U.N. Declaration Condemns Apartheid Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

The U.N. Declaration on South Africa bolstered international mobilization against apartheid and contributed to the dismantling of the South African regime’s racist policies.


The Declaration on South Africa was much more effective than the short-term resolutions of 1976. Many countries that had been reluctant to participate in the divestment of South Africa prior to 1979 began withdrawing their business interests. Foremost among these nations was the United States. In 1986, the U.S. Congress passed antiapartheid legislation that sanctioned South Africa and restricted trade in its products, including coal, steel, and textiles. American companies were prohibited from exporting computers to the South African police or military and from making further loans to the government in Pretoria. Exports from the United States to South Africa fell from $2.27 billion in 1984 to $1.28 billion in 1987. By the end of the decade, two other major traders with South Africa, Japan and the Soviet Union, had followed suit. Malan, Daniel François Kingston Declaration (1979)

The declaration also paved the way for the sweeping reforms that took place after the ailing Botha was replaced with the less cautious F. W. de Klerk De Klerk, F. W. in 1989. In only two years, de Klerk stripped away most of the legal structure that had been used to build one of the world’s most unjust societies. De Klerk’s lifting of the long-standing bans on the African National Congress African National Congress, South African and thirty-three opposition groups on February 2, 1990, went a long way toward giving blacks in South Africa a new political franchise. De Klerk also stopped hangings and released 120 political prisoners. On February 11, 1990, de Klerk stunned the world by releasing black political activist Nelson Mandela Mandela, Nelson from prison. On March 21, 1990, South Africa formally ended seventy-five years of rule over Namibia. Eleven years after the special session in Kingston, Jamaica, most of the reforms that the participants had proposed finally became reality.

The declaration contributed to the readmittance of South Africa to the world community. On July 15, 1991, U.S. president George H. W. Bush Bush, George H. W. [p]Bush, George H. W.;South Africa expressed his gratitude for the reforms made by the de Klerk regime by lifting most of the economic sanctions against South Africa that had been implemented five years before. Encouraged by the progress being made in South Africa, three other nations—Israel, Japan, and the Soviet Union—also began taking steps to restore economic relations with that country. During that same year, the International Olympic Committee provided a psychological boost to the African people by rescinding its 1970 expulsion of South Africa from the Olympic Games. In 1994, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president, having been elected in that nation’s first fully representative democratic election. Kingston Declaration (1979) Declaration on South Africa, U.N. (1979) Human rights;treaties, conventions, and declarations United Nations;apartheid Apartheid;U.N. conventions and declarations

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Assembly Adopts Ten Resolutions Calling for Action Against Apartheid Policies of South Africa.” U.N. Chronicle 13, no. 11 (1976): 38-45. Explains in detail the rationale behind each of the U.N. resolutions and also profiles the people who were instrumental in the formation of the resolutions.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Cell, John W. The Highest Stage of White Supremacy: The Origins of Segregation in South Africa and the American South. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982. Focuses on the 1890-1925 period in a search for the origins of segregation in South Africa and the United States. Makes a distinction between segregation and white supremacy that is particularly enlightening.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Guelke, Adrian. Rethinking the Rise and Fall of Apartheid: South Africa and World Politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Discusses the nature and significance of South African apartheid and the reasons the apartheid system ended, with particular attention paid to the international antiapartheid movement.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Kingston Declaration Calls for New Strategies Against Apartheid.” U.N. Chronicle 16, no. 5 (1979): 27. One of the best sources available for in-depth information on the four-day special session in Jamaica that produced the Declaration on South Africa. Pays special attention to the contributions made by the most influential participants.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lelyveld, Joseph. Move Your Shadow: South Africa, Black and White. New York: New York Times Books, 1985. South African correspondent for The New York Times employs anecdotes from his travels to portray both blacks and whites as victims of apartheid. Traces the evolution of apartheid by contrasting the conditions in South Africa in the mid-1960’s with those found in the early 1980’s. Provides a wrenching look at the human toll taken by South Africa’s racist policies.
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    xlink:type="simple">Leonard, Richard. South Africa at War: White Power and the Crisis in South Africa. Westport, Conn.: Lawrence Hill, 1983. The first carefully documented survey and analysis of the policies and actions of Botha’s regime. Shows that the enduring effect of the attempt to preserve apartheid was to increase the militarization of the country. Chapter 3, “The War in Namibia and Regional Aggression,” explores the role played by the United Nations in that region’s struggle for liberation.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">McClellan, Grant S., ed. Southern Africa. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1979. Collection of articles previously published in popular magazines and journals examines the effects of apartheid on Namibia, on South Africa’s economy, and on South Africa’s relations with the world. The essays in the last section discuss the effects on South Africa of the U.N. resolutions and declarations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">“Security Council to Be Asked to Impose Mandatory Sanctions on South Africa.” U.N. Chronicle 17, no. 1 (1980): 20-26. Explains each of the seven resolutions adopted by the General Assembly on December 12, 1979, and also describes the conditions in Namibia that led to the resolutions.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Thørn, Håkan. Anti-apartheid and the Emergence of a Global Civil Society. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Sociological study examines the power of collective action and places the antiapartheid movement within the context of global politics.

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