Prince Harry has criticised the “rolling back of constitutional rights” in the United States in a keynote address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Monday.
The Duke of Sussex, 37, was watched by wife Meghan Markle as he made a thinly-veiled critique of the US Supreme Court’s decision to end abortion rights during a speech marking Nelson Mandela International Day.
“The few weaponising lies and disinformation at the expense of the many,” Harry said.
“And from the horrific war in Ukraine to the rolling back of constitutional rights here in the United States, we are witnessing a global assault on democracy and freedom, the cause of Mandela’s life.”
Prince Harry told the assembly the world had come to know Mr Mandela through photographs of a man who, “even when confronting unimaginable cruelty and injustice, almost always had a smile on his face”.
He then spoke of a cherished photograph of his mother Princess Diana taken with Mr Mandela in March 1997, five months before her death.
“On my wall, and in my heart every day, is an image of my mother and Mandela meeting in Cape Town in 1997,” Prince Harry said.
Prince Harry said the photo was given to him by the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who he and Meghan met during a 2019 trip to South Africa.
He said his mother’s “joy and playfulness” were on full display in the photo.
Prince Harry went on to criticise global leaders for their inaction on climate change legislation.
“As we sit here today, our world is on fire, again. And these historic weather events are no longer historic.
“More and more, they are part of our daily lives, and this crisis will only grow worse, unless our leaders lead.”
He said “daring, transformative decisions” were needed to save humanity.
“These decisions may invite resistance from powerful interests. But the right thing to do is not up for debate. And neither is the science,” he said.
“The only question is if we will be brave enough and wise enough to do what is necessary.”
Multiple converging crises, from the war in Ukraine to inflation and climate catastrophes, had given way to an “endless string of injustices”.
He said it would be easy to become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the challenge, “succumb to anger or yield to despair”.
“Or we can do what Mandela did, every single day inside that 9 foot prison cell on Robben Island, and every day outside of it to. We can find meaning and purpose in the struggle.”
Prince Harry said he had taken inspiration from Africa over the course of dozens of visits.
“Since I first visited Africa at 13 years old, I’ve always found hope on the continent. In fact, for most of my life, it has been 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 a soulmate in my wife,” he said.
Other speakers at the Nelson Mandela Day event included assembly president Abdulla Shahid, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, New York Mayor Eric Adams and Guinea’s Foreign Minister Morissanda Kouaté.
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex visited South Africa in 2019 with their son Archie on their first official tour as a family, before they stepped down from royal duties in 2020. During their visit, the couple also met with Mr Mandela’s widow Graça Machel.
The couple welcomed their second child Lilibet in June last year.