firsthand the impact on women
March 26, Goma, Congo, The Dem. Rep. of – Yesterday, CARE hosted UN Special Envoy Angelina Jolie and British Foreign Secretary William Hauge as they visited a CARE-supported sexual- and gender-based violence (SGBV) project in the Lac Vert Internally Displaced People’s camp, on the outskirts of Goma, North Kivu. Hague said that he came to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to understand better the needs of survivors of sexual violence in advance of the coming G8 meeting in London, when, for the first time in the G8’s history, foreign ministers will hold high-level discussions on the topic of gender-based violence.
CARE works in three camps on the outskirts of Goma, including Lac Vert, training educators to offer support and advice to sexual violence survivors on how and where to access medical care. The educators also provide advice on measures that can be taken to avoid attacks and work with women and men to address attitudes and traditions that make women and girls, in particular, vulnerable to such violence.
Hague and Jolie’s visit comes less than three weeks before the issue of sexual violence against women gets attention at the G8 meeting of foreign ministers in London. Hague has said he will promote an international protocol at the April 11 meeting to end impunity for rape and other sexual assaults.
Commission on the Status of Women – UN HQ, New York, 4 to 15 March – 57 session
The Commission on the Status of Women is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment worldwide.
Representatives of Member States, UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attended the session. Priority theme: Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. Review theme: The equal sharing of responsibilities between women and men, including caregiving in the context of HIV/AIDS (agreed conclusions from the fifty-third session). Emerging issue: Key gender equality issues to be reflected in the post-2015 development framework. Preview on the priority theme of 2014: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls.
Statements, general discussion by regional groups, member states and NGOs can be read on-line:
Investors highlight Human Rights in corporate engagement
by Robert Kropp
5 March – A new report builds upon the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights to provide investors with tools for assessing the human rights performance of companies. (…)
The report lists lawsuits, penalties and fines, suspension of operations, divestment, and reputational damage as possible financial consequences of corporate exposure to human rights abuses. To avoid such consequences, the report advises, companies will have to redefine the traditional concept of risk management: instead of focusing on risks to their own operations, companies must assess the impacts of their activities on people and human rights. “As compelling as the business case for respecting human rights has become – focusing in particular on diminishing or avoiding risk to the company – human rights are intrinsically worthy of respect and not simply on the condition that this respect brings a financial benefit,” the report states. (…)
Investing the Rights Way focuses on three elements of the Guiding Principles of particular importance to investors. In order to express their commitment to human rights, companies should publish and make publicly available a human rights policy that investors can use to help them assess that commitment. Companies should also carry out human rights due diligence, which entails identification and management of impacts on people and their rights. For investors, human rights due diligence processes “show that companies are actively taking steps to determine and address human rights risks to people and their related reputational, financial, and operational risks to the company,” according to the report. (…)
Economy and development
IFAD grant to improve food security in Afghanistan
US$58 million will focus on increasing agriculture and livestock productivity
8 April, Rome,– The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will provide a grant of US$58 million to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for the Community Livestock and Agriculture Project to improve food security by enhancing the skills, services and income opportunities of rural women and men. The grant agreement was signed today at IFAD headquarters by Zia Nezam, Ambassador of the Embassy of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Italy, and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD.
After almost 30 years of conflicts, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, with more than 70 per cent of the population considered food insecure. While the Afghan economy has recently grown in its trade and construction sectors, the agriculture sector continues to remain underdeveloped. The IFAD-supported project aims to improve agriculture and livestock productivity by building the capacity of community organizations and local government agencies to buoy locally-owned and led development. This will include strengthening weaknesses in the value chain to ensure small farmers are better linked to markets.
The project will be particularly focused on resettled and nomadic Kutchis as well as woman-headed households. It aims to increase the social and economic status of women by providing leadership and skills training to female producer groups. The project, which will be cofinanced by the government of Afghanistan and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, will benefit 169,500 rural households in the provinces of Kabul, Parwan and Logar.
Restoring hope for smallholder farmers in Ethiopia
April 4, Awassa – Land degradation has been identified as one of the major causes of food insecurity in Ethiopia. The effects are being felt by over 80% of the population and in some regions, such as Tigray, up to 50% of the productive capacity of the soil has been lost. WFP has been working with the Ethiopian government and international donors to support the rehabilitation of more than 400,000 hectares of degraded land under the MERET programme (Managing Environmental Resources to Enable Transitions to more sustainable livelihoods programme). One of the unique characteristics of MERET is that it incorporates traditional knowledge about farming practices and ensures that communities are placed at the heart of programmes to improve the quality of land and strengthen food security. Farmers are encouraged to attend training courses that teach them conservation techniques and introduce them to new and more varied crop varieties such as pigeon peas, onions and carrots, as well as fruit trees such as pawpaw, lime, avocado and mango.
IFAD provides US$18 million loan and US$15 million in Spanish Trust Fund cofinancing for poverty reduction programme in Bolivia
April 2, Rome – The Economic Inclusion Programme for Families and Rural Communities in the Territory of the Plurinational State of Bolivia (ACCESOS) will receive funding of US$45.6 million over a duration of five years. IFAD will contribute $18 million, with cofinancing of $15 million from the Spanish Food Security Cofinancing Facility Trust Fund, $6.8 million from the Bolivian Government and $5.8 million from the beneficiaries.
