Following is UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ video message for Nelson Mandela International Day, observed on 18 July:
Each year, on Nelson’s Mandela’s birthday, we pay tribute to an extraordinary global advocate for equality, dignity and solidarity. Madiba was a moral giant of the twentieth century, whose timeless legacy continues to guide us today.
The theme of Nelson Mandela International Day is “Take action, inspire change”. It highlights the importance of working together, from Governments to citizens, to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world. We mark this day at a time when the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic endangers everyone, everywhere, and especially the most vulnerable.
In the face of these challenges, world leaders need to recognize the vital importance of unity and solidarity. COVID-19 is exposing deep inequalities. We need to fight this pandemic of inequality through a new social contract for a new era. Only together can we fend off the common threat of COVID and recover better.
As the United Nations marks its seventy-fifth anniversary in this fragile time, we reflect on the life and work of Nelson Mandela, who embodied the highest values of the United Nations and who took action and inspired change. Despite many years as a prisoner of conscience, Madiba retained his dignity and commitment to his ideals.
Let his example propel any Governments that keep such prisoners to release them. There should be no prisoners of conscience in the twenty-first century. Nelson Mandela reminded us that: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”
On this Mandela Day, let us recall that we can, and must, be part of the quest for a better future of dignity, opportunity and prosperity for all people on a healthy planet.