HL Deb 21 May 1968 vol 292 cc646-72

5.30 p.m.

LORD RITCHIE-CALDER rose to ask Her Majesty's Government whether they intend to increase their contribution to the United Nations Children's Find to a figure commensurate with its new role in world development. The noble Lord said: My Lords, since I tabled this Question the first part has been answered in another place. My right honourable friend the Minister of Overseas Development has announced an increase in the British contribution to UNICEF from £400,000 last year to £500,000 this year, Neither my right honourable friend in another place nor my noble friend who will be replying here will think that I am ungrateful or churlish if I point out that the increase is not nearly as impressive as it seems. In devalued sterling it represents not a 25 per cent. increase but about 10 per cent. Nevertheless, in present difficulties I welcome it as an earnest of the Government's good will—and, I hope, a token of greater contribution to come—towards UNICEF and a recognition of its work.

I want to address my noble friend's attention to the second part of my Question: does he consider the figure commensurate with UNICEF'S new role in world development? The operative term is "new role", which for your Lordships' benefit I should like to define. Many of your Lordships, I hope all your Lordships, are familiar with the humanitarian services which UNICEF has rendered for 22 years to the children of the world, and which was acknowledged by the award of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1965. Many of your Lordships will know that UNICEF had a predecessor in UNRRA, the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Agency, which before the embers of war were cold moved into the ravaged countries with first aid, to avert the famines and diseases which had followed the First World War, killing, in terms of that war, more in its wake than had been killed in terms of all the military casualities of all the belligerents from 1914 to 1918. In spite of the even greater destruction of countries and a far greater movement of displaced persons, and the dangers of pestilence that that meant, similar catastrophes did not follow the Second World War, thanks mainly to UNRRA.

When UNRRA was abruptly, and I maintain prematurely, wound up in 1946, there was a vast unfinished business, in terms of refugees and the creation of the International Refugee Organisation as a consequence, particularly among children and young people. The United Nations Children's International Emergency Fund was set up—I stress that because it is Still to US UNICEF—aS a legatee of UNRRA funds and supplies, to work with and through the United Nations specialised agencies, the World Health Organisation, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, UNESCO, I.L.O. and so on, in order to bring succour to child victims of war or the child victims of neglect in other parts of the world. But it was obvious that "emergency" was an understatement, and that the world problem of children would be with us for a very long time—and to-day twenty years later it is still with us.

The United Nations reconstituted the organisation as a permanent agency, financed by voluntary contributions of Governments and by private fund raising, and I think that probably most people know UNICEF through its private fund raising, through flag days, through Christmas cards, through Danny Kaye's films and stage shows, and other fund raising activities. But only about a quarter of UNICEF's income comes from non-Governmental fund raising—and I suggest to your Lordships that it is really a blackmail of Government to insist that through people voting with their pockets they will give more in terms of Government contributions—and the rest from 122 Governments.

For over twenty years I have had an intimate and very rewarding experience of UNICEF in all parts of the world, and I have personally reason to be grateful to UNICEF because as a supply agency it is mobile, and one of my desperate efforts in international relations is to remain mobile. I have been able to cadge lifts or "thumb" lifts on its trucks and on its jeeps into the most inaccessible places in the world, because UNICEF always gets through wherever its help is needed. I have been with its unsung heroes on the milk run into Afghanistan; I have been helping to deliver penicillin to cure yaws in the Hungry Hills of Java; taking supplies for malaria control into Kipling's jungle in India; making a desperate sortie into the mountains of Luzon to help the Igarots, the head hunters of the Philippines; averting a catastrophic famine in the desperate days of the Congo; and taking sulphone drugs to treat leprosy in Northern Thailand. I have seen UNICEF at work in those places and in the Himalayas, in the Middle East, in North Africa and Latin America. In other words, I can put names and faces to UNICEF'S statistics.

Not long ago I wrote an article on "UNICEF'S Grandchild", and this is really what I am talking about to-day. I had gone back to Afghanistan and had met a man whom twenty years before I had seen as a starveling brought by his mother to the UNICEF milk depot to get the protein he was perishing without. He now has a child of his own, a boy born in the maternity hospital which the World Health Organisation had helped to provide and UNICEF had helped to equip. And I recalled how two Royal princesses had been persuaded to become midwives in order to set an example in a land of purdah, where the veiled and segregated women had been previously treated as chattels and childbearing machines. To-day in Afghanistan they have been allowed to unveil. A quarter of the students at Kabul University are now women learning to be doctors, to be nuclear and electronic engineers, to be architects, to be civil engineers, to be bridge-builders.

A social revolution has been wrought in Afghanistan, and I swear to your Lordships that it dates back to that UNICEF milk depot, when the women, shrouded from head to foot in their chadaris, the humiliation of their sex, brought their children for succour to the milk depot, and at the gynæcological and pædiatric clinics where alongside they met women, unveiled women, whom the World Health Organisation had recruited from many countries. The Afghan women discovered that women could be professionals, and presently they found that, (they themselves, the women 'of Afghanistan, were important because the women doctors treated them as personalities in their own right.

