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UNOG Commemoration in Honour of Nelson Mandela

Commemoration in honour of the late former President of the Republic of South Africa
Mr. Nelson Mandela

A commemoration in honour of former President of the Republic of South Africa, H.E. Mr. Nelson Mandela, was held on Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 11:00 a.m. in the Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room (Room XX).

The commemoration brought together the international community in Geneva to pay collective respect to one of the greatest leaders and most remarkable human beings of our time, salute his extraordinary courage, and be inspired by his struggle for freedom, equality and justice for all.

The commemoration included a message from the Secretary-General, a video message from the High Commissioner for Human Rights, remarks by the Permanent Representative of South Africa and the Permanent Observer of the African Union, and an address by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Those who were not able to participate may watch the archived webcast video at

Show details for Secretary-General's message to Memorial Ceremony for Nelson Mandela
Secretary-General's message to Memorial Ceremony for Nelson Mandela

Show details for Remarks by Kofi Annan for the Memorial Ceremony for Nelson MandelaRemarks by Kofi Annan for the Memorial Ceremony for Nelson Mandela

Hide details for Remarks by the Permanent Representative of the African Union for the Memorial Ceremony for Nelson MandelaRemarks by the Permanent Representative of the African Union for the Memorial Ceremony for Nelson Mandela
Excellencies, Honourable Ministers,
Excellency Mr. Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations,
Mr. Director -General of the United Nations Office at Geneva,
Excellency Ambassador, Permanent Representative of South Africa,
Excellencies, distinguished Ambassadors,
Distinguished Delegates,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On December 5, as the world was looking spellbound towards Bali, Indonesia where the major negotiations of the WTO were unfolding, and towards Paris, where the Heads of African States and governments were speaking of Peace and Security in Africa, an event occurred that all of us had been fearing, given the poor health of our international icon, with tremendous emotion and great respect I mean to say the late President Nelson Mandela. President Nelson Mandela is no longer with us physically, His Excellency President Jacob Zuma gravely announced; but his flame can never be extinguished even as the emotion has faded. In the contrary; his light has been revived and shall never ever be extinguished. Tributes paid from around the world are there to remind us that the great hero Nelson MANDELA still lives and will live forever.

Late President Mandela is one of the few leaders who have left his mark on an entire country, a continent and indeed on all mankind.

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The whole life of late President Mandela is a lesson for us all. As pointed out yesterday by the incoming African President of the Human Rights Council, I would say that it is "a clear moral compass” for the world. Undoubtedly, late President Mandela was the most influential political prisoner in the 20th century. His long term imprisonment, his attachment to the cause he was relentlessly defending with both boldness and determination and the genuine pursuit of the highest ideals have been and will be forever, for all of us, a reference, a code of conduct and a renewed inspiration. Late President Mandela has left a truly enduring political legacy reflecting a strategic, determined, flexible, and accommodating vision aimed at the well-being of the population. This is the mark of great political skill and a true of success secret in both our professional and personal lives. MADIBA displayed the highest degree of boldness and the audacity to fight against the degrading and humiliating apartheid system; he had the courage and determination to pursue these ideals, the courage and resolve of a great leader demonstrated when he pointed up to heaven on the day of his release this February 11, 1990, which made history. In doing so, he has given us back our lost dignity as African and dignity to the victims of oppression the world over. He restored the dignity of which we were frustrated.


In 1993-1994 late President Mandela was able to lead the complex process of transition in his country with great success and humanity to bring in peace and dignity for all, the first multiracial elections, which deservedly earned him the Nobel Peace Prize. Let us recall in this regard his famous quote “ONE MAN ONE VOTE " which has become emblematic of the man and henceforth, used as a slogan and agreed principle worldwide .

In his speech and in his deeds late President Mandela firmly demonstrated his rejection of exclusion, favouring the type of inclusive and participatory approach which caused his country, South Africa, to be celebrated as the Rainbow Nation. He did say, and I quote: “To be free is not merely to cast off one's chains but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others".

For late President Mandela, altruism is a historic message conveyed to humankind. This is actually the key to success for any conflict resolution process. Only though understanding the concerns and needs of others may we come to establish a constructive and conducive dialogue for the establishment of peace, reconciliation and reconstruction. This is yet another true teaching that late President Mandela valiantly implemented before offering it to us on a silver platter, that it might make a tangible difference in our lives and in our collective quest for peace and justice. This is the meaning of Mandela’s method of “inclusive dialogue".


Late President Mandela has not finished educating us. He was the living proof that non-violence is a principle, not an ideology. He said, in particular, and I quote: “Nonviolence is a strategy, a pragmatic decision after reviewing the different options." He also explained that "If you want to make peace with an enemy, one must work with that enemy and that enemy becomes your partner." In his wisdom, late President Mandela was able to oversee the process of truth and reconciliation in his country, exposing the crimes of apartheid without causing the gap between communities to widen. This exceptional wisdom is currently lacking in the various truth and reconciliation establishment processes in many parts of the world. Again, late President Mandela paved the way for us and we can only say:


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The groundbreaking struggle of late President Mandela for Racial Equality has indeed extended to Africa and beyond. Late President Mandela has always drawn attention to the dangers of any racial polarization of politics because it induces fear among the minorities. For him, oppression stems from racism. He said that "a man who deprives another man’s freedom is a prisoner of hatred, prejudice and bigotry.”

There can thus be no justification for racial segregation. Today, although a multitude of legal and other instruments condemn racism; different manifestations of racial practices are still present in many parts of the world sometimes even insidiously penetrating political circles in several countries. The same type of political determination as that demonstrated by late President Mandela seems to us to be way out, the light at the end of the tunnel which has been a very long time in coming.

Late President Mandela has also demonstrated exceptional skills in its fight against poverty, not only in South Africa but throughout the continent. In fact, late President Mandela compares the injustice of poverty and inequality to apartheid. He says that “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils". For late President Mandela, overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.

To late President Mandela, the struggle against poverty is the protection of fundamental human rights, the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there can be no real freedom.

So many messages, so many lessons and many practical guidelines are indeed concentrated in these few lines; A genuine political and humanist wealth.


Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

These modest observations on my part, and all that has been and will be said, cannot do justice to MADIBA and his work. I remain convinced, however, that the best possible tribute and most comprehensive justice we can do to late President Mandela is to follow his teachings, draw inspiration from his unwavering commitment and try our utmost to complete his outstanding work bearing his motto: " It always seems impossible until it's done.."

Late President MANDELA was humble, simple and selfless whenever doing anyone a favour

At his home in Orlando, suburb of Johannesburg, It has been said that the students in the 1990s, then comprising his audience, listened, enthralled, believing that Nelson Mandela would reveal to them the meaning of life. One day he said “Honesty, Sincerity, Simplicity, Humility, Generosity, Absence of vanity, Ability to Serve others, qualities within the reach of all souls are the real foundations of our spiritual life. But such success is not accessible without true introspection and an understanding of one’s strengths and weaknesses".

Educating Youth is shaping the future!

MADIBA, you will always be in our minds and will forever stay our source of inspiration and our light in the darkest and most difficult times.


I thank you.

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Show details for Remarks of the Acting Director-General of UNOG at the commemoration in Honour of Nelson MandelaRemarks of the Acting Director-General of UNOG at the commemoration in Honour of Nelson Mandela

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