Nelson Mandela, Photo Credit: South Africa The Good News
It is with deep sadness that I learned of the death of former South African President and anti-apartheid stalwart, Nelson Mandela. The world has lost a true statesman, a leader and a pragmatic visionary.
As a formidable and tireless champion of human rights, Nelson Mandela strove to address inequality and indignity wherever he found them. Be it in his own country or beyond South Africa’s borders.
Having won the battle against oppression in his own country, Mr. Mandela’s influence and inspiration were truly global and he was called on to mediate conflicts across Africa and the Middle East, in each case, applying his deeply held belief that reconciliation, negotiation and inclusion of all sides in a conflict were the only way to move forward in an impasse.
When he took on the fight against AIDS in Africa he invoked the language of the struggle, insisting that HIV/AIDS was not just a disease, but a human rights issue. Mr. Mandela was determined to break the stigma surrounding the pandemic and make it a priority on the political agenda. To do this, he made a very personal decision, to make public the fact that his own son had died of AIDS-related complications. It was this humanity and honesty that defined Mr. Mandela and set him apart as one of the most influential and transformative leaders of our time.
His deep conviction, passion, humility and courage characterized everything he did and drove his enormous efforts in addressing some of the most challenging and enduring issues facing our world - the fight against injustice, poverty, the right to education and the safety and protection of children.
Denied his freedom for so many years, Mr. Mandela never allowed the physical restraints of prison to limit his potential as a human being. In the face of adversity, he cultivated forgiveness; in the face of captivity and injustice, he grew more determined to commit to ensuring the rights and freedoms of others; in the face of cruelty, he mastered compassion.
In his autobiography, 'Long Walk To Freedom', Nelson Mandela ends with these words:
"After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I can rest only for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not yet ended."
Mr. Mandela, your walk in this realm may have ended, but your journey and legacy continues. For all of us at UNFPA your life inspires and energizes our daily work. We will keep climbing even the steepest of hills, firm in our shared belief in the rights of individuals to choose freely and without coercion how best to define their families and their futures.