Nelson Mandela International Day was launched in recognition of Nelson Mandela’s birthday on 18 July 2009 via unanimous decision of the UN General Assembly.
It was inspired by a call Nelson Mandela made a year earlier, for the next generation to take on the burden of leadership in addressing the world’s social injustices when he said that “it is in your hands now”.
It is more than a celebration of Madiba’s life and legacy; it is a global movement to honor his life’s work and to change the world for the better.
Nelson Mandela International Day, also known as Mandela Day, is an international observance in honor of the revolutionary Nelson Mandela, celebrated annually on his birthday, on July 18. The day was officially set by the United Nations in November 2009, with the first observance of Mandela Day held on July 18, 2010.
Nelson Mandela International Day shines a light every year on the legacy of a man whose monumental achievements changed the 20th century and shaped the 21st. His values and determination — a deep commitment to human rights, freedom, and justice — are reflected in and are a source of inspiration for others. Mandela advocated for the rightful dignity and equality of every living person and encouraged engagement and solidarity across all borders. His relentless pursuit of equality was paralleled by his status as the founding father of peace in South Africa.
Nelson Mandela remains a symbol of power by resisting oppression. In times of turbulence, Mandela’s legacy teaches everyone to choose dignity over humiliation, speak up during injustice, and forgive rather than hate. He once said, “To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.” In 2014, the Nelson Mandela Prize was established by the UN General Assembly — an award recognizing the achievements of those who went far and beyond to serve humanity.