18th Nelson Mandela lecture

Posted on July 20, 2020

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The UN Secretary General António Guterres presented the 18th Nelson Mandela lecture on 18 July 2020. This would have been the 102nd birthday of Nelson Mandela.

You can follow the full event (2hrs 36mins) here at the website of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The talk of the UN Secretary General is recorded from 1:27 to 1:52 and a subsequent conversation with South African journalist Nikiwe Bikitsha (1:52 to 2:15).

Mr Guterres provides a clear and sad description of our world situation

COVID-19 has been likened to an x-ray, revealing fractures in the fragile skeleton of the societies we have built.

It is exposing fallacies and falsehoods everywhere:

The lie that free markets can deliver healthcare for all;

The fiction that unpaid care work is not work;

The delusion that we live in a post-racist world;

The myth that we are all in the same boat.

Because while we are all floating on the same sea, it’s clear that some are in superyachts while others are clinging to drifting debris.”

and an analysis of key challenges in our social system

Let’s face the facts. The global political and economic system is not delivering on critical global public goods: public health, climate action, sustainable development, peace.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought home the tragic disconnect between self-interest and the common interest; and the huge gaps in governance structures and ethical frameworks.

and on the rules of our social game and the distribution power

we must play the game but try to change the rules of the game, because the game can be a different game. And that needs, obviously, a top-down approach. We need leaders that are committed, that force change, and we need to support those leaders. Unfortunately, in today’s world, leadership and power are not always aligned. We have leadership with [little] power and a lot of power without leadership. It’s important to align the two. And that, of course, requires something that is very important, together with a top-down approach, a very strong bottom-up approach.

You will notice that I have added the word ‘little’ which can be heard in the video but has been lost in the official transcript.  However, this one word ‘little’ can make a big difference to the meaning of the sentence!

Mr Guterres states that “A changing world requires a new generation of social protection policies with new safety nets including Universal Health Coverage and the possibility of a Universal Basic Income. ” (1:46)

For those who think that it is not affordable to pay for these changes he demands a new global monetary policy “we need not only debt relief, but we need much more liquidity available for the developing world. And that is why, for instance, we have been, since the beginning, advocating for issuing new special drawing rights, the modern way to print money, and to distribute those drawing rights to the countries in need, as a way to create the conditions for the transfer of resources that is essential for the developing world.

It is well worthwhile to listen to the whole enlightening talk or read the transcript including the conversation with Ms Nikiwe Bikitsha.

You may also want to study the report in the Guardian

“UN chief slams ‘myths, delusions and falsehoods’ around inequality – António Guterres uses Mandela lecture to call for radical shake-up of IMF and World Bank in wake of coronavirus pandemic”.