The aim of the programme is to improve the quality of life for rural communities by building capacity for sustainable management of renewable natural resources, supporting on- and off-farm economic initiatives, and promoting financial inclusion by encouraging savings and micro-life insurance for rural families. The programme’s main target is poor rural indigenous families living in 52 municipalities in Bolivia with poverty rates more than 50%.
Learning by doing: IFAD grant for scaling up projects in the Near East and North Africa regions – Central Asia and Eastern European countries will be part of knowledge transfer and capacity building network.
28 March – The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has provided a US$2 million grant for the Impact and Scaling up Pathways (ISP) programme to support the scaling up of rural poverty reduction interventions through effective learning networks and tailored approaches.
IFAD is committed to an ambitious scaling up agenda to accelerate poverty alleviation and to continuously improve the performance and development results of its implementing partners for improved wider impact. The ISP programme is a good example of this as it will build upon on the successful experiences of rural development projects and programmes in six selected countries by identifying best practices for replication and scaling-up. In addition, the programme aims to foster new partnerships in order to continuously improve operational performance and impact.
Improving livestock assets in Kenya and Uganda
20 March – It is estimated that 80% of households own livestock in the Karamoja sub-region of Uganda, and that this represents approximately 20% of the national cattle herd, 16% of the goats, 50% of the sheep, 90% of the donkeys and almost all of the camels. It has been calculated that Karamoja, and the 2.4% of Uganda’s population that lives there, produces close to 20% of Uganda’s livestock output by value. The Karamoja region also acts as a conduit for cattle movements from Kenya and Sudan into the rest of Uganda.
With livestock from Karamoja playing such a central role in the livelihoods of the region and the national economy, access to animal health services, skilled veterinary staff, and timely and effective livestock disease surveillance are important components for improved animal health.
A DanChurchAid (DCA) led Consortium has undertaken three initiatives that underscore the vital role that animal health plays in the Karamoja region. These initiatives are the Quarterly Information Sharing and Advocacy Meetings on Animal Health, the creation of a Cross-Border Animal Health Committee, and advocacy with the Ministry for Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries (MAAIF) for mainstreaming budgets for these activities.
Twelve U.S. Rotarians were honored as Champions of Change at the White House 5 April.
Twelve U.S. Rotarians were honored at the White House on 5 April as Champions of Change for their efforts to improve communities locally and around the world.
As part of the daylong event, more than 160 Rotarians attended a morning round of briefings by government officials on topics including polio eradication, health, violence prevention, and the environment.
“It is a great honor to see these dedicated Rotary members recognized by the U.S. White House as Champions of Change for their work to improve the lives of people around the world,” said RI President Sakuji Tanaka. “The commitment of these individuals to service reflects that of our worldwide membership of 1.2 million men and women, all of whom deserve to share in this recognition,” Tanaka said. “Rotary is a way for good people to step forward and work for a better world. And it is a way for all of us, around the world, to transcend race, religion, nation, and politics — to come together to give help to the people who need it.”
USA – Kohl’s Department Stores to donate $2 million to nonprofits nationwide through 4th annual national Go Green Volunteer Event
Kohl’s associates from coast to coast will give back in their communities by supporting youth-serving nonprofits in celebration of National Volunteer Week and Earth Day
4 April, Menomonee Falls, Wis., USA, – Kohl’s Department Stores (NYSE: KSS) and thousands of its associates are celebrating National Volunteer Week and Earth Day by volunteering in their local communities during the company’s fourth annual National Go Green Event. Through Kohl’s associate volunteer program, Associates in Action, Kohl’s volunteers will support youth-serving nonprofit organizations by participating in an environmentally-based activity. In addition to providing a team of volunteers to complete a project, Kohl’s will donate corporate grants to each organization. Through this initiative, Kohl’s will donate $2 million in grants to nonprofits nationwide for the fourth year in a row.
Red Cross responds to inter-communal violence in Myanmar
Published: 2 April – On the 20th March, Inter-communal violence erupted in the town of Meiktila, around 150 km south of Mandalay in central Myanmar. Hundreds of homes, shops and buildings were destroyed and over 11,000 people were displaced. Over 40 people are reported to have been killed with many more injured in the fighting.
Myanmar Red Cross volunteers have been on the scene providing first aid services and Red Cross ambulances have also been used to transfer more serious cases to local healthcare facilities. (…)
To help respond to the immediate humanitarian needs, the Myanmar Red Cross dispatched emergency relief items including family tents, tarpaulins, hygiene kits, jerry cans, blankets and mosquito nets from its warehouses in Yangon and Mandalay. These items are now being distributed in the affected areas.
An emergency ‘Restoring Family Links’ team has also been sent to Meiktila to support families who may have become separated from their loved ones. Over 100 ‘safe and well’ messages have already been facilitated and the team has also helped 16 families to re-establish contact. (…)
Counterpart “brightens the eyes” of Georgian deaf community
By Jennifer Brookland
Deaf Georgians in need may not speak loudly, but their words of thanks are heard.
April 2 – Amiran Batatunashvili, President of the Union of Deaf of Georgia, welcomed Counterpart International and a delegation of other supporters and partners to his organization’s Tbilisi headquarters, and acknowledged them for their steadfast support. “The people of our union cannot speak loud,” says Batatunashvili, “but you can see their appreciation for your support in their brightened eyes.”
Jerry Oberndorfer, the U.S. State Department’s Director of Humanitarian Programs, Lisa Lashinski, from the U.S. Embassy in Georgia, and Irakli Saralidze, Counterpart’s Country Program Director, were among the visitors. They toured the organization’s community center, computer labs, classrooms (used for sign language instruction and dance classes) and offices used by fellow grantee hellenicare, which provides free medical examinations and pharmaceuticals.Oberndorfer, Lashinski and Saralidze also distributed rice, soup and school kits. The items were donated by Counterpart and two other Department of State grantees, ACTS Georgia and the United Methodist Committee On Relief.