That social revolution has been wrought in a country. That story—and I can give many similar examples—epitomises the kind of social chain reaction which UNICEF has triggered off and which has forced upon the Fund new responsibilities and the new role to which I am referring to-day. But whatever that new role (and I will come back to that in a moment), I sincerely hope that UNICEF will never forget its origins, which began with first-aid feeding and the prevention of pestilence. It has sympathetically, and in terms of compassion, been identified with the pathetic child and the empty rice bowl—and, Heaven knows! there are still multi-millions of ill-fed children for it to look after. It has a proud, a heroic, record as the milk roundsman and the truck driver. But by its own achievement, by that direct help, first aid and so on, it has created new problems, and I hasten to add new opportunities which I hope the countries of the world will help it to meet.

One is self-evident. It has helped to keep people alive. It has helped to save mothers from death in childbirth, to live and to have more children. It has helped to save children from infantile diseases, helped to protect them against the old killer diseases like tuberculosis, malaria, dystentries, and to deliver millions from yaws, leprosy, trachoma and the like. As a result of this humanitarian intervention, children have grown up to marry and to multiply. As a result, we have the world population problem. With that problem goes migration, the movement of excess population from the villages to the towns. With that go broken homes and parentless children. With that go delinquency and the unemployed, and unemployable young people.

It is not only right, it is absolutely imperative, that UNICEF should take responsibility for the lives it saves. It is right, therefore, that, like the other Agencies of the United Nations, it should concern itself with population control so that succeeding generations should be brought up in human dignity. It is right that it should help Governments in setting up enlightened welfare services for children, caring for the dispossessed children, providing youth centres and helping to train and equip social workers. It is right that, with the full and cordial cooperation of UNESCO, it should concern itself with education, and particularly with the out-of-school child. By "out-of-school" child in that context is meant children who have no schools to go to, or who drop out too early from school to retain literacy. More than half the children of the world are in that category in countries too poor to provide schooling.

This "lost generation" bulks large in rural communities. The uneducated child becomes the unemployable youth. UNICEF seeks, in conjunction with the other United Nations Agencies and the Governments concerned, to provide for the out-of-school population facilities for combining literacy and practical training. It can, in conjunction with the International Labour Organisation, help to provide also vocational training facilities for those who have to be "topped up" to take their place in a technological society.

Nowadays we talk about "investment in human resources". I think this phrase embodies the most important advance which we have made in our attitudes since the War. "Investment in human resources" means taking economic account not only of the material resources of a country but of its human potential. Historically, and in classical economics, we have assumed that what we call social services—health, nutrition, education, better housing and so on—were the spill-over of industrial prosperity. But what we have come to recognise nowadays is that industrial prosperity depends upon upgrading our human materials, so that they can become the positive instruments in creating that prosperity which is an important precondition in developing countries, which have to make a leap across the centuries if they are to take their place in a technologically advanced world. So the social services, the investment in human resource, are not the outlet pipe of the cistern of prosperity; they are now the inlet valve of that prosperity. And that investment in human resources begins with the child when he is born, when, in United Nations' terms, he becomes the ward of UNICEF.

Like everyone who knows the United Nations Development Programme, under the management of Paul Hoffman and David Owen, I have a great admiration for and confidence in the work of the Development Programme. Its job is to help the developing countries to make the best use of their economic resources, including human resources. Like UNICEF, it works in conjunction with, and through, the Specialised Agencies of the United Nations in promoting international assistance in the pre-investment phase of development. I have always believed in the integration of the efforts of the United Nations family of Agencies—I am all for that; and I see the new role of UNICEF, which will include the white-collar jobs of training and guidance, as well as the blue-collar job of supply and getting the stuff through, as complementary—and it is a most important complement—to what the United Nations Development Programme is doing.

In that sense, the role of UNICEF is social pediatrics. Just as in our medical services we recognise the special nature of child care and treatment, so in this crucially important question of development, industrially and socially, on which the political stability of the world will depend from now on, there is a special need for concern for that half of the world's population who are children. I want to say more emphatically than I can say most things that this is not charity. This is investment in human resources, in those who will be the makers and the doers, the thinkers and the leaders, in the world development on which the future prosperity of this country depends. At present, the wastage of human life and talents among the young is appalling. By our present neglect we are crippling their future and making them, not economic assets but social liabilities in the future development of their country. My Lords, UNICEF is not only the guardian of the child, it is the trustee for the future. It is in those terms that I ask my noble friend whether Her Majesty's Government think that their contribution is commensurate with UNICEF'S role.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, we must be grateful to Lord Ritchie-Calder for raising this matter to-day, for, of all appeals for help, that which embraces the lives of children should surely make the biggest impact upon our sympathy and generosity. Therefore we can rejoice a little that the Government have announced that they are prepared to increase the United Kingdom's contribution to the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund by £100,000. Whether this increased contribution to UNICEF is commensurate with its new role in world development we have yet to find out.

Overseas aid in general and our contribution to UNICEF in particular are questions above Party affiliation. The problems UNICEF seek to solve are awe-inspiring in their magnitude. The struggle exists to-day to try to emancipate the children and young people of this generation from the well-nigh overwhelming burdens of illness, poverty and ignorance which threaten to submerge them. The superhuman efforts needed to turn the tide of misery and deprivation would have defeated Canute. Fortunately, they act as a spur to the more privileged boys and girls and young men and women throughout the world. Christian Aid, OXFAM, Freedom from Hunger, Save the Children Fund and Voluntary Service Overseas are some of those organisations in this country, largely aided by the younger generation, which seek to save the children and their parents from lives of unbelievable hardship which have been their undeserved inheritance. We in this country have every reason to be proud of the way in which our young people have risen and are rising to this sort of call.

