FEATURED PHOTOS AND STORIES

Wednesday - April 26, 2017

Two new flags will be flying high at the Olympic Games in Rio.

(Kosovo's Majlinda Kelmendi. © AP)For the first time, South Sudan and Kosovo have been recognized by the International Olympic Committee. Kosovo, which was a province of the former Yugoslavia, will have 8 athletes competing; and a good shot for a medal in women's judo: Majlinda Kelmendi is considered a favorite. She's ranked first in the world in her weight class.

(South Sudan's James Chiengjiek, Yiech Biel & coach Joe Domongole, © AFP) South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, will have three runners competing in the country's first Olympic Games.

When Will Chile's Post Office's Re-open? 

(PHOTO: Workers set up camp at Santiago's Rio Mapocho/Mason Bryan, The Santiago Times)Chile nears 1 month without mail service as postal worker protests continue. This week local branches of the 5 unions representing Correos de Chile voted on whether to continue their strike into a 2nd month, rejecting the union's offer. For a week the workers have set up camp on the banks of Santiago's Río Mapocho displaying banners outlining their demands; framing the issue as a division of the rich & the poor. The strike’s main slogan? “Si tocan a uno, nos tocan a todos,” it reads - if it affects 1 of us, it affects all of us. (Read more at The Santiago Times)

WHO convenes emergency talks on MERS virus

 

(PHOTO: Saudi men walk to the King Fahad hospital in the city of Hofuf, east of the capital Riyadh on June 16, 2013/Fayez Nureldine)The World Health Organization announced Friday it had convened emergency talks on the enigmatic, deadly MERS virus, which is striking hardest in Saudi Arabia. The move comes amid concern about the potential impact of October's Islamic hajj pilgrimage, when millions of people from around the globe will head to & from Saudi Arabia.  WHO health security chief Keiji Fukuda said the MERS meeting would take place Tuesday as a telephone conference & he  told reporters it was a "proactive move".  The meeting could decide whether to label MERS an international health emergency, he added.  The first recorded MERS death was in June 2012 in Saudi Arabia & the number of infections has ticked up, with almost 20 per month in April, May & June taking it to 79.  (Read more at Xinhua)

LINKS TO OTHER STORIES

                                

Dreams and nightmares - Chinese leaders have come to realize the country should become a great paladin of the free market & democracy & embrace them strongly, just as the West is rejecting them because it's realizing they're backfiring. This is the "Chinese Dream" - working better than the American dream.  Or is it just too fanciful?  By Francesco Sisci

Baby step towards democracy in Myanmar  - While the sweeping wins Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy has projected in Sunday's by-elections haven't been confirmed, it is certain that the surging grassroots support on display has put Myanmar's military-backed ruling party on notice. By Brian McCartan

The South: Busy at the polls - South Korea's parliamentary polls will indicate how potent a national backlash is against President Lee Myung-bak's conservatism, perceived cronyism & pro-conglomerate policies, while offering insight into December's presidential vote. Desire for change in the macho milieu of politics in Seoul can be seen in a proliferation of female candidates.  By Aidan Foster-Carter  

Pakistan climbs 'wind' league - Pakistan is turning to wind power to help ease its desperate shortage of energy,& the country could soon be among the world's top 20 producers. Workers & farmers, their land taken for the turbine towers, may be the last to benefit.  By Zofeen Ebrahim

Turkey cuts Iran oil imports - Turkey is to slash its Iranian oil imports as it seeks exemptions from United States penalties linked to sanctions against Tehran. Less noticed, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in the Iranian capital last week, signed deals aimed at doubling trade between the two countries.  By Robert M. Cutler

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Entries in Children (10)

Monday
Dec172012

Philippines Passes Controversial Reproductive Health Bill - (REPORT) 

(Video: Kabayan LA)

(HN, December 17, 2012) - Today in the Philippines both the Senate and the House of Representatives backed a bill that has been debated for 13 years, and defied the powerful Roman Catholic Church to vote in favor of state-funded contraception.  Many women and supporters celebrated as news of the bill became known, though the two chambers passed slightly different versions of the bill, and they need to agree on a common version to put before President Benigno Aquino, who hopes to sign it into law by the end of the year.

