|His Imperial Majesty
Emperor Haile Selassie I
Emperor of Ethiopia
Address to the United Nations
October 6, 1963
Mr. President, Distinguished Delegates:
Twenty-seven years ago, as Emperor of Ethiopia, I mounted the rostrum in Geneva, Switzerland, to
address the League of Nations and to appeal for relief from the destruction which had been
unleashed against my defenceless nation, by the Fascist invader.
I spoke then both to and for the conscience of the world. My words went unheeded, but history
testifies to the accuracy of the warning that I gave in 1936. Today, I stand before the world
organization which has succeeded to the mantle discarded by its discredited predecessor. In this
body is enshrined the principle of collective security which I unsuccessfully invoked at Geneva. Here,
in this Assembly, reposes the best - perhaps the last - hope for the peaceful survival of mankind. In
1936, I declared that it was not the Covenant of the League that was at stake, but international
morality. Undertakings, I said then, are of little worth if the will to keep them is lacking.
The Charter of the United Nations expresses the noblest aspirations of man: abrogation 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 honour them and give them content and meaning. The preservation of
peace and the guaranteeing of man's basic freedoms and rights require courage and eternal
vigilance: courage to speak and act - and if necessary, to suffer and die - for truth and justice; eternal
vigilance, that the least transgression of international morality shad not go undetected and
These lessons must be learned anew by each succeeding generation, and that generation is
fortunate indeed which learns from other than its own bitter experience. This Organization and
each of its members bear a crushing and awesome responsibility: to absorb the wisdom of history
and to apply it to the problems of the present, in order that future generations may be born, and live,
and die, in peace.
The record of the United Nations during the few short years of its life affords mankind a solid basis
for encouragement and hope for the future. The United Nations has dared to act, when the League
dared not in Palestine, in Korea, in Suez, in the Congo. There is not one among us today who does
not conjecture upon the reaction of this body when motives and actions are called into question.
The opinion of this Organization today acts as a powerful influence upon the decisions of its
members. The spotlight of world opinion, focused by the United Nations upon the transgressions of
the renegades of human society, has thus far proved an effective safeguard against unchecked
aggression and unrestricted violation of human rights.
The United Nations continues to sense 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 ad
corners of the world. For this, all men must give thanks. As I stand here today, how faint, how
remote are the memories of 1936.
How different in 1963 are the attitudes of men. We then existed in an atmosphere of suffocating
pessimism. Today, cautious yet buoyant optimism is the prevailing spirit. But each one of us here
knows that what has been accomplished is not enough. The United Nations judgments have been
and continue to be subject to frustration, as individual member-states have ignored its
pronouncements and disregarded its recommendations. The Organization's sinews have been
weakened, as member states have shirked their obligations to it. The authority of the Organization
has been mocked, as individual member-states have proceeded, in violation of its commands, to
pursue their own aims and ends. The troubles which continue to plague us virtually all arise among
member states of the Organization, but the Organization remains impotent to enforce acceptable
solutions. As the maker and enforcer of the international law, what the United Nations has achieved
still falls regrettably short of our goal of an international community of nations.
This does not mean that the United Nations has failed. I have lived too long to cherish many
illusions about the essential high-mindedness of men when brought into stark confrontation with
the issue of control over their security, and their property interests. Not even now, when so much is
at hazard would many nations willingly entrust their destinies to other hands.
Yet, this is the ultimatum presented to us: secure the conditions whereby men will entrust their
security to a larger entity, or risk annihilation; persuade men that their salvation rests in the
subordination of national and local interests to the interests of humanity, or endanger man's future.
These are the objectives, yesterday unobtainable, today essential, which we must labour to achieve.
Until this is accomplished, mankind's future remains hazardous and permanent peace a matter for
speculation. There is no single magic formula, no one simple step, no words, whether written into
the Organization's Charter or into a treaty between states, which can automatically guarantee to us
what we seek. Peace is a day-to day problem, the product of a multitude of events and judgments.
Peace is not an "is", it is a "becoming." We cannot escape the dreadful possibility of catastrophe by
miscalculation. But we can reach the right decisions on the myriad subordinate problems which
each new day poses, and we can thereby make our contribution and perhaps the most that can be
reasonably expected of us in 1963 to the preservation of peace.