Only a few weeks ago the youth organisations of the three main political Parties got together and issued a joint manifesto demanding that, among other things, the Government should be pressed to increase its aid to £300 million per annum by 1970 in respect of our overseas aid programme. That is a thoroughly good thing, for the politically-minded youth of to-day may become part of the Government of to-morrow, and if they have already recognised their responsibilities towards the peoples of the undeveloped countries of the world they will need no convincing that it is their duty, when in power, to give help. Lord Ritchie-Calder implies in his Question that UNICEF is assuming a new role in world development. On April 18 of this year the Executive Director of UNICEF published his general progress report. It makes fascinating reading. From reading it one emerges with a picture of what UNICEF has been achieving in the past and what it hopes to achieve in the future.

I have not had the advantage the noble Lord who introduced this has had of travelling about the world and seeing this help and succour being given on the spot, but one is still conscious, even if one is looking at it academically, of the weight and volume of work that has to be done, and this work will be done only if—and this is a very big if—the financial support is forthcoming to sustain it.

It is clear from this Report that the present financial position is critical. I do not want to weary your Lordships with a mass of figures. They are all contained in this Report, which is available to anyone who would be interested to read it. What is clear is that the real income does not measure up to the target income of 50 million dollars by the end of 1969, which target was endorsed by the General Assembly.

The estimated income for 1968 is some three million dollars less than that anticipated a year ago. As a result, allocations for this year have had to be recommended at the lower level of 45 million dollars. This means that good new projects and programmes have had to be postponed, and the rate of implementation of successful projects already under way has had to be slowed down. I am sure I do not need to remind your Lordships that 1968 has been designated by the General Assembly as the International Year for Human Rights. The part that UNICEF has chosen to play in this particular year is to base itself upon a re-dedication to the Assembly's Declaration of the Rights of the Child made in 1959. This affirmed that "mankind owes the child the best it has to give;" he is "to be among the first to receive relief" and protection against neglect, and the right to tolerance and understanding.

If UNICEF's work merited the award of the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1965, its work in 1968 and hereafter merits increased support at least to the extent of 10 million dollars a year above its present level of income. That, after all, is less than the world is currently spending in one hour for military purposes. The knowledge of the excellent work that is being done in many of the programmes which UNICEF is helping tempers a little its concern over the plight of the unhappy and unhealthy children who are born into this developing world.

As I have said, there are a great many programmes in which UNICEF is participating. As is so often apparent it other spheres of work, it is sometimes necessary to go much wider afield than the immediate problem in front of one. When we try to analyse the major problems which the developing countries are facing as far as their children are concerned, we realise at once that to help the children it will be necessary to attack problems that affect the whole community.

In this attack seven targets present themselves: Population growth and child welfare; food supply and child malnutrition; the flight to the cities from the countryside, which entails new settlements around the cities which continue to outrun the development of the basic services for children and their parents; human resources and child development, for the world has not yet seriously come to grips with its responsibility for preparing to-day's children to become tomorrow's citizens; children as the innocent victims of violence—and there is direct evidence of this in the large increase in the demands on UNICEF for emergency relief in disasters brought about by political and military disturbances; the dearth of external aid—for support for UNICEF has lagged behind the overall increase in support for the assistance programmes of the United Nations family of Agencies; and finally, the crisis in understanding—the lack of understanding and concern for deprived countries or for deprived communities. There are too many of us all over the world who should know better than to pass by on the other side.

But, my Lords, what about this new role in world development? Is it a new role to embrace new programmes for aid, new schemes for education, or are we to expect a more intensified pursual of projects already in train? Is the future emphasis to concentrate upon countries already in the pipeline for help? Have the new curricula introduced into some of the schools been successful; the science, mathematics and the new teaching methods? What about the prevocational training schemes? What results are to be expected from the establishment of the agricultural clubs in the rural areas? Is it probable that this development will slow down the flight from the country to the towns? Has all the work that has been started all over the world helped to bring about a new attitude of mind in the various Governments of the widely differing undeveloped countries so that future generations of children can hope to have a better, happier, healthier start in life?

Is the help being given by UNICEF creating self-help in the countries it penetrates? Will these countries have an increasing corps of their own people trained to maintain and develop constructive work in education, social welfare, and health, that has been introduced from outside? Can we be sure that not only in the beginning but also in the continuing of these projects a better life is starting which will blossom and expand in the enlightenment of the knowledge and experience that have emanated as a result of the coming of outside aid?

The problems are so immense—the numbers to be helped seem almost incalculable. Our responsibilities are as great, and so is the need to educate ourselves in the knowledge of what can be done, if we have the imagination, the mind, and the warmth of heart to do it. For every second of happy, healthy life that we enjoy and that we watch our children enjoy, thousands elsewhere are living wretched lives of misery and utter degradation, are starving and dying of curable diseases. Surely we must not rest content until all we have inherited has been shared with those whose inheritance has been of a very different kind.

