New York

18 July 2016

Deputy Secretary-General's remarks on Nelson Mandela International Day [as delivered]

Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, President of the General Assembly, Stevie Wonder, our great United Nations Messenger of Peace, Ambassador Matjila of South Africa,
Excellencies, Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you all for coming together here at the UN for Nelson Mandela International Day here in New York.

Let me begin by saying the Secretary-General very much wanted to be here with you.  But he is in perhaps an equally fitting place.  The Secretary-General is in South Africa today, marking Nelson Mandela International Day at the AIDS conference in Durban.

Nelson Mandela, Madiba, would have been 98 years old today – and, as the Secretary-General has noted, his birthday is a day to celebrate the life and work of a legend who embodies the highest values and the most fundamental principles of the United Nations.

Madiba was a model global citizen whose example continues to guide us in our work to build a better world for all.

Today, we remember a man of quiet and commanding dignity. A man of towering achievement who worked tirelessly for peace, development and human dignity.

Nelson Mandela gave 67 years of his life to bring change to the people of South Africa. His accomplishments came at great personal cost to himself and his family. His sacrifice not only served the people of his nation, but all people around the world, giving them hope to fulfill their dreams and aspirations.  Rarely has one person in history stirred people’s dreams, hopes and calls for action.

Nelson Mandela continues to show us the way.

As the United Nations sets out to achieve the transformative 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, let us continue to build on Nelson Mandela’s legacy of selflessness, tolerance and sense of shared purpose.

The United Nations joins the Mandela Foundation in inviting people around the world to devote at least 67 minutes on 18 July to community service.  I would welcome if anyone wants to extend that to 67 hours.

At the heart of Nelson Mandela International Day is not least volunteer work for people and the planet. Its theme – “Take action, Inspire change” – is meant to mobilize the human family to do more to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world.

There is so much we can do. Tutor a child.  Feed the hungry. Clean up a site or care for your environment. Volunteer to serve at a hospital or community centre. Help a refugee family. Be part of the Mandela movement to make the world a better place. Nobody can do everything but everybody can do something.

This is the best tribute we can give to an extraordinary man who, with his steadfast belief in justice and equality, showed how one person can make a difference.

Let us all continue to be inspired by Nelson Mandela’s lifelong example and by his call to never cease working to build a better world for all.

Thank you.