By Cecilia Ologunagba
The United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, has called on the world to emulate the legacy of late Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s first black President.
Guterres said this on Sunday, in his message to mark Nelson Mandela International Day, globally celebrated on July 18, to shine light on the legacy of a man who changed the 20th century and helped shape the 21st.
According to the secretary-general, the day is an opportunity to reflect on the life and legacy of “a legendary global advocate for dignity, equality, justice and human right.
“Each year, on this day, Nelson Mandela’s birthday, we pay tribute to this extraordinary man who embodied the highest aspirations of the United Nations and the human family’’.
“Affectionately known as Madiba, his calls for solidarity and an end to racism are particularly relevant today, as social cohesion around the world is under threat of division.
“With hate speech on the rise and misinformation blurring the truth, questioning science and undermining democratic institutions, societies are becoming more polarised,’’ the UN chief said.
And the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has not only made these ills more acute, but also rolled back years of progress in the global fight against poverty.
“As always in times of crises, it is the marginalised and discriminated against, who suffer the most, often while being blamed for problems they did not cause.
“The pandemic has shown the vital importance of human solidarity and unity, values championed and exemplified by Nelson Mandela in his lifelong fight for justice,’’ the UN chief added
He urged the world to honour Mandela’s call to action and be empowered by his legacy.
The UN chief scribe said: “Let us be inspired by Madiba’s message, that each of us can make a difference in promoting peace, human rights, harmony with nature and dignity for all”.
In 2015, the General Assembly extended the scope of Nelson Mandela Day, to promote humane conditions of imprisonment, raise awareness about the need to ensure prisoners remain part of society, and to value the work of prison staff, as a social service of particular importance.
Through its resolution A/RES/70/175, the Assembly not only adopted the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, but also approved that they should be known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules” to honour the legacy of the late President of South Africa, who spent 27 years in prison, during his struggle. (NAN)