On February 3, 2005, more than 22,000 people gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square to hear what would quickly become one of Nelson Mandela’s most iconic speeches. 

The former president of South Africa and anti-apartheid revolutionary addressed the crowd at a Make Poverty History rally just the day before leaders of the G7 — the world’s seven most advanced economies — gathered in the UK capital to discuss how to help end extreme poverty.

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He called on world leaders to “honour their promises to the world’s poorest citizens,” reminding them of the pledge they made in the Millennium Declaration in the year 2000 to halve poverty. 

We’ve come a long way in the 13 years since Mandela’s speech, but so much of what he said then still rings true today. It goes to show that we still have a lot of work to do.

Learn More: Be the Generaton to End Extreme Poverty

This year, on the centenary of Mandela’s birth, Global Citizen is honouring his legacy and his belief that this generation should be the one to end poverty. You can join us by taking action here

Read more: Nelson Mandela’s Former Protege Is South Africa’s New President — And Is Calling for ‘Year of Action’

Mandela’s momentous speech in London re-energised the world to take up the fight against poverty — here are some of the best quotes from that day:

1. “As long as poverty, injustice, and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.” 

2. “Massive poverty and obscene inequality are such terrible scourges of our times — times in which the world boasts breathtaking advances in science, technology, industry, and wealth accumulation — that they have to rank alongside slavery and apartheid as social evils.” 

3. “Millions of people in the world’s poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved, and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.” 

Read more: 10 Past Nobel Peace Prize Winners Whose Names You Should Know

4. “Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.” 

5. “Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.”

6. “While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

Read more: 17 Quotes About Peace to Give You Strength Today

7. “Do not look the other way; do not hesitate. Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision.” 

8. “Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.” 

9. “Of course, the task will not be easy. But not to do this would be a crime against humanity, against which I ask all humanity now to rise up.” 

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve the UN’s Global Goals to end extreme poverty by 2030. You can join us by taking action on the sustainable development goals here, to combat gender violence, increase education access, end hunger, create sustainable communities, and a lot more. 

This year, we’re calling on Global Citizens to #BetheGeneration to end poverty. One of the first stops on our campaign’s global tour is the Commonwealth Summit in London, where leaders from the 53 Commonwealth nations will meet to find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems. Find out more about how you can earn free tickets to the event here, and what we're campaigning on — including gender equality, nutrition, global health, and education access — here


Demand Equity

9 Inspirational Quotes From Nelson Mandela's Iconic London Speech

By Imogen Calderwood