The BBC World Service is reporing today that : “Russian tennis star Maria Sharapova has been named as a goodwill ambassador for the UN development agency, UNDP. The 19-year-old will focus on projects dealing with the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Signed on for a symbolic $1 the world’s top-ranked female player said it was ‘one of my proudest contracts ever’. Ms Sharapova immediately gave $100,000 to projects tackling the world’s worst nuclear accident. She explained that the issues were important to her as she had a personal connection with the area. After the accident and just before she was born, Ms Sharapova’s father and pregnant mother fled from the Belarussian city of Gomel, some 80 miles (128km) north of Chernobyl. They went to Siberia where their daughter was born in 1987.
‘That’s why it means so much to me to be a part of this project because I was sort of part of it as well. I hope that I can go there on field trips’, Ms Sharapova said. She added that she was more nervous about this new role than before a Grand Slam tournament. The tennis pro has set up a private foundation which will channel funds into eight projects in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6364793.stm
This phenomenon of signing up celebrities as “Good Will Ambassadors” and “Messengers of Peace” has gotten out of hand. Investigative journalist Claudia Rossett, who has taken apart the UN on the Oil-For-Food program, wouldn’t be able to tackle this story. There is too much star-pandering. It’s the “silly season”.
Yesterday, the Beaver got me thinking about this, with the comment sent about an earlier post, yesterday: “I thought these Ambassadors are chosen because they: ‘Demonstrate an active commitment to promoting the rights of children and to furthering UNICEFâ€™s mission in building a world fit for children; Are committed to the values and principles set forth in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of Child and other humanitarian guidelines championed by UNICEF; Exemplify good citizenship and are passionate, courageous, inspiring, caring, principled, credible, and capable of acting as influential advocates for children’. Time for UN to rethink its star-struck cult of celebrity, special envoys or ‘senior advisers on disaster and emergency’ as there is a difference between sizzle and steak when innocents lives are in danger”.
On Sunday, Reuters news agence reported from Bangui (Central African Republic) that: “Hollywood film star Mia Farrow arrived in Central African Republic at the weekend seeking to draw world attention to what aid workers call a ‘forgotten crisis’ worsened by spillover from war in Sudan’s Darfur region. As a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF, Farrow has campaigned for U.N. peacekeepers to be sent to Darfur and to stricken parts of neighboring Chad and Central African Republic caught up in spreading violence. ‘It’s being called a triangle, and I needed to see the third side. I’ve been twice to Darfur, and last November to eastern Chad’, Farrow told Reuters late on Saturday after arriving in the Central African Republic’s capital Bangui. ‘I don’t understand why there is not a peacekeeping force’. The U.N. Security Council has decided to send blue helmets to Darfur to stop what Washington says is genocide. But the Khartoum government denies its army and mounted Janjaweed militia allies are committing genocide against Dafuri tribes and has resisted deployment of U.N. troops. It has agreed only to phased U.N. support for an under-resourced African Union force struggling to stem the bloodshed. The violence has fueled rebellions in Chad and Central African Republic, triggering calls for U.N. troops to deploy in areas bordering Darfur. U.N. officials, including former Secretary General Kofi Annan, have questioned the value of deploying peacekeepers until deals can be reached to end these rebellions. But the Security Council sent a technical team to both countries to look into the idea further. Former colonial power France sent troops and planes late last year to Central African Republic to help dislodge rebels who captured the remote northeastern town of Birao near the Darfur border, where Farrow was due to go on Sunday Central African Republic has been the scene for several years of attacks by bandits, armed rebels and government troops that have forced an estimated 220,000 people from their homes in what Bob Kitchen of the International Rescue Committee called a ‘forgotten crisis’. ‘There has been a very limited humanitarian response, and the situation is continuing to deteriorate. There is ongoing displacement as a result of the ongoing hostilities between the government forces and rebels’, Kitchen told Reuters. Some 50,000 refugees have crossed the border into southern Chad, and 20,000 into Cameroon. Another 150,000 are displaced within Central African Republic, many living rough in the bush after fleeing attacks on their villages by government troops … Farrow is due to address the U.N. Security Council on February 27 on Chad and Central African Republic.‘ What does it say about the greatest institution on earth that in the face of a genocide all we can do is ask permission of the perpetrators to come in and save innocent civilians’, Farrow said.” http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070211/us_nm/centralafrica_darfur
Nicole Kidman toured Kosovo — where two protesters were killed by UN policement on Sunday, while protesting a UN proposal on the future status of Kosovo — in October. The BBC World Service reported at the time that: “Actress Nicole Kidman is touring Kosovo as part of her new role as a United Nations goodwill ambassador. Kidman arrived in Pristina on Saturday and was cheered by onlookers as she walked through the city to her hotel. ‘I’m here to learn so that I can help your country at this crucial, crucial time for the future’, she said.