This was the fourth attempt to pass a bill dealing with family planning issues in the heavily Catholic island nation with more than 80% of the population, 'religious'.  The last three bills were blocked by the Church and its political allies - including revered boxer-turned-congressman Manny Pacquiao - who say the law could corrupt `moral values'. They say they will continue to oppose the new bill.  

Supporters say it is a vital human rights measure in the impoverished country with one of the highest mortality rates in the region.  Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a key backer of the law, said that, despite the Church's opposition, "there is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come".

Opposers such as Bishop Gabriel Reyes say, "What the Church will do is to continue instructing our people, telling them the evils of contraceptives".  "They should not accept it because contraceptives are not pro-poor. It's not pro-children or pro-family. It is harmful against women, children and family."

A government health survey in 2011 found that the maternal mortality rate had risen by 36% between 2006 and 2010. Many maternity hospitals are struggling to cope with the number of births - and the UN appealed to the Philippines earlier this year to pass the bill.

"An idea whose time has come" - (PERSPECTIVE)

 (PHOTO: Mothers stay with their babies at a ward of Jose Fabella maternity hospital in Manila, Sept 12, 2012/NewStraitsTimes)By Manila Times Today

What transpired in Congress on Monday showed us that our lawmakers can get something done if they really want to.

At the House of Representatives, the reproductive health bill was passed on third reading through a vote of 133 in favor, 79 against, with seven abstentions.

The Catholic bishops had vowed to put up a strong fight after their defeat - by a slimmer margin - last week, when 113 House members said yes to the RH bill and 104 said no. Over the weekend, letters were read to the Catholic faithful from their Church leaders who reiterated that the measure was intrinsically evil.  But no, the margin got even wider.

The bishops also hoped that the rabid opponents of the bill at the Senate would be able to sway their colleagues to block it upon second reading, also on Monday.  The public was treated to a last-ditch showcase of tired arguments, the usual  sanctimony and silly hairsplitting about sex having to be safe but not satisfying. There were also funny moments – like when a senator claimed to be the voice of the unborn child.

Nonetheless, the bill passed both second and third reading by a vote of  13-8.

Those belonging to the losing bloc insist that President Aquino dangled incentives to those who would vote in favor of the bill, or that the lawmakers who said yes to it were motivated by political gains.

They refused to acknowledge that support for the bill grew because of its own merit, not because of politics. Lawmakers crossed party lines in expressing their support or opposition to the bill.

Even the President was hesitant to show full support for the measure at the onset.  He tried to change its name to responsible parenthood and to forge a dialogue with the Catholic bishops.  He was not sure he could afford to alienate the men in robes who were his late mother’s staunchest allies.

(PHOTO: People rally outside congress in Manila on August 6, 2012 to press for the passage of the bill/Jay Directo)The battle has been noisy.  It has been put on the table and discussed in the public sphere. Filipinos listened, thought for themselves, formed their own opinion and made their voices heard by the lawmakers they elected to represent them.

The Catholic leaders say it is not over and they will bring the fight to other fora.  Their arrogance and self-righteousness have doomed them to downfall.

In the end, Senator Miriam Santiago, author of the Senate version of the measure, summed it up well when she quoted Victor Hugo, who said: “There is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”

The struggle has been long. Monday’s vote is as historic as it has been overdue. Next on the agenda is making sure the RH Law’s lofty objectives are not frustrated by bungled implementation.

"Church unfazed, will fight up to Supreme Court" - (PERSPECTIVE)

(PHOTO: There has been angry campaigning from the Catholic church in the nation of 100 million, where 80% of the population are followers/AFP)By Vito Barcelo with Maricel V. Cruz

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines on Monday said its fight against the Reproductive Health bill was not yet over despite the bill’s approval on third and final reading in the House of Representatives on a vote of 133-79 with seven abstentions.

And voting 13-8, the Senators also approved the same bill, which had been certified as urgent by President Benigno Aquino III, on third and final reading. The RH bill aims to guarantee universal access to the methods of contraception, fertility control, sexual education and maternal health care.

“We will continue the fight in other fora, to the Supreme Court and in the level of individual conscience,” Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros said.  “We have many allies at the Senate and we believe that their conscience will be their guiding principle in rejecting the RH bill”. He said they would be issuing a pastoral letter on Tuesday to be read in all the parishes nationwide.

“The RH bill is a major attack on authentic human values and on Filipino cultural values regarding human life that all of us have cherished since time immemorial,” Olivers said.

