OPENING OF UNICEF CONFERENCE
It gives Us great pleasure to welcome the delegates and observers who have come to this, the 66th sessional meeting of the United Nations Children’s Fund. This is only the second time that this meeting has been held outside the United Nations’ Headquarters, and the first time that it has taken place on African soil. It is only proper, therefore, that we pay tribute today to the Organization and confirm in person the deep feelings of debt and gratitude which we all feel for the service which U.N.I.C.E.F. so well renders to the future generations of the world.
Your presence today on the African continent will provide the opportunity for you to focus your attention on Africa’s children and to concentrate on the problems of the children and the youth of Africa, and on the best use to be made of the resources available to them. Share amongst you plans for meeting the needs of our children, and help to bring to fruition our united hopes for a brighter and happier future for them. Since important responsibilities will be handed over tomorrow to the youth of today, everything possible must be done for their proper upbringing and development of mind.
A mark of a worthy civilization is the willingness of these to whom much has been given to share their portion with those in need. The heritage of our children is surely among those gifts which lie closest to man’s heart. In aiding the young, those whom fate has cast aside or passed unnoticed, we demonstrate our hope and faith in the future. All over the world, U.N.I.C.E.F. has provided help to mothers and children. Although the help provided so far can by no means be considered to have adequately met the need, U.N.I.C.E.F.’s activity on behalf of mothers and children throughout the world is quite significant and portends good for the future. No rural area has been too remote to it. Help has, indeed, been largely concentrated in those areas, although the organization’s outlook has been all embracing. U.N.I.C.E.F. has also wisely attached great importance to the need for improved environmental conditions particularly those found in the tropical areas. In sum, U.N.I.C.E.F. has worked for the total welfare of the family.
Nor has U.N.I.C.E.F. neglected the problem of hunger, the original enemy of the Organization during its early days following World War II. Allied with other international bodies, U.N.I.C.E.F. has provided food for millions of mothers and their children. In Africa, there is today an urgent need to know what foods give the greatest benefit to the growing child. And surely, until there is food enough for all, the infant and the young have first claim on what there is. If Africa’s immense natural resources are put to the service of the African people through the development of the necessary skills and organization, the wealth of Africa, in a reasonable time, will not only adequately cover the needs of children but also will give rise to a general prosperity throughout Africa.
Together with providing sustenance and nourishment for the body, U.N.I.C.E.F. has since 1961 been offering assistance in the education of the young as part of its programme. The saying is Mens sana in corpore sano – a sound mind in a sound body – food for the body and food for the mind are both essential.
Problems still remain. Although attempts have been made to control birth, millions of children are still born in misery, and die in sickness. Millions of African children die in infancy. Those that survive are all too often handicapped by disease, by lack of education, with no opportunity to inherit the rights of other children of the world. During this meeting, you will have an opportunity to take action which will enable generations that follow to look back upon this conference as the beginning of a new era of well-being and happiness for our children. If humanity is led to a better observance of covenants – that are meant for orderly conduct of life – and if the progress of science is applied solely for human welfare, the increase of population would have become not a burden but a matter of gratification. If this approach is made the needs of children in education, health and other respects would be fully met, thus assuring a better life for all succeeding generations. We urge you to draw upon your wisdom and experience in your search for the means to provide a healthy and prosperous future for our children.
May Almighty God bless you in the work that lies before you.
May 17, 1966.
Selected Speeches of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie – page 382 –