By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice
In November 2009, the United Nations declared July 18 as International Nelson Mandela Day. This day is a good opportunity to reflect on the contributions Nelson Mandela made to humanity and towards resolving conflicts. Mandela was also a champion of human rights; he strove to protect the rights of children and other vulnerable groups.
The Background of Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela lived an influential life and ultimately impacted millions of people. According to the Nelson Mandela Foundation, he was born on July 18, 1918, in the village of Mvezo in South Africa.
At the time, South Africa followed a policy of apartheid, which favored white supremacy. Mandela dreamed of freeing his people from the restrictions of apartheid and helping them to improve their lives.
Mandela became a lawyer, then entered politics with the hope of making changes in South Africa. As an activist, he was involved in civil disobedience acts, resulting in his arrest and incarceration for over 27 years.
He continued to fight against apartheid and was later released. In 1994, Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.
Mandela Spent a Lifetime Helping Those Who Couldn’t Help Themselves
Mandela was recognized as a champion who constantly fought against racial discrimination. He was an advocate for people living in poverty, prisoners and others disenfranchised by circumstances outside of their control.
Ultimately, Nelson Mandela was successful in bringing down an oppressive South African government that supported apartheid. He created a framework for peace and social justice in South Africa and around the world.
In 1993, Mandela received the Nobel Prize for Peace. According to Britannica, he developed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 1995, which investigated violations of human rights under apartheid.
In addition, Mandela sponsored housing, education and economic development opportunities designed to strengthen the living conditions of the Black population in South Africa. Ultimately, Mandela was successful in bringing down an oppressive South African government that supported apartheid. He created a framework for peace and social justice in South Africa and around the world.
Following his retirement as South Africa’s president, Nelson Mandela remained a strong international advocate for peace, human rights, social justice and conflict resolution.
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The Nelson Mandela Rules
Another major contribution that Mandela made is the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules. These rules are used in prisons around the world.
There are 122 Nelson Mandela Rules that provide guidance for all areas of prison management and provide minimum standards for the treatment of prisoners regardless of whether they are convicted or in a pre-trial status. The Nelson Mandela Rules ensure the “secure, safe, and humane custody of prisoners,” and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime serves as the custodian of these international standards.
Nelson Mandela had a powerful voice, and he used it effectively to improve prison conditions around the world. Recording the treatment of inmates in prison, Mandela once stated that “it is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
International Nelson Mandela Day is a good time to explore what changes we can make in our own communities and to remember how Nelson Mandela improved the lives of the world’s impoverished and imprisoned. Hopefully, policy makers around the world will follow his legacy and work to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable citizens.