Kidman, 39, was appointed a goodwill ambassador for the UN’s development fund for women, Unifem, in January. The tour is her first in that role. She said she was in Kosovo to ‘meet people, hear their stories and educate myself, and I suppose be a voice for you if you need it’. … Unifem has run several projects studying the impact of the conflict on women and their role in reconciliation…”
At the time of Kidman’s appointment as a Goodwill Ambassador for UNIFEM, in January 2006, it was reported that she would “promote women’s rights around the world … [and] will focus on issues such as ending violence against women”. Kidman has also, apparently, been a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Children’s Fund since 1994. Kidman starred in the movie The Interpreter, playing a UN employee (a simultaenous interpreter from southern Africa, as hit happens.) The decision to open the UN to filming was part of the “strategic” communications decision taken by Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor (who ran second in UN Security Council straw polls as a candidate for SG’s job last year, and whose contract is not being renewed by the winner, new SG BAN KI-MOON.) Tharoor got the explicit approval of SG Annan to allow the filming inside the UN Headquarters. They argued that it was an important way to explain, to the people of the world, the work of the Organization. The UN Security Council endorsed the decision.
I’m not kidding.
A more reflective piece by the BBC’s entertainment news division tried to explain all this:
“Why Jolie gets your story on air”, by Ben Sutherland: “Celebrities such as Angelina Jolie and George Clooney have become integral to getting stories about global problems on air, a leading anchor for the international news network CNN has told the World Urban Forum in Vancouver, Canada. Zain Verjee, who co-anchors CNN’s international rolling news, said that news editors worldwide – particularly those in news organisations which rely on advertising – are ever more likely to broadcast something with a celebrity angle. ‘In terms of having the media using celebrities to focus on getting the rating – unfortunately it’s a business’, she said. ‘Having Angelina Jolie talk about refugees puts more eyeballs on TV’. Angelina Jolie recorded a message for World Refugee Day earlier this month. The actress, currently in the spotlight after giving birth to a daughter with actor Brad Pitt, is a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Refugee Agency. The message was shown by a large number of television stations, with one Spanish network broadcasting it twice an hour. Ms Verjee said that celebrities were now an integral part of the way that important stories are told. She explained that she herself had only been able to get pieces about the troubled situation in Darfur on air when actors Mia Farrow and George Clooney visited the region.
‘It isn’t great, no – I think it’s awful, frankly – but it does help to raise awareness’, she added. The media has come under intense criticism at the World Urban Forum, with many speakers expressing anger or disappointment that what they see as hugely important problems facing the planet are not getting enough exposure. There was a big ovation for a speaker from the floor who said that ‘instead of interviewing celebrities, I would like to see your cameras going into the villages of Africa and focusing attention on them’. But Ms Verjee described this as ‘me-go’ – people earnestly wanting to get an issue they care deeply about in the news without thinking about how to present it in an interesting way. When this happens, ‘my eyes just glaze over’, she said. However, Charles Kelly, the Commissioner General of the Forum, told the BBC that he felt there was little interest in getting an in-depth understanding of some of the vastly difficult problems that urbanisation presents. ‘The media is looking for what they can fit into 30 seconds’, he said. ‘But these issues are far too complex to fit into 30 seconds’.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/5106344.stm
The proof of this is that Mia Farrow still doesn’t understand why it is difficult to get UN peacekeepers into Darfur …
The other part of this is to explain why it is that the UN loves doing this.
Because it brings “positive” press publicity. For the UN agencies, this means a possible “surge” in donations.
