UN celebrates Mandela’s lifelong commitment to human rights

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By Aluta News

July 21, 2023

The United Nations on Thursday celebrated  the life and legacy of the first black President of post-apartheid South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who died in 2013.

The commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day, which is celebrated on July 18, pays tribute to his fight for freedom and equality, both at home and around the world.

Mandela, who was affectionately known by his Xhosa clan name, Madiba, spent nearly three decades in jail for standing up to human rights abuses and severe injustices against black South Africans.

He was released from prison in 1990 and elected President four years later in the country’s first-ever multiracial elections.

UN top officials at a ceremony held at UN headquarters in New York extolled his heroic virtues.

Csaba Kőrösi, President of the UN General Assembly, said Mandela’s remarkable journey served as an example of transformation through forgiveness as he bequeathed a multiracial, democratic South Africa vastly different from the racist state into which he was born.

“Madiba’s lifelong commitment to human rights embodies a founding principle of this organisation: We cannot leave anyone behind,” he added.

Also speaking, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called Mandela one of humanity’s greatest heroes.

“Nelson Mandela was a colossus of courage and conviction,” he said.

“How do we pay tribute to such a giant? Through words of respect, certainly. But we best honour Madiba through action.”

Guterres called for action against racism, discrimination, hate, and to “extinguish the legacies of colonialism.”  He also appealed for promoting equality, human rights “and above all, justice.”

The UN chief said the COVID-19 pandemic had exposed global inequalities and “three years on, the need to bridge the global justice gap is more urgent than ever.”

He pointed to injustice at the heart of the international financial system that is rooted in colonialism.  To this day, Africa is underrepresented in the global financial architecture and the continent lacks a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, he said.

He recalled that Mandela addressed these issues in a speech to the UN nearly 30 years ago, arguing against the uneven distribution of resources and decision-making power.

“The world is still waiting for change,” Guterres said.

“Ultimately, we need fundamental reform of the international financial system.  But we must also support developing economies with concrete steps we can take today.”

He called for urgently overhauling the business models of multilateral development banks, providing a sustainable development stimulus plan, and establishing debt relief that supports payment suspensions, among other measures.

 The American politician and activist Andrew Young, a former U.S. Ambassador to the UN, shared memories of Mandela who, he said, was both a friend and brother.

“We hear things that seem impossible to us: that he invited his jailor to sit with his family at his inauguration and that he constantly made an effort to unite South Africa in spite of all of its divisions,” he said.

Young, who is now 91, stated that his own country is today struggling with some of the same dynamics that plagued apartheid-era South Africa.

“We’re grateful for the example that was set by President Madiba.

“And we’re grateful for this institution for following in that tradition and keeping alive the hope of liberty and dignity, and a realisation that we can be free in spite of the cultural chains that bind us,”  he said.

NAN

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