Edward K. Ndopu, a global human rights activist, is awarded the inaugural United Nations in South Africa Partnership Award

Pretoria, 10 December 2019 – The United Nations in South Africa today presented the UN in SA Partnership Award to a South African activist, Edward K. Ndopu “in recognition of his outstanding contribution to human rights advocacy”. The award ceremony, which took place at a seminar held in Pretoria on the importance of multilaterism, was jointly organized by the UN and the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

Speaking at the ceremony, the head of the UN in SA, Ms. Nardos Bekele-Thomas, paid tribute to Mr. Ndopu’s dedication and commitment to humanitarian issues and human rights. Mr. Ndopu, a world-renowned activist, he was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy when he was two years old and doctors gave him only five years to live. He has since defied all the odds staked against him and has successfully become a global beacon of hope and possibility for people with disabilities. He is currently one of the UN Secretary-General’s Advocate on Sustainable Development Goals and has also advised the World Economic Forum, UN Women and Amnesty International.

Mr. Ndopu is currently planning to deliver a televised address to the UN from Space, in an effort to inspire greater ambition around the SDGs. This will make him the first physically disabled person to travel into space. In his brief acceptance speech, Mr. Ndopu told the gathering that, “This [the award] is not just a personal achievement for me. This is a symbolic victory for 1.3 billion people with disabilities around the world.”

The UN in SA Partnership Award will be presented annually on UN Day by the UN agencies to honour an individual or an institution in recognition of its outstanding contributions to human rights advocacy.

In her remarks at the opening of the seminar on multilateralism, Ms. Bekele-Thomas commended DIRCO for hosting the event and the demonstrating the department’s commitment “to constructive conversation aimed at strengthening the role of the United Nations in the country and beyond. We are very grateful for this support from a key member state of the United Nations.”

The Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Ms. Candith Mashego-Dlamini gave the keynote address in which she said she was “pleased with the ongoing engagement between government departments and the United Nations Development System” on their collaboration UN Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework. “The framework,” the deputy minister said, “once finalised, will outline the areas in which the UN could provide support for South Africa’s development priorities.”