Mandela’s strength and commitment: an example to all and a call for action

“As we mark Nelson Mandela International Day, it is fitting that people around the world dedicate 67 minutes of their time to helping others and making a difference,” said UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Flavia Pansieri, “the same way Nelson Mandela made a difference in the world.”

Every year on Nelson Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, the United Nations joins a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.

For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity, as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

Speaking at a ceremony at the UN in Geneva to mark Nelson Mandela International Day, Pansieri said that Mandela embodies “deep and important values”. She added that his strength of character and commitment, despite the difficulties in tackling injustice and discrimination “have been an example to all and continue to be a call for action.”

“Human rights defenders continue to draw strength from his belief in human rights for all, as they stand up for those arbitrarily detained or denied a fair trial, and for those who continue to suffer oppression, discrimination and prejudice,” she said.

She also said that the fight against racism, xenophobia and all forms of discrimination and intolerance around the world is now our own. “We have not yet won but we need to carry on,” she stressed

For Pansieri, the best way to honour Mandela is “to apply his values and strive to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Born in 1918, Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison in South Africa. At 71, Mandela’s age when he was released, he remained undeterred in his determination to end the system of apartheid. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993 and in 1994 became South Africa’s first black president.

“The heart of Nelson Mandela International Day is good works 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,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a message read during the ceremony by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva.

Ambassador Abdul Samad Minty, Permanent representative of South Africa to the UN at Geneva, said that, on Nelson Mandela International Day, the act of each person “fuels momentum, creating a collective awareness towards positive change. In the same spirit all UN and other bodies can integrate the principles and values of Nelson Mandela into their own work so that we can all collectively mobilise for a better and peaceful world.”
The UN General Assembly declared 18 July "Nelson Mandela International Day" in November 2009 in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

The UN resolution recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.

 18 July 2013

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