UN chief Ban Ki-moon marked the 91st birthday of Nelson Mandela by hailing the South African statesman as "a living embodiment of the highest values of the United Nations."
In a message to be delivered on Mandela Day today, the UN secretary general said he was joining people throughout the world "in wishing him a happy 91st birthday."
"His commitment to a democratic, multi-racial South Africa, his steadfast pursuit of justice, his willingness to reconcile with those who persecuted him most -- these are just some of the hallmarks of a remarkable man," Ban said.
"May we all continue to benefit from his wisdom, his good works and good humour for many years to come," he added.
"I warmly welcome the global campaign to recognise the birthday of Nelson Mandela, July 18, as an annual opportunity to celebrate this great man and the values and principles that he has come personify over the past seven decades," said the president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, in his own message.