“Our position stands firmly on two of the core principles commonly shared by all who believe in God. As religious leaders we must proclaim this truth fearlessly in season and out of season.”

House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and Batangas Rep. Mark Leandro Mendoza, both critics of the RH bill, said many of their colleagues “had succumbed to the pressure by Malacañang.”

(PHOTO: Nuns protesting in Manila/CatholicTimes)Legazpi Bishop Joel Baylon said the 104 congressmen who initially voted No to the RH bill on December 12 during its second reading were “witnesses in This Year of Faith.” 

“They voted according to the dictate of their faith; we can verily recognize them as witnesses in this Year of Faith.”  Pope Benedict XVI declared Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013 as the Year of Faith.

Saranggani Rep. Manny Pacquiao said his crushing boxing defeat to Juan Manuel Marquez two days before the vote on the RH bill strengthened his opposition to it.

On Monday, Catholic youth groups questioned President Benigno Aquino’s anti-corruption campaign because of his support for the RH bill. “The bill contains excellent provisions, but it is rather like a cold soft drink with a drop of poison,” the groups said. “That poison is its provision on contraception. The RH bill seeks to subsidize the enjoyment of sex without the corresponding responsibilities that it entails.”

- These reports are assembled from The Straits Times, The Manila Standard, Catholic News and the BBC.

Tuesday
Aug212012

Bolivia's Children Face Harsh Work in Young Lives (REPORT) 

(Video: Bolivia children work long days in mines/UNICEF)

(8/21/21) - "I have worked as long as I can remember," says Felix Mamani Mayta, a 14-year-old whose life story illustrates an everyday reality for 850,000 children and adolescents in Bolivia.

Felix, who is still in school, began with small jobs in retail and later as a bicycle delivery boy for his family's business, a combination ice cream shop and meat and poultry distributor.

Witty and full of energy, Felix is a board member of the Union of Boys and Girl Workers of Bolivia, an advocacy group that lobbies Congress and municipal councils for legal protections for children.

The group lobbies "so that working girls and boys have a place in society, so that all children and adolescents are taken into account, so that we are listened to as children," he told AFP.

(PHOTO: El Alto, Bolivia/Wikipedia) Franz Rios Apaza is 13 years old and sells cigarettes in the streets of El Alto, a city bordering La Paz and one of the poorest in the country.

"I began working when I was seven," he said. He worked as a bus driver's assistant, and shined shoes, and any other work he could find.

"I don't have a father, only a mother, and we are three brothers," he said. "I am in school. I go in at seven in the evening and get out at 10 at night, and from there I go sell cigarettes until two or three in the morning."

"I earn 50 bolivianos (about seven dollars) on Fridays and Saturday, when I make more money."

Child labor "is a problem of poverty, not only in Bolivia, but in developing countries," said UNICEF's representative in La Paz, Marco Luigi Corsi, adding that there are no easy solutions.

The United Nations Children's Fund estimates that 850,000 children between the ages of five and 17 in Bolivia work and believes that it puts them at physical and psychological risk.

UNICEF, the Bolivian government and non-governmental organizations have identified 23 categories of child labor that all agree are dangerous.

They include work harvesting sugar cane and chestnuts in the lowlands and the Amazon basin, and mining in the Andean highlands.

In a country of 10 million people "there are about 300,000 who are dedicated full time to some form of child labor and between 40 and 60 percent in Bolivia are likely involved in the worst forms of child labor," says UNICEF spokesman Wolfgang Friedl.

"Bolivia is in a worrying situation, but there is recognition among legislators and government officials that the international laws and conventions to eradicate child labor must be fulfilled," he said.

(PHOTO: Jose Gonzales, 14, pushes a wheelbarrow with silver ore along a shaft in a mine in Bolivia in 2010/AFP)Marco de Gaetano, coordinator of an NGO called El Trabajo de Crecer, which operates in Bolivia and Peru, says the goal is to end all forms of exploitation of minors.

"We are betting on the dignity of labor and the elimination of the worst forms of labor," he said.

Despite this, many child workers in Bolivia, especially those involved in commerce, believe they have been strengthened by their experience.

"Most people think that work is something bad, but on the contrary, for us it was a source of experience," said Felix, who said that as a bus driver's assistant he needed to know fractions to make change.

