King Haile Selassie addressed the United Nations in 1963 with one of the most powerful speeches ever written.
This speech was made, by Bob Marley, into one of his best and most powerful songs.
I have selected a few extracts. But everyone should read the full speech as it reflects the highest sentiments of mankind. It is idealistic and full of optimism yet it is based on pragmatism. The fact that it is a speech from Ethiopia and not one of the world’s biggest powers gives it even more strength.
For those who oppose the UN this should be a reminder of the power of words. It is words that change worlds, not bombs.
‘The Charter of the United Nations expresses the noblest aspirations of man: abjuration of force in the settlement of disputes between states; the assurance of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion; the safeguarding of international peace and security.’
‘But these, too, as were the phrases of the Covenant, are only words; their value depends wholly on our will to observe and honor them and give them content and meaning.’
‘The United Nations continues to serve as the forum where nations whose interests clash may lay their cases before world opinion. It still provides the essential escape valve without which the slow build-up of pressures would have long since resulted in catastrophic explosion. Its actions and decisions have speeded the achievement of freedom by many peoples on the continents of Africa and Asia. Its efforts have contributed to the advancement of the standard of living of peoples in all corners of the world.’
‘On the question of racial discrimination, the Addis Ababa Conference taught, to those who will learn, this further lesson:’
‘that until the philosophy which holds one race superior and another inferior is finally and permanently discredited and abandoned;’
‘that until there are no longer first class and second class citizens of any nation;’
‘that until the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes;’
‘that until the basic human rights are equally guaranteed to all without regard to race;’
‘that until that day, the dream of lasting peace and world citizenship and the rule of international morality will remain but a fleeting illusion, to be pursued but never attained.’
‘And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in subhuman bondage have been toppled and destroyed;’
until bigotry and prejudice and malicious and inhuman self-interest have been replaced by understanding and tolerance and good-will;
‘until all Africans stand and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of Heaven;’
‘until that day, the African continent will not know peace. We Africans will fight, if necessary, and we know that we shall win, as we are confident in the victory of good over evil.’
‘The United Nations has done much, both directly and indirectly to speed the disappearance of discrimination and oppression from the earth. Without the opportunity to focus world opinion on Africa and Asia which this Organization provides, the goal, for many, might still lie ahead, and the struggle would have taken far longer. For this, we are truly grateful.’
‘If we are to survive, this Organization must survive. To survive, it must be strengthened. Its executive must be vested with great authority. The means for the enforcement of its decisions must be fortified, and, if they do not exist, they must be devised.’