16.12.2013 - UNESCO Office in Brasilia

UNESCO pays tribute to life and legacy of Nelson Mandela

© UNESCO/Dominique RogerNelson Mandela on the occasion of the Prize Felix Houphouët-Boigny awarding ceremony at UNESCO on 3 February 1992.

Nelson Mandela has passed away. His success in bringing peace and reconciliation to South Africa plus his promotion of democracy and equality between people directly connect him to UNESCO’s mission and mandate.

In 1991, he won the Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize from UNESCO and the Nobel Peace Prize two years later.  He was appointed a  UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador in 2005 in recognition of his extraordinary fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison before becoming the first democratically-elected President of South Africa.  He died on 5th December, aged 95.

UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, today paid tribute to former South African President. “Nelson Mandela was truly a giant among men,” Irina Bokova said. “He not only changed South Africa’s history, he changed the world and made it a better place. He taught us all a lesson on the power of peace and  reconciliation;  the importance of forgiveness  and respect for the dignity of each and every human being.

“UNESCO is proud and honoured to have counted Nelson Mandela  as a member of its family,” the Director-General said. “The greatest tribute we can pay him, is to carry on his message of hope and  to continue his fierce defense of the values he stood for.”  

Some of Nelson Mandela’s messages:

"Our single most important challenge is therefore to help establish a social order in which the freedom of the individual will truly mean the freedom of the individual. We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political liberties and the human rights of all our citizens."

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression… Our endeavors must be about the liberation of the woman, the emancipation of the man and the liberty of the child.”

“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.”

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

“For every woman and girl violently attacked, we reduce our humanity. For every woman forced into unprotected sex because men demand this, we destroy dignity and pride. Every woman who has to sell her life for sex we condemn to a lifetime in prison. For every moment we remain silent, we conspire against our women. For every woman infected by HIV, we destroy a generation.”

"The time is always right to do right."

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

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