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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Mandela urges action on children
Nelson Mandela
Mr Mandela's mission now is to help the world's poorest children
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Nelson Mandela has attacked western countries for not doing enough to improve the living standards of the world's poorest children.


Globalisation has not addressed questions of poverty, of disease, of hunger and of ignorance

Nelson Mandela
The former South African president was speaking to BBC News Online in Johannesburg with his wife Graca Machel during a special edition of Talking Point, a multimedia phone-in programme produced in association with BBC World Service.

Poverty and hunger are "a real challenge to everyone in the world, including the so-called advanced industrial nations", he said.

Since he stepped down as South African president, Mr Mandela has been lobbying governments to do more for their children and will address a special session of the United Nations general assembly next month.

"One of the tragedies that we are facing is that of globalisation, which has not addressed questions of poverty, of disease, of hunger and of ignorance," he said.

"We do expect everyone... to commit resources and help those countries who have no resources."

'Smart sanctions'

Mr Mandela also criticised the impact on children of international "comprehensive sanctions" imposed on rogue states, saying that it is the leaders that should be targeted.

Afghan refugee, Baria
Baria asked whether sanctions weren't leading to child deaths
Answering a question from an Afghan child in a refugee camp in Pakistan, he said that children should never be hurt by sanctions.

"Sanctions should be directed to those people in government who are violating human rights, but things like medical supplies... and food for children must be available."

Afghanistan is currently the subject of wide-ranging sanctions because of the human rights record of its Taleban leaders.

Recently, attempts to switch to so-called "smart sanctions" on Iraq failed at the United Nations Security Council.

Iraq says that thousands of children have died because of UN sanctions.

Veiled criticism

One of the major concerns of Mr Mandela and his wife Graca Machel is the fight against Aids, which has already left 800,000 orphans in South Africa alone.

Mr Mandela's successor as president, Thabo Mbeki, has been widely criticised for not doing more to fight the HIV/Aids pandemic.

In what could be seen as a veiled criticism of Mr Mbeki, Mr Mandela highlighted the important role played by leaders of African countries such as Uganda and Senegal, which are managing to reduce the rate of HIV infection.


There is even more respect for those who say, 'I will not desert my country whatever the problems

Nelson Mandela

And he praised leaders that cuddled children with Aids to highlight the issue

"We have to develop that approach," he said.

Although one of the goals of Mr Mandela's Global Movement for Children is stopping the use of child soldiers, he claimed that in the fight against apartheid, the African National Congress had no choice but to send children abroad for military training.

"The enemy became even more arrogant and tightened the screws of oppression and in that situation, we had no alternative," he told the BBC.

Modern slavery

Asked about child prostitution, Graca Machel said it was a form of modern slavery, which the world must unite to stamp out, as when slavery was abolished in the 19th century.

Graca Machel
Graca Machel has been fighting for children's rights for many years
Also at a time when unemployed people in poor countries are desperate to emigrate to find work in the west, Mr Mandela urged them to stay at home.

"Although we sympathise with the unemployed who feel they should go abroad and explore new pastures, there is even more respect for those who say: I will not desert my country whatever the problems."


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