The Union of Deaf of Georgia serves more than 2,700 deaf, invalid, orphaned, sick, physically disabled and elderly people as well as large, low-income families in Tbilisi and regions of Georgia.
Cristiano Ronaldo gears up to fight child hunger in Guatemala with the help of some goats
April 2, Guatemala City – Cristiano Ronaldo is gearing up to take on child hunger in Guatemala. “See how @SavetheChildren is showing parents how to use goat milk to tackle child #hunger in Guatemala,” tweeted the Real Madrid football star today. Cristiano is referring to a goat milk program, featured in a new Save the Children video, which is helping chronically malnourished Guatemalan children gain weight and grow. View the video in English and in Spanish.
Save the Children’s goat-raising center in Guatemala offers milk as a source of protein for undernourished children living in rural communities. Nearly half of all children under age 5 in Guatemala are chronically malnourished.
ACDI/VOCA receives grant to develop food security information management system
NGO to capture multisectoral beneficiary data for improved management and reporting
April 1 – ACDI/VOCA was recently awarded a grant through the TOPS program to develop an information management system to support project management and reporting. TOPS, which stands for Technical and Operational Performance Support, is a program funded by USAID/Food for Peace that fosters collaboration and innovation for improved food security.
The ACDI/VOCA grant, from TOPS implementing organization Save the Children, will fund the Information System for Management, Analysis and Reporting Timeliness (I-SMART) project. I-SMART will create a foundational database, with the intent of being easily customized for any multisectoral project, and upon which private volunteer organizations (PVOs) and their partners can build. The database will facilitate tracking and analysis of beneficiary information across interventions in multisectoral programs. It will give project staff the ability to create unique identifiers, analyze relationships between sets of beneficiaries and collect data with a tool that is useful in a number of contexts and transferable to local partners.
Pizza Hut and Taco Bell support WFP typhoon Pablo response and school meals
March 26, Manila – Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Philippines have raised PhP7.7 million, which they will be donating to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) to support their hunger-fighting activities in Mindanao. The funds were collected through the Yum! Brands World Hunger Relief 2012 campaign, and will support the Philippine Government’s on-going Typhoon Pablo operations, as well as WFP’s school meals program for children affected by conflict.
This latest World Hunger Relief donation was 26% higher than 2011. Since Pizza Hut and Taco Bell Philippines began their World Hunger Relief activities in the country in 2007, over Php82 million has been raised to help feed school children in conflict-affected areas of Mindanao, including those affected by Tropical Storm Washi (Sendong) in December 2011.
The Yum! Brands World Hunger Relief campaign is currently in its eighth year, and has raised US$148 million for hunger-fighting organizations, including over US$57.9 million through 2011 for WFP alone. With support from World Hunger Relief, WFP has reached 7.5 million people in 44 countries, including the Philippines.
Donations from individuals across Asia support girls’ empowerment through school meals
25 March, Singapore – Groupon, the global pioneer and leader in social e-commerce, and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting hunger worldwide, are launching a daily deal across Southeast Asia to support the empowerment of girls in Asia through school meals programmes. From 25 March until 5 April 2013, Groupon will call on the general public to help provide a child with WFP school meals for four weeks and with a monthly ration to take home. 100% of donations go directly to WFP’s School Meals Programmes, implemented in 14 countries in Asia, including five countries in Southeast Asia.
Poverty and tradition often exclude girls from education; more than 36 million primary school-aged girls around the world don’t attend school.
It only costs US$0.25 to feed a child a school meal per day, so every donation makes a difference.
Caritas members working together on Mali crisis
12 March – Caritas is launching a wide-ranging response covering four countries to help those affected by the recent conflict in Mali which has uprooted hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. A 3,055,134 euro (US$4 million) programme will strengthen Caritas organisations in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Senegal so they can help the hundreds of thousands of Malians affected by the crisis.
The prime focus of the programme is to provide aid to the internally displaced, refugees and others who are victims of the Mali conflict. Over 5000 families (30-35,000 people) in Mali and Burkina Faso will be supported with food rations for three months. Caritas will provide a further 1000 refugee families in Burkina Faso with cash to buy animals for farming. Farmers in the region will receive cash transfers to vaccinate and de-worm their cattle.
Over 4000 households in Mali and Niger will receive either cooking kits or tents or mattresses, depending on their needs, while 500 households in Burkina Faso will receive solar cookers.
Rotarians help feed hungry children during training event
8 March – Rotary Coordinators and Rotary Public Image Coordinators put service into action on 5 March during a training event at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois, USA.
The coordinators formed teams to bag 16,000 packages containing rice, soy, dehydrated vegetables, and 21 vitamins and minerals for Kids Against Hunger, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to reduce the number of undernourished or starving children in the world. TheFox Valley chapter of Kids Against Hunger is sponsored by four Rotary clubs in Rock County, Wisconsin.
“We decided to do a hands-on service project to give them an activity to do together in great fellowship,” said Jennifer Jones, who served as moderator for the training event. “The world has come together and it’s fascinating to see these people side by side packaging food.”
The bags were donated to the Northern Illinois Food Bank to benefit undernourished children in the Chicago area.
