The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the “vital importance of human solidarity and unity”, values championed and exemplified by Nelson Mandela in his lifelong fight for justice, said the United Nations (U.N.) Secretary General Antonio Guterres in his message on the occasion of the Nelson Mandela Day.
The U.N. chief urged the world to honor Mandela’s call to action and be empowered by his legacy as the world continues to battle the pandemic.
“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,” he said.
The Nelson Mandela International Day is an annual international day in honor of the former South African president and liberation icon. It is celebrated each year on 18 July, Mandela’s birthday. The day was officially declared by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first U.N. Mandela Day held on 18 July 2010.
Guterres in his message on Sunday hailed Mandela as an extraordinary man who should be emulated globally.
“Each year, on this day, Nelson’s Mandela’s birthday, we pay tribute to this extraordinary man who embodied the highest aspirations of the United Nations and the human family”, he said.
I had the privilege of meeting Nelson Mandela many times. His courage, wisdom and compassion were humbling and inspiring.
— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) July 18, 2021
Guterres’ message comes as the world continues to experience a vaccine inequity that has attracted condemnation from various leaders globally.
Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom reiterated calls for vaccine sharing by high-income countries, noting that having a two-front fight against the pandemic would only serve to lengthen the battle to defeat the virus.
Guterres also noted that no one is safe until all are safe, adding that everyone can play their part to defeat the pandemic.
Mandela was the president of South Africa between 1994 and 1999, and helped the country bring an end to apartheid, creating his legacy as a global advocate for human rights.