‘Emulate his example’ urges UN chief as world celebrates Nelson Mandela: a ‘global advocate for dignity and equality’

UN/Sergio Gomez Public service activities for UN staff and delegates (community gardening in Harlem), organized with the New York City Mayor’s office and Harlem Grown for Nelson Mandela International Day. (19 July 2018)

This article is brought to you in association with the United Nations.


Nelson Mandela was an “extraordinary global advocate for dignity and equality” who anyone in public service should seek to emulate, Secretary-General António Guterres said marking the International Day that honours the iconic anti-apartheid campaigner, and South Africa’s first democratically-elected President.

As “one of the most iconic and inspirational leaders of our time”, the UN chief said: “Nelson Mandela exemplified courage, compassion and commitment to freedom, peace and social justice”.

“He lived by these principles and was prepared to sacrifice his liberty and even his life for them”, Mr. Guterres spelled out.

In November 2009, the UN declared 18 July, Nelson Mandela International Day as a global call to action under the premise that everyone has the power to make an impact on the planet.

With hate speech casting a growing shadow around the world, “Nelson Mandela’s calls for social cohesion and an end to racism are particularly relevant today”, said the UN chief.

“As we work collectively for peace, stability, sustainable development and human rights for all, we would be well served to recall the example set by Nelson Mandela,” he asserted. “Our best tribute is found in actions”.

Lauding the late South African President’s qualities and service to humanity, the UN in New York hosted the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit during last year’s General Assembly week, where some 100 Heads of State and Government, Ministers and Member States, adopted a political declaration to redouble efforts to build a just, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and fair world.

The declaration, which recognized the period from 2019 to 2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace, saluted Mr. Mandela – or “Madiba” as he’s known affectionately by South Africans – for his humility and compassion, while also acknowledging his contribution to the struggle for democracy and the promotion of a culture of world peace.

Saying that “every one of us can step up and act for enduring change”, Mr. Guterres maintained that Nelson Mandela’s message to the world is clear and “we all have the duty to do so”.

“On this day of reflection on Nelson Mandela’s life and work, let us embrace his legacy and aspire to emulate his example”, concluded the Secretary-General.

New York  City honours ‘Madiba’

The General Assembly will commemorate the day with an informal meeting featuring remarks by the President of the General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General and others.

Paying tribute to Nelson Mandela’s ideals of service, UN volunteers will serve lunch and ice cream in one of the most marginalized neighbourhoods in the city at the Brownsville Community Culinary Centre, which offers healthy, sustainable and accessible cuisine to local residents.

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