5.58 p.m.


My Lords, I am glad that the noble Lord has set down this subject, an important one, for discussion, and that he introduced it in his usual effective and colourful way. I rise for a few minutes to support him in his desire to secure further aid for UNICEF in its growing and future role. I greatly welcome the fact that the noble Lady rose from the Front Bench on the other side and offered her own solicitous remarks. As she so rightly said, this is not a matter of Party any more than it is a matter of race or religion. It is a job that we have to do.

I, too, join her in welcoming the increase which has already been referred to by the noble Lord, whereby the Government's contribution of £400,000 has become £500,000. The only snag is that it is not really a £100,000 rise at all, because devaluation swallows up so much of it. To cover devaluation one would have needed £467,000; so this is really a rise of only £33,000. However, I realise all the difficulties that the Government of the day have, and have had all the time, in finding so much money for so many things, but I am sure that the Government recognise that the amount of money that we are giving is not commensurate with the future needs which UNICEF will have, even if it is sufficient for to-day. It is certainly not sufficient for UNICEF's future role. I should not be so unwise as to urge an increase upon the Government to-night, in our own difficult days, but more than anything I rise to put on record for future thought and consideration some of the facts of which those of us who go to the United Nations are so conscious when we are meeting our colleagues.

Some of us were there when the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in New York on September 26, with pride, and properly with pride, that in the economic and social fields Britain is still the second largest overall contributor. That is true, but it is not true about UNICEF. In this case we are only a very bad fifth, preceded by the United States, Sweden, the Federal Republic of Germany and France. In fact, the United Kingdom Government have never at any time in the last ten years done anything very much to help. We have stuck at a figure giving a contribution averaging over those years—as your Lordships will find if you look at the balance sheet—3.8 per cent. of total Government contributions to the Fund.

We are low in the list of contributors whatever method one applies in the examination. On a population basis we are sixteenth in the world and in Europe we are eleventh. We give 2d. a head of the population in every year—the cost of one cigarette—for this worthy object. Little Iceland can give 5½d. per head, Denmark 9d., Norway Is. 4d., and Sweden 1s. 10d. per head of the population. In case any of your Lordships go on to say that Sweden's population is very much less, let me say that the total amount of money represented by what Sweden gives is much in excess of any thing we give. Her cash payment last year was 1,705,000 dollars and ours was 1,120,000 dollars. If we look at it another way, by examination of the national incomes in the world we come out twenty-fourth. We give 14 dollars per million dollars of our national income and Sweden tops the list in this, as in every other comparison, with 98 dollars.

May I trespass on your Lordships' time for two minutes, to remind you that here we have the same position as that to which I referred when the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, last raised a Question on the United Nations, with which we are both so much concerned, on January 25 last. I ventured then to say that there is a two-way traffic in nearly everything that we do in these matters. That day we were all feeling very proud that we had stepped up our contribution, but, as I pointed out, we had received millions of dollars in orders for equipment and so on, and much help in United Kingdom territories.

In the case of UNICEF, this two-way traffic is even more pronounced. Last year, as I said, the Government gave 1,120,000 dollars as a Government, and the people of this country by voluntary effort gave 252,000 dollars. That is a total of 1,372,000 dollars. But UNICEF expenditure within the United Kingdom last year was twice that, because the balance sheet shows that it spent 2,856,000 dollars. In earlier years it spent even more. What is more, an amount equal to one-fourth of the contribution which Her Majesty's Government are to make this year has already been recommended by the Executive Board of UNICEF, in allocations to UNICEF-assisted projects inside United Kingdom territories. So I repeat that there is a two-way traffic which cannot be ignored.

Of course, we should all like to see the United Kingdom's contribution brought up to £1 million towards the £50 million to which the noble Baroness referred as the total budget to which the General Assembly, including ourselves, and the Economic and Social Council, including ourselves, agreed last year. But we can give only what we can afford at the moment towards the limited £40 million which must be raised by the end of the year. I shall not be so foolish as to urge any sum on the Government. I am only trying to urge facts which can be looked at in the year that lies ahead. I know that the Government are conscious of the need of this, as they are of the other Development Fund which we discussed in January. Indeed, in that debate the noble Lord, Lord Caradon, told us in telling phrase after telling phrase just what it was that the Government realised. He said that the United Nations family together represented a machine which was capable of a major attack on the degradation of world poverty, and UNICEF is part of that machine.

The noble Lord said that the creation of that machine: … is perhaps the greatest single achievement of the United Nations in the fist two decades of the existence of the Organisation. He said that he realised that: So far the advance has been much smaller than we should have wished. But … Enough has been done to convince us that this is the way. He said latex: … we cannot fail to be constantly aware of how little has been done in comparison with the extent and the urgency of the need." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25/1/68; col. 477–478.] That, of course, is the point of the Question and the reason why I rise: not just how much money will be given this minute, this day, but what is the Government's assessment of the future role of UNICEF in the world of to-morrow.

