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

Nelson Mandela Prize

Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress of South Africa, addresses the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall.

Nelson Mandela, Deputy President of the African National Congress of South Africa, addresses the Special Committee Against Apartheid in the General Assembly Hall. UN Photo/ P. Sudhakaran

What is the United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize?

The United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize is an honorary award presented once every five years as a tribute to the outstanding achievements and contributions of two individuals (one female and one male). There will be one female and one male laureate, who shall not be selected from the same geographic region.

The Prize was originally established by General Assembly resolution 68/275 of 6 June 2014 and its Statute was approved by General Assembly resolution 69/269 of 2 April 2015.

The Prize, to be awarded to each winner, in recognition of the humility of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, shall be a plaque engraved with an appropriate citation and a relevant quotation. The quotation shall be determined by the Committee for the United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize, in consultation with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Who is eligible to receive the Prize?

The aim of the Prize is to recognize the achievements of those who dedicated their lives to the service of humanity, by promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations while honouring and paying homage to Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela’s extraordinary life and legacy of reconciliation, political transition and social transformation.

The Prize shall be awarded in recognition of their dedicated service to humanity, in the promotion of reconciliation and social cohesion, and in community development, guided by the purposes and principles of the United Nations.

No current staff member of any organization of the United Nations system shall be eligible for the Prize.

How are the laureates of the Prize chosen?

An important feature of the Prize is that nominations can be received from a broad variety of sources including Member States and observer States of the United Nations; entities and intergovernmental organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions and work of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council; institutions of higher education, as well as independent research centres and institutes; NGOs in consultative status with Economic and Social Council; and laureates of the Prize.

Once nominations have been reviewed by the secretariat, a consolidated list is presented to a Committee that selects the winners. The seven members of this Committee are: the President of the General Assembly (Chair); a representative of the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations; and five representatives of Member States of the United Nations, one to be selected from each of the five regional groups.

The Committee shall also select five eminent individuals, based on equitable geographical representation, who have made significant contributions to the service of humanity and to promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations. Such eminent persons shall be honorary members of the Committee and shall serve in an advisory capacity for a specific term during the selection process every five years.

What is the timeline for the selection of laureates?

Normally, according to the Statute, nominations shall reach the secretariat not later than 31 December of the year prior to the year for which the nominations are to be considered.

The individuals who are to receive the Prize shall be announced in May of the year in which the Prize is to be awarded.

The Prize shall be presented by the Secretary-General at an award ceremony that shall be part of the commemoration by the General Assembly of Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July) at United Nations Headquarters.

When was the first Prize awarded?

The Prize was awarded for the first time in 2015. It has been decided that the appropriate streamlined measures shall apply for the first bestowing of the Prize, on an exceptional, one-time basis (Article 2.4 of the Statute). The first two Prize Laureates have been announced on 22 June 2015 and the award ceremony took place on 24 July 2015 at UN Headquarters in New York during annual commemoration of the Nelson Mandela International Day. More information on the 2015 laureates of the UN Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize can be found here.