Mandela ‘an inspiration for the world’

19 July 2013

The international community was “united in concern” for South Africa’s ailing former president, and also “joined in admiration for a towering figure in the worldwide fight for equality and justice,” secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said as the UN marked Nelson Mandela International Day 2013.

Ban was speaking on Thursday at a special General Assembly meeting in New York attended also by former US president Bill Clinton, the Reverend Jesse Jackson, singer, actor and social activist Harry Belafonte, and Andrew Mlangeni, a close friend of Mandela who was imprisoned with him on Robben Island.

“The heart of Nelson Mandela International Day is good works for people and the planet,” Ban said. “Its theme … is meant to mobilize the human family to do more to build a peaceful, sustainable and equitable world. This is the best tribute we can pay to an extraordinary man who embodies the highest values of humanity.”

With Mandela still in hospital in Pretoria nearly six weeks after being admitted for treatment for a lung infection on 8 June, Ban said: “We are united in concern.

“We are also joined in admiration for a towering figure in the worldwide fight for equality and justice, a model of compassion and integrity, a man who took on and then gracefully relinquished the responsibility of power.”

Also addressing the General Assembly, Bill Clinton recalled his friendship with Mandela, saying that “his heart was so big, and his humanity so great, that we often had trouble keeping our official roles apart from our personal friendship”.

He praised Mandela’s efforts to stop the spread of HIV/Aids in South Africa years after he left office, saying he had also encouraged Clinton to help him renegotiate the prices South Africa was paying for Aids medicines, saving millions of dollars each year that could be invested in the country’s development.

Reverend Jackson praised Mandela’s commitment to achieving reconciliation and his emphasis on forgiveness and tolerance, as well as his determination to not give up, but to continue fighting for social justice.

“Social transformation is an intentional act,” Jackson said. “It is because of Mr Mandela’s sacrifice that South Africa is free today.”

He said that Mandela’s struggle should not be in vain, and called on the international community to keep his legacy alive.

Speaking to the UN News Centre on Thursday, Ban’s deputy special representative for Afghanistan, Nicholas “Fink” Haysom, who served as chief legal adviser throughout Mandela’s presidency, said Mandela’s work served as an inspiration for countries across the world.

“As Afghanistan prepares for its historic presidential election next year, I hope the acts and words of Madiba can be of some inspiration to people here, that they realize from South Africa’s experience just how important it is for leaders and potential leaders – at whatever level, whether it be at the national or the village level – to be bigger than the divisions that can tear communities apart,” Haysom said.

He added that the widespread concern for Mandela’s recovery was “a reminder that Madiba holds a special place in the hearts and minds of people all over the world”.

Source: United Nations