6.7 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder for inaugurating this debate. We are equally grateful, I am sure, for the way in which the noble Baroness opposite amplified the categories in which the new role of UNICEF has to manifest itself, and to my noble friend who has just spoken for the way in which he has exposed to us the paucity of our contribution—2d. per head per year—for this imperative piece of work. I could have wished that there had been possible in this Chamber a re-showing of the Danny Kaye film. There are those who regard Danny Kaye as sentimental. I shall never forget the clip in the film in which were shown a number of Arabian children already suffering from the terminal stages of blindness from glaucoma, and the other little children—and this was terrifying and horrible and most moving —who were being infected by the flies which were clustering about their eyes and bringing on that inevitable disease. If I am guilty at the moment of endeavouring to make more out of a particular sentimental episode than it is entitled to receive, I make no apology for it, because, ultimately, the consensus of your Lordships' House about this particular problem of UNICEF is one that speaks more from the heart than, I suppose, from any other organ.

I am quite sure that this is a work which should be more generously supported, and I suppose the role which I would for a few moments endeavour to fill is one to which I am acclimatised in my profession. I should like to appeal for an offertory; in fact, if you like, for a second offertory. We in the Methodist Church have a habit of taking a collection half-way through the service, taking it to the vestry and there assessing its value, and if it is not enough coming back and asking for a second collection before the last hymn. I see no reason whatsoever why such an addition to the very sparse amount of money that has yet been provided should not be given in larger measure. If we can waste our treasury on sophisticated weapons which turn out to be obsolete before they are out of date, then it seems to me a matter of eminent common sense as well as eminent morality that we should consider this imperative duty to see to it that the children of the world, so far as we are able so to succour them, are in the first and second stages of their need succoured.

I am the more grateful that my noble friend has distinguished between the first and the second stages of UNICEF. When I think of what is likely to happen in Biafra—what is indeed happening there to-day—and of the initial problems which will arise of just keeping children alive when this pestiferous holocaust is over, and when I think of what rehabilitation must mean in Vietnam when that horrible war is brought to an end, as I hope it will be soon, I am quite sure that the continuing role of UNICEF must be first aid for those who continue in this world to have a very poor chance of even surviving. It is also true that the new role which has now come to UNICEF is one in which the responsibilities, and continuing responsibilities, of this first aid have to be appreciated. I should like to illustrate this point, if I may, in a particular field.

One of the great concerns of UNICEF is the provision of protein for those who are protein starved in the age group of 1 to 6. In the hundred countries and territories which are designated as developing territories, the mortality rate of the post-weaning period, 1 to 6, is 40 times greater than it is in the Western World. Furthermore, those who suffer from protein deficiency add up to 70 per cent. of the total population of children in those particular areas. Lest these words of mine should be loose and imprecise, I have taken the trouble to find out from somebody who knows much more about it than I do what in fact are the details of this condition, and I should like to read them to your Lordships: It is estimated that 70 per cent. of the children in those countries are suffering from protein malnutrition in varying degrees, from marasmus (the walking skeleton), hunger oedema (the famine belly), kwashiorkor (the disease which turns the hair rusty, splits the skin like crazy paving and, neglected, leads to lingering, miserable death), xeropthalmia (dried-out eye, infantile blindness), etc. These are not words which have just a medical significance. They are the conditions which prevail among 70 per cent. of those children who now are beginning to live with such a precarious chance of holding on to life in these underdeveloped countries, euphemistically sometimes described as "developing" countries.

Now what can be done for them? In the first instance, UNICEF can provide dried milk, can instigate various proposals for the provision of milk from herds of cattle, and can extract from local flora such protein as can be made available on the spot. This is, so to speak, the rescue work. This is the kind of work which will keep these children alive. But what happens when they have survived the 1 to 6 age group in which they have been in such peril? My Lords, what happens is this. Even if they are treated with the utmost care, the best that can be hoped for them is a kind of convalescence in which they will require, as they grow older, even as children, continued succour, continued nourishment, of a kind which would not be expected or required for those more healthy. It is the discovery which UNICEF now makes, and to which it addresses itself, of adding to its first aid those continuing services to which my noble friend has so eloquently referred to-day, which is perhaps the more peremptory reason for requiring from a country which claims the civilisation of our own a much greater contribution than that to which it has been prepared to give itself hitherto.

I, too, believe in the conservation of human resources. This is an investment in human resources. It is the true cybernetics; but perhaps your Lordships will allow me to offer an even more superlative and essential reason for the care, the continuing and the increasing care, of those who are little children. It is sometimes argued that the word in the old Book which suggests that we shall see the Kingdom of Heaven only if we become as little children has its reference to the qualities which belong to little children—their simplicity, their love, their kindness and so forth. This is not probably what the original meaning conveys, May I humbly suggest what seems to me to be a meaning which is at least consonant with the facts, and which can perhaps add some little weight to the appeal that I make to my noble friend who is to reply to increase the help which we can give to this admirable project—in fact, this imperative piece of work. I believe that if you find a world which will suit the needs of little children, if they become the first priority, you have probably found a world which will suit the needs of everybody else as well.

I remember that after the First World War we were invited by Mr. Lloyd George (was it not?) to discover and to enjoy a world fit for heroes to live in—and many people felt that only the heroes could live in it. I do not believe that if you succour those who are already in positions of privilege or authority you have provided a world which will safe guard the interests of little children, but I do believe (and it is not a sentimentality) that if you provide the kind of world which will care for the genuine needs of little children—whoever they are, wherever they come from, whatever the colour of their skins—you have in fact begun to build on the rock of true social justice. Of all the things which the United Nations seek to do to-day, and of all the things your Lordships' House would seek to have put into effect to-day, I can think of none more imperative, none more morally satisfying and none more economically and socially productive than vastly to increase the help that we give to those who, for no fault of their own, are disadvantaged from their earliest moments and who yet, if they are succoured, can contribute to the world which we all desire to see.

