by Peter Nolan
THIS year the U.K. Com mittee of the United Nations Children's Fund and the Save the Children Fund, who organise Children's Day, to be held next Thursday, have chosen "The Vicious Circle" as their theme.
A spokesman for the committee said the bulk of the thousand million children in developing countries were caught in the "vicious circle of sickness. hunger. poverty and ignorance"—a circle present human resources could break for ever if properly distributed.
Pope Paul, in April, urged the 142 nations meeting for the third United Nations Conference on Trade and Development at Santiago, Chile, to "strive to achieve a realistic and fair sharing of the goods of the world." The Pope asked the 2,500 delegates to "heed the voice of men. women and children living on the fringes of modern economies."
At their preparatory meetings the under-developed nations, the "Group of 77" (actually 96 nations) hoped to obtain representation on the International Monetary Fund, helping to gear world finance to take account of the majority of the human race rather than the ten richest nations.
They also hoped for fair price agreements on primary commodities such as coffee, sugar and tin, on which some countries are totally dependent, and openings for the export of their manufactured goods to the West.
The six-week conference used up 50 tons of paper—about 40 lbs, for each delegate. Tons of meat, poultry and fish, as well as crates of good wines were imported for use in 70 restaurants "for Unctad only."
Chileans, still suffering from the effects of a massive earthquake last July, noted "they supply the best wines to Unctad --but what about us?"
One Belgian Catholic priest staged a short hunger-strike outside the conference centre in Santiago, holding a placard "Enough of words—We want action."
Reuters reported that in the third week of the conference "spearheaded by Britain, developed countries voiced their opposition to the under-developed nations' clamour that development aid be boosted."
The British delegation lacked a senior Ministry of Trade official for most of the session. Mr. D. Williams, a British delegate, said an Unctad report calling on rich nations to help poorer ones with their debt problem was "misguided." The remedy lay in better domestic policies on the part of the poorer nations.
Mr. Robert McNamara, World Bank President, told delegates that only two countries would soon reach the 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product target for aid to the under-developed nations. Other countries, including Britain, were not reaching this figure, and the
American contribution continued to fall.
Mr. McNamara said that the wealthy countries' failure to meet the agreed United Nations aid target was "manifestly not a case of their being unable to afford it."
The only major achievement of the conference, on which so many hopes had been pinned, was the granting of preferen tial treatment by the rich countries to the world's 25 poorest countries, all of them small.
Bishop Ramon Torrella, who led the Vatican delegation, which supported the poorer nations, described Unctad 3 as "at times like a stage on which each delegation defended its national interests and its own selfishness."
Hopes gradually diminished as the conference proceeded, he said, until at the end atmosphere was one of marked pessimism if not exactly of complete failure.
Bishop Torrella, a Spaniard, is vice-president of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace and of the recently estab lished Coy UllUrn, the Vatican agency co-ordinating the Church's world-wide development programme.
Unctad 3 represented the third major effort of the less developed nations, where the majority of the world's population live, to alter a system which has resulted in poor nations becoming poorer while rich ones grow more wealthy.
But failure at government level is contradicted by the growing volume of aid contributed by voluntary organisations, supported by a growing number of people who believe that a child dying of hunger in Bangladesh is their concern.
Lt.-Col. Denis Bult-Francis, Director of the UK Committee of the United Nations Children's Fund described its workings. "We are a completely voluntary agency of the United Nations and have to raise all our own money," he said.
"With a paid staff of only 870 throughout the world, we channel over £20m. a year to help 112 countries with a child population of just under a thousand million."
UNICEF helps at the request of the government concerned, and every £1 of aid given is usually matched by a government
grant of £3 to £7 greatly increasing the agency's effectiveness. The UK committee, founded in 1956, with 41 branches, "adopts" special areas, which include Egypt, Yugoslavia and Malaya.
"We are supporting a national applied nutrition programme in Malaya," said Col. Bull Francis. "We help people fight malnutrition there by training them to produce better crops, to use clean water and in general medical hygiene. Our, fiveyear programme involves training local leaders and also special community gardens in which farmers can co-operate."
UNICEF, which is perhaps best known for its sale 'of Christmas cards, also has an educational officer who will send slides and illustrative material to any school or group interested n studying the work it does.
UNICEF is joined by the British-based Save the Children Fund for Children's Day, an organisation founded in the 1920s with an annual budget of 13m, a third of which is spent in Britain, much of it helping to establish play groups and make Life more bearable for children living in "high rise" blocks.
Hospitals and clinics
Mr. Mark Jackson, its press officer, said it helped with everything from cripple appliance workshops in Lesotho to school meals and nutritional training centres in Uganda.
"We operate wherever the government of a country permit us and fund our own projects, often with government help," he said. "We train local people wherever possible and this allows us to start a project in one area, train the people and move on to ,another area to start again."
The Save the Children Fund has at present three teams, including 18 Britons, working in Sheikh Mugibar's home province in Bangladesh, in the Ganges Delta. One team stayed there during the war, having arrived to help cyclone victims. Members are now helping out with food in the only area to be badly hit by famine.
"Pakistan troops left the area completely devastated, so when the refugees returned they began with nothing," said Mr. Jackson. "As it is Mugibar's home area, he did not want to seem to favour it but gave us the go-ahead. We are helping to build hospitals and running mobile clinics. Recently . we dealt with a smallpox epidemic."
Both Save the Children and UNICEF are doing voluntarily what governments fail to achieve at official conferences. But voluntary aid is very limited.
Col. Bult-Francis said : "The long-term answer lies in making ordinary people — and through them their politicians —aware of the needs and problems of the less developed world."