The members of the United Nations Association are saddened by the death of Nelson Mandela.
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.
Twenty years ago, before his election to the presidency of South Africa, Nelson Mandela spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations.
He commented about the long struggle to end the system of apartheid:
“We have, together, walked a very long road. We have travelled together to reach a common destination.
“The common destination towards which we have been advancing defines the very reason for the existence of this world Organisation.
“The goal we have sought to reach is the consummation of the yearning of all humankind for human dignity and human fulfilment.
“For that reason, we have been outraged and enraged that there could be imposed on any people the criminal system of apartheid.
“Each and every one of us have felt our humanity denied by the mere existence of this system. Each and every one of us have felt brandished as sub-human by the fact that some could treat of others as though they were no more than disposable garbage.
“In the end, there was nobody of conscience who could stand by and do nothing in the search for an end to the apartheid crime against humanity.
“We are here today to convey to you, who are the representatives of the peoples of the world, the profound gratitude of the people of South Africa for your engagement, over the decades, in the common struggle to end the system of apartheid.
“We are deeply moved by the fact that almost from its birth, this Organisation has kept on its agenda the vital question of the liquidation of the system of apartheid and white minority rule in our country.
“Throughout the many years of struggle, we, as South Africans, have been greatly inspired and strengthened as you took action both severally and collectively, to escalate your offensive against apartheid rule, as the white minority regime itself took new steps in its own offensive further to entrench its illegitimate rule and draw tribute from those it had enslaved.
“In particular, we are most grateful for the measures that the United Nations, the OAU, the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, the European Community and other intergovernmental organisations took to isolate apartheid South Africa.
“We are deeply appreciative of similar initiatives that individual countries, non-governmental organisations, local communities and even single individuals took, as part of their contribution to the common effort to deny the apartheid system all international sustenance.
“This global struggle, perhaps without precedent in the inestimable number of people it united around one common issue, has helped decisively to bring us to where we are today….”
In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared that July 18th should be celebrated around the world as “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom. It is the only international day recognized by the United Nations that is named for an individual person.
In establishing Nelson Mandela Day, the General Assembly was intentional in recognizing Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and the poor.
The members of the Oklahoma City chapter of the United Nations Association mourn the passing of a great leader in the promotion of peace throughout the world.
In so many ways, the completed life of Nelson Mandela is an example of the highest values of the United Nations.
# # #
For more information on the UN’s efforts to overcome apartheid, please see this webpage:
“The United Nations: Partner in the Struggle against Apartheid”
For a copy of the General Assembly resolution designating July 18th as Nelson Mandela International Day, please see here: