Living legend Nelson Mandela, the fighter against racial oppression in South Africa, is undoubtedly one of the great moral and political leaders of our time. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality. Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first democratically elected president from 1994 to 1999, overseeing his country’s transition from minority rule and winning international respect for promoting reconciliation. Since his retirement, he has been active on behalf of a number of social and human rights organizations.
Born on 18 July 1918 in Tembu, a small village in the Transkei of which his father was chief, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was the first member of his family to attend school. His involvement in politics began in his student days at Fort Hare University. Joining the African National Congress party in 1942, he became a notable opponent of the white minority government, was arrested for anti-apartheid activism in 1962 and remained in prison until 1990. He earned worldwide recognition as a freedom fighter and “Free Nelson Mandela” became the rallying cry for anti-apartheid campaigners. In 1991, he and State President F.W. de Klerk, who ordered his release, were awarded the UNESCO Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize. Two years later, they shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
Nelson Mandela was designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador on 12 July 2005 at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg. Mr Mandela was awarded the title “in recognition of his outstanding leadership in the fight against apartheid and racial discrimination, in his country and worldwide; for his dedication to reconciliation between different communities; his unfailing commitment to democracy, equality and learning; his support for all the oppressed of the Earth; and his exemplary contribution to international peace and understanding.”