Global Youth Service Day – April 26 – 28
Global Youth Service Day is the largest annual celebration of young volunteers, where millions of young people from over 100 countries in 6 continents carry out thousands of community improvement projects.
I have hope that stems in large part from my knowledge that the future of this planet lies in the tremendous energy, enthusiasm, and commitment of young people around the world. Jane Goodall
Peace and security
Nobel Peace Laureates press Obama on Arms Trade Treaty
31 March, Pax Christi International – A group of 18 Nobel Peace Prize winners stated in an open letter delivered to their fellow laureate at the White House that the US President, Barack Obama, must lead his country in securing a strong global Arms Trade Treaty. Among the Nobel signatories there are institutions and individual leaders on human rights, humanitarian and disarmament issues from Africa, the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East and North Africa.
The letter, actively supported by Pax Christi International, was delivered ahead of the talks starting on 18 March at the UN in New York to conclude the negotiations on an historic treaty aimed at bringing the poorly regulated global arms trade under control. Read the letter in English: http://archive.paxchristi.net/2013/2013-0116-en-gl-SD.pdf
Sudan: handover of 31 civilians in Darfur
Thirty-one civilians were released today by the Sudan Liberation Army-Abdul Wahid (SLA-AW) in Darfur, Sudan. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) facilitated their handover to the Sudanese authorities.
30 March – The civilians were taken on 24 March while travelling from Zalingay to Nyala to attend a conference for internally displaced persons. Those released were accompanied by ICRC personnel as they were transported by helicopter to Zalingay, where they were handed over to the Sudanese authorities. The ICRC has frequently served as a neutral intermediary in Sudan. From February 2012 to March 2013, it facilitated the handover of dozens of people, including prisoners of war released by the Sudanese authorities, foreign workers, members of the Sudanese armed forces and others captured by armed groups.
Pan-African Forum for a Culture of Peace 2013 – Luanda, Angola, 26-28 March
A Pan-African Forum jointly organized by UNESCO, the African Union Commission and the Government of the Republic of Angola will gather more than 300 experts
The Forum will examine the cultural, natural and human resources of Africa, taking into account that these three components are essential to creating an inclusive and holistic approach to the culture of peace. Peace being the cornerstone of endogenous development and Pan-Africanism.
The Forum will be a milestone of the UNESCO’s “Intersectoral and Interdisciplinary Programme of Action for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence” and the African Union Campaign “Make Peace Happen” aiming to mobilize all stakeholders—political and civil society.
The Forum will examine cultural sources and resources: including the revisiting of the strenght and wisdom of languages, traditions and history by analysing traditional and modern methods of conflict resolution and violence prevention; examining the role of education-not just that which takes place in schools but one that plays out in families and villages-to build peaceful citizens that are driven by ethical values and mutual respect; enhancing creativity and cultural inventiveness, the same one that is able to open new horizons and spaces for dialogue, develop new economic sectors and serve as an engine for development.
New EU support to continue improving security in Somalia
19 March- Today the EU has decided to provide additional support of €33 million to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which plays an essential role in securing the country on its path towards lasting peace, prosperity and stability. AMISOM is an African Union-led mission, mandated by the UN Security Council. Its initial mandate includes the provision of support to dialogue and reconciliation in Somalia, the protection of key infrastructure. The mandate also includes support to the implementation of the National Security and Stabilisation plan, and to disarmament and stabilisation efforts, as well as the facilitation of humanitarian operations.
The Ottawa Convention
On 1 June 2013 all European Union member states will be bound by the AntiPersonnel Mine Ban Convention, or Ottawa Convention, which entered into force on 1 March 1999. The Convention pursues four core aims striving for the universal acceptance of a ban on antipersonnel mines, the destruction of those stockpiled, the clearance of mined areas and providing aid to victims.
On 28 March 2013, a Colloquium was held at the Royal Higher Institute for Defence in Brussels at which the first steps towards humanitarian disarmament have been discussed.
An immunization campaign with a special focus
Reaching the nomadic populations of Chad
2 April – In Chad, the mobility of nomadic populations leads to difficulties in reaching them with health services. Estimated at 350,000 people across the country, nomadic populations are not systematically reached either by supplementary immunization days or by routine immunization services. Furthermore, analysis of polio cases in Chad has shown that nomadic children are disproportionately affected by this crippling disease– a sure sign of low population immunity.
With the support of UNICEF, WHO and partners, the Chadian Government is seeking to remedy this, last week launching a country-wide polio immunization campaign, coupled with Vitamin A supplementation and de-worming tablets, with a special focus on nomadic populations. This combined campaign has targeted about 3.9 million children under the age of five across the country, and more than 9,600 additional community workers have been mobilized to ensure that all targeted children are reached, including nomadic children.
USA – Health care service corporation and community partners reach nearly three million kids through promising health and wellness initiatives
New digital social responsibility report brings stories of community impact to life
April 1, Chicago, Ill. USA – Against a backdrop of rising childhood obesity and other medical concerns, Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) and hundreds of community partners collaborated to improve the health of nearly three million children across Illinois, New Mexico,Oklahoma and Texas last year.
According to the company’s new Social Responsibility Report, which can be found online at www.hcsc2012srr.com, HCSC and local community partners made significant progress reaching at-risk children by focusing on physical activity, nutrition education, disease prevention and management, and safe environments. These four focus areas comprise the core strategy of the company’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Families initiative, which was launched in 2011.
The company’s report also highlighted progress across other components of its social responsibility, including such areas as diversity and inclusion, sustainability, ethics and compliance.
