Laureate Spotlight: Reflecting on the 20th Anniversary of Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize
This year marks the 20th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s Peace Prize. In 1993, Nelson Mandela and F.W de Klerk were recognized for “their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime.” Nearing 95, Nelson Mandela is a global icon and a symbol of peace. Mandela played an instrumental role in the discussions that led to the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, which was characterized by white minority rule.
His leadership during and after the negotiations laid the foundation for a new South Africa. Following the dismantling of apartheid, Mandela became the first black democratically elected president of South Africa.
As president, Mandela led South Africa on a course that took the country forward prioritizing on nation-building and reconciliation. He worked tirelessly towards the promotion and maintenance of peace in South Africa.
Taking office at a time when South Africa was deeply divided, he restored the dignity of the black majority while also reassuring the whites that they had nothing to fear from the change of government. Naming his former adversary F.W de Klerk as deputy president is a true testament of his efforts of racial inclusion at all spheres of society even at the highest levels of government. Mandela was dedicated to the functioning of the Rainbow Nation. The Rainbow Nation is a term coined by 1984 Nobel laureate, Desmond Tutu, to describe the diversity of races and tribes that characterize modern South Africa.
It is widely believed that Mandela’s leadership before and during his presidency averted a civil war along racial and ethnic lines. Peace appears to have been perpetually on his mind when examines his actions and decisions.
After leaving office and retiring from active politics, Mandela established a charitable fondation. A true global citizen, Mandela lent his efforts and time as an advocate of peace, reconciliation, often through the auspices of his foundation.
As part of his 89th birthday in 2007, Mandela established The Elders, which is a grouping of 12 eminent leaders whose aim is to use their wisdom and experience to tackle global issues. Members of the Elders include Nobel Laureates former US President Jimmy Carter, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, former Finnish Prime Minister Martti Ahtisaari, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
In honor of the contributions Mandela made towards the culture of peace and freedom, the United Nations declared July 18th as the Nelson Mandela International Day. It is important to note that the Mandela is the first individual to receive such an honor. The day brings to attention the values that Mandela embraced which include democracy, equality, diversity, reconciliation, and respect.
At the 2012 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, at which F.W de Klerk was a keynote speaker, he credited Nelson Mandela for the important role he played in the building of new post-apartheid South Africa. What we can all learn from Mandela’s leadership is to be part of something bigger than the self and to work tirelessly towards it. As we reflect on Mandela’s 20th anniversary as a Nobel Peace Prize laureate there is no overstating the impact of Mandela’s leadership and actions. Simply put his contributions to have been momentous.
“The most important thing is to lay the foundation of peace.” Ethiopian Proverb
Thato Masire is 2011 Peace Scholar