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Nelson Mandela, a legacy of humility and service

Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity.
Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity. - Photo: Nelson Mandela Foundation/Matthew Willman

“It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.” - Nelson Mandela


As societies are becoming more polarized with hate speech on the rise, Nelson Mandela’s calls for solidarity and an end to racism are particularly relevant today. The pandemic too has further exposed our vital need for solidarity. The UN Secretary General António Guterres asks we honour Madiba’s call to action and be empowered by his legacy. On Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July), people around the world are asked to perform 67 minutes of public service.

67 years in service of humanity

Nelson Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

What is Mandela Day?

On 18 July every year, we invite you to mark Nelson Mandela International Day by making a difference in your communities. Everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better! Mandela Day is an occasion for all to take action and inspire change.

The Day came about in 2009, in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom, when the UN General Assembly declared 18 July "Nelson Mandela International Day". Resolution A/RES/64/13 recognizes Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity in: conflict resolution; race relations; promotion and protection of human rights; reconciliation; gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups; the fight against poverty; the promotion of social justice. The resolution acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.

Nelson Mandela Rules

On December 2015, the General Assembly decided to extend the scope of Nelson Mandela International Day to also be utilized in order to promote humane conditions of imprisonment, raise awareness about prisoners being a continuous part of society, and to value the work of prison staff as a social service of particular importance.

General Assembly resolution A/RES/70/175 not only adopted the revised United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, but also approved that they should be known as the "Nelson Mandela Rules" in order to honour the legacy of the late President of South Africa, who spent 27 years in prison in the course of his struggle referred to above.

For more information about the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela and how to observe Nelson Mandela International Day, visit the UN official website.

 

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