Nelson Mandela joins the ranks of UNESCO Goodwill AmbassadorsNelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, has been designated UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador by Director-General Koïchiro Matsuura, in a ceremony today at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Mr Mandela has been 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.”
Born July 18, 1918, in Tembu, 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 world-wide 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 UNESCO’s Félix Houphouët-Boigny Peace Prize. Two years later, they shared the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr Mandela served as his country’s first democratically-elected president from 1994 to 1999, overseeing South Africa’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.
As one of UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassadors, Mr Mandela joins an outstanding group of celebrity advocates who have generously accepted to use their talent and status to promote UNESCO’s work and ideals. They include Valdas Adamkus, President of Lithuania; H.R.H. Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxemburg; Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; and Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate 1992.