IFPMA and IFRC join forces to prevent non-communicable diseases
Geneva, 19 March – The International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers & Associations (IFPMA) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) announced today a partnership on NCD prevention. The two-year partnership involves support from both organizations to design a behavioral change-based toolkit that promotes healthy lifestyle choices at national and community levels. Through its volunteer network and community-based expertise, the IFRC will make the toolkit available to approximately 3 million people worldwide.
Because 50 percent of NCDs are avoidable, the IFPMA-IFRC partnership enhances efforts by both organizations to combat NCDs worldwide and support IFRC community interventions to reduce the impact of these diseases locally. Since releasing its Framework for Action on NCDs in 2011, IFPMA has delivered a series of research projects and health education initiatives to identify new ways to help people fight NCDs.
Building bipartisan support for the end of polio
UNICEF and the Global Poverty Project bring together Australian political and community leaders in support of polio eradication.
15 March – Both sides of politics came together in Canberra, Australia, on Tuesday 12 March to declare their support for ending polio. The Global Citizen Gathering, co-hosted by UNICEF and the Global Poverty Project, was held on the lawns of Parliament House to catalyse support for polio eradication among Australian political leaders in the lead-up to the Global Vaccine Summit to be held in Abu Dhabi this April.
In a statement read out at the event, Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, applauded Australia’s commitment to polio eradication. Meanwhile the Young Australian of the Year, Akram Azimi, took the opportunity to share the story of how Australian foreign aid dollars had changed his life: “I am walking and breathing freely today because Australian tax payers contributed funds to vaccinate children – like me – in war-torn Afghanistan against polio. These Australian tax payers chose not to leave my health to blind chance—and for this, I could not be more grateful”.
Energy and safety
Danish firm aims to improve health, environment in Mozambique
New York/Copenhagen/Maputo, April 4 – Some 400,000 residents of Mozambique will gain access to clean, locally produced cooking fuel following a commitment by Danish company Novozymes to the Business Call to Action (BCtA). This new venture will also save thousands of acres of forest in the Southeast African country.
Novozymes is pioneering CleanStar Mozambique – an integrated food, alternative energy, and forest protection business focused on addressing the interconnected spiral of poverty, biodiversity loss, and the impact on primary health and well-being that exists across much of ruralAfrica.
BCtA is a global initiative that encourages companies to fight poverty through innovative business models, supported by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and other international organizations.
In Mozambique, 80 percent of urban households rely on charcoal for cooking. In addition to the significant health and environmental consequences of using charcoal, its rising price also creates an additional financial burden. By 2014, CleanStar Mozambique expects to provide farmers with an income-generating alternative to charcoal production, while restoring degraded soil and improving biodiversity. The company projects this effort will save 9,000 acres of forest annually, with 2,000 low-income farmers growing a range of trees and crops on their land. (…)
Desert Nomads marvel at water purifier
More than 330 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, or around 40 percent of the population, do not have access to clean drinking water, according to a report published to mark world water day by British NGO WaterAid. In the Sahara, nomads are among those suffering most from limited access to water, particularly during the hotter periods when rising salt levels in water drawn from wells make it undrinkable. The “nomadic festival” held earlier this month in M’Hamid, in Morocco’s southern desert region, was an opportunity for the pioneers of a portable water purification device to showcase their invention.
The “waterpod” allows desert-dwellers to turn water extracted from wells into clean drinking water through evaporation and condensation, using the heat of the sun, a technology that the Arabs were among the first to develop as far back as the 16th century. The device, which resembles a large letter box, currently costs around 500 euros ($650). But the inventors have already given courses at a college in Tiznit, on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, to teach students how to produce them more cheaply.
US Energy Department announces apps for vehicles challenge winners
April 1 – As part of the Obama Administration’s commitment to expand access to data and reduce fuel costs for consumers, the Energy Department today announced the winners of the Apps for Vehicles Challenge. The competition asked app developers and entrepreneurs to demonstrate how the open data available on most vehicles can be used to improve vehicle safety, fuel efficiency and comfort. The Department awarded the Judges’ Prize to New York City-based Dash and the Popular Choice prize to MyCarma, which is headquartered in Troy,Michigan. Green Button Gamer, based in Boston, Massachusetts, won the Safety Innovation award, and Fuel Economy Coach, based in Augusta, Georgia, received the Fuel Efficiency Innovation award. Entries were judged based on their potential to help consumers improve fuel efficiency, creativity and innovation, use of open vehicle data, and consumer accessibility. The products developed through the Apps for Vehicles Challenge are now available for download, providing consumers with unique solutions that improve vehicle safety, comfort, and fuel efficiency.
