“The right to a healthy environment is a crucial human right because it directly impacts our quality of life. Often, it is the most vulnerable that suffers most in the face of environmental abuse.”
~ Nelson Mandela
Former South African president and civil rights leader Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela has become an international beacon of public service; he sacrificed 27 years of his life, serving a prison term for the liberation of his people. The United Nations in 2009 declared his birthday, July 18th, Mandela Day – a day to honour the legacy of the Nobel Prize winner and his values through volunteering and community service.
Nelson Mandela was a strong proponent of social justice, and it is no coincidence that this special day falls just a day after the International Day of Justice on July 17th. We must recognise that the movement against apartheid in South Africa was very much part of the global struggle against colonialism and imperialism and the need to reverse those injustices.
At a time when climate change is impacting our planet in unprecedented ways, there is also the need to make climate justice relevant in the lives of people who are least responsible for it but are facing the most of its impact.
We celebrate Mandela Day each year to shine a light on the legacy of a man who changed the 20th century and helped shape the 21st. Mandela’s struggles and values represented his dedication to serving humanity through conflict resolution, building race relations, promoting human rights and social justice, gender equality and the rights of the most vulnerable groups in dire poverty. The core principles of Mandela’s work were a profound belief in the equality and dignity of every woman and man, with a relentless engagement for dialogue and solidarity across all lines and divisions. Mandela was a great statesman, a fierce advocate for equality, and the founding father of peace in South Africa.
This year marks the 10th anniversary of Madiba’s passing in December 2013. Madiba is Mandela’s clan name. After 29 years of democracy in South Africa, many believe living conditions are worsening.
As stated by Nomahlozi Ramohloki, a co-ordinator of the Mandela Day Celebrations by the Nelson Mandela Foundation put it “the global COVID-19 pandemic, which negatively affected the economy, was followed locally by wide-scale and damaging unrest and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng, destabilising the economy even further. Violence is pervasive daily and threatens the safety and security of people in South Africa. Maladministration, corruption, load-shedding and rampant corruption at the state level have left many without hope.”
The Nelson Mandela Foundation honours Mandela’s legacy and recognises the continued problems after his demise. The foundation underscores the importance of immediate relief efforts such as providing shelter, food, clothing and many other necessities that focus on sustainable interventions owned by communities, as well as the essentiality of embracing the fact that Madiba’s legacy lives on through us.
Nelson Mandela would have turned 105 on July 18th, 2023. The theme for this year’s event is ‘Climate, Food and Solidarity’, which is most opportune in a time of exacerbating climate crisis and food scarcity. It is more important now than ever that we address climate change, persisting and rising levels of poverty, and inequality in the manner that Mandela represents – by working together.
As Mandela once said, “I dream of vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wilderness. We must never forget that it is our duty to protect this environment.” The realities of climate change are becoming more and more evident as global weather patterns show increased intensity and frequency of extreme climate events. For the sake of generations to come, we must honour Mandela’s legacy and take a stand against the climate crisis and food insecurity.
In India, ActionAid Association sees today as an occasion to celebrate the inspiring life of Mandela and his struggle for freedom and peace and a chance to reaffirm our commitment to fighting the climate crisis and promoting social justice and food security. Over the years, AAA has been committed to empowering communities with knowledge and resources to take action and become resilient by creating resilient food environments. AAA’s experience working with vulnerable communities in rural and urban contexts in India and with organisations across the globe has taught us that communities facing the worst impact of climate change, while being the least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, must be made custodians of ecological resources and justice.
Small farmers constitute 84 per cent of the farming households of India yet suffer the most from climate change. Changes in India’s climate are leading to land and coastal degradation, soil erosion, and loss of biodiversity, which are already seriously aggravating food insecurity in the country, illuminating the critical need for both adaption and mitigation measures. AAA recognises the need to augment the resilience of communities facing the impact of climate change. We also promote the need for equity in financing climate justice efforts and promote the rights of the Global South by advocating for the global call for a Loss and Damage mechanism informed by a people-oriented approach to climate justice that will benefit all of humanity.
The celebration of Mandela Day can support significant and catalytic change by promoting Nelson Mandela’s vision for South Africa and the broader African continent, but also the world that depends on each other. Our responsibility is to achieve the shared dreams of a sustainable, inclusive earth.
Disclaimer: The article was originally published on indiatimes. The views expressed in the article are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of ActionAid Association.
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