Speech written for UNICEF Executive Director Jim Grant, addressing President Clinton at the launch of the 1994 State of the World’s Children report in the East room of the White House, December 1993.
A war being won
Thank you Mrs. Clinton for your gracious introduction.
Mr President, it is my privilege to present this report to you at a time when something quite extraordinary is happening in the world.
For in the midst of all the tragedies which almost daily provoke our sorrow and our anger – there is also quieter but equally important good news to report.
Let me report today that the war on the great diseases of childhood – the diseases and disabilities which stunt the development of people and of nations – is a war that is being won.
The evidence for this is in the State of the World’s Children report for 1994.
It announces that the toll of measles, tetanus, diarrhoeal disease, polio, whooping cough – the diseases that kill and maim and malnourish so many millions of our world’s children – has been cut almost in half in the last few years. In total, some 3 to 4 million young lives a year are being saved.
In addition, Mr President, there are today more than three million children who are running and playing normally and who would have been crippled by polio were it not for the advances we have seen in these last few years.
Given determined leadership, I have no doubt at all that we can now turn this momentum into a final offensive against some of the most serious threats to the lives, the health, and the normal growth of the world’s children.
Not in my lifetime, Mr President, has there been such a momentum of change for children.
It is a momentum of practical achievement. And it is a momentum of political commitment.
Since the 1990 World Summit for Children, over 150 of the world’s Presidents and Prime Ministers have pledged their governments to achieving clear and measurable goals for the year 2000.
– to controlling the major childhood diseases
– to halving child malnutrition
– to making sure every child has a basic education
– and to making family planning services available to all
Now, those leaders have also agreed to specific goals for the mid-decade. If those 1995 goals are achieved, it will save the lives of an additional 2 million children a year. It will wipe out iodine deficiency – the world’s most important cause of mental impairment. And it will virtually end the vitamin A deficiency that blinds a quarter of a million children every year.
I want to express today my conviction that there has never been such an opportunity as this. These goals are doable –
– if the leaders of the industrialized world reinforce the commitments made by so many leaders in the developing world
– if we put our muscle behind the wheel that is beginning to turn.
Mr President, your administration has articulated – better than any other in my lifetime – the profound connection between the mental and physical development of children and the social and economic development of this country.
This report is premised on the global validity of that relationship.
That is why its central message is that achieving the goals that have been agreed – doing what can now be done for the world’s children – is not just the greatest of humanitarian causes but also the greatest of investments in the future of the human race.
Mr. President, what an investment that would be in our common future. An investment in economic development, in slowing population growth, in protecting the environment.
Never has a greater human achievement beckoned our commitment. And never has a greater human investment invited our participation.
In your September speech to the General Assembly, Mr President, you said that we are compelled to do better by the world’s children and you called for a new commitment to that cause.
As a contribution to that goal, it gives me great pleasure – in the presence of so many distinguished colleagues – to present the 1994 State of the World Children report to the President of United States.
I do so in the hope that the advancement of these great goals for the children of the world will become one of the defining achievements of your Presidency …
… and in the hope that you will offer the support and leadership of this great country to this great cause.