The United Nations has been in the forefront of the struggle against apartheid for over four decades. The General Assembly has condemned apartheid as a crime against humanity, and the Security Council, which has considered the question since 1960, has termed apartheid a crime against the conscience and dignity of mankind.
The United Nations has sought to help bring about a peaceful solution of the conflict by promoting concerted international action, including the isolation of South Africa diplomatically, economically and militarily, the development of international norms against apartheid and the provision of assistance to the victims of apartheid and their liberation movements.
The racial policies of South Africa were discussed at the very first United Nations General Assembly session in 1946, when India complained that the Government had enacted legislation which discriminated against South Africans of Indian origin. During the 1950s, as South Africa persisted in and intensified its policies of racial segregation, numerous resolutions concerning apartheid were adopted.
The Sharpeville massacre
In March 1960, sixty-nine people were killed and 180 wounded at Sharpeville, when South African police opened fire on peaceful, unarmed demonstrators protesting against the "pass laws". The "pass laws" required that all Africans carry "reference documents" which served as identification and as work and travel permits. The incident and its aftermath, which rocked South Africa, aroused world opinion and marked a turning point in deliberations on apartheid at the United Nations.
For the first time the matter was taken up by the Security Council, which on 1 April 1960 adopted by a resolution stating that a continuation of South Africa's racial policies might endanger international peace and security and calling upon the South African Government to abandon its policies of apartheid and racial discrimination. The General Assembly asked Member States to break off diplomatic relations with South Africa, boycott South African goods and refrain from all exports to South Africa, including the export of armaments. In 1962, it established a special body, known since 1974 as the Special Committee against Apartheid. The mandate of the Committee is to review all aspects of South Africa's policies of apartheid and the …