Development leaders pay respects to Mandela – 'great visionary, friend'

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who died on Dec. 5. Photo by: European Union

Nelson Mandela died on Thursday at the age of 95.

The international development community weighed in on the former South African President and hero of the anti-apartheid struggle as a  stalwart crusader for global human rights, anti-HIV and AIDS advocate, and source of inspiration to many.

Here are just a few of the statements issued by leaders and luminaries of the international development community.

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USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah: “Mourning the loss of Nelson #Mandela, a great visionary who will continue to inspire me and future generations to come #Madiba

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon: “Nelson Mandela was a giant for justice and a down-to-earth human inspiration … On behalf of the United Nations, I extend my deepest condolences to the people of South Africa and especially to Nelson Mandela’s family, and indeed our global family.”

World Bank President Jim Yong Kim: “The world has lost a man who brought a rainbow of possibilities to a country that was segregated into black and white. But his gifts to humankind remain with us. He taught the world that no matter the sins of the past, no matter the horror of apartheid, the way ahead toward peace was to forgive but not forget, to remember what happened but also to offer a hand in order to start anew … On this sad day, our thoughts are with the South African people.”

Bono, singer, activist and co-founder of the ONE Campaign: “As an activist I have pretty much been doing what Nelson Mandela tells me since I was a teenager … His role in the movement against extreme poverty was critical. He worked for a deeper debt cancellation, for a doubling of international assistance across sub-Saharan Africa, for trade and private investment and transparency to fight corruption. Without his leadership, would the world over the past decade have increased the number of people on AIDS medication to 9.7 million and decreased child deaths by 2.7 million a year? Without Mandela, would Africa be experiencing its best decade of growth and poverty reduction? His indispensability can’t be proved with math and metrics, but I know what I believe.”

U.S. Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “The world has lost a humble, courageous and generous man. One of democracy’s strongest champions, Nelson Mandela selflessly served South Africa. His vision and lack of vindictiveness was amazing, and brought South Africans through a very difficult transition, which could have gone in a very different, violent direction. Most impressively, he elected to serve a single presidential term, turning over power he assuredly could have kept. When others remained silent, Mandela spoke out against Mugabe’s tyranny in neighboring Zimbabwe. His message of reconciliation must endure.”

Justine Greening, U.K. secretary of state for international development: “Nelson Mandela — v sad news. He fought for freedom and democracy in S Africa. An amazing, inspirational yet humble leader who built a nation.”

Human Rights First President and CEO Elisa Massimino: “From the confines of his prison cell, he challenged his fellow South Africans — and citizens of all nations — to abandon their support for a repressive dictatorship rooted in racism and hate. As he ascended to the presidency, Mandela became a formidable advocate for equality and human rights. With the power of his moral example, he demanded that other governments, including the United States, join him in this essential work. His legacy will be celebrated for generations and should inform our foreign policy, particularly as the United States responds to ongoing abuses of power domestically and in places like Egypt, Bahrain, and Russia.”

ONE President and CEO Michael Elliott: “Nelson Mandela’s unwavering courage, forgiveness and hope touched and inspired people all around the world. He showed that we can make change happen and that the dream of a fair society is possible. In an extraordinary 2005 speech in London, Mandela challenged us to fight poverty, injustice and gross inequality and said, ‘Sometimes it falls upon a generation to be great. You can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.’ The finest honor that we could offer to his memory is to be that generation.”

Winnie Byanyima, executive director of Oxfam International: “My direct contact with President Nelson Mandela was in the context of helping Burundian women to participate in the Arusha peace process. Madiba met Burundi women peace activists and signaled to the negotiators the importance of an inclusive process for a just, peaceful and prosperous future … He was the most consistent and powerful voice for social justice in the 20th century.”

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton: “I will never forget my friend Madiba.”

John Kisimir, communications head for World Vision Southern Africa, told Devex: “It is hard to imagine South Africa without Mandela. It’s one of those things that no one ever thinks it will come to pass. At the same time people do know that he was old and sickly and his time will come to pass. The people of South Africa are eternally indebted to Mandela and his family for sacrifices they made for the cause of freedom. Mandela was focused on education and health of children. South Africa adopted free primary education and universal health access to millions of children. He was also a leader who came out to support the campaign on AIDS. He lost his own son to AIDS and he said it publicly.”

Jacob Lief, founder of the Ubuntu Education Fund, a South African NGO: “In 1997, I found myself living in the townships of Port Elizabeth, South Africa for six months. While living there, I was struck by something remarkable–this unwavering belief in the power of education. This was what Mandela-led struggle was all about:  The idea that all children, no matter if they were born in a shack in South Africa or a townhouse on Park Avenue in New York City, deserved the same opportunities. It was the espousal of this notion, that a child’s access to education and healthcare is a right, not a privilege, that truly resonated with me. I knew that education was the ticket out of poverty. I’ll never forget one morning when Banks, the patriarch of the family with whom I lived, woke me at 4 am to take me for a walk. We wandered through an area called White Location, filled with dilapidated shacks. As far as I could see, fires burned wildly. But around these fires were small children ironing their school uniforms using bricks they heated over the fire. They pressed these tarnished, old uniforms so they would look neat and polished for school when in started in a few hours. It was about dignity. This is what the new South Africa that Mandela spoke of was all about. This is what I believe.  And this is why I founded Ubuntu Education Fund — to ensure that we can provide township children with what children all around the world deserve.”

Jenny Lei Ravelo contributed reporting.

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.