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United Nations Calls for Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize Nominations

Submissions deadline — 28 February 2020 *

The United Nations is calling for nominations for the 2020 United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize.



The Prize was established in June 2014 by the United Nations General Assembly to recognize the achievements of those who dedicate their lives to the service of humanity by promoting the purposes and principles of the United Nations while honouring and paying homage to Nelson Mandela’s extraordinary life and legacy of reconciliation, political transition, and social transformation.


First awarded in 2015, the Prize recognized two outstanding individuals: Dr Helena Ndume of Namibia, an ophthalmologist whose life’s work has been the treatment of blindness and eye-related illnesses, both in Namibia and throughout the developing world; and former President of Portugal, Jorge Fernando Branco Sampaio, a leader in the struggle for the restoration of democracy in his country.


Nominations for the 2020 prize will be accepted until 28 February 2020. The Award is presented every five years to two individuals: one female and one male. Laureates will be selected by a United Nations committee chaired by the President of the General Assembly and composed of representatives of six Member States, including representatives from each of the five regional groups, a representative of the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the United Nations and five eminent individuals who will serve as ex officio members. The United Nations Department of Global Communications will serve as the committee’s secretariat.


It is expected that the laureates will be announced in May 2020, with the prizes awarded at United Nations Headquarters in New York during the commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day, marked on 18 July.


Who is Eligible?

  • The Prize aims to recognize the achievements of those who dedicated their lives to the service of humanity as guided by the purposes and principles of the UN while honouring and paying homage to Mandela’s extraordinary life and legacy of reconciliation, political transition and social transformation.

  • The Prize shall be awarded to acknowledge this service to humanity in the promotion of reconciliation and social cohesion and in community development.

  • No current staff member of any organization of the United Nations system shall be eligible for the Prize.

How are the Laureates Chosen?

  • Nominations can be received from a broad variety of sources including the Member States and observer States of the UN; entities and intergovernmental organizations having received a standing invitation to participate as observers in the sessions and work of the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council; institutions of higher education; independent research centres and institutes; NGOs in consultative status with Economic and Social Council; laureates of the Prize.

  • Nominations are reviewed by the secretariat and a consolidated list is presented to a committee that selects the winners.

  • The Committee has 7 members: the General Assembly President (Chair); a representative of the Permanent Mission of South Africa to the UN; 5 representatives of Member States of the UN (one from each of the 5 regional groups).

  • The Committee also selects 5 eminent individuals as honorary members to serve in an advisory capacity for a specific term during the selection process every 5 years. The individuals shall have made significant contributions to the service of humanity and to promoting the purposes and principles of the UN. Their selection is based on equitable geographical representation


What is the Timeline?

  • Nominations for the 2020 Nelson Mandela Prize shall reach the secretariat no later than 28 February 2020.

  • Individuals receiving the Prize will be announced in May of the year in which the Prize is to be awarded.

  • The Secretary-General will present the Prize at an award ceremony as part of the General Assembly commemoration of Nelson Mandela International Day (18 July) at UN Headquarters.

Please refer to the Statute of the United Nations Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela Prize for nominee eligibility criteria, and for further important information on the selection and process.


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