It is here that the United Nations has served us - not perfectly, but well. And in enhancing the
possibilities that the Organization may serve us better, we serve and bring closer our most
I would mention briefly today two particular issues which are of deep concern to all men:
disarmament and the establishment of true equality among men. Disarmament has become the
urgent imperative of our time, I do not say this because I equate the absence of arms to peace, or
because I believe that bringing an end to the nuclear arms race automatically guarantees the peace,
or because the elimination of nuclear warheads from the arsenals of the world will bring in its wake
that change in attitude requisite to the peaceful settlement of disputes between nations.
Disarmament is vital today, quite simply, because of the immense destructive capacity of which men
Ethiopia supports the atmospheric nuclear test ban treaty as a step towards this goal, even though
only a partial step. Nations can still perfect weapons of mass destruction by underground testing.
There is no guarantee against the sudden, unannounced resumption of testing in the atmosphere.
The real significance of the treaty is that it admits of a tacit stalemate between the nations which
negotiated it, a stalemate which recognizes the blunt, unavoidable fact that none would emerge
from the total destruction which would be the lot of all in a nuclear war, a stalemate which affords
us and the United Nations a breathing space in which to act.
Here is our opportunity and our challenge. If the nuclear powers are prepared to declare a truce, let
us seize the moment to strengthen the institutions and procedures which will serve as the means
for the pacific settlement of disputes among men.
Conflicts between nations will continue to arise. The real issue is whether they are to be resolved
by force, or by resort to peaceful methods and procedures, administered by impartial institutions.
This very Organization itself is the greatest such institution, and it is in a more powerful United
Nations that we seek, and it is here that we shall find, the assurance of a peaceful future.
Were a real and effective disarmament achieved and the funds now spent in the arms race devoted
to the amelioration of man's state; were we to concentrate only on the peaceful uses of nuclear
knowledge, how vastly and in how short a time might we change the conditions of mankind. This
should be our goal.
When we talk of the equality of man, we find, also, a challenge and an opportunity; a challenge to
breathe new life into the ideals enshrined in the Charter, an opportunity to bring men closer to
freedom and true equality and thus, closer to a love of peace.
The goal of the equality of man which we seek is the antithesis of the exploitation of one people by
another with which the pages of history and in particular those written of the African and Asian
continents, speak at such length.
Exploitation, thus viewed, has many faces. But whatever guise it assumes, this evil is to be shunned
where it does not exist and crushed where it does. It is the sacred duty of this Organization to
ensure that the dream of equality is finally realized for all men to whom it is still denied, to
guarantee that exploitation is not reincarnated in other forms in places whence it has already been
As a free Africa has emerged during the past decade, a fresh attack has been launched against
exploitation, wherever it still exists. And in that interaction so common to history, this in turn, has
stimulated and encouraged the remaining dependent peoples to renewed efforts to throw off the
yoke which has oppressed them and its claim as their birthright the twin ideals of liberty and
equality. This very struggle is a struggle to establish peace, and until victory is assured, that
brotherhood and understanding which nourish and give life to peace can be but partial and
In the United States of America, the administration of President Kennedy is leading a vigorous attack
to eradicate the remaining vestige of racial discrimination from this country. We know that this
conflict will be won and that right will triumph. In this time of trial, these efforts should be
encouraged and assisted, and we should lend our sympathy and support to the American
Last May, in Addis Ababa, I convened a meeting of Heads of African States and Governments. In
three days, the thirty-two nations represented at that Conference demonstrated to the world that
when the will and the determination exist, nations and peoples of diverse backgrounds can and will
work together in unity, to the achievement of common goals and the assurance of that equality and
brotherhood which we desire.
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 colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour 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.
But more can be done. The basis of racial discrimination and colonialism has been economic, and it
is with economic weapons that these evils have been and can be overcome. In pursuance of
resolutions adopted at the Addis Ababa Summit Conference, African States have undertaken certain
measures in the economic field which, if adopted by all member states of the United Nations, would
soon reduce intransigence to reason. I ask, today, for adherence to these measures by every nation
represented here which is truly devoted to the principles enunciated in the Charter.
I do not believe that Portugal and South Africa are prepared to commit economic or physical suicide
if honourable and reasonable alternatives exist. I believe that such alternatives can be found. But I
also know that unless peaceful solutions are devised, counsels of moderation and temperance will
avail for naught; and another blow will have been dealt to this Organization which will hamper and
weaken still further its usefulness in the struggle to ensure the victory of peace and liberty over the
forces of strife and oppression. Here, then, is the opportunity presented to us. We must act while we
can, while the
occasion exists to exert those legitimate pressures available to us, lest time run out and resort be
had to less happy means.
October 6, 1963
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