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Minister Molewa's statement during informal session of General Assembly to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day

ECOSOC Chamber, New York, 18 July 2017

Mr Thomson, President of the United Nations General Assembly
Mr Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Ms Monyamane, Representative of the Nelson Mandela Foundation
Ms Penny Abeywardena, New York City Commissioner for International Affairs
Mr Danny Glover, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador
Distinguished Representatives and honoured guests

Let me take this opportunity Mr President to commend you for the initiative to host an Informal Session of the General Assembly to commemorate Nelson Mandela International Day and thank you for inviting me to make a statement at this august occasion. 

Nelson Mandela International Day commemorates the lifetime of service Nelson Mandela gave to South Africa and the world.  The International Day was launched by a unanimous decision of the United Nations General Assembly on the 18th of July 2009, the birthday of former President Nelson Mandela, affectionately called by his clan name, ‘Madiba.’

In recognition of Madiba’s 67 years beginning in 1942 when he first started to campaign for the human rights of every South African, people all around the world are requested to devote 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mandela’s public service – by making a small gesture of solidarity with humanity.

Since 2009, every year on 18 July, we are called upon to reflect on how we, as indivduals, can emulate Madiba and make a difference in someone’s life.  We are asked to take action and inspire change to make every day a Mandela Day.  Mandela Day is an opportunity for us to celebrate Madiba’s life and legacy in a sustainable way that will bring about enduring change.

Mr President

The theme for this year is “Action Against Poverty.”  The question we should ask ourselves is what are we doing to make every day a Mandela Day by taking action against poverty?  2015 was a seminal year that ushered in the Agenda 2030 fo Sustainable Development and at the continental level Agenda 2063, the Africa We Want.  The preamble of the Agenda 2030 recognizes that eradication of poverty in all its forms, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and a prerequisite for sustainable development to ensure that no one is left behind.

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 1 espouses to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”.  Amongst others, SDG 1 aim to eradicate extreme poverty, reduce by half the number of people living in extreme poverty and resource mobilization to implement programmes to end poverty. 

Aspiration 1 of the AU’s Agenda 2063 for “A Prosperous Africa Based on Inclusive Growth and Sustainable Development” affirms determination to eradicate poverty in one generation and build shared prosperity through social and economic transformation of the continent.  Convergence and complementarity in achieving these two goals should be found in order to make a difference in the lives of people in Africa and the world, in general.

Today, as the world reflects on Nelson Mandela’s legacy, we are called upon to emulate his life, leadership and devotion to humanity and to humanitarian causes, in line with these two Goals.  While Nelson Mandela saw himself first and foremost as a servant of South Africa’s people, his commitment to public service to everyone extended to making our world a better one for all.  Madiba’s vision for social justice and freedom for all, demands of us to become part of a continuous global movement for good and particularly taking collective action eradicating poverty.

Mr President,

I am informed that in partnership with the City of New York, your office organised the weeding of a park and cleaning-up of the beach on Randall’s Island.  It is these small actions of kindness that make a difference in the people’s lives and would like to congratulate you in this regard.

In conclusion, I would like to share this quote. Nelson Mandela once said: “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived.  It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

I thank you.