Mandela Day a call to action: UN chief

16 July 2014

Apartheid is gone, but the world still faces the threats of poverty, discrimination, climate change, conflict and more, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on Tuesday.

“Nelson Mandela Day is a call to action. Each of us can celebrate this day by helping to address real problems in our communities,” Ban said in a statement. “Together we can give great meaning to our celebration by paving the way for a better future.”

The idea of Mandela Day was inspired by Mandela at his 90th birthday celebrations in London’s Hyde Park in 2008, when he said: “It is time for new hands to lift the burdens. It is in your hands now.”

The United Nations officially declared 18 July as Nelson Mandela International Day in November 2009, recognising Mandela’s “values and his dedication to the service of humanity” and acknowledging his contribution “to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world”.

Celebrated across the globe in honour of the late statesman’s birthday on 18 July, the day gives everyone the opportunity to emulate Mandela’s role as public servant.

Individuals, groups and corporates are challenged to give 67 minutes of their time on the day – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – to take action to change the world for the better and, in doing so, to help build a global movement for good.

On 22 June 1990 Mandela, newly freed from jail and then the deputy president of the African National Congress, addressed the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the UN General Assembly Hall in New York – the first time he had spoken at the UN.

“Nelson Mandela’s presence in the General Assembly Hall proved that United Nations resolutions, sanctions and solidarity can win over violence and injustice,” Ban said on Tuesday.

“His extraordinary compassion after 27 years in prison showed that human rights and equality are stronger than discrimination and hate. On that day in 1990, he said people would always be challenged by the fact that, quote, ‘it took as long as it has before all of us stood up to say enough is enough’. The room burst into applause.”

SAinfo reporter