Africa Diary
Africa Diary

First Nelson Mandela Peace Summit

UN leaders have honoured Nelson Mandela as a statue of the late South African leader was unveiled at its headquarters.

In a tribute to the late South African President Nelson Mandela’s celebrated qualities and service to humanity, more than 100 Heads of State and Government, Ministers, Member States and representatives of civil society came together to unanimously adopt a political declaration, committing to redouble efforts to build a just, peaceful, prosperous, inclusive and fair world. Noting 2018 as the birth centenary of the late statesman, the UN General Assembly convened the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on 25 September in Geneva.

Nelson Mandela spent nearly three decades as a political prisoner and many years thereafter negotiating the complexities of peace making and nationbuilding. Madiba, as he was popularly called, was a firm believer of multiculturalism and took into consideration the interests of others while remaining true to his ultimate goal of social justice.

Recognising the period from 2019 to 2028 as the Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace, the Declaration saluted Mr. Mandela for his humility, forgiveness and compassion, acknowledging as well his contribution to the struggle for democracy and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.

Heads of State and Government representatives reaffirmed their commitment to uphold the sovereign equality of all States and respect for their territorial integrity and political independence, as well as the duty of Member States to refrain from the threat or use of force. Recognising that peace and security, development and human rights are the pillars of the United Nations, the Declaration reaffirmed the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

It was declared that racism, xenophobia and related intolerance represent the very opposite of the purposes of the United Nations, and emphasised the resolve to protect the rights of children, especially in armed conflict. “Protecting children contributes to breaking the cycle of violence and sows the seeds for future peace,” the Declaration said. It stressed the importance of the equal participation and full involvement of women and youth.

In addition, leaders reaffirmed the responsibility of the State to protect its population from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. They underscored that civil society can play an important role in preventing conflicts, contributing to peace building and advancing efforts to sustain peace.

Importance of a comprehensive approach to sustaining peace by preventing conflict and addressing its root causes and strengthening the rule of law, poverty eradication, and social development were enshrined in the Declaration. “It is clear that lasting peace is not realised just by the absence of armed conflict, but is achieved through a continuing positive, dynamic, inclusive and participatory process of dialogue,” the leaders underscored.

South Africa’s example in unilaterally dismantling its nuclearweapon programme was welcomed, recalling the firm plea made by Mr. Mandela in favour of the total elimination of nuclear weapons. It further recommended “in the spirit of Nelson Mandela’s legacy” that the United Nations explore means to consider the needs of present and future generations in its decisionmaking processes. 

“Our common humanity demands that we make the impossible possible.”

Minister of External Affairs, Mrs. Sushma Swaraj represented India at the Summit. In her statement, the Minister said, "Nelson Mandela's life is an inspiration for all. He showed fearlessness and courage in the face of discrimination and adversity…. India cherishes its special relationship and longstanding partnership with Africa and its people. Our close bonds are reflected in the philosophy of Mandela and Gandhi.”

The General Assembly’s Nelson Mandela Peace Summit will resume on 2 October.

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