Nelson Mandela giving a lecture in 2003

Today, we reflect on the life and work of Nelson Mandela. A former political prisoner and later the first black President of South Africa, he inspired millions in his quest for a more equal world.

Sir Nick Young, Chief Executive of the British Red Cross, said: “Mandela was a great supporter of the Red Cross. It was, after all, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that visited Mandela and the other prisoners on Robben Island for two decades, and secured for them the few small comforts that made their lives even vaguely tolerable.

Madiba magic

“In 2003, we reunited him with his ICRC contact, Francois Maurillon, and he then delivered one of our series of humanity lectures. He honoured us by receiving the British Red Cross Humanity Medal at that time.

“None of us who were there will ever forget the sparkling Madiba magic that he brought, nor the sense of awed respect that he commanded.

“There are few people in our global history who have made such a prolonged stand for political freedom and racial tolerance, nor who have acted as such a beacon of hope and humanity for so many.”

‘We salute you’

During his visit in 2003, Mandela said: “We are in this modern globalised world each the keeper of our brother and sister. We have too often failed that moral calling. The international Red Cross has been both our conscience and the source of redeeming us in this regard.”

“For almost one and a half centuries the International Red Cross has stood as such an organ of multi-lateral co-operation. We salute you and join with you in this quest for human solidarity and caring.”


Three years later, the South African Red Cross Society gave their first Humanitarian Award to Nelson Mandela for his outstanding achievement on humanitarian issues.

Presenting the award, the society’s President Mandisa Kalako-Williams said: “Nominating Nelson Mandela for this award was easy. Mandela has taught us to forgive.”

Nelson Mandela died on 5 December 2013.