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Nelson Mandela and the Transformative Power of Tolerance and Reconciliation

U.S. Mission to the United Nations Human Rights Council, Geneva, Switzerland



Statement by the Delegation of the United States of America during a Panel on Mandela / Tolerance and Reconciliation

Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you to the excellent and esteemed panelists for your insight and commitment to this work.

There is no better example of the transformative power of tolerance and reconciliation than Nelson Mandela and his inspiring work in overthrowing the apartheid government in South Africa. Nelson Mandela faced one of the greatest evils of our time. He understood the power of words to change minds and the power of peaceful deeds to open hearts. Nelson Mandela taught us that the humanity all of us share can help us transcend the sins some of us commit. His life reminds us that justice and tolerance can overcome even the greatest cruelty.

The United States is profoundly committed to combating racism and eliminating racial discrimination in all forms and all places. Through our own experience, and in learning from the example of Mandela, we know that tolerance and reconciliation are important tools in that effort.

There is a common theme running through the work of today’s distinguished panelists and Nelson Mandela – they live the values that they espouse. Through sustained and principled action to promote and protect human rights, we can foster more just, tolerant, and equal societies.

The United States has long believed that there are many actions that states can take to combat intolerance and discrimination, including on the basis of race or ethnicity or sexual orientation or gender. Those actions include: speaking out against intolerance, promoting intercultural dialogue, training government officials in effective outreach strategies, promoting education and awareness-building, enforcing anti-discrimination laws, and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. We are dedicated to working with others to ensure that such endeavors are implemented around the world.

With respect to intolerance and discrimination on the basis of religion, this Council took an important step last March with the adoption of Resolution 16/18, a resolution that the United States enthusiastically supports. Our divides can be bridged through sustained efforts to listen to each other, learn from each other, respect one another, and seek common ground – just as Nelson Mandela did in South Africa. The United States will continue to engage actively on issues of intolerance and discrimination and work in partnership with all nations of goodwill to live the values that we espouse – to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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