News World ‘Global assault on democracy and freedom’: Prince Harry’s message to United Nations
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‘Global assault on democracy and freedom’: Prince Harry’s message to United Nations

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Prince Harry has told the United Nations leaders must act against a “global assault on democracy and freedom”, which he says has worsened a “painful year in a painful decade”.

The Duke of Sussex appeared to be referring to the overturning of the Roe v Wade ruling on abortion when he spoke about the “rolling back of constitutional rights” in his new home country, the US.

“How many of us feel battered, helpless, in the face of a seemingly endless stream of disasters and devastation?” he said, in his speech to the general assembly in New York early on Tuesday (Australian time).

In an often personal speech to the UN General Assembly’s annual celebration on Monday of Nelson Mandela International Day, the 37-year-old Duke of Sussex said a photo on his wall of his mother meeting Mandela in Cape Town in March 1997, just five months before the princess’s death, is “in my heart every day”.

He spoke about his first visit to Africa as a 13-year-old and how the continent has not only given him hope but become “my lifeline, a place where I have found peace and healing time and time again”.

“It’s where I’ve felt closest to my mother and sought solace after she died, and where I knew I had found my soul mate in my wife,” Harry said as his wife, Meghan Markle, sat listening in the front of the vast General Assembly hall, filled with diplomats from many of the UN’s 193 member nations.

It was the couple’s first public appearance since their brief visit to Britain for the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations early in June.

As the father of two young children – Archie, three, and one-year-old Lilibet – the prince expressed concern about the planet they and millions of others will inherit.

The world was at “a pivotal moment”, he said, facing converging crises including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, a small number of people “weaponising lies and disinformation at the expense of the many,” the “horrific” war in Ukraine and “the rolling back of constitutional rights here in the United States”.

That was an apparent reference to the US Supreme Court’s recent decision reversing a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion.

“We are witnessing a global assault on democracy and freedom – the cause of Mandela’s life,” the prince said.

Harry said Mr Mandela remained a great inspiration and an example of resilience and optimism. He hailed him as “not only a man of conscience, he was a man of action”.

“We can find meaning and purpose in the struggle,” he said, remarking on the issues facing people across the globe, including COVID-19 and the war on Ukraine.

“We can wear our principles as armour. Heed the advice Mandela once gave his son, to never give up the battle even in the darkest hour, and find hope where we have the courage to seek it.”

Harry said people had a choice: Become apathetic, angry and despairing; or do what Mr Mandela did every day during his 27 years in prison and the rest of his life including as South Africa’s first Black president, which was to “find meaning and purpose in the struggle”.

He said parents he had met around the world were as determined as Mr Mandela was “to give their children a better shot at a brighter future … because they know the price of inaction will be paid by the next generation”.

The General Assembly established July 18 – Mr Mandela’s birthday – as an international day to honour him not only by celebrating his life and contributions but by carrying out the tradition of participating in a community service activity.

Harry challenged people everywhere to commit to celebrating Mr Mandela day not just once a year but every day by carrying out acts of service to improve the world.

“We have an obligation to give as much – if not more – than we take,” he said.

“Let’s seek out what we have in common, empower all people to reclaim our democracies, and harness the light of Mandela’s memory to illuminate the way forward.”

In January 2020, Harry and Meghan stepped down as senior members of the British royal family and moved to the duchess’ native Southern California, citing the unbearable pressure of their roles and racist attitudes of the British media.

They visited South Africa in 2019 with their son, Archie, on their first official tour as a family before they gave up royal duties.

-with AAP