A UN press release dated 18 October 2000 says: “Forty-eight United Nations Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors — prominent personalities from the worlds of art, music, film, sport, literature and public affairs who help publicize key United Nations issues and activities — will meet for the first time at United Nations Headquarters on 23 October 2000. United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has invited them to Headquarters in order to acknowledge their contribution to the Organizationâ€™s work and to discuss ways of raising public awareness of and support for United Nations goals and activities. The celebrity advocates speak out for the United Nations and seven of its offices, funds and programmes on issues ranging from fighting poverty, HIV/AIDS and intolerance, to improving the status of women, promoting educational and employment opportunities for youth, and protection for vulnerable groups such as children and refugees. The day-long programme will include a public forum titled ‘The United Nations and Celebrity Advocacy in an Age of Cynicism’. Representatives of the United Nations system, civil society and students are expected to participate in the discussion, which will be open to the media. The forum will be followed by a private luncheon hosted by the Secretary-General.
Those expected to participate include:
Messengers of Peace (appointed by the Secretary-General):
Muhammad Ali, former heavyweight boxing champion (United States); Anna Cataldi, author and journalist (Italy); Michael Douglas, actor (United States); Enrico Macias, singer (France)
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP): Danny Glover, actor (United States); Nadine Gordimer, Nobel laureate for literature (South Africa); Misako Konno, author, television personality and actress (Japan); ‘Ronaldo’ Luis Nazario de Lima, football player (Brazil); Hussein Fahmy, actor (Egypt).
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA): Kattis Ahlstrom, journalist (Sweden); Nicolaas Biegman, former co-Chairman, Cairo Conference on Population and Development (Netherlands); Mary Banotti, Member of European Parliament (Ireland); Magenta Devine, radio and television personality (United Kingdom); Geri Halliwell, singer (United Kingdom); Waris Dirie, fashion supermodel, activist (Somalia); Safia El-Emary, actress (Egypt); Catarina Furtado, actress (Portugal); Wendy Fitzwilliam, former Miss Universe (Trinidad and Tobago); Lupita Jones, former Miss Universe (Mexico); Feryal Ali Gauhar, actress/film maker (Pakistan); Linda Gray, actress, environmental activist (United States); Hanne-Vibeke Holst, author and journalist (Denmark); Manisha Koirala, actress (India); Mikko Kuustonen, singer, songwriter (Finland); Mpule Kwelagobe, former Miss Universe (Botswana); Goedele Liekens, media personality (Belgium); Bui Nakhirunkanok, former Miss Universe (Thailand); Bertrand Piccard, scientist-adventurer (Switzerland); Rosy Senanayake, actress, former Miss World (Sri Lanka).
United Nations Childrenâ€™s Fund (UNICEF): Harry Belafonte, singer, actor (United States); Johann Olav Koss, Olympic champion speed skater (Norway); Mia Farrow, actress (United States); Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, television personality (Japan); Nana Mouskouri, singer (Greece); Youssou Nâ€™ Dour, musician (Senegal); Susan Sarandon, actress (United States); Vendela Thommessen, model (Norway); Sir Peter Ustinov, actor (United Kingdom).
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR): Djordje Balasevic, singer (Yugoslavia); Adel Imam, actor (Egypt); Arja Saijonmaa, singer (Finland). [n.b. — and now, Angelina Jolie]
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR): Seamus Heaney, Nobel laureate for literature (Ireland); Marian Wright Edelman, activist for childrenâ€™s rights (United States).
United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention (UNODCCP): Al Bano Carrisi, singer (Italy); Franz Klammer, Olympic champion skier (Austria); Tetsuya Komuro, musician (Japan); Letizia Moratti, television executive (Italy).
United Nations Volunteers (UNV): Takehito Nakata, volunteer/activist (Japan).
The public forum will focus on the influence that famous people have in drawing attention to global problems and promoting United Nations action to improve the lives of people everywhere. … Moderated by television journalist Riz Khan of CNN International, it will allow participants to examine how to increase public awareness and support for United Nations work in key areas, such as promoting development assistance to poor countries, tolerance and respect for human rights, disarmament, drug control and help for vulnerable groups such as refugees and children.
Goodwill Ambassadors have served United Nations bodies since UNICEFâ€™s first Goodwill Ambassador, Danny Kaye, was named in 1954.
