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United Nations and aparthied


We stand here today to salute the United Nations Organisation and its Member States, both singly and collectively, for joining forces with the masses of our people in a common struggle that has brought about our emancipation and pushed back the frontiers of racism.Nelson Mandela, address to the United Nations as South African President, 3 October 1994.At the first UN gathering in 1946, South Africa was placed on the agenda. The primary subject in question was the handling of South African Indians, a great cause of divergence between South Africa and India. In 1952, apartheid was again discussed in the aftermath of the Defiance Campaign, and the UN set up a task team to keep watch on the progress of apartheid and the racial state of affairs in South Africa. Although South Africa's racial policies were a cause for concern, most countries in the UN concurred that this was a domestic affair, which fell outside the UN's jurisdiction.


In April 1960, the UN's conservative stance on apartheid changed following the Sharpeville massacre, and the Security Council for the first time agreed on concerted action against the apartheid regime, demanding an end to racial separation and discrimination. From 1960 the ANC began a campaign of armed struggle of which there would later be a charge of 193 acts of terrorism from 1961 to 1963, mainly bombings and murders of civilians. Instead, the South African government began further suppression, banning the ANC and PAC. In 1961, UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld stopped over in South Africa and subsequently stated that he had been unable to reach agreement with Prime Minister Verwoerd.


On 6 November 1962, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution 1761, condemning apartheid policies. In 1966, the UN held the first of many colloquiums on apartheid. The General Assembly announced 21 March as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, in memory of the Sharpeville massacre. In 1971, the General Assembly formally denounced the institution of homelands, and a motion was passed in 1974 to expel South Africa from the UN, but this was vetoed by France, the United Kingdom and the United States, all key trade associates of South Africa.


On 7 August 1963 the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 181, calling for a voluntary arms embargo against South Africa. In the same year a Special Committee Against Apartheid was established to encourage and oversee plans of action against the regime. From 1964 the US and Britain discontinued their arms trade with South Africa. The Security Council also condemned the Soweto massacre in Resolution 392. In 1977, the voluntary UN arms embargo became mandatory with the passing of Resolution 418.
Economic sanctions against South Africa were also frequently debated as an effective way of putting pressure on the apartheid government. In 1962, the UN General Assembly requested that its members sever political, fiscal and transportation ties with South Africa. In 1968, it proposed ending all cultural, educational and sporting connections as well. Economic sanctions, however, were not made mandatory, because of opposition from South Africa's main trading partners.


In 1973, the UN adopted the Apartheid Convention which defines apartheid and even qualifies it as a crime against humanity which might lead to international criminal prosecution of the individuals responsible for perpetrating it. This convention has however only been ratified by 107 of the 193 member states as of August 2008. The convention was initially drafted by the former USSR and Guinea, before being presented to the UN General Assembly. The convention was adopted with a vote of 91 for, and 4 (Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) against the convention.In 1978 and 1983 the UN condemned South Africa at the World Conference Against Racism. After much debate, by the late 1980s the United States, the United Kingdom, and 23 other nations had passed laws placing various trade sanctions on South Africa. A disinvestment from South Africa movement in many countries was similarly widespread, with individual cities and provinces around the world implementing various laws and local regulations forbidding registered corporations under their jurisdiction from doing business with South African firms, factories, or banks.