Remarks at Informal Meeting of the General Assembly observing Nelson Mandela International Day

Courtney Nemroff
Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
July 18, 2019


Thank you, Madam President.

“To deny any person their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.”

Nelson Mandela uttered many powerful words about racism, poverty, and other facets of human suffering, but this statement resonates with particular strength in the context of today’s meeting. As we sit in this chamber, a place meant to promote human rights around the world, it is a great privilege to be able to commemorate Mandela’s legacy.

Nelson Mandela dedicated his life to the betterment of humanity, for freedom and equality for all human beings. He fought against racism, discrimination, and intolerance. He made clear that income inequality and poverty can prevent people from fully enjoying their human rights. His work to eradicate HIV/AIDS serves as just one example of effective advocacy for vulnerable groups.

Nelson Mandela overcame tremendous adversity and maintained an unwavering resolve for dignity and justice. He sought to unite a divided country and advance reconciliation. A leader in crafting the new post-Apartheid South African constitution, he led South Africa in adopting a progressive document – a constitution that made significant strides in promoting and protecting the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all individuals.

The United States strongly supports the elimination of racial discrimination throughout the world, and we are committed to continuing on the path to a world free from injustice. There is still much progress to be made, and we must continue our work, both internationally and domestically, to combat racism, racial discrimination, and intolerance.

With tremendous courage, compassion, and dedication, Nelson Mandela set an example of how to stand against discrimination and inequality in all forms. Throughout his life, he championed the freedoms of religion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Today, we underscore how grateful we are for the legacy Nelson Mandela left, in promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms both in South Africa and around the world.

Thank you.