Nelson Mandela International Day

Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO
on the occasion of Nelson Mandela International Day 2017

In one of his historic speeches at the Rivonia trial, whose archives are inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, Nelson Mandela stated:

© UN photo/Eskinder Debebe, Amara Essy (left), of Cote d'Ivoire, President of the 49th session of the General Assembly, meets with President Nelson Mandela of South Africa. (3 October 1994)

“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.”

Even today, despite the decades that separate us from these words, the ideal so cherished by Nelson Mandela remains a dream for far too many societies. Thousands of women and men around the world are still imprisoned, tortured and executed for defending this ideal of peace and equality in their country.

In celebrating Nelson Mandela International Day, we honour those who fought and continue to fight for freedom, dignity and human rights. This struggle has never been more important in societies today that are weakened by rising and multiple tensions -- economic, social, political as well as climatic.

More than ever, we must renew our commitment to the values of this great humanist defender of the oppressed, who also honoured UNESCO as a Goodwill Ambassador, in order to build societies where every woman and man can live together in diversity and respect.


                 Irina Bokova

© UN photo/John Isaac, Nelson Mandela, President of the African National Congress of South Africa (ANC), addressing the Special Committee against Apartheid. (24 September 1993)

About the Day

Every year on 18 July — the day Nelson Mandela was born — the UN joins a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.

Official UN Website

Nelson Mandela International Day

On Social Networks


Nelson Mandela was undoubtedly one of the great moral and political leaders of our time. He was revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality. Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first democratically elected president from 1994 to 1999, overseeing his country’s transition from minority rule and winning international respect for promoting reconciliation. Since his retirement, he was active on behalf of a number of social and human rights organizations.

Source: Nelson Mandela