I am delighted to extend my warmest congratulations to Dr. Helena Ndume of Namibia and His Excellency President Jorge Fernando Branco Sampaio of Portugal as the inaugural laureates of the United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize. Both of them are recognized for their commitment to social justice and their actions to empower suffering people. I thank these Laureates for helping to advance the mission of the United Nations, and wish them the greatest possible success in their future endeavours.
I also pay tribute to the many individuals, including, and especially, His Excellency Sam Kutesa, President of the General Assembly, who engaged in intensified efforts to mark this year’s Nelson Mandela International Day in such a meaningful way.
I am pleased to welcome a number of distinguished guests, including many who contributed to the global struggle to end apartheid. Your testimony and advocacy helped to realize the vision of a non-racial and democratic South Africa.
Nelson Mandela inspired the world, inspired all of us. Although he suffered terrible atrocities, “Madiba” never sank to the level of his oppressors; instead, he rose to the moment in history. His courageous example gave hope to people in South Africa, across the continent and beyond.
President Mandela lived a remarkable long life and left behind an extraordinary legacy of reconciliation, political transition and social transformation.
In 1990, just months after he was released from prison, Nelson Mandela addressed the United Nations Special Committee against Apartheid. His speech was a ringing call to action. He spoke out against the attitude that “to do nothing must be accepted as the very essence of civilized opposition to tyranny.”
His denunciation of those who would passively accept racism, injustice and other abuses remains just as important today. The United Nations no longer has apartheid on its agenda but we continue to confront racial and other forms of discrimination that drive abuses and violence in all countries.
On this Day, let us pay tribute to Nelson Mandela by actively fighting for human rights, development and peace in our communities and our world.
And let me finish by quoting Mandela in one very short line that represents his vision “as long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.