The Human Rights Movement Against Apartheid South Africa: The Impact of Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions

  • Colin Wintle University of Waterloo


This paper focuses on the development of the anti-apartheid movement and the role of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions in bringing down the apartheid regime of South Africa. It first establishes the anti-apartheid movement as a human rights movement, fighting against institutionalized racism as a human rights violation. It then analyzes the movement’s development from disorganized and disconnected, to professional and universal. Focusing mainly on the developments within the United States and the United Kingdom, the movement can be seen as developing within government institutions as well as grassroots organizations. The implementation of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions by the movement are analyzed individually through specific examples. The impact of these campaigns collectively was very substantial in causing discontent within South Africa, leading to a fall in support for apartheid from within the state. The paper concludes that it was the combined efforts of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions to infiltrate South Africa socially, economically, and politically that truly brought an end to apartheid.