C o m m o n w e a l t h
A s s o c i a t i o n o f
M u s e u m s
CAM Bulletin Number 3 - Oct. 1997
CAM Honoured by New Patrons
President Nelson Mandela of South Africa and Sir Shridath (Sonny) Ramphal, two pre eminent statesmen of the modern world, have graciously honoured the Commonwealth Association of Museums by accepting CAM's invitation to become Patrons of the Association. Their unparalleled contributions to world peace, tolerance and understanding will serve to excite and inspire the Association and its members to greater achievements in encouraging museums and heritage organizations to contribute more actively and successfully to a more humane and tolerant world. In the words of President Arinze on receiving the acceptance letters "Peace, which will become a critical issue in the next century demands that museums must begin to prepare themselves to contribute significantly to the attainment of sustainable peace globally."
Both Patrons continue to be active workers in the quest for political democracy, international understanding and sustainable development. Since 1992, Sir Sonny Ramphal, an internationalist with roots in the Caribbean and a commitment to the advancement of the Third World, has been Co Chairman of the independent international Commission on Global Governance. The commission's task was to suggest how the world could set in place improved arrangements for the world's governance as it approaches the new century. He serves on the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict to improve the international community's capacity to resolve disputes and prevent conflicts. His concern with the integrity of the earth and its importance to sustainable development is reflected in his role as Special Advisor to the Earth Summit of 1992 and author of "Our Country, the Planet," a plea for environmental security that protects the interests of the world's poor and their right to development.
President Nelson Mandela, charismatic leader of the African National Congress and a remarkable symbol of the strength of life long commitment to political democracy and racial justice, has played his role on a completely different stage throughout the even more remarkable circumstance of twenty seven years of imprisonment. Since his release in 1990 and the first truly democratic elections in South Africa in 1994, he has led his country as President along a difficult path of truth and reconciliation after centuries of inequality and decades of apartheid, at the same time as he has stood as a figure representing peaceful negotiation on the international scene and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with former President F.W. de Klerk in 1993.
Both Patrons have expressed their understanding of the importance of the part that museums can play in providing a fundamental understanding of ourselves, our cultures and our resources, a place from which we can create and build a better world. In the letter of acceptance, President Mandela deems "the conservation of all our legacies as a priority for nation building. Museums should reflect a message of tolerance and peace, of respect for all cultures and for the environment."
This strong statement comes from a man whose life has been dedicated to the struggle for freedom and the opportunity to be who we are. To date, he is the recipient of numerous honorary doctorate and awards from many countries.
Sir Shridath Ramphal, active also on behalf of his native Caribbean and working for educational opportunities for all peoples has accepted the Chancellorships of the University of Warwick and the University of the West Indies, having also been Chancellor of the University of Guyana. He has undertaken many initiatives for the Caribbean and the Third World, and is presently Chief Negotiator for the Caribbean on regional economic issues. In his acceptance he writes: "I commend CAM on its initiatives to enrich the lives of people by educating them about their history and heritage through the development of museums, because I know that this will have a profound effect, particularly in the developing countries." Perhaps the "developed" world has forgotten the true value of culture and heritage as a solid foundation for our confidence as individuals, our health as societies, and our ability to use our history and resources to build sustainable solutions to ever more complex realities.
Both Patrons are qualified lawyers who became leaders in the political world after becoming firmly established in the legal field. Nelson Mandela, born in 1918, son of a chief of the Xhosa speaking Tembu, was educated at University College of Fort Hare and received his law degree through the University of Witwatersrand. After setting up the first black legal firm in South Africa with Oliver Tambo, he became increasingly involved in the anti apartheid movement and the African National Congress. Acquitted in 1961 of treason charges, he was again arrested in 1962 and sentenced in 1964 to life imprisonment. He served 27 years, most of it on Robben Island, and he was released in 1990 to lead the negotiations to finally end apartheid, ensure democratic elections and a new South Africa.
Nelson Mandela was supported world wide in his struggle, not least by the Commonwealth with CAM's fellow Patron, Sir Shridath Ramphal at the forefront. Educated at King's College, London and Harvard Law School, Sonny Ramphal became Secretary General of the Commonwealth in 1975 after distinguished service as lawyer and politician in his home nation of Guyana. He served this international family of nations for 15 exemplary years and was a leader from this influential position in the fight to free Southern Africa from racial oppression. He has been a member of many eminent commissions and a proponent of one world with many world views. His contribution to South Africa was recognized by his invitation to President Mandela's inauguration. It is no accident that these two statesmen are well respected friends who have set their course by the same stars from different compass positions.
We can ask for no greater honour than has been bestowed upon us by the acceptance of these two visionaries to be our Patrons, and we can do no better than to be inspired to follow their example in the service of humanity.