UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations on Thursday held a special meeting to pay tribute to the legacy of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president who passed away on Dec. 5 at the age of 95.
During the special meeting convened at UN headquarters in New York to give member states an opportunity to pay their tribute to the life and memory of the South African leader, John Ashe, president of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), encouraged countries to honor Mandela "by letting his legacy live on" in the world body 's continued struggle against poverty, injustice and the destruction of the human person and human spirit.
"Let us remember that we can also be like him -- because we too can choose the better way, choose to work toward those causes that are greater and better than our narrow interests," Ashe told the meeting.
The UNGA president urged UN representatives and member states to remember that "we too must work together to reduce hunger, and injustice, to build lasting peace and sustainable development, to stop genocide and combat hatred."
Quoting Mandela's inauguration address as the first black President of South Africa, Ashe said "We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom. We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success. We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world."
According to UN website, Mandela addressed the UNGA in October 1994 as the first democratically elected president of South Africa, but he spoke to a UN audience for the first time on June 8, 1990, addressing the UN International Labor Organization (ILO) as the vice-president of the African National Congress (ANC).
"Despite the thickness of the prison walls, all of us in Robben Island and other jails could hear your voices demanding our release very clearly. We drew inspiration from this," said Mandela just eight months after he had been released from prison.
"We thank you that you did not tire in your struggle. We thank you for your sense of humanity and your commitment to justice which drove you to reject the very idea that we should be imprisoned and that our people should be in bondage," Mandela added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was among the other senior UN officials speaking at the Thursday event, said that from its earliest days, the UNGA took on the poison of racial discrimination.
"Through the years, the Assembly used every tool, including sanctions, embargoes and diplomatic isolation to bring about change," he said.
The UN chief noted that through his extraordinary life, Mandela showed that tyranny and oppression never have the last word.
"That is the heritage of hope he bestowed on each and every one of us. That is our inheritance," he said.
"Now it is our duty to build the better world that he showed is within our grasp. Let us follow his rainbow," said Ban, who was among the thousands of rain-soaked participants at Mandela's official memorial in Johannesburg. "Today and every day, let us be inspired by his passion, his compassion, and his undying conviction in the human spirit and the global good."
The special meeting also heard from Kingsley Mamabolo, permanent representative of the Mission of South Africa to the UN, as well as former New York City Mayor David Dinkins, who facilitated Mandela's first official visit to the United States in 1990, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who spoke via video.
Since 2009, the UNGA has recognized Mandela's contribution to the culture of peace and freedom by encouraging people to devote 67 minutes to helping others -- by volunteering in a hospital, tutoring a child, providing food for the homeless, or any other community service.
The 67-minute campaign "Take Action, Inspire Change" is based on people devoting one minute of their time for every year that Mr. Mandela devoted to public service, as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically-elected President of post-apartheid South Africa.
The campaign is marked every July 18, known as "Nelson Mandela International Day". Mandela is the only person for whom the UNGA has granted such an honor.