– As delivered –

Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly

24 September 2018

Nelson Mandela Peace Summit

Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,

Distinguished Ministers,

Mr. Secretary-General,

Delegates,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour for me to be here with you today to celebrate the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders of our time. A leader who taught us that it is possible to forgive, that it is possible to make reconciliation and peace prevail over hatred and revenge.

 

I would like to acknowledge the presence of Dr. Helena Ndume of Namibia, who was awarded the first ever Nelson Mandela Prize alongside the former President of Portugal, Jorge Sampaio, who unfortunately could not join us today. Their efforts to provide inclusive access to health care and education are an inspiration and they honour Nelson Mandela’s legacy in today’s world.

Excellencies,

The extraordinary legacy of Nelson Mandela lives on today more than ever, five years after his death.

Mandela was always guided by the principles underpinning the United Nations. He represented the values of peace, solidarity, cooperation and respect for all human beings, regardless of their race, political views or religious beliefs. Mandela once said: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others”.

I had the privilege of meeting President Mandela during the Rio+10 Summit held in Johannesburg in 2002. Madiba’s love for South Africa was reflected in his eyes. His profound respect for human dignity permeated his interactions with those around him. Mandela refused to accept the injustices of his time and, as a result, his legacy represents a beacon of hope for a world still ravaged by conflict and suffering.

Excellencies,

The threat of the proliferation of chemical and biological weapons still looms large. Tensions between nuclear-weapon States, territorial disputes, ethnic conflict and oppression of minorities persist. This bleak outlook poses a serious threat to peace and security and is one that we must tackle and resolve together.

We are at a point where certain principles and values enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations have been called into question. The very principle of multilateralism is being challenged. There are fears about our capacity for collective action to address the most pressing global issues, such as poverty and hunger, climate change, conflict and war.

A move away from multilateralism would jeopardize the future of our species and of our planet.

The world needs a social contract based on shared responsibility, and the only space we have to achieve this global compact is the United Nations. That is why this year I am calling on the international community to reaffirm its commitment to the founding principles of the United Nations and to multilateralism.

And the United Nations General Assembly is the most representative and most legitimate forum for dialogue and reconciliation aimed at building collective peace and security.

 

Excellencies,

The political declaration that we will adopt today, thanks to the commitment of States and the wise leadership of South Africa and Ireland, demonstrates the central role played by this forum in achieving global agreements for peace and security in the world.

The declaration represents a reinvigoration of our commitment to peace and a renewal of the willingness of States to build a peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and fair world, and it calls on us to reflect on the thousands of victims of the conflicts around the world who need immediate help from us, States.

The declaration reaffirms our commitment to the sovereignty and sovereign equality of States, their territorial integrity and their political independence.

Respect for State sovereignty and the self-determination of peoples is the starting point for the maintenance of peace and harmony among nations.

It is clear that we can uphold and respect self-determination and the sovereignty of our countries while also committing to collective and coordinated action to build more peaceful, sustainable and resilient societies. Madiba knew that there can be no peace if millions are still without access to quality education, health care and decent employment and if there is still hunger and suffering. But such action requires strong global leadership, which is so well represented here this morning.

It is an honour for me to preside over this General Assembly as we adopt a declaration that will undoubtedly give hope to the world and that reaffirms that, only through multilateralism and its most important expression, the United Nations, will it be possible to achieve the peace and security that we all yearn for in the interests of development and prosperity.

The challenges we face in achieving peace are many, and we must ask ourselves how we are going to address them. Whether we act together or alone and divided, the response is entirely in our hands. Personally, I believe that we always need to work together to make progress on the path towards peace. There is no other option. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés

President of the UN General Assembly

Excellencies,

The challenges we face in achieving peace are many, and we must ask ourselves how we are going to address them. Whether we act together or alone and divided, the response is entirely in our hands. Personally, I believe that we always need to work together to make progress on the path towards peace. There is no other option. As Nelson Mandela said, “It always seems impossible until it is done.”

As a Latin American poet said, “Some people transcend death”. The gentle, wise face of Madiba and his serene strength that transformed violence into peace and aggression into forgiveness is alive today more than ever before.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of you attending this Summit.

Thank you.