New York

18 July 2014

Secretary-General's remarks at General Assembly Informal Plenary Meeting on Nelson Mandela International Day

I am delighted to warmly welcome all of you to celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day here at the United Nations.

Our dedication to build on his legacy has brought us together.

As we remember Nelson Mandela, we also mourn the recent passing of one of his allies in the struggle against apartheid: Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. She was a friend of the United Nations who served as a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador. Her writing gave life to our common values – and it will continue to inspire people for generations.

Today we remember all that Nelson Mandela taught and gave. We pledge to act on his example.

The United Nations is proud to join with the Mandela Foundation to call on people around the world to mark this Day by serving their communities.

Nelson Mandela sacrificed his freedom for human rights. He was also a champion of sustainable development.

Mandela was personally connected to the earth as a gardener. Even in jail, he gained the right to plant a garden on the roof of the prison.

He later wrote, “To plant a seed, watch it grow, to tend it and then harvest it, offered a simple but enduring satisfaction. The sense of being the custodian of this small patch of earth offered a small taste of freedom.”

This afternoon, I will join volunteers from MillionTreesNYC to tend to a tree across the street in Ralph Bunche Park.

New York City’s hard-working trees remove an impressive 2,200 tons of pollutants from the air each year. The city is also aiming to increase its urban forest by 20 per cent. These valuable initiatives show that all of us can be part of the climate solution.

Around the world we find creative ideas that are advancing progress.

Now we need a major global push for action.

That is why this September I will convene a Climate Summit meeting here at United Nations Headquarters. I have invited all Heads of State and Government, along with leaders from business and finance, local government and civil society.

I am asking them to bring bold, creative ideas.

Together, we can address climate change, promote sustainable development and help all people to enjoy lives of dignity.

In 2010, when the General Assembly declared this Day, we were honoured to receive a letter from Nelson Mandela.

He said that this Day should be used to honour the millions of people who contributed to the struggle for freedom.

And he wrote, “The best way to commemorate these struggles is for people everywhere to work with and within communities to make this a better world.”

In this spirit, I wish you a meaningful Nelson Mandela International Day.

Thank you.