In 1997, Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed for the first time United Nations Messengers of Peace -â€“ prominent personalities not directly affiliated with an individual United Nations programme. Messengers of Peace are distinguished men and women of talent and passion who have expressed their desire to help focus global attention on the noble aims of the United Nations Charter: a world without war, respect for human rights, international law, and social and economic progress. These appointments were intended to recognize the individualâ€™s commitment to peace, honour and human dignity, and as a means of underlining that working for peace is not solely the province of governments.
Over the years, many prominent people have lent their names, talents and time to support United Nations programmes as Goodwill Ambassadors and celebrity advocates. There is no typical Messenger of Peace or Goodwill Ambassador. In general, however, those named are people of international reputation, outstanding in their fields, who have a demonstrated interest and commitment to the goals and ideals of the United Nations and who accept to serve as advocates, spokespersons and representatives. They are active at a variety of levels — from the national to the global…”
This group [updated, of course] met again at UNHQ/NY in June 2002: UN MESSENGERS OF PEACE, GOODWILL AMBASSADORS SHARE EXPERIENCES, AS TWO-DAY MEETING ON CELEBRITY ADVOCACY OPENS: “The two-day meeting entitled, “Celebrity Advocacy for the New Millennium”, is the second time the group is meeting at Headquarters, the first being almost two years ago. Forty-eight prominent persons, from 27 countries, from the worlds of art, film, music, sports, literature and public affairs have come together to participate in workshops, share information on the priorities of the United Nations system and discuss ways for lending greater impetus to the Millennium Development Goals … The celebrity advocates speak out for the United Nations and nine of its offices, funds and programmes on issues ranging from fighting HIV/AIDS to improving the status of women and protecting children and refugees.”
UN SG Annan would not have missed such a gathering. According to the UN Press release: “Secretary-General KOFI ANNAN apologized for opening on a somber note. He said this morning there had been another desperate act of terror in Israel. ‘My sorrow could not be deeper for all the families touched by the tragedy’, he said, condemning the act. No cause could justify taking innocent lives. It was one more reason to work harder to bring peace to that tragic region. Welcoming the Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace, he said this meeting would help them to gain a deeper understanding of the work of the United Nations. It was just as important, however, that the meeting help people at the United Nations to learn how the Organization might make its message more effective. It was on people as much as governments that the United Nations depended for support. The Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace could connect with people practically everywhere on earth, he said, in particular, they could capture the attention and imagination of young people, to instil in them the values of understanding, solidarity, respect and communication across all cultures, the very ideals the United Nations stood for. In the two years since the first gathering, a great deal had happened to bring home the crucial importance of those values in the twenty-first century. The attacks of 11 September had provided a painful reminder of the need to work together to address global challenges, and the special session of the General Assembly on HIV/AIDS showed that the world indeed was ready to work together in fighting one of the biggest challenges of this age. He said the Nobel Peace Price had offered recognition that to achieve such truly global cooperation in the twenty-first century, the United Nations played an indispensable role, as had been demonstrated by events in East Timor and Sierra Leone, among other things, and by the entry into force of the Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The presence of Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace here today showed vividly that when it came to working together for a better world, there was no divide between civilizations, the Secretary-General said. It showed that the message they would take back to their various audiences and constituencies was truly universal. That message could be summed up in the Millennium Declaration, agreed on by all the worldâ€™s countries two years ago as a blueprint for improving peopleâ€™s lives in the twenty-first century. It was up to national leaders to put it in practice, but Governments could not do it alone. They needed to hear the voices of people who insisted that their leaders would translate those pledges into action. That was where the Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace came in. Referring to the impact Bono had had in arguing the case for debt relief and poverty alleviation in Africa, he said a reporter had told him he was confused about who was the real architect of United States foreign aid policy — the Irish musician or the Treasury Secretary. The commitment of the Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace reflected their true ‘star quality’ â€“- not the glitter of celebrity on the outside, but the character of the human being inside â€“- a human being who cared enough to stick with his or her mission. It gave those in difficult situations hope to know that someone cared. ‘Dear ambassadors, dear messengers, dear friends, please go out and use your talent to help us make the world a better place’, he said.”
