UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, called on countries of the world to build on Nelson Mandela’s legacy, as the UN honoured the late South African leader at a peace summit on Monday.
This year marks the centenary of the birth of Mandela, who spent 27 years in prison for the struggle against South Africa’s racist apartheid government.
The peace summit also marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
South Africa unveiled a statue of Mandela at UN headquarters in New York to mark the summit, one day before speeches were due to kick off at the annual General Assembly.
“Today, we remember a man of great wisdom, quiet dignity and towering achievement, who worked tirelessly for peace and human dignity for people everywhere,” Guterres said, opening the day-long summit.
“This is our organisation’s purpose and as leaders, it is our responsibility.
“Let us commit to build on Nelson Mandela’s legacy so that all people everywhere can enjoy peace, prosperity, and inclusive and sustainable development.”
His fight against apartheid “marks a landmark in human rights and freedom,” the UN chief added, thanking the South African government for donating the statue.
A high-level meeting, the Mandala Peace Summit, was scheduled for Monday at the UN for world leaders to renew their commitment to global peace, conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peace building, promotion and protection of human rights and long-term development initiatives.
The UN member states decided in December 2017 to hold the meeting to mark the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth.
Mandela was born in July 1918 and died five years ago due to a respiratory infection and became the first black president of South Africa.