A resolution adopted by consensus by the 192-member world body calls for commemorations every year starting in 2010 on July 18 - Mandela's birthday - to recognize the Nobel Peace Prize laureate's contribution to resolving conflicts and promoting race relations, human rights and reconciliation.
By adopting the resolution, General Assembly President Ali Treki said the international community was expressing its appreciation for "a great man" who suffered for the sake of people everywhere. Mandela, 91, led the fight against apartheid in South Africa as head of the African National Congress' armed wing. He was convicted of sabotage and other crimes and served 27 years in prison. When he was freed in 1990, he supported reconciliation and helped lead South Africa's transition toward multi-racial democracy.
Mandela became the country's first president to win in a fully democratic election and led South Africa from 1994-99. He is celebrated today as an international statesman and continues to speak out on human rights and other global issues.
The resolution recognizes Mandela's "leading role in and support for Africa's struggle for liberation and Africa's unity, and his outstanding contribution to the creation of a non-racial, non-sexist democratic South Africa."