India‘s off-grid renewables initiative changing lives
by Duncan McKenzie, contributor
28March,London — Ladakh, a remote district of India’s northernmost state, is currently benefiting from the largest off-grid renewable energy project in the world. The Ministry for New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) is spending INR473 billion (US$88.8 million) on decentralized solar and hydro technologies to bring energy security to this remote mountain region. (…)
Ladakh is manifesting a flagship role in national renewable energy policy. Although Ladakh is a small district with sparse population, its rugged geography means that many dispersed communities are beyond the viable reach of the regional grid system. Stand-alone renewables are the obvious solution. Electrifying rural areas is a prime government concern. Prime Minister Manoman Singh gave his personal commitment to electrify every Indian household by 2017. The 2005 Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY) program has pursued grid electrification of villages, and the 2009 Remote Village Electrification Program makes off-grid provision, but 400 million Indians still lack access to modern forms of energy, and 20,000 villages are too remote to ever realistically be grid-connected. (…)
Policy support for solar power grows in sub-Saharan nations
by Robin Yapp, contributor
25March, London – Much of sub-Saharan Africa has experienced remarkable economic growth since the start of the 21st century. Six of the ten fastest-growing economies worldwide between 2000 and 2010 were in the region and, if current growth rates continue, Africa’s GDP should increase three-fold by 2030 and seven-fold by 2050. What is more remarkable is that the continent continues to face energy sector problems, inevitably holding back growth. It is clear that if sub-Saharan Africa is to lift its population out of poverty, alternatives to dependence on fossil fuels and hydropower are badly needed. (…)
According to a report by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), active promotion of renewable energy could see its share of African electricity generation rise from 17 percent in 2009 to 50 percent in 2030 and nearly 75 percent by 2050. (…)
Children International announces major water project in the Dominican Republic
March 22, Kansas City, MO, USA – World Water Day is March 22. Children International, a leading child sponsorship organization, announces a new and important sustainable water project that will bring clean, safe water to more than 66,000 people in Boca Chica, an impoverished community in the Dominican Republic. The project is a cooperative effort between Children International, the local water authority (CORRABO Corporacion de Acueductos y Alcantarillado) in Boca Chica, and private donors.
Most of the people in Boca Chica live in primitive structures without indoor sanitation facilities or running water. They have few resources, and family members spend up to three hours carrying water to their homes each day. The Evaluation of USAID Strategy to Increase Potable Water Access and Sanitation in Rural Areas for the Dominican Republic confirms that “areas of greater poverty have the most deficient potable water and sanitation service coverage.”
Children International operates two community centers in greater Boca Chica.
Lessons learned from the International H2O Collaboration
by Arnold R. Grahl
20 March – Dozens of broken hand pumps dot villages in Ghana ─ evidence of well-intentioned efforts gone awry because sustainability wasn’t built into the projects that installed them. Perhaps fees weren’t collected to fund repairs, or local officials weren’t recruited to manage and oversee continued operations. School latrines also fail at a high rate, as projects often overlook the fact that they must be emptied periodically.
These are just two of the findings from a recent review of the International H2O Collaboration, a partnership between Rotary International and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) that is beginning its fifth year. As part of the partnership’s commitment to sustainability, it hired an independent contractor, Aguaconsult, to review the more than 15,000 measures ─ from water systems and hygiene training to wastewater treatment plants ─ funded by the partnership in Ghana, the Dominican Republic, and the Philippines.
The review included the creation of the WASH Sustainability Index, a tool designed to assess the long-term success and sustainability of these projects. The tool eventually will be available for Rotarians to use in planning more effective water and sanitation projects. (…)
The H2O Collaboration is one example of how Rotarians are working year-round to provide access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation. On 22 March, Rotarians will join the observance of World Water Day. Established by the United Nations in 1992, the day highlights the importance of fresh water and the need for sustainable management of water resources. This year’s theme is water cooperation.
Environment and wildlife
Caribbean countries committed to establish biosphere reserves
4 April – During the conference, organized by the Government of St. Kitts & Nevis and the MAB Programme, an action plan for the next three years was established with the aim to create a network of biosphere reserves in the Caribbean Small Islands States and to promote biosphere reserves as tools for innovative projects bringing added value to the local socio-economical activities. At a press conference after the meeting, the Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Maarten and government representatives of Curaçao, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines announced their commitment to work together in the establishment of biosphere reserves in their countries.
The St. Kitts & Nevis Declaration was also agreed upon by all ministers, UNESCO representatives and experts to that effect. Including empowering UNESCO to identify and secure extra-budgetary funds to facilitate the Caribbean island states to execute the action plan.
Federal Court Rejects Logging Industry Attack on Threatened Seabird
April 1, Washington, D.C. – Marbled murrelets and their old-growth forest nesting habitat in the Pacific Northwest remain protected today, after a Washington, D.C. district court rejected both a proposal to eliminate all critical habitat protections and a direct challenge to protection of the murrelet as a threatened species. The lawsuit is the timber industry’s third attempt in the past decade to eliminate murrelet protections, despite undisputed scientific evidence that murrelets are disappearing from the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California.
The marbled murrelet is a shy, robin-sized seabird that feeds at sea but nests only in old-growth forests along the Pacific Coast.
Represented by Earthjustice, Audubon Society of Portland, Seattle Audubon Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Conservation NW, Environmental Protection Information Center, Oregon Wild, and Sierra Club are defending the murrelet in the timber industry lawsuit.
Sumatran rhino footprints found in Borneo
31 March – Sendawar, Indonesia — A team from WWF-Indonesia has found fresh footprints resembling those of a critically endangered Sumatran rhino in the Heart of Borneo (HoB) area of East Kalimantan, Indonesia, the first time in over two decades that traces of the elusive rhino have appeared in the area. To confirm the presence of the rare animal, a second team comprised of WWF-Indonesia, the West Kutai Forestry Agency, Mulawarman University and local observers launched a follow-up survey that found more evidence of rhino footprints, active mud wallows, marks on tree trunks, and signs that the rhinoceros species had been feeding in the area.
Sumatran rhinos in Kalimantan were presumed extinct in early 1990s. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified the rare animal as Critically Endangered, with a population of fewer than 275 individuals now living in the wild.
