|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
Observance of Nelson Mandela
International Day (AM)
As General Assembly Gathers to Honour Mandela’s Life and Legacy, South African
Minister Says Every Day Should Be ‘Nelson Mandela Day’
Mandela Was Captive, But Never Prisoner, Assembly Hears, as Speakers
Agree Mandela Supplied Fertile Ground on Which New Africa Has Blossomed
Millions around the world would give 67 minutes of community service in tribute to Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy, for the 67 years he dedicated to a fair and just society, said South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mshsabane, at a gathering of the General Assembly today.
Celebrating the first annual Nelson Mandela International Day, to be officially marked on 18 July, the Minister called the day an affirmation of the positive role the United Nations and the people of South Africa played in fighting for justice and human rights around the world. The United Nations had been at the forefront of the campaign against apartheid, and she noted that South Africa was “a product of international solidarity”.
Even more than the giving back in community service, it was the Millennium Development Goals that paid tribute to Mr. Mandela’s hopes and dreams by providing the international community with an opportunity to create a world built on peace, human rights and sustainable development, Ms. Nkoana-Mshsabane said, urging everyone to make “every day Nelson Mandela day”.
South Africa’s hosting of the World Cup in 2010, the first time such an event had ever been held on African soil, was also a tribute to Mr. Mandela’s dream of a united world, she said. Thanking the international community for its support and confidence, she heralded the celebration of diversity, from all strata of society who had met on the soccer field, and the Heads of State whose presence there had confirmed that this Cup was indeed a world celebration of the values of reconciliation.
She said that by observing Mandela Day, the United Nations mission was remembered and reaffirmed for all to continue working for world peace. “Ubuntu — I am because you are,” Ms. Nkoana-Mahsabane said in her native tongue, as she encouraged all to make a change in someone’s life.
Speaking on behalf of the host country, the United States’ representative decried the “false science” of apartheid and hailed the magnitude of the South African victory. Mr. Mandela, she continued, “overcame apartheid, not by force, but by example”, and though he might have been a captive, he had never been a prisoner. “Apartheid collapsed because Mandela convinced his jailers to surrender their key,” she stated. By transforming the oppressor and lifting up the oppressed, Mr. Mandela remained a symbol and example that the humanity shared by all could transcend injustice. She celebrated that South Africa, once the epitome of racism, had become a paragon of reconciliation.
Egypt’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, said that many liberation movements in Africa, motivated by Mr. Mandela’s persistence, had achieved independence from foreign domination. Mr. Mandela’s efforts to enhance cooperation at the international level and to promote dialogue, mutual understanding and enlightened education were of equally great importance, particularly as they were meant to enhance the framework of partnership and cooperation with the people, civil society, and national institutions.
The representative of Congo, on behalf of African States, said that Mr. Mandela understood that freedom over the longer term had to be based on the virtues of justice and firmly entrenched in the principles of truth and equity. It was from that fertile ground that tolerance and pardon allowed the new African State to rise and blossom. Mr. Mandela was now the living legacy of mankind as a whole, and his struggle for the noble cause had spread that influence to the far ends of the earth. The life of Nelson Mandela had remained a source of inspiration to men and women everywhere who loved freedom and peace.
Speaking on behalf of the Asian States of the great personal sacrifice Mr. Mandela and his family made for the causes of peace, justice and human rights, the representative of Brunei Darussalam said Mr. Mandela had shown the world that anything was possible and that one person could make a difference. His example would inspire generations to stand up for the greater good and to work to improve the lives of others, in the ongoing fight for equality and social justice. Quoting Mr. Mandela, he said that “Much more work is to be done and it is in our hands to make the world a better world.” On behalf of the Asian States, he wished Mr. Mandela a happy ninety-second birthday.
The life and triumphs of Nelson Mandela would be remembered long after the world had forgotten the evils of apartheid, said Belarus’ speaker, on behalf of Eastern European States. She then read Mr. Mandela’s own words: “`I have walked the long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibility, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended.’”
The representative of Saint Lucia, speaking on behalf of the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, noted that there were few people in the world who were “unreservedly revered by all races and ethnicities” or cherished so much as Nelson Mandela. He also recalled the 27 years of imprisonment Mr. Mandela endured, beginning at the age of 45 and ending at the age of 72, when he was released. He reminded the Assembly that Mr. Mandela had refused early release unless it was unconditional, a reflection of Mr. Mandela’s “indomitable spirit”.
Noting that the Latin American and Caribbean Group too experienced many similar travails, he said that Mr. Mandela’s life, his response to adversity, and his humanity was a beacon, not only in their own struggles, but in the struggles for all peoples suffering repression. “What this man said was merely punctuation for what he did,” he said, heralding an “ordinary man who has behaved in an extraordinary way”.
Speaking on behalf of the Western European and Other States Group, the representative of Belgium said that the world honoured a man who was a leading advocate for democracy and peace, a role which had been recognized in many awards, including the Nobel Peace Prize. Throughout the years, Mr. Mandela had shown that caring for others, either one to one or community to community, went a long way in making the world a better place. International Nelson Mandela Day was a call to people everywhere to embrace his values and ideals and to follow his example.
* *** *For information media • not an official record