Nelson Mandela International Day

18 July

We celebrate Nelson Mandela International Day every year to shine light on the legacy of a man who changed the 20th century and helped shape the 21st. This is a moment for all to renew with the values that inspired Nelson Mandela. Absolute determination. A deep commitment to justice, human rights and fundamental freedoms. A profound belief in the equality and dignity of every woman and man. A relentless engagement for dialogue and solidarity across all lines and divisions. Nelson Mandela was a great statesman, a fierce advocate for equality, the founding father of peace in South Africa.

In times of turbulence, Nelson Mandela shows us the power of resisting oppression, of justice over inequality, of dignity over humiliation, of forgiveness over hatred. As the world takes forward the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and strives to overcome new sources of adversity, let us recall the lessons of Nelson Mandela’s life, and the essential humanism that guided him: “For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

A UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and 1991 Laureate of the Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize, Nelson Mandela’s legacy resonates with the mission of UNESCO, to empower all women and men on the basis of their equal rights and dignity, to promote dialogue and solidarity for justice and lasting peace. This action, this spirit has never been so important.

MESSAGE FROM THE DIRECTOR-GENERAL

"In his legendary speech delivered at the Rivonia Trial in South Africa in 1964, Nelson Mandela said “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die”. His mission as an anti-apartheid revolutionary was establishing equality and freedom for all women, men and children. He stood for the fundamental rights of all human beings, regardless of gender, nationality or race. This is also the very ideal for which Nelson Mandela was jailed for 27 years. Despite his imprisonment, Nelson Mandela continued to believe in these ideals, and upon his release, continued to put them into practice."

—  Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO on the occasion of Nelson Mandela International Day

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