Tania Nava, head of the local municipality's child welfare office, is skeptical of the benefits. "There is an unresolved debate over whether children should work or not," she said.

"Families, for reasons of poverty, are obliged to have all their members work," she said. However there is unanimous agreement that children deserve access to health, education, dignity and to be protected against exploitation and the worst forms of child labor.

-- This article first appeared on France 24.

Sunday
Apr082012

No money no summer camps for Gaza kids (REPORT) 

(PHOTO: UNRWAThe United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees is cancelling its annual summer camps for children in the Gaza Strip, saying it has failed to raise enough money.

"It was decided to stop the Summer Games programme in the Gaza Strip for 2012 due to not having received sufficient funding from donors, that is $9.9 million (7.5 million euros)," said Adnan Abu Hasna, spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), in Gaza.

He said that UNRWA had received pledges of $3.3 million, "but that's not enough to cover expenses. That's why we decided to allocate these funds to basic humanitarian services and resume the games in 2013 if we get the necessary financial support," he said.

UNRWA's "Summer Games" programme caters to around 250,000 children at 1,200 sites in the Gaza Strip during six weeks of summer holidays.

Last year and in 2010 campsites were vandalised by unknown attackers but activities still carried on.

The attacks were blamed on Muslim extremists who view the camps as a symbol of Western corruption because boys and girls mingle freely.

Abu Hasna said that the cancellation of this year's events was a blow to the children and to around 9,000 older Palestinian youths who would have had summer jobs helping to run the camps.

UNRWA cares for nearly five million Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, including more than one million in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

- This article originally appeared in Middle East Online

Tuesday
Feb072012

Sweeter Kisses? Hershey Commits to Fair Trade, Responsible Cocoa, Uses Innovative Technology 

(HN, 2/7/2012) -- Last week The Hershey Company announced it was expanding its programs to improve living standards and supply chain efficiencies for cocoa producing communities in West Africa by investing $10 million over the next five years.  By 2017, the Company says its public and private partnerships will directly benefit 750,000 African cocoa farmers and over two million people in cocoa communities across the region by focusing on two important groups – cocoa farmers and those they say who `love Hershey’s products’.

HUMNEWS spoke with Andy McCormick, VP of Public Affairs for The Hershey Company about the investment and what it would mean to Hershey’s farmers.  McCormick, who grew up in Pennsylvania and now leads Communications, PR and Corporate Social Responsibility efforts for the Company has also worked in Ghana as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and knows West Africa well.  He calls his tenure at Hershey’s a `happy coincidence’.   McCormick also serves on the boards of the World Cocoa Foundation and the International Cocoa Initiative – both global bodies designed to regulate and offer solutions in cocoa production.

Hershey’s announcement comes 10 years since major international chocolate companies, including Hershey, committed to ending child labor, forced labor and trafficking in their cocoa supply chain by signing the Harkin-Engel Protocol, commonly known as the Cocoa Protocol in September 2001.  A decade later, although both Hershey and its public and private partners have invested in developing new agricultural practices that are helping West African farmers double the yield on their cocoa farms, which in turn increases their family’s income - hundreds of thousands of children continue to labor in hazardous conditions in West Africa, particularly in the Ivory Coast and Ghana.

The US Department of Labor has also noted five West African nations which may still be producing cocoa tainted by forced and/or child labor. To address the problem they’ve created a partnership which includes Hershey as well as other partners include USAID, USDA, Cote d’Ivoire Cocoa Committee, numerous local and global NGOs, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, called the Framework of Action to significantly reduce the worst forms of child labor in Ghana and the Ivory Coast by 2020.  

(PHOTO: A female cocoa farmer/SOURCETRUST)By making its pledge last week, Hershey is following on other initiatives in recent years that it and other major cocoa producers have committed to in order to clean up the cocoa industry.  UNICEF estimates 600,000 children work on cocoa farms in Ivory Coast and that 35,000 are victims of trafficking;  children carrying machetes or pesticide equipment used in cocoa work has been widely reported on.

McCormick acknowledges that, We are a growing global business and we have had criticism in the past. But, we try to listen constructively and are working to strike a balance between our business strategy and our values, and we keep learning.”  He goes on to say, “At Hershey we’ve already been working to address child labor issues in West Africa, and we all recognize that more needs to be done.”  