FSC certification in Cameroon surpasses 1 million hectares
Posted on 27 March 2013
Yaoundé, Cameroon – The total Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified area in Cameroon has exceeded 1 million hectares with the certification of new areas managed by the Société Forestière et Industrielle de la Doumé, a Rougier subsidiary and participant in WWF’s Global Forest & Trade Network (GFTN). The newly certified areas, covering 285,667 ha, are located in the Mbang area of eastern Cameroon, home to the Baka community, considered among the oldest residents of Cameroon’s rainforests. These forests are also rich in biodiversity. This award marks the first substantial increase of FSC certified area in the Congo Basin in several years.
FSC is the best forest management assurance system available, and is recognized as the top level of commitment by leading environmental groups operating within the tropical forest industry.
IAEA’s Nuclear energy management school opens in U.S.A.
by Rodolfo Quevenco
26 March – After successful stints in Italy, Japan and the United Arab Emirates, the IAEA’s School for Nuclear Energy Management is now underway in Texas, USA. Hosted by the US government and the Nuclear Power Institute affiliated with Texas A&M University, the School will run for another two weeks, until 5 April 2013. Some 24 participants are from countries as diverse as Argentina, Brazil, China, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, UK, Uruguay, as well as the USA.
The School is part of continuing efforts by the IAEA to address the management challenges in the nuclear industry. It provides a unique international educational experience for young professionals from developing countries and is aimed at building future leadership to manage and support nuclear energy programmes. All participants are carefully selected professionals from ages 28 to 45 with managerial potential in the nuclear industry, academia, government agencies and public sector entities in their countries.
International Mother Earth Day & Earth Day – April 22
Over a billion people participate in Earth Day activities every year. It is the largest civic observance in the world, and is evidence of the massive concern to build right relations between humanity and the Earth. In 2009 the United Nations General Assembly added its weight to this popular movement, proclaiming April 22 International Mother Earth Day, with a significant resolution affirming the interdependence that exists among human beings, other living species and the planet we all inhabit.
Mother Earth Day is helping to define new emerging economic, social and political processes through which humanity is seeking to raise the quality of its relationships with Mother Earth. This year the General Assembly of the United Nations will convene a special Interactive Dialogue on Harmony with Nature. The Dialogue will consider economic approaches to further a more ethical basis for the relationship between humanity and the Earth.
Religion and spirituality
Peace dialogues win it for Philippine think tank
By Doris C. Dumlao, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Manila, Philippine – A Philippine think tank dedicated to the study of Islamic and democratic political thought and the development of Muslim communities has gained international recognition for a series of interfaith dialogues dedicated toward peace-building and harmony.
The Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID) won the silver medal and a cash prize of $15,000 at the World Interfaith Harmony Week Prize 2013 administered by the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, an international Islamic nongovernmental independent institute headquartered in Amman, Jordan. (…)
The awards are part of the international observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week, which was proposed to the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 by King Abdullah II of Jordan. It was unanimously adopted by the UN the same year and, henceforth, the first week of February has been dedicated to World Interfaith Harmony Week.
The winning event “A Common Word Toward A Common Peace” refers to a series of dialogues among religious groups and other sectors in peace building and harmony among Filipinos of all faiths. It has been implemented by the PCID in partnership with Noorus Salam, an organization of Muslim religious women teachers and civil society leaders, and supported by the Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc. (MKFI).
Culture and education
“Education and Values for Sustainable Development” – May 13-17, Costa Rica
Earth Charter’s Educational Center for Education for Sustainable Development
This program offers a sound understanding of the scope and complexity of sustainability issues and their significance, the global role of education, and the learning experiences needed to help create a safer and more sustainable future. The program introduces the concept of sustainable development and its implications for education, learning, and change. Using a holistic and integrative approach, this course explores practical methods for introducing the values of sustainability, as articulated in the Earth Charter, to schools and classrooms. Assessing the skills and values of the ESD pedagogy will also be addressed. This week-long course will be facilitated by Professor Sam Crowell, emeritus of education at California State University.
The new Earth Charter Center for Education for Sustainable Development offers training at the intersection of education, sustainability, and Earth Charter values. The new facility is located at the UN mandated University for Peace and it is within one of the biggest natural reserves of the Costa Rican Central Valley, 30 km/20 miles outside of the capital, San José.
USA: Educator unions reject guns in schools
5 April – EI’s national affiliates, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA), have strongly rejected the conclusions of a report released by the National Rifle Association (NRA) task force. The report calls for armed police officers, security guards or staff members in every American school, and urges states to loosen gun restrictions to allow trained teachers and administrators to carry weapons.
Among the recommendations in the 225-page study unveiled on 2 April are also better co-ordination with law enforcement agencies and online security assessments for schools.
One of the study’s central conclusions is that “the presence of armed security personnel adds a layer of security and diminishes response time” in a shooting.
“Today’s NRA proposal is a cruel hoax that will fail to keep our children and schools safe,” AFT President Randi Weingarten denounced. The proposals are “designed to assist gun manufacturers” to sell more weapons and ammunition to Americans, she added.
Thousands of Syrian children to benefit from UN food projects in Jordan, Iraq
4 April – More than 10,000 Syrian children attending schools in refugee camps in Jordan and Iraq are receiving meals through a United Nations school feeding project.
