Nelson Mandela Peace Summit: New Zealand National Statement
Nelson Mandela Peace Summit: National Statement
United National General Assembly Hall, New York
Delivered 25 September 2018 6.00am NZT
Mr Secretary-General, Madam President of the General Assembly, distinguished colleagues.
I am honoured to be here to mark the legacy of Nelson Mandela in this 100th year since his birth.
Nelson Mandela was a global icon for the fight for equality, freedom and human rights. He led the struggle against apartheid and division. But not only that, he personified the values of forgiveness and reconciliation.
When I say his impact was global I mean it. Nelson Mandela had a profound impact on New Zealand.
His struggle against apartheid was supported in New Zealand through a mass protest movement that opposed sporting contact between our countries, culminating in major protest events in 1981.
My father missed by first birthday because of it, he was a policeman and was called upon to work during the protests that surrounded the tour.
The 1981 Springbok Tour protests were a lesson in solidarity, and its impact.
When Madiba visited New Zealand in 1995, as the elected President of South Africa, he described the news of the protest actions in New Zealand as being like the sun coming out.
I remember that 1995 visit; his dignity; and his inspiration. Mandela was a living embodiment of the United Nations’ values. It is these values and Mandela’s moral example that we must look to promote in a world that is more fragmented and fractured than ever before.
It’s an example that calls for justice, peace and forgiveness.
For many New Zealanders, our most vivid memory of Mandela was his appearance on the field following South Africa’s 1995 Rugby World Cup victory over New Zealand while donning a Springboks jersey and presenting the trophy to the South African captain. This was a seminal moment. If Mandela could make peace, so could the rest of South Africa. That one act of both triumph and reconciliation said so much about who Nelson Mandela was: his capacity to forgive, his commitment to reconciliation, and his ability to lead and inspire against all odds.
It is these same values towards peace that we committed to when we signed the United Nations Charter. We collectively bound ourselves to the “pacific settlement of disputes”, and to diplomacy.
This means that when we see a worsening security situation, we act. For too long, the United Nations and the international community have waited to react. Instead, we must be proactive and place greater focus on conflict prevention.
We must get better at identifying high risk situations and warning signs, before the conflict starts. We must not be silent in the face of intolerance, hate and discrimination. We must speak for those who do not have a voice. We must pursue equal rights for all.
Today, let us remember Mandela and the values he devoted his life towards on his long walk to freedom.
But let us not forget that there is still work to do. We must ensure that the just, peaceful, prosperous, democratic, fair and inclusive world which Mandela strived for is fully realised. New Zealand’s commitment to this work remains unwavering.
Above all else, Madiba taught us that no issue in the world, whether it be racial inequity or indifference is insurmountable. That none of us are too small, or too far away to be relevant in the collective struggle for justice.
As we remember Madiba, my hope is that we all give reason for the sun to come out.