A tribute to Nelson Mandela

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Today, we bid farewell to a man who dedicated his life to advancing the cause of equality for all of humanity. In 2006, the South African Red Cross Society honoured Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela as their first humanitarian award recipient for his outstanding achievement on humanitarian issues. Presenting the award, the society’s President Mandisa Kalako-Williams said: “Nominating Nelson Mandela for this award was easy. Mandela has taught us to forgive.”

Nelson Mandela, a former political prisoner and later thefirst black President of South Africa, inspired millions in his quest for a more equal world, where people and institutions co-exist through global cooperation and a multilateral approach to dealing with problems, conflicts and challenges.

And in 2007, approaching his 90th year, Mandela, together with international human rights advocate Graça Michel and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, convened a group of world leaders, which became known as The Elders, to commit their shared wisdom and leadership to solving the toughest of the world’s problems such as poverty, climate change and HIV/AIDS. Mandela said of the fight against HIV/AIDS: “When the history of our times is written, will we be remembered as the generation that turned our backs in a moment of global crisis, or will it be recorded that we did the right thing?”

In particular, he devoted considerable energy to the protection of children and creating a better future them, establishing the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund to further that vision. He was, through his entirelife and work, focused on creating a better world.

Delivering the British Red Cross humanity lecture in July 2003, Mandela noted: “The Geneva Conventions… continue to remind us most forcefully of our common obligation to care for each other even – andparticularly – in conditions that foster behaviour to the contrary.” Indeed, Mr. Mandela. We share your commitment to humanity, and we will honour your legacy. Rest in peace.

Bekele Geleta, IFRC Secretary General