– As prepared –

Remarks by H.E. Mr. Volkan Bozkir, President of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly

21 July 2021

Deputy Secretary-General,


Ladies and gentlemen,

 It is my pleasure to welcome you to the General Assembly, to observe “Nelson Mandela International Day”.

Nelson Mandela, in life and in his legacy, has advocated for the inherent dignity and equality of people; both within and between nations, regardless of race, nationality, or belief.

These are universal values, set out in the Charter of the United Nations and human rights treaties. Here in the United Nations General Assembly, we are tasked with upholding and protecting these values. It is thus only right, that we convene here today, to celebrate, promote these ideals, and to honor Nelson Mandela.

I avail of this opportunity to commend the Republic of South Africa, and the people of South Africa, who had to overcome centuries of racial subjugation, and continue to strive for a world of equality, defined by solidarity, rather than difference. Respect and hope, rather than distrust.

Nelson Mandela’s name is synonymous with the fight for justice and equality. Many of us here today, and around the world, learned of his actions on our radios, television sets, and in the newspapers. We heard of this great champion for equality, who would not accept injustice, poverty, or discrimination. He had the vision to imagine a better world for all.

We must remember this today, when we consider the plight of the 82.4 million people worldwide who have been forcibly displaced.

When we think of the women and girls subjected to sexual and gender-based violence.

When we pledge to leave no one behind, and reach the furthest behind first.

We must uphold Mandela’s legacy of racial reconciliation, especially as intolerance and racial discrimination are threatening to erode the progress which he himself fought so hard to advance.

As an international community, we must take collective action. For we will not achieve the targets of the 2030 Agenda whilst racism and discrimination persist.

Tomorrow I will convene a Mid-Term Review of the International Decade for People of African Descent. This informal meeting will seek to review the situation, as set out by the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action.  


Dear friends,

This past year has been extraordinarily difficult. On an individual level, and as countries, we have all suffered.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken souls from this Earth, all too soon.

It has put our health systems under immense strain and created a socio-economic crisis like no other.

This crisis, has hijacked our development trajectory, hitting the most vulnerable countries the hardest.

Now, as we seek to recover, I hope that we will continue to stand together, as nations, united. For no country can emerge from this pandemic, unscathed.

We have pledged to leave no one behind, and we cannot renege upon that promise at this time of crisis.  The most vulnerable must be placed at the fore of all our efforts.

We must galvanize multilateral efforts to achieve fair and equitable access to vaccines for all.

We must uphold the human rights of everyone, everywhere.

Allow me to conclude with the words of Madiba,

“Thus shall we live, because we will have created a society which recognizes that, all people are born equal, with each entitled in equal measure of life, liberty, prosperity, human rights and good governance”

Put simply, we must act in the spirit of Madiba, if we are to build back better.

I thank you.