university of technology sydney

Nelson Mandela

Just as there have been numerous examples of repression, mass murder and genocide, there have also been those who have led resistance movements to these governments. Both men and women have stood up to tyrannical governments, supporting human rights and standing for freedom. For instance, Nelson Mandela, the president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, was an activist against apartheid, or racial segregation, which punished the black population of the nation and resulted in a minority rule by the white population.

“Apartheid” was a legalized form of racial segregation that existed in the ruling National Party government of South Africa from 1948 to 1994. Fundamentally, it denied all non-white residents the same rights as the minority of whites who ran the nation. It denied any non-white their citizenship, and even distinguished the level of education, public services, or medical care that they might receive too. Many people remember the world when apartheid existed within it. It was a subject of much contention and controversy, and citizens within South Africa participated in resistance movements while international trade embargoes put pressure on the South African government to end their policy of segregation.

The internal movements would eventually resort to violence, and this only increased the negative reactions from their government. Anti-apartheid leaders were imprisoned and state-sponsored violence was upheld. By 1994, however, international attention and internal problems allowed for the end of the policy. How did it define world history as an era of challenges to human rights? It demonstrates that the period after the Age of Revolutions had allowed terminology like popular sovereignty, equality, democracy and liberty to enter the global vocabulary. Many events prior to Apartheid reveal that governments and then citizens began to recognize their own power to create change, and this is especially true of those living in democracies or republics, such as the people of South Africa. It also shows that the international community and the global powers began to recognize how they might use economic and political pressures to override such obvious violations of human rights as well.

As the world's foremost democracy and a leader in civil and human rights, the United States has done much to advance these ideals on a global level. American ideals of liberty, justice, freedom and individual rights have been cited by many as the inspiration for changes in their own nations. Numerous dictatorships and tyrannical governments have been toppled by citizens inspired by the example of America. In addition, ongoing work by volunteers on the international stage continues to ensure that those ideals are shared with new generations and new nations.