Executive Director, UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Ghada Waly:

Statement on Nelson Mandela Day

18 July 2020

VIENNA, 18 July – Today we celebrate the cause of justice, and the commitment of one man who changed the lives of millions for the better.

Nelson Mandela, and his belief in human dignity and the equality of all, continue to inspire us.

UNODC is proud to be the custodian of the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the Nelson Mandela Rules, in honour of a hero who was imprisoned for 27 years for standing up for the rights of all people.

Adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2015, the Nelson Mandela Rules emphasize that prisoners remain a part of our society. We have a collective responsibility for prisoners’ humane treatment and social reintegration. And we need to value the work of prison staff, who deliver a social service that too often goes unrecognized.

The COVID-19 crisis has put the spotlight on prison overcrowding, poor conditions and lack of resources, and the acute risks these deficiencies pose to 11 million people in prisons worldwide, and to the health of all communities.

In response, UNODC is helping more than 50 countries to prevent or stop the spread of the virus in prisons by providing training, protective equipment and health care assistance, as part of our comprehensive support to implement the Nelson Mandela Rules.

UNODC is also working with Member States to reduce prison overcrowding through efficient criminal justice procedures and an increased use of non-custodial measures.

To overcome the COVID-19 crisis and mitigate future risks, we must improve prison conditions and how prisoners are treated, and address how imprisonment is used.

On Nelson Mandela Day 2020, let us pledge to live up to Mandela’s legacy, fulfil our duty of care, and leave no one behind.

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