6.16 p.m.


My Lords, I did not put my name down to speak because I felt that the debate would be occurring later and I have an imperative engagement, but I should like to add to what has been said. I apologise to my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder that I was not even here while he was speaking, but we have had some discussion and I know his attitude of mind. May I say to the noble Baroness, Lady Brooke of Ystradfellte, how delighted I was to, find an occasion when we were in agreement? That does not occur very often, but this is a great human issue which does not reside on any one Bench. From my noble friend Lord Crook we had the devastating comparison between the contributions of different countries. I appreciated the fact that the largest contribution came from Sweden. I think Sweden is the most civilised country in the whole world to-day. Then from my noble friend Lord Soper we had the moving appeal which he always makes to us.

My Lords, I am intervening only because I want to put a rather different point of view from those which have so far been expressed. UNICEF has so far concentrated on the problems of hunger, the problems of disease, and the problems of the material needs of the children in the developing countries. As was suggested by my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder, I believe that now we not only have to do that, but we have also to think of the needs of the children and of the youth in these territories in the new world. I should like to speak of children in many parts of the world. I was born in Asia, and I know the conditions there. I am going to speak of Africa, not of the whole of Africa but of Black Africa rather than of the conditions of the Arab North.

The children in the Continent of Africa are now passing through a stage where their childhood and youth are almost lost. They lived in very small, clanned communities. It was a family society. The whole society went to the assistance of anyone who required it. The children did not have education in our sense, but in those small communities they were taught the need for service to this larger family to which they belonged and the need for identification with it. That society has now been destroyed and a new society has not been created; and it is the children and those who are young who will be sacrificed in this transition. They have the opportunity, very often, of going to school; but fees are charged in the schools. In many of those African countries—in Kenya, for example—there is now extensive unemployment. Children reach 12 years of age, and the parents must send those children out to work—and there is no legal minimum age which can prevent them from going to work. So we are finding that, while in the schools in a large part of Africa the number of children who attend is large the number who go through the whole period of education is very small; and that at 12 years of age these children are going out to work.

Perhaps it may relieve my noble friend the Minister if I say that I am not expecting him to give a reply to the rather bigger and deeper issue which I am now raising. I want to urge to-night that the international action of UNICEF for the children in these developing countries, while continuing its splendid work against hunger and disease, must now embrace a broader picture of their needs and must seek to give to these children, during this transition from one society to another, the mental and spiritual opportunities which they are now being denied.

We have our own problems of youth; there is a need here for youth clubs and all that goes with them. But youth all over the world has the same desires, the same impulses, the same emotions. There is the specific desire for athletics; there is the desire—which could be so well satisfied in many of these countries —for adventure. The youth of these countries has all the opportunities for the study of animal life, for the study of archœology, and could also have, if this transition from one society to another became the concern of ourselves, all those opportunities which belong to an international community. We could create for them the opportunity to pass through this stage of transition into the new kind of life which we hope is going to be established in the future. I have intervened in this debate to-night merely to make that appeal, because I believe it is in that way that we have to see the future needs of the health and welfare of the children and youth of the developing countries.

6.24 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to join with other noble Lords in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, for asking this Question and for emphasising the role of UNICEF in world development. Originally the activities of bodies such as UNICEF were regarded as of an emergency character. In fact, the very word "emergency" is contained in the title. But I think that it is becoming increasingly clear that the need for a body concerned with children's welfare is a continuing, long-term need and that the scope will expand rather than contract. To take one example, which I think is relevant to an implication in the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, I will read one sentence from the Afric edition of UNICEF News: Not so long ago in Puerto Rico the infant mortality rate was halved when a piped water supply was laid into the villages. Again, if one looks at the reports of recent UNICEF activities in Burma, Jamaica, Peru, Syria and Tunisia one finds that nearly all are concerned with child nutrition, health services and the reduction of infant mortality.

I think it is clear that a humanitarian attitude towards children results in there being more children in the world. I certainly would not suggest that one should not be humanitarian for that reason; but I think we must be realistic. Having reduced infant mortality, we cannot leave it at that. It creates many new problems: the problem of increased population, of education, of the welfare services. So it seems to me that one United Nations Agency tends to merge into another. Certainly there must be increasing co-operation between the various Agencies. That is no reason for lack of support; in fact I think it suggests increased support. I think it is abundantly clear that UNICEF and the United Kingdom Commission (and I hope the noble Lord may have something to say about the United Kingdom Commission when he replies) require support both from the Government and from individuals, and the least the Government can do is to avoid penalising charitable effort in that respect.

