Nelson Mandela is without doubt one of the most famous men in the world. He was born in Transkei, South Africa on 18th July 1918. His father was a reigning nobleman of the Thembu people, but when Nelson was nine his father died and young Nelson became the ward of the Paramount Chief.
He was groomed to assume high office and after beginning his education in the local mission school he went away to boarding school, matriculated and subsequently completed his BA degree at the University of South Africa in 1942. He then began to study for a Bachelor of Laws degree, but shortly after this he entered politics and in 1943 he became a member of the African National Congress (ANC).
He joined a group of young Africans who came together in 1944 to form the African National Congress Youth League, with the view to transform the ANC into a more radical mass movement.
In the 1948 all-white General Election, the National Party was elected on a platform of apartheid. This inflamed the black radicals and led to the ANC accepting the weapons of boycott, strike, civil disobedience and non-co-operation as its official policy.
By 1952 the ANC had intensified its campaign for the Defiance of Unjust Laws. Nelson Mandela was now the President of the Youth League and he began to tour the country organising resistance.
As a result he found himself convicted for contravening the Suppression of Communism Act and was given a suspended prison sentence. He was prohibited from attending gatherings and confined to Johannesburg.
His political activates during the past few years had prevented him from completing his final law exams and his enforced restriction gave him the opportunity of doing so. This he successfully did and after being admitted to the legal profession he and a friend opened South Africa's first black law firm in central Johannesburg.
Throughout the 1950s, as the situation became more difficult for the black population, Mandela was constantly the victim of various forms of repression. By 1961 the ANC had become a banned organisation and Nelson Mandela was forced to go underground.
Eventually he was arrested in 1964 and subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment. For many years he was incarcerated in the prison on Robben Island, where he was always simply known as prisoner 46664. He remained a prisoner for 27 years.
The political situation in South Africa was changing. In 1989 F W de Klerk was elected President and immediately called for a non-racist South Africa. He lifted the ban on the ANC, released Nelson Mandela and brought an end to apartheid. Following his release Mandela continued to address racial issues and support reconciliation and in 1993 he and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In 1994 as a result of the first election in which he had been allowed to vote, Nelson Mandela was elected President, remaining in office until1999.
On Mandela's 91st birthday, 18th July 2009, the first Mandela Day was launched in New York. A series of educational, fund raising and volunteer events, lead up to a concert at Radio City Music Hall, organised by the Nelson Mandela Foundation and 46664 concerts.
46664 was established by Nelson Mandela as a global HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention campaign and took as its title his original prison number. In order to reach as many young people as possible, a series of high-profile concerts was arranged. 46664 has now expanded to encompass all areas of the Mandela humanitarian legacy as well as confronting issues of social injustice.
On 10th November 2009 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognising, "Nelson Mandela's values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the upliftment of poor and underdeveloped communities."
The UN acknowledged his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of peace throughout the world, declaring that from henceforth 18th July would be Nelson Mandela International Day.
The day not only celebrates Nelson Mandela's life, but it also forms part of a global call to action for people to recognise that they can have a positive effect on others around them. It is a day that hopes to inspire people to embrace the values that Mandela shared. Activities include volunteering, sport, art, education, music and culture.
An event that took place in South London prior to the 2012 Mandela Day was the Zenani Mandela Olympic Event. This involved athletes from South Africa and Jamaica, together with children from local schools and was to raise awareness of the world's biggest killer of children aged ten and over, namely road traffic accidents.
The Zenani campaign was established in memory of Mandela's great-granddaughter Zenani, who was killed in a road accident at the age of 13.
Nelson Mandela devoted 67 years of his life to the service of humanity, as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa. Each year the UN joins with the Nelson Mandela Foundation in calling for people throughout the world to mark Nelson Mandela International Day.
All that is asked of people is that they spare 67 minutes of their time to helping others.