World leaders looked to Nelson Mandela’s legacy of championing peace, human rights and global cooperation but acknowledged the world is far from achieving his ideals as the United Nations General Assembly’s annual top-level meeting began yesterday.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth, and the U.N. is declaring 2019-2028 the “Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace.”
At a peace summit honouring the late South African leader, nations from around the world adopted a declaration recommitting to goals of building a peaceful, inclusive and fair world and “to revive the values for which Nelson Mandela stood” by emphasizing human dignity.
At the same time, they worried that the idea of taking multi-national action to solve major problems is facing increasing doubt. A $1.8 million statue of a smiling Mandela with outstretched arms was unveiled.
“As leaders of this time, you have moral imperative and the ability to bring the death and destructions we
witness on a daily basis to an end,” Mandela’s widow, Graca Machel, told the heads of state and U.N. officials. She
implored them to take on “ego-driven” decision-makers, political dogma, greed and the arms industry.
“Humankind will hold you accountable should you allow suffering to continue on your watch,” she said. The appeal for peace and collaboration came as the U.N.’s founding concepts of shared values and responsibility are being tested, from the “America First” agenda of United States President Donald Trump to the United Kingdom’s impending divorce from the European Union and more.
U.N. General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces said Mandela “represents a light of hope for a world still torn apart by conflicts and suffering” but one where there are concerns about the international community’s ability to work together to resolve such major problems as poverty, hunger, war and global warming.