The Company has formed partnerships with the Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Certified, and Fair Trade Certified and commits to production of `certified cocoa’, which Eric Servat of the Rainforest Alliance’s cocoa program says, “Is almost doubling every year”.   

“Certified cocoa is currently under 2% of the market,” says Andy McCormick, “But it’s growing by a large margin and we believe that by 2020 that will increase to about 15-20% of market share”. 

All of the certification partners require farmers to comply with International Labor Organization standards, which includes a ban on child labor.

In fact, chocolate is big business and accounts for an annual $83 billion in global sales.  Certified cocoa is actually worth more and growers can make $0.10 more per kilogram for certified cocoa, but it’s just a start for poor farmers who often don’t have enough money to even send their children to school.

(PHOTO: A cocoa farmer in Ghana using Cocoalink/Hershey) Hershey, a 100 year old company and one of the world’s leading chocolate companies, has worked with farmers and development organizations for more than 50 years and Andy McCormick says, “Because cocoa farms are family farms where on average 5 family members work and live, improving farming methods to be more modern, sustainable and safe will increase West African cocoa output by 50%; increasing family income.  In turn, doing so will increase school attendance and improve community health”.

Addressing the needs of cocoa farmers and the chocolate producing supply chain is becoming not just a humanitarian issue but also is necessary action due to the impact of climate change on growers.  Global cocoa production is primarily done by the 10 member countries of COPAL (The Cocoa Producers Alliance) - namely Brazil, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Ghana, Malaysia, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe and Togo who account for approximately 75% of total world cocoa production; almost 70% in West Africa alone grown on 2 million small family farms.  The crop is labor-intensive and only grows in equatorial climates.

Hershey’s Andy McCormick says that, “Climate change has been causing desertification in parts of West Africa where cocoa is grown, and as the desert squeezes out fertile lands – in Ghana in particular – that’s starting to have an impact on harvests. We are talking with the farmers about this and about varieties of cocoa which grow more efficiently by instituting new programs”.  He adds, “Weekly rainfall moves the cocoa market right now”.  

Cocoa prices have risen since the start of the year by almost 15% with some of the highest prices seen since 1977, as the annual weather phenomenon called the `Harmattan’ - which brings a dry, dusty and cold trade wind in West Africa from the Sahara desert to the Gulf of Guinea from the end of November to the middle of March - has been most severe this year.  Though, meteorological forecasts show that the Harmattan will dissipate shortly and the rainy season will begin.

(PHOTO: Cocoa farmers in Ghana/Hershey)One such innovative program aimed at addressing farmer’s growth needs is CocoaLink. Started in 2011 in Ghana by Hershey, the World Cocoa Foundation, the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD), the Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana (CRIG), Dream Oval and World Education, CocoaLink leverages Ghana's mobile phone infrastructure (almost 80% saturation) to connect more than 8,000 cocoa farmers and community members in 15 villages with practical agricultural and social information that will help them increase their incomes and improve their livelihoods. The program has the potential to reach more than 100,000 by 2014.

Farmers and community leaders receive, at no charge, voice and SMS text messages that include information on improving farming practices, farm safety, child labor, health, crop disease prevention, post-harvest production and crop marketing.  Farmers can also share their own information and receive answers to specific cocoa-farming questions from peers and experts.

In October of last year Hershey said it would enhance CocoaLink to include information about disease prevention and would provide cell phones and solar chargers for women farmers in rural villages by partnering with the nonprofit organization Malaria No More to leverage CocoaLink to help save lives and decrease malaria deaths in Africa by 2015.   The Company instituted an internal smart phone recycling program, collecting more than 500 smart phones no longer being used by Hershey’s U.S. employees and redeployed them to women across Ghanaian cocoa communities.  Ghana accounts for about 20% of world cocoa production, making it the country’s single largest non-oil foreign exchange earner beside oil.

Last week in making its announcement Hershey said it would expand the CocoaLink program to farmers in the Ivory Coast to further grow crop yields, provide education and support to farmers, their families and communities.  The Ivory Coast is the source of more than 1/3 of the world's cocoa supply and has approximately 600,000 cocoa farmers; industry data indicates that about half are already using mobile phones.  Cocoa makes up 15% of Ivory Coast’s GDP and 40% of its export revenues. Hershey’s initiative adds to the eight-month-old government's plan to overhaul the cocoa industry in the country and is a condition for debt relief from the International Monetary Fund.