My Lords, may I therefore come to one practical point that has not so far been mentioned in this valuable debate? I would support the plea that UNICEF Christmas cards should be exempt from purchase tax. I should like to see Christmas cards which are sold for other charities exempted in the same way; I would not make this plea solely for UNICEF. There are some who regard Christmas cards as a "racket"; but if we are to send Christmas cards, then I suggest that we might send those which would bring in some money for charitable purposes. I think the Government could help by reducing or eliminating their liability to purchase tax. Finally, my Lords, on the specific Question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, I do not think there is very much to add to the eloquent contributions that have been made, but I hope that the outcome of this short debate will be increased support from Her Majesty's Government.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, I am greatly obliged, as I am sure is the House, to the noble Lord, Lord Ritchie-Calder, for enabling us this evening to discuss, however briefly, this extremely interesting and important subject. In answering his Question I should like also to thank the noble Baroness opposite for the sympathetic and moving contribution she made to this debate. If this were simply a straightforward Starred Question I could answer it by saying that Her Majesty's Government are well aware of the part which the United Nations Children's Fund plays in world development, and, as has been announced in another place, we propose to increase the British contribution to UNICEF from £400,000 to £500,000.

These are the simple, bald facts of the matter, and before going on to fill out this rather bald statement perhaps I may say that I have been asked by my right honourable friend the Minister for Overseas Development to repeat an apology, which I understand he has already sent to the noble Lord, that for constitutional reasons which I am sure your Lordships will understand he (the Minister) felt it necessary to make this announcement in another place, thus anticipating the discussion that your Lordships were planning to have on this matter. I hope that your Lordships, and my noble friend especially, will accept that apology from the Minister.

I think, my Lords, that my noble friend has given us a very moving and impressive account of the achievements of UNICEF in human terms from his own experience, and that is an experience which I think few of us can match—I certainly would not attempt to match it. He has in a very vivid way put faces to statistics of the United Nations Children's Fund. I am sure that noble Lords will have been as impressed as I was by his account of the effect of the work of the Children's Fund on the lives of ordinary families all over the world. I am sure that the House will agree that the Government are right to do all they can to support this organisation.

I have already said that Her Majesty's Government intend to increase their contribution to UNICEF to half-a-million pounds. This increase brings our total contribution to a higher figure than ever before, both in terms of dollars and in purchasing power. I say in terms of dollars because, as your Lordships are undoubtedly aware, the UNICEF budget, like that of most United Nations Agencies, is set out in dollar terms. Some of your Lordships may be wondering—in fact, there has been mention of this in the short debate this evening: I think it was my noble friend Lord Crook who mentioned the point—what effect devaluation has had on our contribution. Of course one must admit immediately that devaluation does mean that our increased contribution is, as my noble friend said, worth less in dollar terms than it would have been had we not devalued. There he had a very valid point.

But I might also point out that, despite the effect of devaluation, we are still contributing more in dollars than we have ever done before; and I think noble Lords will agree that in our present financial circumstances this is not ungenerous. We have, after all, a great number of demands upon our resources which, to say the least, are not unlimited. We have to assess priorities as best we can, and I believe that what we have now decided to do represents in present circumstances an extremely generous increase to our contribution to this very important Fund.

At this stage perhaps I might read to your Lordships a very brief extract from a letter which the Minister for Overseas Development received within the last week from the Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund. I will just read two sentences from it: Thank you very much for your letter of the 10th May conveying the very encouraging news that the contribution of Her Majesty's Government this year to UNICEF will be increased from £400,000 to £500,000. We are indeed grateful for this evidence of interest in our work and sincerely appreciate the efforts which were made to lift the level of support. I do not suggest, my Lords, that a letter of thanks, however sincere, from the Executive Director of UNICEF answers the question whether this is enough to be giving to the Fund. But I do suggest that, in the eyes of UNICEF at least, there is gratitude and appreciation of what we have done in making what is, after all, quite a large percentage increase in our contribution to the Fund.

I turn now for a brief moment to the development role of UNICEF. As your Lordships know, and as my noble friend has already pointed out, UNICEF originated as an emergency relief organisation for children in war-devastated areas; and it was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946 purely to fulfil this function. In the early 1950s, the General Assembly was able to change the organisation's role, altering its emphasis to the provision of support to programmes of long-term benefit to children in developing countries—or under-developed countries, as my noble friend Lord Soper prefers to call them. Since then the organisation has developed its new role so ably outlined by my noble friend and has evolved its own policies and priorities for the benefit of the oncoming generation. It has developed special programmes designed to meet the special circumstances and the differing possibilities that exist for effective action in different countries and for different peoples.

It is perhaps unkind of me at this hour and so near to the end of the day, to burden your Lordships with figures and statistics, but I think that it would be useful were I to say, at least for the record, what are some of the basic figures and statistics of UNICEF'S revenue and expenditure. In 1967, the revenue of the Fund amounted to 38½ million dollars, which is something of the order of £16 million. Of this total just over 28 million dollars—28.4 million dollars, in fact—or 73.8 per cent, of the whole came from voluntary contributions from 123 separate Governments; 14.4 per cent. from non-Governmental contributions and 7.8 per cent. from the UNICEF greeting card fund. If I may in passing refer to the comment of the noble Lord, Lord Wade, about purchase tax, I think that he and all your Lordships will agree that this is a subject we had better leave to be discussed in another place. Those noble Lords whose mental arithmetic is quicker than mine will have noticed that I missed out 4 per cent. of the total, and I can only say, for what the information is worth, that that comes from other sources.

