UN marks Mandela’s 100th

Wang Yi speaks to 160 leaders at summit to honor late S. African president’s bid for world peace

Nelson Mandela’s contribution to peace and reconciliation should be remembered forever, and his spirit will encourage more people to strive for peace, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a summit on Monday during the UN General Assembly’s 73rd session.

Mandela was a prominent South African leader in the fight against apartheid, Wang said at the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit, held at UN headquarters in honor of the centenary of the birth of South Africa’s first democratically elected president and global civil rights icon.

More than 160 heads of state and government, ministers, member states and representatives of civil society paid tribute to Mandela’s celebrated qualities and service to humanity.

A historic political declaration proclaiming 2019-2028 the “Nelson Mandela Decade of Peace” and calling on world leaders to “redouble efforts to pursue international peace and security, development and human rights” was adopted by the member states.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi addresses the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit on Monday at the United Nations. Liao pan / China News service

“He was the founding father of the new South Africa,” said Wang. “Throughout his life, Mr. Mandela pursued national liberation in Africa, defended the dignity of African people and promoted unity of African countries. And he devoted his entire life to Africa’s development and progress.

“Regrettably, in so many places of the world, peace remains elusive,” he said, urging the international community to promote that spirit of peace, reconciliation, equality and inclusiveness that Mandela advocated for.

Wang believes that the values advocated by Mandela also will enable the UN to better fulfill the noble mission of upholding peace.

Wang said the UN is the symbol of multilateralism and an important guardian of world peace.

“In Mr. Mandela’s time, it was the strong moral pressure of the UN and international community that accelerated the disintegration of apartheid,” he said.

At a time when unilaterialism and protectionism attack the current international system with the UN at the core, Wang urged the international community to unite under the flag of multilateralism, defend the UN’s pivotal role in international affairs and provide more stability for the turbulent world.

Reconciliation through dialogue is the only way to peace and is the principle committed to by Mandela, Wang said, noting that relevant parties should advocate solving conflicts through dialogue and differences through consultation.

Many problems today can find their roots in poverty, and development is the solution, he continued. He also called for efforts to be made to eradicate the root cause of conflicts and implement fully the 2030 Agenda of Sustainable Development Goals to ensure the achievement of sustainable peace.

Wang said that as one of the founders of South Africa-China relations, Mandela made important contributions to the endeavor.

“China and Africa are a community with a shared future that pursues win-win cooperation. Unity and cooperation with African countries is an important basis of China’s foreign policy. It is China’s long-term and firm strategic decision,” he said.

Not long ago, the forum on China-Africa cooperation had its successful Beijing Summit, Wang said. “This is our best way to commemorate Mr. Nelson Mandela.”

The summit brought together Chinese and African leaders to discuss plans for China-Africa relations and draw a blueprint for cooperation.

President Xi Jinping proposed that China and Africa should work together to build an even closer community with a shared future and a focus on eight major initiatives.

Wang called upon all the countries to take the centenary of Mandela as a new starting point and the summit as a new opportunity “to jointly build a community with a shared future for mankind and a world of lasting peace and universal security”.

In December 2017, UN member states decided to hold the peace summit to mark the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth.

Earlier Monday, a statue of Mandela was unveiled at UN headquarters by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who was joined by Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa, the president of South Africa, and Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces, the president of the current session of the UN General Assembly.