Address by Nelson Mandela at the G7 Finance Ministers Meeting

4 February 2005

Gordon, thank you for this opportunity to share with you, the Finance Ministers of the G7, a few thoughts here at the closing of our meeting.

Please allow me to do this by way of reading rather than the more informal musings of a senior citizen, as you would have preferred. I am afraid that becoming a senior citizen goes hand in hand with becoming an old man. And this old man who you thought fit to invite to this meeting, would rather share his thoughts with you in this manner. If you were to let me roam freely, I may just go on long enough for us here to solve all of the problems of the planet!

But in a more serious vein: you have it in your capacity and means to solve, perhaps not all of the problems of the planet, but at least one of the most serious and demeaning problems of our times. I am referring to the persistence of massive poverty in our human midst, especially in the developing world and even more particularly in Africa.

I have agreed to be here in spite of having formally announced my retirement from, and my sincere desire to be relieved of obligations towards, public life. I am here not to merely symbolically grace an occasion with the grey hairs of an old man that the world seems to love in his old age.

I am here to publicly share with you the outrage you wish to demonstrate, I believe, against that persistence of poverty amongst the masses of people all over the globe in the midst of the most breathtaking advances humanity has ever experienced.

If you salute me as I humbly think you have done by this invitation, I would ask for that salute to be in recognition of my awareness that my life’s work is far from having achieved its objectives. My struggle, together with that of my comrades and compatriots, was in the first place for the destruction of apartheid and the emancipation of all the people of our country. Underlying and motivating that struggle was the universal abhorrence of social and economic inequality and poverty’s basic assault on human dignity.

As long as abject poverty persists globally as a manifestation of gross inequality, the struggle that I and my comrades and compatriots and all our international solidarity partners conducted is not over.

I am heartened here in the latter years of my life by the apparent resolve of the developed world to make war on poverty in the developing world and particularly in Africa. I salute you for that new resolve.

I do not want to go into the details of the proposals you are discussing this weekend except to say that we need action on all fronts, like the Marshall Plan for Africa Gordon has spoken about.

We need action on debt cancellation – multilateral as well as bilateral - to remove the burdens of the past and allow people to be free.

We need trade justice: no more subsidies and tariffs from the West that harm the exports and the people of Africa and the developing world. We need help to build infrastructure so that Africa can take advantage of trading opportunities and be given a fair chance to compete in the world economy.

We need an increase, in fact the doubling, of aid through the IFF: not small amounts here and there now and then; not funds only when there is an emergency flashed up on international TV screens; but a doubling of aid – another $50bn for each and every year until 2015.

We need funding that can be relied upon and can be spent wisely on educating people, making them healthy and providing roads and communications so they can participate in the globalising world. They need to be given the opportunities now so that in future they can have the dignity of helping themselves.

I know this is the first meeting of many in this year on these subjects, but I want to conclude by urging you to start well and ambitiously because that can change what can be achieved in this and following years.

Thank you for your commitment and thank you for inviting us here.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation