“I am pleased to join you to celebrate the life and achievements of Nelson Mandela – one of the greatest leaders of our time, a moral giant whose legacy continues to guide us today”, Secretary-General António Guterres said in his message to the virtual General Assembly commemoration.
Quoting Madiba – as he’s known affectionately by South Africans – Mr. Guterres said: “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest”.
Maintaining that “inequality damages everyone”, the UN chief said it was “a brake on human development and opportunities”.
Discrimination is not only associated with unfair international relations, he added, but also with economic instability, corruption, financial crises, increased crime and poor physical and mental health.
“The answer lies in a New Social Contract, to ensure economic and social justice and respect for human rights”, stressed the UN chief.
Congratulations in order
During the tribute, the Secretary-General extended his “warmest congratulations” to Marianna Vardinoyannis of Greece and Morissana Kouyate of Guinea, the 2020 laureates of the UN Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize for their long-standing commitment to human rights, access to health care, and the empowerment of women, girls and the most vulnerable in society.
“I commend them for advancing the United Nations’ mission and carrying on the extraordinary legacy of Nelson Mandela”, he asserted.
‘Persistent’ racist plague
Mr. Guterres called “the persistent plague of racism” an “abomination” that violates the UN Charter, “insults our core values” and must be combatted “in all its manifestations”.
In remembering the first democratically elected South African President and global civil rights icon, “let us recall that we all have a part to play in the quest for a better future of dignity, opportunity and prosperity for all people on a healthy planet”, he concluded.
Meanwhile, General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, explained that the annual day was established in 2009 to mark Mr. Mandela’s birthday, 18 July, and salute his remarkable life.
“This Day provides us with a moment to reflect upon the contribution of Nelson Mandela to our world, and to re-affirm our collective commitment to eradicate racism and racial discrimination in every context”, he said.
As the UN celebrates its 75th anniversary, the Assembly president urged everyone to “take inspiration from our esteemed Laureates and honour the legacy of Nelson Mandela, by serving your community in pursuit of a more equal, just, and peaceful future as set out in the Charter of the United Nations”.