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South African President Ramaphosa Honours Nelson Mandela In His Debut UN Speech


Why Global Citizens Should Care
As the world honours the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela, it marks a significant milestone in the journey towards peace and equality. Mandela called on the young people of the world to be the generation to end extreme poverty, and you can join us by taking action here to drive progress towards that goal. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa has used his debut speech at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York to reveal how Nelson Mandela’s vision continues to lead the way in improving the lives of South Africans. 

Ramaphosa shone a light on Mandela’s vision of the UN being a vital guide, not only in improving life for people in South Africa, but for the whole world. 

Mandela, nearly a quarter of a century ago, declared at UNGA how “the millions across our globe who stand expectant at the gates of hope look to this organisation [the UN], to bring them peace, to bring them life, to bring them a life worth living.” 

Take action: The French Prime Minister Is Coming to South Africa! Remind Him to Live Up to Mandela's Legacy

And standing on the podium at UNGA for the very first time this week, Ramaphosa began his speech by acknowledging the call from Mandela, South Africa’s first democratic president on the same podium decades before. 

“The United Nations must become what billions of people across the world want it to be — a representative and truly democratic global power parliament of the people of the world,” said Ramaphosa, on Tuesday. 

“The call to leave no one behind requires we strengthen institutions of global governments, to make them more responsive to the needs of young people in the development,” he said. “Institutions like the United Nations, World Bank, IMF (International Monetary Fund), and the WTO (World Trade Organisation) need to be reshaped and enhanced so that they may more effectively meet the challenges of the contemporary world and better serve the interest of the poor and marginalised.”

Related Stories Sept. 6, 2018 How Close Is South Africa to Achieving the Global Goals?

The president gave credit to the UN for all its work in giving hope to the oppressed, exploited, and poor people around the world — including the UN’s contribution to the liberation of South Africa. 

“During the dark days of colonialism and apartheid, we drew strength, inspiration, and encouragement from the UN and its charter in our quest for freedom and self-determination,” he said. “With the support of the UN, we as South Africa were able to bring an end to the nightmare of the apartheid.”

Even after 24 years of democracy in the country, South Africa is still experiencing challenges birthed by apartheid and its legacy. But the president said that it is through seeing the possibilities of Mandela’s vision that the country is now on the verge of correcting the injustices of the past. 

It is done, he said, through improving the education outcomes young people; through transforming the economy that was built to serve the interests of a few. 

And, according to Ramaphosa’s speech, the world must put young people and women at the centre of its focus. 

“We are a young world, where more than half the global population is under the age of 30 years,” he said. “This is even more pronounced on our continent, Africa, where two-thirds of its people were not yet born when Nelson Mandela was released from prison.”

“We are living in the Age of Youth,” he continued. “This places a responsibility on us, as leaders, not only to put the interests of young people at the centre of our efforts, but to empower women and young people to be more prominent in directing the course of global affairs.” 

“One of the greatest challenges to the achievement of the global prosperity and development is the continued exclusion of millions of young people and women from meaningful economic participation,” he added.

He also spoke about the controversial topic of the redistribution of land, that is still being discussed in South Africa.

“We have started a complimentary dialogue on the question of land reform in our country which is guided by our constitution and rule of law as we seek ways to ensure that the land is shared amongst all who work it, as set out in our freedom charter,” says Ramaphosa. 

In recognising that South Africa is among many nations which are going through critical procedures of developing, Ramophosa challenged the UN assembly representatives to “forge a more representative equal United Nations that is empowered to lead the struggle, to end poverty, unemployment, and inequality in the world.”

Learn more: Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 in Johannesburg on Dec. 2

Wbile Ramaphosa recognised and acknowledged the progress already achieved by South Africa and the world at large, he also called for greater action in ending diseases such as AIDs and HIV, tuberculosis, malaria, diabetes, and cancer. 

But he told global leaders that South Africa plans to fix its economy, conquer the legacy of colonialism and apartheid, and drive forward global progress. 

He said: “We are detained through our international relations to be a force for progress and peace and global equality, and will continue to advance the interests of the African continent and the Global South.” 

Related Stories July 16, 2018 7 Ways Nelson Mandela's Legacy Still Resonates Today

Meanwhile on Monday, heads of state discussed the efforts needed to pursue international peace and security at a UN peace summit in honour of Nelson Mandela. 

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UN member states adopted a political declaration recognising the years 2019 to 2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace — with 2018 marking 100 years since Mandela’s birth. 

The summit was preceded by the unveiling of a statue of Mandela, offered to the UN by the South African government, in recognition of Mandela’s continuous pursuit of peace and security, and the protection of human rights.


The Global Citizen Festival: Mandela 100 is presented and hosted by The Motsepe Foundation, with major partners House of Mandela, Johnson & Johnson, Cisco, Nedbank, Vodacom, Coca Cola Africa, Big Concerts, BMGF Goalkeepers, Eldridge Industries, and associate partners HP and Microsoft.

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