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UN Secretary General delivers Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture


2014 Tutu Fellow Sello Hatang - the CEO of the Nelson Mandela Foundation - secured the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, to deliver the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture on the theme: Tackling the inequality pandemic: A new social contract for a new era

Hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation in partnership with the UN, the event took place virtually on 18 July 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lecture was, for the first time, an online-only event, delivered at the UN headquarters in New York City.

In his opening remarks, Sello noted how the global pandemic had “exposed peril and promise… it has exposed what human societies have begun to normalise – inequality, racism and environmental degradation”.  It echoed his powerful piece in the Daily Maverick earlier this year.  The Nelson Mandela annual lecture is a way for modern leaders to reflect on the leadership of the late former South African President and freedom hero, Nelson Mandela, and for influential world leaders to drive debate on significant social issues.

Guterres’ address was a timely reflection on the leadership needed across industry, government and internationally. He said that the pandemic had demonstrated "the fragility of our world." "It has laid bare risks we have ignored for decades: inadequate health systems; gaps in social protection; structural inequalities; environmental degradation; the climate crisis. Entire regions that were making progress on eradicating poverty and narrowing inequality have been set back years, in a matter of months. The virus poses the greatest risk to the most vulnerable: those living in poverty, older people, and people with disabilities and pre-existing conditions."

The UN leader called for a new social contract and aptly noted that “COVID-19 is a human tragedy. But it has also created a generational opportunity.” This new social contract should enable young people to live in dignity and ensure women have the same prospects and opportunities as men. It should protect the sick, the vulnerable, and minorities of all kinds. One way this could be achieved, he said, is through education and using digital technology as a great enabler and equalizer.

You can read a full transcript of the UN’s Secretary-General's address online at the UN site or watch the full recording of the preceding addresses and Guterres’ keynote address, as well as the subsequent Q&A session below.

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