Mandela International Day: Public Service Activity

– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mr. Miroslav Lajčák, President of the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, at Mandela International Day: Public Service Activity


I’d like to thank the New York City Mayor’s Office and New York City Parks for partnering with the UN to organize this activity, which offers an opportunity to serve the New York community in Harlem.

I’d also like to praise the importance of the Green Thumb Program in supporting the expansion of green community gardens throughout New York City. Harlem Grown shows what the Green Thumb Program is delivering throughout the community.

Harlem Grown is working to empower people through education; to motivate young people to act for the betterment of their community; and to preserve our environment for our common well-being.

The work being done here responds to Nelson Mandela‘s call: “Take action, inspire change”.

Today marks what would have been President Mandela’s 100th birthday. I am truly honoured to have the opportunity to join you to celebrate the legacy of this humble but fearless man.

Nelson Mandela dedicated all of his life to making a better world.

He taught us to serve. He showed us the path of peace and reconciliation, instead of war and confrontation.

He encouraged us to care about people. He fought against poverty and social injustices.

President Mandela’s fight for a just and fair world remains as relevant today as it was during his lifetime.

As the President of the General Assembly, I have set three key priorities: people, peace and the planet.

People should be at the very center of everything we do. Our work would be meaningless if it fails to address the needs of the most vulnerable people. We should open more spaces for young people to fulfill all their capabilities as drivers of growth and development. And we should work for true gender equality — for a world in which there are as many women leaders as men.

Peace is the foundation of a decent life for all. The UN‘s new approach to peace emphasizes the importance of peacebuilding and sustaining peace through conflict prevention and preventive diplomacy. It is only through investing in peace that we can build more peaceful and prosperous societies.

Preserving the planet means preserving humanity. Continued action is required to make meaningful progress in the implementation of both the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement to combat climate change.

Let us therefore take the opportunity of today to be inspired by President Mandela’s influence on the world, and to become more involved in community service.

Thank you