I feel very honored to be here with you today at such a symbolic moment in the history of UNESCO. At the same time, I feel deeply touched by the kind invitation of the Director General to speak about one of the most important leading figures in world history.

“I was not a messiah, but an ordinary man who had become a leader because of extraordinary circumstances”. This is the self-definition of Nelson Mandela in his own words reflecting his modesty and greatness. For us, however, for the family of the Goodwill Ambassadors, who had the honor and pleasure to serve UNESCO next to him, he was more than just an ordinary man, than a leader, a Goodwill Ambassador and a friend. He was a universal symbol of excellence!  One of the “giants of the 20th century” as he is described by Tahar Ben Jellun.

Nelson Mandela will remain in our memory and heart forever and his noble visions will become a compass for humanity towards future challenges. Exactly 17 years ago, on October 31st, 1997, he was saying: «Let us join hands to ensure that as we enter the new millennium, the political rights that the twentieth century has recognized, and the independence that nations have gained, shall be translated into peace, prosperity and equity for all». Many of UNESCO’s values are crystallized within Mandela’s philosophy: Peace, tolerance, diversity, dialogue, solidarity, understanding, respect on human rights and dignity.

As a great humanist and visionary, the heroic President of South Africa inspired many generations, gave hope through the generosity of his soul and became a legend. As defender of political and personal freedom, he was born free, lived free, remained free even at 27 years of imprisonment, and was blessed to liberate millions of people from prejudice, discrimination, oppression and racism. In those difficult times in prison, he got strength and influence by the ancient Greek philosophy and the Olympic ideal.   He was inspired by the birth of Democracy under the light of the Parthenon, and  by the power of Democracy which is now safeguarded under the emblem of UNESCO.

On the threshold of 2015, his appeal for a better and safer world for children, is more critical than ever and summarize perfectly the message of our Anniversary: «Our reward, he had said during the acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize, will and must be measured by the happiness and welfare of the children, at once the most vulnerable citizens in any society and the greatest of our treasures…». 

Today we all have many reasons to feel proud. We honor the memory of this great man, but also because we are all part of UNESCO and UNESCO is a part of us.  Throughout the last 70 years, UNESCO has become the noblest reflection of our culture.  As Goodwill Ambassadors invited to contribute to this colossal work, we are committed today, with all our heart, to continue spreading the ideals which Nelson Mandela so faithfully defended in his life.

Et maintenant permettez-moi de terminer mon discours en français, en hommage à la francophonie et à la France qui accueillent et soutiennent l’UNESCO depuis tant d’années.

En cette occasion, j’aimerais adresser toutes mes félicitations à madame Irina Bokova, Directrice générale, qui a su faire prendre à l’UNESCO le chemin d’une adaptation réussie aux défis des temps que nous vivons.

Enfin, je voudrais profiter de ce 70ème anniversaire pour formuler mes vœux les plus sincères, espérant que l’année à venir sera marquée par de nombreuses avancées vers la paix, l’amitié et la prospérité dans le monde, des avancées qui porteront l’empreinte de Matiba.