Pretoria, 18 July 2014 – As has been the case since Nelson Mandela International Day was first declared in 2009, the United Nations in South Africa actively participated in commemorating the day in the country that has a unique connection with Nelson Mandela. In the week prior to 18 July 2014, UNIC Pretoria arranged for the United Nations building, located at a busy intersection in central Pretoria, to be branded with a large, bright Mandela Day banner. Wearing ‘UN-blue’ vests branded with the organisation’s logo, over 50 UN staff members kicked off the commemoration of Nelson Mandela Day by participating as ‘’Teams UN” in the Kaya FM 67km Relay for Mandela Day on Sunday, 13 July 2014. The team joined nearly 17,000 other runners in one of the largest relay races ever held in Africa. UNIC Pretoria, through the UN Communications Group, organized for a UN-branded tent and information materials to be prominently displayed at the relay.
In line with Nelson Mandela’s deep commitment to reading and literacy, the UN in South Africa organized a Book Drive for under-resourced libraries in impoverished townships outside Pretoria. Thus far, hundreds of children’s books have been collected from UN staff for distribution to these libraries. On the eve of Nelson Mandela International Day, the UN arranged a screening of an acclaimed new South African documentary titled The Vula Connection, which tells the story of the unsung heroes and global solidarity in the anti-apartheid. Nearly 200 representatives of government, civil society, the diplomatic corps, media and UN staff attended the screening which included the message of the Secretary-General by the WHO Representative to South Africa, Dr. Sarah Barber.
On 17 July, the UN Resident Coordinator and the My World Campaign, in partnership with the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, held a press briefing to encourage participation in this global survey which aims to capture people’s voices, priorities and views about the post-2015 development agenda for the world. On Mandela Day itself, UN staff has this year taken up the call to tidy up our environs with staff members joining the clean-up organized by the Department of International Relations and Cooperation of a taxi rank in Pretoria on 18 July while others are serving soup at an informal settlement outside Pretoria. As South Africa and the United Nations reflect on the life lessons of this remarkable icon, Nelson Mandela International Day reminds humanity of the good that can and should be done when, collectively, take action and inspire change.