– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly
24 September 2018
Your Excellency, President Ramaphosa,
Mr. Secretary General,
Excellencies and Disting
This morning, it is an honor and a privilege to be with you for the official unveiling of the statue of Nelson Mandela. I thank President Ramaphosa and the Government and people of South Africa for this symbolic honor for a man whose life and sacrifice set an example of honor for the whole world.
My friends, few people in the history of our world have left such an incredible mark on humanity. The legacy of Mandela, borne out of the struggle against Apartheid, grew to encompass not only the rights of the people of South Africa but the sheer necessity and universality of human rights for all.
His is a legacy of perseverance, of dedication, and of unwavering commitment to the dignity of people.
The statue that we unveil today is not done in mourning for his passing, as so many monuments are, but is done in celebration and in deep respect and gratitude. This statue will stand as testament to Mandela and, by extension, to the values that he so fiercely defended and fought for: for racial equality, for non-discrimination, and for the incredible value and dignity of human life.
In his first landmark speech to the United Nations, Nelson Mandela made a statement that remains as relevant today as it did in 1994: “The great challenge of our age to the United Nations Organisation is to answer the question – given the interdependence of the nations of the world, what is it that we can and must do to ensure that democracy, peace and prosperity prevail everywhere!”
It is my hope that the placement of this statue – within the physical boundaries of the United Nations territory– will serve as an inspiration and reminder to all Member States: A reminder that our differences are to be celebrated; that our work is wholly and unreservedly for the people for whom we serve; and that our efforts, in whatever form they take, should always be guided by the inspiration and the promise that Mandela has left us – for as he also said on that same great day:
“The millions across our globe who stand expectant at the gates of hope look to this Organisation to bring them peace, to bring them life, to bring them a life worth living.”