Nelson Mandela Peace Summit

In September, the day before the general debate for the 73rd UN General Assembly started, the General Assembly held the Nelson Mandela Peace Summit. The summit served to honor what would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, and to remind UN Member States of their commitment to promoting peace and equality. Member States and several non-governmental organizations were invited to speak on the subject of peace, and to reaffirm their commitment to promoting it around the world.

The summit included a historic moment, when New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern brought her infant daughter onto the General Assembly floor. Ardern’s historic move served as a reminder of the barriers mothers around the world face every day, and of the importance of promoting equality for working mothers. This was a fitting gesture, given the summit’s emphasis on equality and human rights, and also brought the summit to a much wider audience.

While many of the speakers at the summit highlighted similar goals, many of which are protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Hungary, took a different stance. The Minister chose to speak specifically about security, especially regarding migration, and concerns related to terrorism. The minister stated that “we have to get rid of the approach which tried to suggest that migration is a fundamental human right”, and expressed concerns that “illegal migration” into Europe is spreading radical terrorism. These statements, along with current human rights issues among many of the Member States in attendance, remind us of the importance of maintaining a strong commitment to protecting human rights, and promoting peace for all people.

The summit offered an excellent opportunity for states to recommit themselves to the ideals Nelson Mandela espoused, but these states must now work to uphold their commitments. There was no state in attendance that does not need to make improvements, as there is always room for states to expand protections and improve their human rights commitments. Notably, the United States was not on the speaker list at the summit. We must work to encourage the U.S. government to also recommit to protecting human rights and promoting peace, and hold ourselves accountable to maintaining that promise.

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