Message from Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, on the Occasion of Nelson Mandela International Day
18 July 2019
“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 for which I hope to live for and to see realized. But, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
For Nelson Mandela, this ideal was a true political line from which he sought never to stray. At the height of the repression to which he had been subjected, Nelson Mandela was convinced that fundamental change could be brought about peacefully and that only non-violent determination and solidarity could achieve sustainable results.
Today, this example continues to inspire and guide the men and women who, like him, believe that an Africa that is at peace with itself and with the rest of the world is possible. A good example is Dr Denis Mukwege, whose unflagging determination earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2018. In a region shaken by violence, he is steadfastly dedicated to helping women who have experienced the most terrible form of violence, because he believes that they are the bearers of tomorrow’s humanity.
As Mandela said, peace is a long process, which goes well beyond the cessation of hostilities. It is built through the defence and promotion of justice and human rights. It is rooted in the tireless work of committed individuals who will stop at nothing, neither fear, nor danger.
Their relentless efforts are more necessary than ever, and it is with the same determination as that of Nelson Mandela that we must commit to building the peaceful Africa of which he dreamed, and that he contributed to achieving in his country.
For this reason, UNESCO supports the perseverance and work for peace on this continent, which is one of the Organization’s priorities. It does this principally through the many programmes that it develops, inter alia, in the fields of education and culture, but also through the organization of meetings, which are essential for the promotion of dialogue and exchanges.
Two important events lie ahead in 2019. In September, the Government of the Republic of Angola, the African Union and UNESCO will be working together to organize the Biennale of Luanda, the first pan-African forum devoted exclusively to the promotion of a culture of peace. In October, the African Humanities Forum will be held in Brazzaville, the Republic of the Congo, in the belief that greater awareness of African societies and cultures and greater ownership of the continent’s rich historical and cultural heritage will contribute to the sustainable building of a peaceful future.
In this great ambition, Nelson Mandela is unquestionably both an example and a guide. Nelson Mandela International Day is an opportunity to remember this, and to build, together and across the continent, the “free and democratic society” that he called for over 50 years ago.