The United Nations has urged communities around the world to make a difference on Nelson Mandela Day on July 18. Picture: Reuters/Denis Balibouse

Johannesburg - The United Nations (UN) has urged communities around the world to make a difference on Nelson Mandela  Day on July 18.

“Everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better, and Mandela Day is an occasion for everyone to take action and inspire change,” said the UN.

For 67 years Mandela devoted his life to the service of humanity — as a human rights lawyer, a prisoner of conscience, an international peacemaker and the first democratically elected president of a free South Africa.

The Nelson Mandela Foundation is dedicating this year's Mandela Day to Action Against Poverty, honouring Mandela's leadership and devotion to fighting poverty and promoting social justice for all.

In November 2009, the UN General Assembly declared July 18 "Nelson Mandela International Day" in recognition of the former president’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom.

General Assembly resolution A/RES/64/13 recognises Mandela’s values and his dedication to the service of humanity, in the fields of conflict resolution, race relations, the promotion and protection of human rights, reconciliation, gender equality and the rights of children and other vulnerable groups, as well as the fight against poverty and the promotion of social justice.

It acknowledges his contribution to the struggle for democracy internationally and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world.

In December 2015, the General Assembly decided to extend the scope of Nelson Mandela International Day to also be utilised in order to promote humane conditions of imprisonment, to raise awareness about prisoners being a continuous part of society and to value the work of prison staff as a social service of particular importance.