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UN General Assembly honors historic South African leader with Mandela prize

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on Monday held a virtual meeting to mark Nelson Mandela International Day (July 18) and also to feature the official recognition of the laureates of the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.

“The work of the laureates made a significant difference to the lives of others as inspired by the life and values of Nelson Mandela,” said UNGA President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, who chaired the meeting.

He added that this unique prize serves as an inspiration to all who work tirelessly to contribute to and improve the well-being of others, and in so doing, promote the values of the United Nations.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in his remarks to the event, called on the international community to promote justice and combat racism in all its manifestations.

“Every day, in our work across the world, we must strive to do our part to promote inclusion, justice and dignity. We must combat racism in all its manifestations,” the secretary-general said.

“As we celebrate Madiba (the name most commonly used by South Africans for Mandela) and his life-long struggle for justice and equality, we must recognize that we still face the persistent plague of racism,” said the secretary-general.

“This abomination violates the Charter of the United Nations and insults our core values,” he said.

Speakers at the meeting included Naledi Pandor, Minister for International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, as well as Marianna Vardinoyannis of Greece and Morissanda Kouyate of Guinea, the UN Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.

The prize was established by the UNGA in June 2014 to recognize the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity by promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations while honoring and paying homage to Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life and legacy of reconciliation, political transition, and social transformation.

Vardinoyannis is a Greek philanthropist and world advocate for human rights and the protection of children’s health and welfare. She is a goodwill ambassador of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization since 1999, and founder and president of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation and of ELPIDA Friends’ Association of Children with cancer. For more than 30 years, she has been fighting childhood cancer and for a world without borders in health, helping thousands of children to be cured.

Kouyate of Guinea is a leading advocate on ending violence against women and girls in Africa and executive director of the Inter-African Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices. He initiated efforts that resulted in Africa’s regional instrument on ending violence against women. He carried out exceptional efforts in the fight against harmful traditional practices, particularly the elimination of female genital mutilation.

Every year, as part of the “Take Action, Inspire Change” campaign on Nelson Mandela International Day, individuals throughout the world are encouraged to devote 67 minutes to helping others – by volunteering in a hospital, tutoring a child, providing food for the homeless, or any other community service activity. The 67-minute campaign is based on people devoting one minute of their time for every year that Nelson Mandela devoted to public service – as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker, and as the president of South Africa.

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year, UN staff volunteers in New York City and in UN offices around the world are asked to mark Mandela Day by individually undertaking primarily virtual activities in honor of Nelson Mandela. Enditem

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