New York

6 December 2013

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks at the General Assembly meeting in honour of Nelson Mandela

Today the world is united in mourning the passing of a most remarkable man.  A few moments ago the UN flag was lowered outside this Hall and at all UN duty stations around the world in honour of Nelson Mandela.  I know the thoughts of the Secretary-General, who is on travel, are with us here today.

But today we also celebrate Nelson Mandela’s historic legacy and inspirational life.

There is so much to remember from the life of Nelson Mandela.  Courage, determination, farsightedness, political skills, generosity, kindness and wit.

But, in a world too often riven and divided by vicious cycles of violence and revenge, perhaps the most impressive of President Mandela’s gifts was his power of forgiveness, his ability to overcome bitterness and hatred.  He once said:

“Hating clouds the mind.  It gets in the way of strategy.  Leaders cannot afford to hate.”

This is what makes Nelson Mandela so extraordinary - his fight was for all the people of South Africa.  He gave up his own liberty in order to liberate all the people of South Africa from the odious injustice of apartheid.

But the end of his life is not the end of our struggle against all forms of injustice.

We remember Nelson Mandela today.  But we should carry his spirit with us every day.

It means, speaking out against prejudice and discrimination wherever we see their dark manifestations.

It means, standing up against the indignity and deprivation that millions of our fellow human beings still suffer around the world.

It means, building on the power of moral courage and universal values to triumph over brute force.

Nelson Mandela never compromised on all human beings’ equal value.  His whole life was a tribute to the dignity of man and a tribute to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

We could never rise to the level of this great man.  But we must always try, in different ways, to live up to his unwavering commitment to our common humanity.

The peoples of the world stood in solidarity with Nelson Mandela in his struggle against apartheid.  We will forever remember his remarkable legacy.  We must continue to strive to walk in his footsteps, inspired by his life and by his example.