Here, my Lords, I should like to break off from the statistics for a moment and pay tribute to the devoted work of the United Kingdom Committee for UNICEF. This has played a most important part in raising funds from this country. Your Lordships may be interested to know that in the year about which I have been talking, 1967, the efforts of the United Kingdom Committee raised over £14,000 in contributions to the UNICEF general fund; over £27,000 to meet the cost of three health projects in Commonwealth countries and for emergency aid to the Middle East, and very nearly £98,000 from the sale of greeting cards. In this context, I should like also to pay tribute to the United Kingdom Freedom from Hunger Campaign Committee, who last year transferred over £48,500 to UNICEF for two applied nutrition projects in India. I feel sure that your Lordships would want to endorse my thanks and the thanks of Her Majesty's Government to these organisations for their splendid efforts and for their generosity. I should like to make the point that this, of course, is all in addition to the Government's own contribution—which will now, as I say, be £500,000 to the actual funds of UNICEF.

Turning to the expenditure of UNICEF briefly, and simply for the question of facts on the record, in the year 1967 UNICEF spent 40 million dollars, the balance over its revenue being made up from its accumulated funds. Of the allocation made for programme assistance 51 per cent. went on health projects, 13 per cent. on nutrition, 5 per cent. on welfare, 24 per cent. on education and vocational training, 2 per cent. on other long-range aid and 5 per cent. on emergency aid. As I say, I am sorry to burden your Lordships with a string of figures, but I think from the facts behind the figures one can see very clearly the altered emphasis of UNICEF's work which I mentioned in my opening remarks, and which my noble friend brought out when he introduced this debate.

I do not want to detain your Lordships too long, so I will not comment in further detail on those figures. I will simply say that they illustrate the diversity of UNICEF's valuable work, and add that Her Majesty's Government are, on the whole, satisfied with the work that this Fund is doing. I should like to pay tribute to the way in which UNICEF is fulfilling its mandate to improve the lot of children and prepare them to play a constructive part in the future of their country.

I know that my noble friend Lord Ritchie-Calder was oniy applying a salutary spur to us when he opened this debate. However, there was one phrase in his admirable and moving speech with which I find myself in some disagreement. When he used the words "present neglect", I am sure that he did not mean to indicate quite such a deplorable state of affairs as those words might reflect.


My Lords, I was not suggesting that it was our neglect, but that it is the total world neglect of the problems of young people.


My Lords, I take that point, and I am clear in my mind what my noble friend's intention was in saying that. However, I think that even this is going a little far. I know that he was not referring in those remarks particularly to the United Kingdom Government, but I would pay tribute to UNICEF for what it has done. I do not suggest for one moment that anybody can afford to be complacent on this subject. Like any other international organisation, UNICEF is not perfect, and the British Government have drawn attention in the past, I hope in no carping spirit, to certain weaknesses of administration and have not hesitated to suggest to UNICEF changes in fields of assistance which are financed by the Fund when it seemed to us advisable to do so.

For example, we very much welcome UNICEF assistance to family planning, provided that it is given within the maternity and child welfare services, which are a relevant part of the United Nations' work. On the other hand (and this refers to something which the noble Baroness said), we have expressed doubts about what seems to us to be a disproportionately sharp rise in expenditure on educational projects, which seem to us to be more appropriately the task of UNESCO. I can assure my noble friend and the House that we propose to continue pressing for the avoidance of overlap and duplication between the United Nations' Agencies and for the most efficient possible use of their available funds.

We have had this afternoon some interesting and, on occasion, extremely moving comments about the work of UNICEF and about some of the problems that UNICEF and the other United Nations Agencies, and indeed all the Governments of the world, must try to solve. They are terrible and sometimes apparently insuperable. We heard that many children go to bed hungry every night, and that thousands in the underdeveloped countries are starving to death and dying of disease. These are terrible problems and they are at the heart of a good deal of international life at the moment.

This is not simply a question of children, although I agree with everything that has been said about the importance of looking after our children and investing in their future. To my mind, it is also a question of the gap that exists, and is growing, between the poor people of the world and the rich. This is a problem that we must face and solve, and solve quickly, because in this matter time is not on our side. I should prefer not to go on now to review any of the future plans of any of the United Nations organisations, or of any Government of the United Nations, or to review in detail the future plans of UNICEF. For in doing that, I would be anticipating the discussions which will take place in New York next month.

I have tried to give your Lordships an up-to-date summary of the finances of UNICEF and of recent developments in its work. As I say, I can answer the Question asked by my noble friend directly. We have increased our contributions to this Fund. In saying this, perhaps I may take up something that my noble friend Lord Brockway said, possibly in the full flow of his oratory, which I thought was arresting. He said that Sweden was the most civilised country in the world. This is a very large claim to make for any country. I know that Sweden is an extremely civilised country. I know it well, and I know its people. I do not think that we can construct league tables in a civilised world in quite such a vivid way as that, but if we were to do so, I would put in a plea for our own country, which I believe still to be one of the most civilised countries in the world. I hope that I have said enough to convince your Lordships that it is as the Government of a civilised country, with an interest in the future of the world, developed and developing, that we appreciate the work that UNICEF does and declare our earnest desire and determination to continue to assist it in the future as we have in the past.