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UN celebrates Nelson Mandela, ‘a colossus of courage and conviction’

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The annual celebration pays tribute to Mr. Mandela’s 67 years of service to humanity as a human rights lawyer, prisoner of conscience, international peacemaker and the first democratically elected President of post-apartheid South Africa.

Honour the legacy

The UN chief described the former leader, who died in 2013, as “a colossus of courage and conviction”.

Mr. Guterres said the best way to honour his legacy is through action against racism, discrimination, hate and the legacies of colonialism.

“And action to promote equality, human rights and above all, justice,” he added.

Inspiration for action

The Secretary-General noted that poverty, hunger and inequality are on the rise today, with many countries drowning in debt.

Meanwhile, the climate crisis is destroying the lives of those who have done the least to cause it, and the unfair and outdated international financial system is not fulfilling its function as a global safety net.

“We have it in our power to solve each of these problems,” he said.

“So, as we commemorate Nelson Mandela’s life and legacy, let us be animated by his spirit of humanity, dignity and justice. Let us stand with women and girls, young people and changemakers everywhere.  And let us take action to build a better world.”

Climate action now

Nelson Mandela International Day is observed annually on his birthday, 18 July, and people everywhere are encouraged to volunteer for 67 minutes, either in their communities or virtually.

This year, the UN called for supporting its ActNow campaign on climate change and sustainability, recalling that Mr. Mandela said “we must never forget that it is our duty to protect this environment.”

The UN General Assembly will hold an informal meeting on Thursday to mark the International Day.

Speakers will include Andrew Young, politician, activist, and former United States Ambassador to the UN. 

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