Statement by President Nelson Mandela on departure for New York to attend the special commemorative meeting of the United Nations General Assembly

20 October 1995

During the past twelve months, South Africans all over the country have been involved in projects commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations. As Patron of South Africa's UN50 National Committee, I have followed the progress made and I am very satisfied with what we have achieved in such a short time.

On 19 January 1995, the UN50 National Committee adopted the following Declaration of Intent:

To create an awareness among the people of South Africa of the role which the United Nations can play in their daily lives, and to assist the UN in responding to the challenges of the 21st century.

In our UN50 Awareness Campaign, we realised that the most important target group would have to be the youth of South Africa, being our best investment for the future, the leaders of tomorrow. Two national UN50 competitions were successfully executed, involving hundreds of thousands of young people in all nine provinces. The result was that nine were selected to visit New York at the same time as the President. I wish to thank Deputy President Thabo Mbeki and the Minister of Education Professor Sibusiso Bengu for initiating this project.

The Provincial Premiers were involved in numerous projects at provincial level as Patrons, and helped to carry the UN message of peace, tolerance and co-operation to the people. It is wonderful to see South Africans working hand in hand in an effort to make this world a better place.

Tangible mementoes of the UN50 celebrations in South Africa are the commemorative coins minted by the South African Mint and UN50 Stamps produced by the South African Post Office. We thank these institutions for their support.

I regret that I cannot attend the UN50 Gala Event on 24 October in Pretoria, which constitutes the highlight of commemorative activities in South Africa. The theme of the event says it all "South Africa, a united nation for the United Nations". I am particularly pleased that this event will be televised to the people of South Africa. However, I shall have pleasure in delivering a special message from the people of South Africa a the Special Commemorative Meeting of the UN General Assembly in New York on 23 October 1995.

Finally, I would like to direct a special word of thanks to the Department of Foreign Affairs which has co-ordinated UN50 projects in South Africa over the past year through the UN50 National Secretariat. Minister Alfred Nzo and Deputy Minister Aziz Pahad have chaired the UN50 National Committee with impressive results.

On this occasion, South Africa would like, in the words of the UN Charter: "to reaffirm its faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small".

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation