Andrew Jackson Young (born March 12, 1932) is an American politician, diplomat, activist and pastor from Georgia. He has served as a Congressman from Georgia’s 5th congressional district, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, and Mayor of Atlanta. He served as President of the National Council of Churches USA, was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement, and was a supporter and friend of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Since leaving political office in 1989, Young has founded or served in a large number of organizations founded on public policy, political lobbying and international relations, with a special focus on Africa.
In 1977, President Jimmy Carter appointed Young to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Young resigned from Congress, and his seat was taken by Wyche Fowler after a special election.
Although the US and the UN enacted an arms embargo against South Africa, as President Carter’s UN ambassador, Andrew Young vetoed economic sanctions.
Young caused controversy when, during a July 1978 interview with French newspaper Le Matin de Paris, while discussing the Soviet Union and its treatment of political dissidents, he said, “We still have hundreds of people that I would categorize as political prisoners in our prisons,” in reference to jailed civil-rights and anti-war protestors. In response, U.S. Representative Larry McDonald (D-GA) sponsored a resolution to impeach Young, but the measure failed 293 to 82. Carter referred to it in a press conference as an “unfortunate statement”.
In 1979, Young played a leading role in advancing a settlement in Rhodesia with Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, who had been two of the military leaders in the Rhodesian Bush War, which had ended in 1979. The settlement paved the way for Mugabe to take power as Prime Minister of the newly formed Republic of Zimbabwe. There had been a general election in 1979, bringing Bishop Abel Muzorewa to power as leader of the United African National Council leading to the short-lived country of Zimbabwe Rhodesia. Young refused to accept the election’s results, and described the election as “neofascist”, a sentiment echoed by United Nations Security Council Resolution 445 and 448. The situation was resolved the next year with the Lancaster House Agreement and the establishment of Zimbabwe.
Young’s favoring of Mugabe and Nkomo over Muzorewa and his predecessor and ally, Ian Smith, was, and remains, controversial. Many African-American activists, including Jesse Jackson and Coretta Scott King, supported the anti-colonialism represented by Mugabe and Nkomo. However, it was opposed by others, including civil-rights leader Bayard Rustin, who argued that the 1979 election had been “free and fair”, as well as senators Harry F. Byrd, Jr. (I-VA) and Jesse Helms (R-NC). It was later criticized in 2005 by Gabriel Shumba, executive director of the anti-Mugabe Zimbabwe Exiles Forum.
In July 1979, Young discovered that an upcoming report by the United Nations Division for Palestinian Rights called for the creation of a Palestinian State. Young wanted to delay the report because the Carter Administration was dealing with too many other issues at the time. He met with the UN representatives of several Arab countries to try to convince them the report should be delayed; they agreed in principle, but insisted that the Palestine Liberation Organization also had to agree. As a result, on July 20, Young met with Zehdi Terzi, the UN representative of the PLO, at the apartment of the UN Ambassador from Kuwait. On August 10, news of this meeting became public when Mossad leaked its illegally-acquired transcript of the meeting first to Prime Minister Menachem Begin, and then through his office to Newsweek. The meeting was highly controversial, since the United States had already promised Israel that it would not meet directly with the PLO until the PLO recognized Israel’s right to exist.
Young’s UN ambassadorship ended on August 14. Jimmy Carter denied any complicity in what was called the “Andy Young Affair”, and asked Young to resign. Asked about the incident by Time soon afterward, Young stated, “It is very difficult to do the things that I think are in the interest of the country and maintain the standards of protocol and diplomacy… I really don’t feel a bit sorry for anything that I have done.” Soon afterward, on the television show Meet the Press, he stated that Israel was “stubborn and intransigent.”