As the world mourns the passing of Nelson Mandela and celebrates his life, UNESCO paid tribute to former South African President Nelson Mandela earlier this week.
“Nelson Mandela was truly a giant among men,” Irina Bokova said. “He not only changed South Africa’s history, he changed the world and made it a better place. He taught us all a lesson on the power of peace and reconciliation; the importance of forgiveness and respect for the dignity of each and every human being.
“UNESCO is proud and honored to have counted Nelson Mandela as a member of its family,” the Director-General said. “The greatest tribute we can pay him is to carry on his message of hope and to continue his fierce defense of the values he stood for.”
In 1991, Nelson Mandela was awarded the UNESCO-Houphouet-Boigny Peace Prize. In later years, he served the Organization as a Goodwill Ambassador.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela (18 July 1918 – 5 December 2013) was a South African anti-apartheid revolutionary, politician, and philanthropist who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999. He was the first black South African to hold the office, and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election. His government focused on dismantling the legacy of apartheid through addressing and tackling institutionalized racism, poverty and inequality, and fostering racial reconciliation.
Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Nelson Mandela was the most celebrated of the prisoners on Robben Island in South Africa, incarcerated there as a political prisoner for over 27 years. Inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1999, Robben Island was used at various times between the 17th and 20th centuries as a prison, a hospital for socially unacceptable groups and a military base. Its buildings, particularly those of the late 20th century such as the maximum security prison for political prisoners, witness the triumph of democracy and freedom over oppression and racism. The last political prisoners left the island in 1991 and the prison closed down finally in 1996.