Acceptance of Amnesty International Ambassador of Conscience Award, by Nelson Mandela, 1 November 2006

I am pleased to be here today, to enjoy the warm company of friends like Nadine Gordimer, and to know that Seamus Heaney is with us through his words. That I am being honoured by Amnesty International members from around the world is a joy, and knowing that the honour - Ambassador of Conscience - is inspired by the great Irish writer is heartening indeed.

Like Amnesty International, I have been struggling for justice and humna rights, for long years. I have retired from public life now. But as long as injustice and inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. We must become stronger still.

Through the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation, the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund, and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation, I am continuing to struggle for human rights.

It is my fervant wish, as I come together with human rights activists around the world today, that we shine the candle of hope for the forgotten prisoners of poverty.

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is people who have made poverty and tolerated poverty, and it is people who will overcome it. And overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right to dignity and a decent life.

While poverty persists, there is no true freedom. Amnesty International is right to make the struggle against poverty its focus for the coming years.

Amnesty International is also campaigning to Stop Violence Against Women. We know that the AIDS pandemic affects us all, and that it is women who bear the most significant burden of HIV and AIDS.

As daughters, mothers, sisters and grandmothers, every day they experience and live out the reality of this pandemic. They are the forgotten prisoners of today.

I have spoken before about the need for a "turning point". I see this Award as one more step towards that turning point.

I thank you.