The Duke of Sussex Prince Harry says the world is witnessing a global assault on democracy and freedom as he channeled the legacy of former President Nelson Mandela as an example of not surrendering to the gravity of what the world is up against today.
Delivering a heartfelt keynote speech at the United Nations General Assembly’s commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day, the Duke also invoked the memory of his mother the late Princess Diana and the iconic image of her visiting with Madiba in Cape Town in 1997.
Prince Harry also addressed some of the world’s most pressing concerns from the COVID-19 pandemic to food insecurity to climate change as he urged leaders of the world to lead.
Prince Harry urged the leaders to draw on Mandela’s resilience:
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arriving for a historic speech to mark the legacy of a global icon amid great anticipation for the leverage he might bring to some of the most pressing social issues facing this generation.
“How many of us feel battered, helpless in the face of a seemingly endless stream of disasters and devastation? I understand, that this has been a painful year in a painful decade. We’re living through a pandemic that continues to ravage communities in every corner of the globe. Climate change wreaking havoc on our planet with the most vulnerable suffering most of all, the few weaponising lies and disinformation at the expense of the many and from the horrific war in Ukraine to the rolling back of constitutional rights here in the United States, we are witnessing a global assault on democracy and freedom, the cause of Mandela’s life,” Prince Harry says.
The Nelson Mandela Foundation seeking to focus on food security and climate change during this year’s commemorations under the tagline do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Prince Harry referring Madiba’s writing in his speech, seeking to better understand a man who always managed to find the light despite experiencing so much darkness.
He adds, “This is a pivotal moment, a moment where multiple converging crises have given way to an endless string of injustices. A moment where ordinary people around the world are experiencing extraordinary pain. And at this moment, we have a choice to make. We can grow apathetic, succumb to anger, or yield to despair, surrendering to the gravity of what we’re up against. Or we can do what Mandela did every single day inside that seven by nine-foot prison cell on Robben Island and every day outside of it to; we can find meaning and purpose in the struggle.”
He told the Assembly that since his first visit to Africa at just 13, he had always found hope on the continent, referring to the region as his lifeline, a place where he found peace and healing while remembering his mother.
“For me, there’s one photo in particular that stands out on my wall, and in my heart, every day is an image of my mother and Mandela meeting in Cape Town in 1997. The photo was presented to me by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, whose friendship and inspiration with our own treasured gift. My wife and I had the honor of introducing our four-month-old son to him back in 2019. When I first looked at the photo, straight away what jumped out was the joy on my mother’s face the playfulness, cheekiness, and even the pure delight to be in communion with another soul so committed to serving humanity.”
The laureates of the 2020 U.N. Nelson Mandela Rolihlahla Mandela Prize also honoured in person during the event – Greece’s Marianna Vardinoyannis for her work on human rights and Guinea’s Dr Morissanda Kouyate for his efforts in eliminating harmful practices against women.
Prince Harry is spending a large part of his speech focused on those pressing issues of the day – from the devastating drought in the Horn of Africa currently threatening millions of people who face hunger and famine to the climate emergency wreaking havoc in so many places and the need to reject old ideas and past prejudices in order to build resilience for the present and future; reminding us that Tata Madiba was a man of action, that with freedom comes responsibilities and that we dare not linger.