The project, launched by the World Food Programme (WFP), provides children with meals and snacks at school with the aim of boosting nutrition and encouraging children to continue with their education. According to WFP, since the programme started on 24 March, school attendance has increased by 20 per cent. In Jordan, WFP and the non-governmental organization Save the Children help transport, package and store the date bars, which teachers distribute to children in the classrooms. In a news release, WFP said it plans to increase its school feeding programme to reach some 30,000 Syrian children in Zaatari refugee camp and 6,000 children in refugee camps in Iraq. However, the agency said it needs $780,000 to continue the programme until the end of the year.
Libya: UNICEF initiative to provide better quality education through teacher training
2 April – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today announced the development of “a high-level road map” for effective teacher management in Libya as part of the agency’s continuing efforts to improve access to quality education for all children in the North African country.
The new two-year initiative, to be funded by the European Union and elaborated under the leadership of Libya’s Ministry of Education, will ultimately be implemented by UNICEF’s Teachers Development Centre with a special focus on providing better education for Libya’s most vulnerable children, including those affected by the country’s recent conflict.
The project, which will run an estimated 3.1 million Euros, will study various aspects of the Libyan education system ranging from teachers’ qualifications and in-service teacher training to recruitment, management and deployment.
Building the capacity of Palestinian preschool teachers
March 22 – Special training sessions for preschool teachers and administrators from four selected West Bank preschools have opened a window onto new and effective techniques for early childhood care and education. The program is part of ANERA’s commitment to early childhood development. Participants were enthusiastic about putting into practice what they had learned. Before the ANERA training, Mayse Abd El Haq says she was often at a loss about assigning activities to 25 children and keeping control of the class. “I now know how to divide the children into groups for an activity and assign them with different tasks. I know how to prepare for a class and how it is important to help the children break free from their inhibitions and reticence.”
Four schools, two in Nablus and two in Bethlehem, were selected as part of ANERA’s project as model learning environments. They were renovated, the classrooms brightly painted and play areas, sanitary and other facilities were outfitted to create safe and more stimulating environments for children.
UNESCO welcomes first edition of the Atlantic Music Expo Capo Verde
22 march – The first edition of the Atlantic Music Expo Cape Verde (AME Cabo Verde) will be held on 8-10 April 2013 in the capital city of Praia. The event offers a unique opportunity for singers, producers, songwriters, artist groups, companies and visitors from all over Africa and countries bordering the Atlantic Ocean, to share knowledge and cultural experiences, network, identify resources in the region, develop relations, and explore business prospects.
AME Cabo Verde will concurrently organize a Professional Music Market with showcases, one-on-one consultations, business meetings, logistics inter-mediation, training, installation and management of cultural enterprises, services for contract signatures, stands for agents, producers and institutions. It will also host a University of Culture offering workshops, panel discussions, and film exhibitions for industry professionals and artists to disseminate and promote their work internationally.
Youth Assembly at the United Nations: on the road to Actions
United Nations General Assembly Hall, NYC – August 7, 8, and 9, 2013
The Youth Assembly at the United Nations (YA) empowers youth leaders (16-24 years old) to contribute to the success of the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals through skills building and excellent networking opportunities for personal advancement. Global youth leaders will register in large numbers, in hopes of building new skills that will move the 8 UN Millennium Development Goals On the Road to actions.
Support for youth: YA Partner, The Resolution Project, has created a global competition, called the Social Venture Challenge, where university-level (BA) finalists at the YA may be selected to receive financial support for new social ventures- up to $3000 each – plus 1-2 years of mentoring.
Register : beginning March 15, limited placement.
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Meeting in Vatican, Secretary-General and Pontiff discuss ways to eradicate poverty
9 April – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis today discussed what can be done to accelerate work to reduce poverty and advance economic development during a meeting in the Vatican. “We discussed the need to advance social justice and accelerate work to meet the Millennium Development Goals. This is vital if we are to meet the millennium promise for the world’s poorest,” Mr. Ban told reporters in Rome after his first meeting with Pope Francis. “It was an uplifting, hopeful meeting. Pope Francis is a man of peace and purpose. He is a voice for the voiceless.”
Mr. Ban said he was greatly honoured to have an audience with the newly elected Pope, and said that His Holiness’ choice of name – after Saint Francis of Assisi – was a powerful message for the many goals and principles shared by the United Nations.
“It speaks loudly of his commitment to the poor, his deep sense of humility, his passion and compassion to improve the human condition,” Mr. Ban said. “I was especially privileged to meet Pope Francis as we mark 1,000 days to the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals.”
Over the weekend, Mr. Ban launched the campaign, “MDG Momentum – 1,000 Days of Action” and called on governments, international organizations and civil society groups to work with the UN and its partners to achieve greater gains by the 2015 target date.
The eight MDGs address poverty and hunger, education, gender equality, child mortality, maternal health, combating AIDS, malaria and other diseases, environmental sustainability and a global partnership for development.
Mr. Ban also said he was heartened by the commitment of Pope Francis to build interfaith dialogue and by his outreach to Muslim and Jewish communities to deepen understanding and promote tolerance, inclusion and peace. “I look forward to continuing our conversation. In that spirit, and following in the tradition of his predecessors, I was honoured to invite Pope Francis to visit the United Nations at his earliest convenience,” Mr. Ban added.
During his visit, Mr. Ban met with Prime Minister Mario Monti, with whom he exchanged views on the worsening situation in Syria, Mali and the wider Sahel region, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano, to whom he expressed appreciation for Italy’s support to the UN, including through its contributions to the peacekeeping efforts.
Mr. Ban also met with the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Laura Boldrini, the President of the Senate, Pietro Grasso, and the Deputy Foreign Minister, Staffan de Mistura.
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Next issue: 10 May 2013
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