It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build.
– Nelson Mandela
Take Action! Inspire Change
Every year on 18 July — the day Nelson Mandela was born — the UN joins a call by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to devote 67 minutes of time to helping others, as a way to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.
For 67 years 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.
How the Day came about
In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared 18 July “Nelson Mandela International Day” in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.
General Assembly resolution A/RES/64/13 recognizes Nelson Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities. It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.
Nelson Mandela Rules
In 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, to 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
Chronology of Nelson Mandela’s Life
18 July 1918
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela born in Mvezo, South Africa
Joins the African National Congress (ANC)
Founds the African National Congress Youth League (ANCYL) with others
Elected as National Secretary of the ANCYL
Launch of the “Defiance” Campaign, a massive civil disobedience campaign against unjust laws.
Mandela is elected National Volunteer-in-Chief for the campaign
1956 to 1961
Mandela one of 156 accused in the Treason Trial
21 March 1960
Sharpeville massacre, during which 69 men, women and children are killed and about 200 wounded.
The government soon declares a state of emergency and arrests about 18,000 protesters. The ANC is banned and Mandela goes underground
Formation of the ANC’s armed movement, Umkhonto we Sizwe (“Spear of the Nation”), with Mandela as commander-in-chief
Mandela travels to other parts of Africa and Europe
5 August 1962
Mandela arrested for illegal exit from the country and incitement to strike. He is convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment
Arrest of prominent ANC leaders at Rivonia. Mandela is accused with them
12 June 1964
Sentenced to life imprisonment and sent to Robben Island (later moved to Pollsmoor Prison and then Victor Verster Prison)
Amidst prolonged mass protests against the apartheid system, the ANC initiates talks with the regime
Released from prison
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (along with F.W. de Klerk)
27 April 1994
First multi-racial elections held in South Africa with full enfranchisement, with the ANC winning a strong majority
10 May 1994
Inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected president, standing down in 1999 after one term
5 December 2013
Nelson Mandela passed away in Johannesburg at the age of 95
Take Action! Inspire Change
Can you spare 67 minutes of your time helping others?
Every year, on Mandela Day, people around the world are asked by the Nelson Mandela Foundation to do just that.
By devoting 67 minutes of their time – one minute for every year of Mr. Mandela’s public service – people can make a small gesture of solidarity with humanity and a step towards a global movement for good.
UN staff around the world have made a difference through a variety of activities in the past – from rebuilding homes destroyed by hurricane Sandy, to offering school supplies to children, preparing meals for the elderly, helping out in orphanages, cleaning up parks and delivering computer literacy workshops.
This year, UN staff in New York are helping women in need receive professional clothing donations, career counselling, child care, and nutritious meals, in volunteer activities organized by the UN Department of Public Information and supported by UN Women.
In 2015, UN staff volunteers in New York, partnered with GreenThumb, East New York Farms, and the UN Food Garden, to plant seedlings, pull weeds, and water plant beds in community gardens across the city.
In Geneva, the Permanent Mission of South Africa and Serve the City Geneva have mobilized volunteers to help the poor and marginalized in the city.
In 2014, in New York, UN staff, joined by the Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and in partnership withMillionTreesNYC, volunteered their time and got their hands dirty by pulling weeds, putting down mulch and watering tree beds to help take care of newly planted trees on the streets of Midtown Manhattan and East Harlem. See video.
In 2013 UN staff in New York helped rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
See what visitors pledged at the 2011 Nelson Mandela International Day interactive exhibit at UN Headquarters in New York.
If you would like to donate your own time to public service, here are some things you can do to take action and inspire change:
- Make a new friend. Get to know someone from a different cultural background. Only through mutual understanding can we rid our communities of intolerance and xenophobia.
- Read to someone who can’t. Visit a local home for the blind and open up a new world for someone else.
- Help out at the local animal shelter. Dogs without homes still need a walk and a bit of love.
- Help someone get a job. Put together and print a CV for them, or help them with their interview skills.
- Many terminally ill people have no one to speak to. Take a little time to have a chat and bring some sunshine into their lives.
- Get tested for HIV and encourage your partner to do so too.
- Take someone you know, who can’t afford it, to get their eyes tested or their teeth checked.
- Donate a wheelchair or guide dog, to someone in need.
- Buy a few blankets, or grab the ones you no longer need from home and give them to someone in need.
To see all 67 suggestions for action, visit the Nelson Mandela Foundation site.