23 June 2015
The inaugural winners of the UN Nelson Mandela Prize are from Namibia and Portugal.
Dr Helena Ndume of Namibia and Jorge Fernando Branco Sampaio of Portugal were announced the winners by the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Sam Kutesa, yesterday.
Established in June 2014, the prize recognises the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity by promoting UN purposes and principles, while honouring Mandela’s extraordinary life and legacy of reconciliation, political transition and social transformation.
The entrusted selection committee decided that the inaugural award would be given to two laureates.
The Nelson Mandela Prize is an honorary award that will be presented once every five years as a tribute to the outstanding achievements and contributions of two individuals (one female and one male).
According to the Assembly, Ndume is an ophthalmologist whose life’s work has been devoted to treating blindness and eye-related illnesses in Namibia and throughout the developing world.
Sampaio led the struggle to restore democracy in Portugal – including throughout his tenure as Lisbon’s mayor from 1989 to 1995 and as the 18th president of the republic from 1996 to 2006.
Nominations were received from a broad variety of sources – including UN member and observer states, entities and intergovernmental organisations.
The award ceremony will take place on 24 July, at UN headquarters in New York, as part of the annual UN commemoration of International Nelson Mandela Day.
The day is typically celebrated on the late South African leader’s birthday, 18 July, when the UN joins a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of their time to helping others.
For 67 years Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity – as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.