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Clinton speech to United Nations echoes new focus on human rights.

When President Clinton, in his Sept. 27 speech at the United Nations, strongly recommended a new emphasis on human rights and the creation of a U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights, the entire General Assembly applauded enthusiastically. This reaction, rare for any session attended by the representatives of 184 nations, demonstrated dramatically that in the world after the Cold War the promotion of human rights is the moral link, the spiritual bond, the legal talisman that unites the human race.

Clinton also won strong approval when he noted that while 1.5 million children died as a result of wars in the last decade, 40 million children have died in that same period from diseases that are completely preventable. He spelled out this tragedy, which he called "unforgivable," by reminding his hushed audience that over 30,000 children die each day of malnutrition and disease.

The president made this awful global scene vivid by telling his audience that Jim Grant, the director of UNICEF, had reminded him that "each of these children had a name and a nationality, a family, a personality, and a potential."

The press failed to report Clinton's deeply moral reminder of one of the major scandals in the human family. But the press did stress his determination to enlarge the family of free-market democracies and to control three major post-Cold War threats: weapons proliferation, regional ethnic conflicts and environmental degradation.

Clinton was upbeat in praising the new energies visible in the United Nations. There are now 17 peacekeeping missions with 80,000 blue-helmeted soldiers, up from 9,800 in 1987.

There were, of course, disappointments in Clinton's presentation. He said little about the fundamental restructuring the United Nations needs as it approaches its 50th birthday in 1995. There was finger-pointing at alleged excessive bureaucracy, but too little praise for the extraordinarily fine work of U.N. agencies like the World Health Organization or the Food and Agriculture Organization.

But Clinton, the first U.S. president to be born after the United Nations was established, made it clear that the era when the United States seeks to control the world unilaterally is over. He said many good things in his challenging address, but history may record that the most important was his call that humankind "make a new commitment to the world's children."
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Title Annotation:Sept. 27, 1993
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Oct 8, 1993
Words:387
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