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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 10:14 GMT 11:14 UK
Nelson Mandela and Graca Machel
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Nelson Mandela, one of the world's most respected and admired statesmen, has set himself a new challenge - moving children to the centre of the international agenda.
The former South African president and his wife, Graca Machel, want world leaders to take action to improve the lives of children.
Mr Mandela and Ms Machel are hoping these leaders will make specific commitments to shield children from war, disease and poverty when they meet for a special summit in September, sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (Unicef).
The 83-year-old Mr Mandela has inspired the world with his struggle for freedom and democracy in South Africa.
After more than 26 years in prison, he emerged in 1990 to become South Africa's first black president, replacing the apartheid regime with a multi-racial democracy. Three years later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Having stepped down from the presidency in 1999, Mr Mandela has been a key player in peace negotiations in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi and other African countries.
Graca Machel was part of the liberation movement in Mozambique and is perhaps best known today for her study of the impact of war on children.
Nelson Mandela, one of the world's most respected and admired statesmen, and his wife Graca Machel answered your questions in a special edition of our phone-in programme Talking Point, on Wednesday 29 August.
Nelson Mandela and his wife, Graca Machel, have joined us to talk about their work to make the world a better place for children.
Next month in New York there will be a special session of the United Nations General Assembly devoted only to discussion about children. It will be a rare opportunity for world leaders to pledge their commitment to do more to protect children from war, disease and poverty.
Nelson Mandela is probably the world's most respected elder statesman. His fight for democracy here in South Africa won him millions of admirers and after spending more than 26 years in prison he emerged to become the country's first black president.
Since leaving power two years ago he campaigned forcefully on behalf of children, as has Graca Machel, who has been a highly effective children's champion for many years and who wrote a highly influential report for the United Nations on the impacts of conflict upon children's lives.
We have had a huge number of e-mails from listeners to the BBC World Service and readers of BBC News Online, all of whom wanted an opportunity to take part in today's programme. At least some of them are going to get a chance now to ask their questions directly to our guests.
Welcome to Talking Point Mr Mandela; welcome Ms Machel. Let's go straight to our first question. It comes in fact from England. Tom Burke is in Plymouth. Hello Tom.
Tom Burke, Plymouth, UK:
Hello, Mdeba and Graca. I am a South African. I am in Egypt because my father is a political counsellor in the South African Embassy. My question to you is: What should the world leaders do about the thousands of Aids orphans in Africa and around the world?
So we have to go and break through that barrier. And then secondly from the point of view of preventive action, many people are shy to declare that they suffer from Aids. In other words, they are signing their own death warrant because if a person hides the fact that he's ill, there is no way in which he can be cured.
But one of the most important things on which some of us are working on is to ensure that the big companies do not just concentrate on the urban areas - they go out to the rural areas because there the pandemic is creating a great deal of havoc.
Recently we saw some of the big companies say we want them to make available their resources - their expertise - so that we can turn the whole question around, emphasising that it is in countries where the leaders are in the forefront - like Uganda, like Senegal - where leaders are seen fondling children with Aids and putting them on their laps and so on.
We have to develop that approach and I think that we are on the way of doing so. But still the challenge is very big.
Dick Carpenter, Spokane, USA asks: It seems to me that world organizations have no ability to deal with the collective plight of the world's children in a similar way that they can't deal with dictators who devastate their own people. Meanwhile individual governments don't seem to have the will to help their own children. Do you agree?
We can't say that only national organisations can make a difference. Global institutions like the IMF, World Bank and others - yes they have more and more to respond to the challenge of being not only heard but seen to be releasing resources to make programmes at national level work.
Secondly, I agree that children are not in abstract - they are in a country, they are in a province, they are in a district. So it is important that national governments, religious groups, civil society organisations, unions - whoever - everybody has to concentrate in making the lives of children better. Because at the end the whole of society is going not only to benefit, but actually it is going to change if we concentrate on children.
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