Another Link in the Chain



Delivered to the Relief Conferees, following the signing of an agreement creating the United Nations' Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, November 9, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 130-131.

GENTLEMEN: On behalf of the host nations I welcome you to this historic conference. Here in the White House, seated about a table in the historic East Room, are representatives of forty-four nations—United Nations and those associated with them.

The people of these forty-four nations include approximately 80 per cent of the human race, now united by a common devotion to the cause of civilization and by a common determination to build for the future a world of decency and security and, above all, peace.

Representatives of these forty-four nations, you gentlemen who represent them have just signed an agreement creating the United Nations' Relief and Rehabilitation Administration—commonly known by a simpler word UNRRA.

This agency will help to put into practical effect some of the high purposes that were set forth in the declaration of the United Nations on Jan. 1, 1942.

Coming after the Declarations of Moscow, recently, this agreement shows that we mean business in this war in a political and humanitarian sense, just as surely as we mean business in a military sense. It is one more strong link joining the United Nations and their associates in facing problems of mutual need and mutual interest.

Cites Preamble of Plan

The agreement which we have all just signed is based on a preamble in which the United Nations declare that they are "determined that immediately upon liberation of any area . . . the population thereof shall receive aid and relief from their suffering—food, clothing and shelter, aid in the prevention of pestilence and in the recovery of the health of the people—and that preparation and arrangements shall be made for the return of prisoners and exiles to their homes and for assistance in the resumption of urgently needed agricultural and industrial production and the restoration of essential services." That is the preamble of the agreement which has just been signed here today.

All of the United Nations agree to cooperate and share in the work of UNRRA—each nation according to its own individual resources—and to provide relief and help in rehabilitation for the victims of German and Japanese barbarism.

I think it is hard for us to grasp the magnitude of the needs in occupied countries.

Points to Robbery and Pillage

The Germans and the Japanese have carried on their campaigns of plunder and destruction with one purpose in mind: that in the lands they occupy there shall be left only a generation of half-men—undernourished, crushed in body and spirit, without strength or incentive to hope—ready, in fact, to be enslaved and used as beasts of burden by the self-styled master races.

The occupied countries have been robbed of their foodstuffs and raw materials, and even of the agricultural and industrial machinery upon which their workers must depend for employment. The Germans have been planning systematically to make the other countries economic vassals, utterly dependent upon, completely subservient to the Nazi tyrants.

Responsibility for alleviating the suffering and misery occasioned by this so-called new order must be assumed not by any individual nation but by all of the united and associated nations acting together. No one country could—or should, for that matter—attempt to bear the burden of meeting the vast relief needs—either in money or supplies.

The work confronting UNRRA is immediate and urgent. As it now begins its operations, many of the most fertilefood regions of the world are either under Axis domination, or have been stripped by the practice of the dictatorship to make themselves self-sustaining on other peoples' lands. Additional regions will almost inevitably be blackened as the German and Japanese forces in their retreat scorch the earth behind them.

For a Fair Distribution

So, it will be the task of UNRRA to operate in these areas of food shortages until the resumption of peaceful occupations enables the liberated peoples once more to assume the full burden of their own support. It will be for UNRRA, first, to assure a fair distribution of available supplies among all of the liberated peoples, and, second, to ward off death by starvation or exposure among these peoples.

It would be supreme irony for us to win a victory and then to inherit world chaos simply because we were unprepared to meet what we know we shall have to meet. We know the common wants, the human wants, that follow liberation. Many ruthlessly shattered cities and villages in Russia, in China, in Italy provide horrible evidence of what the defeated retreating Germans and Japanese leave behind.

It is not only humane and charitable for the United Nations to supply medicine and food and other necessities to the peoples freed from Axis control; it is a clear matter of enlightened self-interest—and of military strategic necessity. This was apparent to us even before the Germans were ousted from any of the territories under their control.

But we need not any longer speculate. We have had nearly a year of experience in French Africa—and later experience in Sicily and in Italy.

In French North Africa, the United Nations have given assistance in the form of seeds and agricultural supplies and agricultural equipment and have made it possible for the people there to increase their harvest.

After years of looting by the Germans, the people of French Africa are now able to supply virtually all of their own food needs, and that in just one year.

Besides, they are meeting important needs of the Allied armed forces in French Africa, in Sicily, in Italy and giving much of the civilian labor which assists our armed forces there in loading and unloading the ships.

Broader Effort Is Aim

The assistance rendered to the liberated peoples of French Africa was a joint venture of Great Britain and the United States.

The next step, as in the case of other joint operations of the United Nations, is to go further. It is to handle the problems of supply for the liberated areas on a United Nations basis—rather than on the cooperation of only two nations.

We have shown that while the war lasts, whenever we help the liberated peoples with essential supplies and services, we hasten the day of the defeat of the Axis Powers.

When victory comes there can certainly be no secure peace until there is a return of law and order in the oppressed countries, until the peoples of these countries have been restored to a normal and healthy and self-sustaining existence. This means that the more quickly and effectually we apply measures of relief and rehabilitation, the more quickly will our own boys overseas be able to come home.

We have acted together with the other United Nations in harnessing our raw materials, our production and our other resources to defeat the common enemy. We have worked together with the United Nations in full agreement and action in the fighting on land and on sea and in the air. We are now about to take an additional step in the combined actions which are necessary to win the war and to build the foundation for a secure peace.

Hails Plan as Truly Democratic

The sufferings of the little men and women who have been ground under the Axis heel can be relieved only if we utilize the production of all the world to balance the want of all the world. In UNRRA we have devised a mechanism, based on the processes of true democracy, a mechanism that can go far toward accomplishment of such an objective in the days and months of desperate emergency which will follow the overthrow of the Axis.

As in most of the difficult and complex things in life, nations will learn to work together only by actually working together. Why not? We nations have common objectives. It is, therefore, with a lift of hope that we look on the signing of this agreement by all of the United Nations as a means of joining them together still more firmly.

Such is the spirit, such is the positive action of the United Nations and their associates at the time when our military power is becoming predominant, when our enemies are being pushed back—all over the world.

In defeat or in victory, the United Nations have never deviated from adherence to the basic principles of freedom and tolerance, and independence, and security.

Tomorrow, at Atlantic City, the UNRRA begins its first formal conference—and makes the first bold steps toward the practicable, workable realization of a thing called freedom from want. The forces of the United Nations are marching forward, and the peoples of the United Nations march with them. So, my friends, on this historic occasion I wish you all the success in the world.