Johannesburg, Sep 6 (PTI) Recipients of two new awards made in the name of former South African President Nelson Mandela by an institution in Chennai have called for an end to the increasing nationalism of states across the globe to address the issue facing the world.
The awards were made by the Madras Development Society (MDS) at its inaugural International Conference on Peace and Development on Sunday evening.
The virtual conference saw 17 global leaders from the Indian diaspora sharing views on how the teachings of Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King could be used to address the ever-increasing border and inter-state tensions across the globe.
Dr Navi Pillay, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, received the individual award and the Austrian Centre for Peace and Conflict Resolution (ACPCR) the institutional award.
Internationally renowned lawyer Pillay was the first woman judge to be appointed to the South African High Court by Mandela after he ascended to the Presidency in 1994 following 27 years as a political prisoner during the reign of the apartheid-driven white minority government.
“We need governments to work collectively with civil society and not against it,” Pillay said in her acceptance address, dedicating the award to the thousands of Indians who had left South India, like her own grandparents, from 1860 onwards, to toil almost slave-like as indentured labourers in South Africa. Pillay said that despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, ordinary people all over the world had mobilised themselves to protest against inequality and discrimination through projects such as the ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘MeToo’ campaigns.
“These are all powerful voices demanding change and governments must listen to their call.
“No single country can fight COVID-19 on its own and no country can bring an end to conflict and achieve peace unless they work together,” Pillay added.
Concurring with Pillay’s views, Gudrun Kramer of the ACPCR said that her organisation had trained over 6,000 people already to assist in UN Peace missions.
“The challenges of COVID-19 and climate change need to be addressed with a different way of thinking. We need to understand that we share a common planetary destiny,” Kramer said.
“The approach of a nation-state centrism with an attitude of ‘my nation first’ will not be able to address these planetary challenges, he said.
MDS President Dr V S Sampath said the awards had been instituted in Mandela’s honour because he had been a champion of peaceful transition of the majority in South Africa after decades of suppression by a minority.
Puducherry Chief Minister Velu Narayanasamy said the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Mandela had to be propagated to the entire world, while South African Minister of Cooperative Governance Pravin Gordhan said the youth of the world were sending messages through their protest actions that the changing geopolitics and geo-economics of the world has led to narrow nationalism, which is not what Mandela and others stood for.
Former Prime Minister of Guyana Moses Nagamootoo shared the experience of his short-lived attempt to bring about peace and reconciliation through multi-party governance, but remained hopeful that this could still be achieved.
Plans were also announced at the conference for a statue of Mandela to be erected in Chennai by next year.
Govindasamy Viswanathan, chancellor of VIT University, said the statue would be a mark of respect to both Mandela and the many Indians, especially from the Tamil community, who had settled in South Africa.
Viswanathan said a committee of local leaders was in discussion with both government and NGO’s about the statue project.
Both awards will also be conferred personally at the unveiling of the statue on a date which will be decided after the COVID-19 crisis ends. PTI FH RUP RUP RUP