Vote of Thanks by Deputy Minister Ebrahim I. Ebrahim of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation on the occasion of receiving the Geremek Prize for Outstanding Achievement on Democracy Promotion, 12 July 2009, Lisbon, Portugal

Honourable Chairperson,

Your Excellency, Prof. Jaim Gama, President of the Assembly of the Republic of Portugal,

Your Excellency Mr L. Amado, Minister of Foreign Affair of the Republic of Portugal,

Excellency Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland, Mr   Radoslav Sikorski,

Your Excellency, Madam Madeleine Albright Former Secretary of State of the United States of America,

Distinguished Ladies and Gentleman,

As we gather here this morning on the occasion of the awarding of the first Geremek Prize for Outstanding Achievement on Democracy Promotion in Lisbon, may I, on behalf of the government and the people of the Republic South Africa, begin by thanking the government of the Republic of Portugal for hosting the fifth Ministerial Conference of the Community of Democracies. We express our gratitude to the government and the people of Portugal for their warm hospitality.

I am greatly honoured and humbled to receive this special prize on behalf of an icon of the struggle for fundamental freedoms and human dignity.  Nelson Mandela dedicated his entire life to the cause of democracy, respect for human rights and the achievement of equality for all.

As he is affectionately known, Madiba embraced the plight of the global poor his personal credo. He continues today, through the Nelson Mandela Foundation to advocate for the practical enjoyment of human rights through programmes that ensure the constant improvement of the quality of life, particularly of those who are most vulnerable. Both Mandela and Branislaw Geremek share common ideals for humanity. The creation of this special prize ensures that the ideals of human dignity and the inherent worth of every human person as espoused by the late Branislaw Geremek are never forgotten.

This Community of Democracies owes a debt of gratitude to both these icons for their indefatigable zeal to make the world a better place for all. The contribution of Branislaw Geremek working with others present in this room led to the establishment of this Community which is growing from strength-to-strength and whose influence is beginning to manifest itself in appropriate human rights structures. We honour this great Polish human rights defender and hero for his life and the positive legacy he has bestowed on us.  

The government of South Africa recently took a decision to honour the life of Nelson Mandela by declaring 18 July as an International Mandela Day. The Nelson Mandela Foundation working in collaboration with its global partners made it possible for this vision to be realised. On this day South Africans and citizens of the world will be encouraged to dedicate 67 minutes of their time to do community work in celebration of the ideals of Mandela. The 67 minutes reflects the 67 years of an uninterrupted and selfless service to the people of South Africa and the world in the course of his extraordinary life.


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