UN General Assembly president Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés says Nelson Mandela’s life and sacrifice set an example of honour for the whole world.
During the unveiling of the statue of Mandela at the United Nations in New York on Monday, Fernanda Espinosa said the legacy of Mandela borne out of the struggle against apartheid grew to encompass not only the rights of the people of South Africa but the sheer necessity and universality of human rights for all.
“I thank President [Cyril] Ramaphosa and the government and people of South Africa for this symbolic honour for a man whose life and sacrifice set an example of honour for the whole world,” she said. “My friends, few people in the history of our world have left such an incredible mark on humanity. The legacy of Mandela, borne out of the struggle against apartheid, grew to encompass not only the rights of the people of South Africa but the sheer necessity and universality of human rights for all. His is a legacy of perseverance, of dedication, and of unwavering commitment to the dignity of people. The statue that we unveil today is not done in mourning for his passing, as so many monuments are, but is done in celebration and in deep respect and gratitude.”
Fernanda Espinosa said the statue would stand as testament to Mandela and, by extension, to the values that he so fiercely defended and fought for: for racial equality, for non-discrimination, and for the incredible value and dignity of human life.
“In his first landmark speech to the United Nations, Nelson Mandela made a statement that remains as relevant today as it did in 1994: ‘The great challenge of our age to the United Nations Organisation is to answer the question – given the interdependence of the nations of the world, what is it that we can and must do to ensure that democracy, peace and prosperity prevail everywhere!’” said Fernanda Espinosa. “It is my hope that the placement of this statue – within the physical boundaries of the United Nations territory – will serve as an inspiration and reminder to all Member States: A reminder that our differences are to be celebrated; that our work is wholly and unreservedly for the people for whom we serve; and that our efforts, in whatever form they take, should always be guided by the inspiration and the promise that Mandela has left us – for as he also said on that same great day: ‘The millions across our globe who stand expectant at the gates of hope look to this Organisation to bring them peace, to bring them life, to bring them a life worth living.’”