In its latest output report on the sector, Marex Spectron a London based analyst group said that world 2011-2012 cocoa output will be short 94,000 tons, which is a change from its November estimate of a small global surplus.  Not all of this impact is due to climate change however, though Marex noted weather conditions in December and January in Ivory Coast and Ghana were dry compared to a much wetter 2010-2011 season which saw a record cocoa surplus of 417,000 tons.  Much higher cocoa demand globally is also driving production needs – and inevitably will increase costs for chocolate products.  Hershey has said its own costs should remain higher in 2012 and recently raised prices on its candies.

(PHOTO: Learning about cocoa farming/Hershey) The International Cocoa Organization estimates that Asian demand for chocolate would grow 10% in 2012, with strong growth in China, Indonesia and India; with Europe remaining the world’s largest cocoa buyer.

This is why in making its announcement last week, Hershey also established the `Hershey Learn to Grow’ farm program along with its partner Source Trust. Launching in Ghana the initiative will provide local farmers with information on best practices in sustainable cocoa farming as growth in demand intensifies, and consumers call for more responsible growing standards.  For example by supplying farmers with technologies such as high-yield seedlings, better planting and pruning practices, organic fertilization and biocontrol of insect pests, farmers can increase output and therefore, income – even while climate change takes hold.  

Additionally, the effort will create a farmer and family development center in the heart of Ghana’s central cocoa region where during the day the schoolchildren will use the computer lab for learning and in the evening the farmers will use the lab for cocoa learning. Hershey is also working with technology partner Cisco to use `telepresence’ for distance education purposes.

The initiative will involve more than 5,000 cocoa community members, more than 1,000 farm families, establish 25 community-based farmer organizations and will build technology centers that will be used to teach improved agricultural, environmental, social and business practices; provide access to planting materials as well as finance for farm inputs; and support GPS mapping of farm acreage so that farmers will use the right amount of fertilizers and pesticides for maximum yield and sustainability - with the goal to double productivity yield and farm income over four years.

(PHOTO: Cocoa farming/Hershey) By doing this Hershey hopes to assist the Government of Ghana to meet the goals of Ghana’s 2009-2015 National Plan of Action for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor (WFCL), associated with achieving the international Millennium Development Goals by 2015. 

“Creating sustainability throughout our supply chain is our goal,” says Andy McCormick. “Milton Hershey was a master of building business and we know that you’re only as successful as the communities you’re in.  Our future is intimately connected to the growing regions and people we work with. Our scientists and farmers are excited to be working on the ground together to make things better.”

Further says McCormick, “The issue of rural youth and their job prospects-we think our interaction with farmers, school systems and young people to `skill build’ can really make a long term positive contribution to kids’ lives and we’re very excited about playing a constructive role”.

Consumers win too as Hershey will address their demands to bring to market for the first time, 100% Rainforest Alliance certified chocolate products later this year.  The first sweet treats will be the Hershey’s Bliss® chocolate bar available in the United States; and later Latin America and Africa where the Company is working with the Rainforest Alliance to source cocoa from certified farms for Hershey’s premium brand, Dagoba®.

Rainforest Alliance Certified farms have met comprehensive sustainability standards that protect the environment and ensure the safety and well-being of workers, their families and communities. Additionally, Rainforest Alliance inspectors will monitor and audit practices on farms supplying certified beans to Hershey, to include instances of unsafe or illegal child labor and use training programs to increase school attendance. These programs will be coordinated with industry and government initiatives.

Hershey made their investment announcement just days before a planned protest group which included the The International Labor Rights Forum and was started last year by Change.org called the `Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign’ which was to run a high profile commercial challenging Hershey’s labor practices during the US Super Bowl Game after collecting over 100,000 petition signatures.

In a statement, the group said, `This commitment is a welcome first step for Hershey to improve its supply chain accountability. This commitment also demonstrates that The Hershey Company acknowledges the severity of the labor abuses that taint the West African cocoa sector and the members of the Raise the Bar, Hershey! Campaign congratulate Hershey on this first step to achieve greater supply chain accountability and hope that it will be the beginning of comprehensive supply chain traceability and certified child-labor free Hershey chocolate products.’

