Note No. 6450
23 July 2015

United Nations Awards First-Ever Mandela Prize, Marking Commemorative Day

The United Nations General Assembly will mark Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July) with an informal meeting at Headquarters, including the award of the first-ever UN Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize, on 24 July, recognizing the South African leader’s contributions to democracy, justice and reconciliation and his dedication to the service of humanity.

The two laureates, Dr. Helena Ndume of Namibia and Jorge Fernando Branco Sampaio of Portugal, were officially announced on 22 June by the President of the General Assembly and will be attending the General Assembly meeting on 24 July to receive the Prize.  Speakers at the meeting will include the Prime Minister of the Republic of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda; General Assembly President Sam Kahamba Kutesa; the United Nations Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Susana Malcorra; the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the United Nations, Kingsley Mamabolo; and the Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The Prize was established by the General Assembly in June 2014 to recognize the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity by promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations while honouring and paying homage to Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life and legacy of reconciliation, political transition and social transformation.

Dr. Ndume of Namibia is an ophthalmologist whose life’s work has been the treatment of blindness and eye-related illnesses, both in Namibia and throughout the developing world.

Mr. Branco Sampaio of Portugal became a leader in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in Portugal, and served as Deputy Minister for External Co-operation; as Mayor of Lisbon from 1989 to 1995; and, from 1996 to 2006, as President of the Republic.

“As the UN marks its 70th anniversary, there is no better time to reflect on the life and work of Mr. Mandela, who embodied the highest values of the United Nations,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message on the occasion of Nelson Mandela International Day.  “Let us all continue, each day, to draw inspiration from Nelson Mandela’s life-long example and his call to never cease working to build a better world for all.”  

Every year, as part of the “Take Action, Inspire Change” campaign on Nelson Mandela International Day, individuals throughout the world are encouraged to devote 67 minutes to helping others — by volunteering in a hospital, tutoring a child, providing food for the homeless, or any other community service activity.  The 67-minute campaign is based on people devoting one minute of their time for every year that Nelson Mandela devoted to public service — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and as the President of South Africa.

United Nations staff volunteers in New York City will partner with New York City Parks’ GreenThumb on 24 July to tend community gardens in Manhattan, lending support to important green spaces in the city.

Some of the United Nations volunteers will be working in the newly established United Nations Food Garden, which will be officially opened on 24 July by the Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, Ms. Malcorra, the New York City Commissioner for International Affairs, Penny Abeywardena, and the New York City Commissioner for Parks and Recreation, Mitchell Silver.  The event will be hosted by the Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information, Cristina Gallach.

The United Nations Food Garden is an initiative of a group of United Nations staff members who partnered with NYC Parks’ GreenThumb programme and Brooklyn Grange to transform unused land at the United Nations Headquarters complex into sustainable food gardens.

Around the world, United Nations offices are also organizing events in honour of Nelson Mandela.

Background on the Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize:

The United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize is an honorary award originally established by General Assembly resolution 68/275 of 6 June 2014.  Its statute was approved by General Assembly resolution 69/269 of 2 April 2015.  It is presented once every five years as a tribute to the outstanding achievements and contributions of two individuals, one female and one male laureate, who shall not be selected from the same geographic region.

More information on the Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize:

More information on the laureates of the Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize:

Background on Mandela International Day:

In November 2009, the United Nations General Assembly declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.  General Assembly resolution 64/13 recognizes Mr. Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups.

To view the live webcast of the General Assembly ceremony, starting at 10 a.m. on 24 July:

To request media accreditation, call +1 212 963 6934 or +1 212 963 6937, or e-mail

More information on the United Nations Food Garden:

For further information, photos, videos, and other resources:

United Nations Department of Public Information media contacts:

Isabella Poeschl:  e-mail:; tel.: +1 212 963 4689; Twitter: @isabellapoeschl.

Martina Donlon:  e-mail:; tel.: +1 212 963 6816.

For information media. Not an official record.