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Nelson Mandela International Day, July 18
For freedom, justice and democracy

We stand here today to salute the United Nations Organization and its Member States, both singly and collectively, for joining forces with the masses of our people in a common struggle that has brought about our emancipation and pushed back the frontiers of racism.

South African President Nelson Mandela
Address to UN General Assembly
3 October 1994

The United Nations:
Partner in the Struggle against Apartheid

The elimination of South Africa’s system of legalized racial discrimination known as apartheid (“apart-ness” in the Afrikaans language of the descendants of the first Dutch settlers) was on the agenda of the United Nations from its inception. On 22 June 1946 the Indian government requested that the discriminatory treatment of Indians in the Union of South Africa be included on the agenda of the very first session of the General Assembly.

In the decades that followed the world body would contribute to the global struggle against apartheid by drawing world attention to the inhumanity of the system, legitimizing popular resistance, promoting anti-apartheid actions by governmental and non-governmental organizations, instituting an arms embargo, and supporting an oil embargo and boycotts of apartheid in many fields.

Key dates in the UN campaign against apartheid:


With contribution from Enuga S. Reddy, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General, Principal Secretary, UN Special Committee Against Apartheid and Director, UN Centre Against Apartheid