Mandela Day seeks to tackle poverty on global stage
GENEVA: Nelson Mandela International Day focused on taking action against poverty, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Tuesday in a special message read out for him.
It also highlighted an international legal contest in Mandela’s name taking place in Geneva and co-hosted with the Centre of Human Rights at the University of Pretoria.
Michael Møller, director-general of the UN Office in Geneva, shared Guterres’s message at a ceremony attended by dignitaries from around the world, including South Africa.
The UN leader spoke of Mandela’s “wisdom, compassion and, above all, his humility”.
“Nelson Mandela continues to inspire the world through his example of courage and compassion, and his commitment to social justice and a culture of freedom and peace,” he said.
“Nelson Mandela recognised access to education and other basic services (and that) social discrimination and exclusion all contribute to keeping people in the grip of poverty. Let’s be inspired by his call and take action to improve the lives of others,” said Møller.
University of Pretoria Professor Christoph Heyns, who serves on the UN Human Rights Committee, welcomed all participants to the 9th Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court taking place in Geneva, which has been called the “Olympic Games of human rights”.
The South African Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Nozipho Joyce Mxakato-Diseko, said Mandela “firmly believed that political freedom without freedom from hunger was meaningless”.
She said it was an honour to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day, “a day born of multilateralism at its finest”. The day, which has been adopted in a UN General Assembly Resolution supported by all UN member states, pays “tribute to our late icon’s legacy in advancing the cause of justice, peace and development”, she said.
“For us as South Africans, Nelson Mandela Day reaffirms our global commitment to the values and mission on which the UN was founded.
“This is to serve as a champion and advocate for the poor, the needy and the oppressed,” she said.
“In this context this year’s Nelson Mandela Day theme: ‘Taking Action Against Poverty’ serves as a reminder to us all of the unfinished work we all have,” said the ambassador.
Heyns, who is also a director of the Centre of Human Rights at the University of Pretoria, said many of the young people attending the July 18 event “have been deeply touched by Nelson Mandela and the values he stood for”.
The final of the Nelson Mandela World Human Rights Moot Court Competition, which involves 36 teams from 24 countries, will be held tomorrow at Geneva’s Palais des Nations.
South African Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Nozipho Joyce MxakatoDiseko, left, and University of Pretoria law expert Professor Christoph Heyns.