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Quotable: Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela’s best quotes on development

By Eliza Villarino06 December 2013

Nelson Mandela, former South Africa president and Nobel Peace Prize awardee, was an inspiration to global leaders. Photo by; Eskinder Debebe / UN

Earlier this year, United Nations Development Program Administrator Helen Clark took to Reddit to expand awareness of the Millennium Development Goals as we entered 1,000 days to their 2015 deadline. When asked which politician she looked up to the most, she had this to say:

“There can only be one answer — Nelson Mandela — an inspiration to all.”

Indeed Mandela, an anti-apartheid revolutionary and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and his words have inspired many of today’s leaders from the aid world and beyond. Here are some of his most memorable quotes on education, global health and poverty.  

  • “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
  • “No country can really develop unless its citizens are educated.”
  • “Our human compassion binds us the one to the other - not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future.”
  • “I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.”
  • “Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS, and people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary.”
  • “If you are poor, you are not likely to live long.”
  • “There is nothing I fear more than waking up without a program that will help me bring a little happiness to those with no resources, those who are poor, illiterate, and ridden with terminal disease.”

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About the author

Eliza villarino 400x400
Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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