In making the commitment to better global cocoa standards Hershey Company President and CEO, J.P. Bilbrey, said, “Hershey is extending our commitment with new programs to drive long-term change in cocoa villages where families will benefit from our investments in education, health and economic opportunities. Our global consumers want The Hershey Company to be a leader in responsible business practices and in finding smart ways to benefit cocoa communities. We are excited and humbled by this opportunity to create positive change in West Africa”.

Hershey says it will regularly update its progress on these programs through its Corporate Social Responsibility public reporting.   

Will all of this mean sweeter `Kisses’? Stay tuned…..

----Joy DiBenedetto, HUMNEWS

Thursday
Feb022012

Children put their mark on the drafting of Turkey`s new constitution

By Lely Djuhari

(PHOTO: UNICEF Regional Director, UNICEF Turkey Representative at the children consultation/UNICEF Turkey-Oktay Ustun)ANKARA, Turkey 1 February, 2012 — Turkey is at pivotal point in the country`s history. Parliamentarians are poised to make fundamental changes to their constitution and children will have a rare chance to leave their stamp on it.

A two-day consultation, Children`s Opinion on the Process for a New Consultation,  began this week bringing together 162 children from child rights committees from all provinces, organized by the Ministry of Family and Social Policy, the Parliament and UNICEF Turkey.

The new constitution will influence the country`s future as a thriving democracy. Amendments could pave the way to greater freedom of expression. It will change the relationship between the judiciary and political parties. It will also allow the president and parliament to have a say in the composition of the constitutional court - the final port of call when challenging laws in a country.

Academics, non-governmental organizations, disadvantaged groups have already submitted their opinions in the process which started last year. This inclusive dialogue did not occur the previous time the charter was drawn up.

Sevval Lafçi and Mirkan Özdemir, child committee representatives, will present on Thursday the results of the children`s discussions to Cemil Çiçek, Speaker of the Turkish Parliament.

In doing so, Turkey will be one of the few countries in the world where children were consulted in the drafting of a constitution, the basis of all national and sub-national laws.

“We want the government to set their policy with child rights at the centre,” 16-year-old Sevval said. “Getting child rights into the Constitution will make it easier to for us to advocate for children`s right in laws and making sure that resources are given.”

Turkey is a country of 74 million people, of which slightly less than a third is under the age of 18. With a vibrant economy, it is a nation eager to influence regional and global affairs.

“We need to have a constitution that includes the voices of all people. In the past, our constitutions were drafted during times of hardship. This is the first time that we are able to do it during peacetime. We need to capture the spirit of these new times,” said Fatma Şahin, Minister of Family and Social Policies, whose office is responsible for facilitating child participation.

(PHOTO: UNICEF Reg. Dir. Marie-Pierre Poirier speaking. Child rights advocates, Sevval Lafçi & Mirkan Özdemir, stand behind her/UNICEF Turkey-Oktay Ustun)Speaking at her first public event as the new UNICEF Regional Director for Central and Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, Marie-Pierre Poirier, said: “In every part of the world, UNICEF supports legislative reforms that are geared to bringing domestic law in alignment with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”

She outlined the importance of incorporating the Convention of the Rights of the Child, particularly its four basic principles: non-discrimination, the best interest of the child, the right to live, survival and development and respect of the views of the child.

 “I extend my wholehearted congratulations to the Government of Turkey for having accomplished this invaluable work. The lesson I take from today is inspirational. I will take this as an example to the Governments of Europe and Central Asia of what can be achieved through children participating in the future,” she said.

UNICEF Turkey has been working to empower youth to take on a more active role as citizens. Child rights committees, which meet at least one or several times a year at the province and national level, have been established since 2000 to help young people fight for the rights of the most vulnerable children.

Some children - especially poorer children in rural and eastern areas - are still missing out on the health, nutrition and education enjoyed by others. Tens of thousands of children of primary school age are still out of school, partly due to late starting. Hundreds of thousands are frequently absent and – particularly in the case of girls - may be in danger of dropping out. In remote, predominantly rural areas and fast-growing urban districts, the education and health services may be inadequately equipped and staffed.

Berkay Saygin, another child advocate familiar with these issues, is trying to help others understand how important the constitution is for children.

“Many of my friends don`t understand what child rights are, let alone why a constitution