New York

06 June 2014

Secretary-General's remarks to the General Assembly on the adoption of a resolution establishing the Nelson Mandela Prize

I offer my warmest congratulations to all of you on the adoption of this historic resolution establishing the “United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.”

The international community is still mourning the death of this great global leader, our Madiba.

I saw the outpouring of international emotion at the State memorial service in Johannesburg last December. President of the General Assembly was also there together with many other leaders.

South Africans were joined by leaders and people from around the world to pay solemn tribute to Nelson Mandela’s humanity and integrity, his remarkable strength, and the example he left for us all of the power of an individual to transcend hatred and achieve justice.

He suffered enormous deprivation and pain for the cause of democracy and equality. At the end of his long journey, he died tranquilly and triumphantly, leaving behind a shining legacy of true peace.

As Nelson Mandela well knew, the struggle still continues.

There is still terrible racism in our world. There is deplorable inequality. People suffer hatred, communities are divided and factions and nations are at war.

Our best tribute to Nelson Mandela is not found in words or ceremonies – but in actions that take up the torch he passed to us.

The United Nations was honoured to stand by Nelson Mandela and the people of South Africa until the apartheid regime ended.

The United Nations General Assembly has a proud record of acting against apartheid – and for Nelson Mandela.

From the early days of sanctions to the more recent declaration of 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day, this Assembly has placed itself on the right side of history – with the people who need us most.

Today, the Assembly took another step forward in carrying on Nelson Mandela’s lifelong work through this meaningful prize.

When Nelson Mandela himself accepted the Nobel Prize, he said he was a representative of the countless human beings who quote, “recognised that an injury to one is an injury to all and therefore acted together in defense of justice and a common human decency.”

Nelson Mandela embodied this altruistic spirit of solidarity. The United Nations will forever be inspired by his example.

Thank you.