The same UN Press Release also quoted Angelina Jolie: “ANGELINA JOLIE (United States), actress and Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that despite the fact that she had not learned much in school about what was going on in the world, she had always thought the United Nations was a good institution. When she read in a book about the United Nations that there were more than 20 million refugees and more people displaced, she said she could not believe it. She had called Washington to offer her services. She had gone to Sierra Leone and Pakistan among other countries, and the first trip had completely changed her life. She had become very connected to what was truly important“. [Isn’t this what she says about her children?]
There are also Good Will Ambassadors appointed just for one specific event, such as MARCEL MARCEAU NAMED GOODWILL AMBASSADOR FOR 2002 UNITED NATIONS SECOND WORLD ASSEMBLY ON AGEING: “often referred to as the worldâ€™s greatest mime”, Marcel Marceau served as the first Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Second World Assembly on Ageing, in Madrid, Spain from 8 to 12 April 2002. A UN Press Release added that: “Mr. Marceau will accept his designation as Goodwill Ambassador at a press conference on 26 April 2001, at 11:15 a.m., at United Nations Headquarters in New York. Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, will announce Mr. Marceauâ€™s designation. Also participating in the press conference will be: Odile Frank, Chief, Social Integration Branch, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs; and ThÃ©rÃ¨se Gastaut, Director, Public Affairs Division, Department of Public Information, who will serve as moderator”.
And, the former United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson appointed performer Natacha Atlas as Goodwill Ambassador for the World Conference against Racism.
Mrs. Robinson, Secretary-General of the World Conference, said that Natacha Atlas, a great singer of mixed European-Egyptian-Jewish background, â€œembodies the message that there is strength in diversity, that our differences — be they ethnic, racial or religious — are a source of riches to be embraced rather than feared.â€ In fact, Ms. Atlas was the eighth Goodwill Ambassador named for the World Conference Against Racism, which took place in Durban, South Africa, from 31 August to 7 September 2001 [just before the 9/11 hijacking of passenger airplanes which were crashed into the World Trade Center twin towers in NYC, and into the Pentagon building in Washington D.C. ] The other Good Will Ambassadors for the Racism Conference were: Nobel Prize laureates for literature Wole Soyinka of Nigeria and Seamus Heaney of Ireland; Panamanian actor and musician Ruben Blades; Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun; Indian sitarist Ravi Shankar; former Icelandic President Vigdis Finnbogadottir and children’s rights defender Marian Wright Edelman of the United States.
Then, Vanessa Redgrave visited the occupied Palestinian territory in 2004 as a Good Will Ambassador of UNRWA and of UNICEF. An UNRWA Press Release, re-issued as a UN Press Release, reported: “The actress and human rights activist Vanessa Redgrave has made an appeal to the international community to increase its emergency humanitarian assistance to Palestinians suffering in the occupied Palestinian territory and to the Government of Israel to ease its movement restrictions on United Nations agencies. Ms. Redgrave is making her first-ever visit to Palestine, after nearly 30 years of campaigning for peace and justice in the Middle East, as a guest of UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, and as a Goodwill Ambassador of UNICEF, the United Nationsâ€™ childrenâ€™s agency. She has already toured some of the crowded refugee camps of the Gaza Strip, seeing for herself the conditions in which Palestine refugees live. She has visited an UNRWA clinic, taken part in a womenâ€™s community discussion about the difficulties of their lives under occupation, and helped to launch a UNICEF measles immunization campaign targeting all children under five in the occupied Palestinian territory. Ms. Redgrave also visited the Palestinian Youth Association for Leadership and Rights Activation (PYALARA) and the Childrenâ€™s Municipal Council in Gaza City. A planned visit to Rafah to meet some of the more than 15,000 people made homeless by Israelâ€™s house demolitions there had to be cancelled because of the internal closure of the Gaza Strip. In the West Bank, Ms. Redgrave has visited Aâ€™Ram and Qalqilya to see the impact of the barrier on Palestinian communities. Thousands of refugees who rely on UNRWAâ€™s humanitarian aid will be cut off from humanitarian services by the barrier.
As part of an extensive cultural programme, Ms. Redgrave and the British violinist and composer Stephen Bentley, of the InKlein Quartet, will perform for Palestinian children at the Kalandia childrenâ€™s centre in Kalandia refugee camp. Mr. Bentley will also give a violin master class at the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music summer camp at Emmaus village. Ms. Redgrave will perform a short programme of readings at the Al Kasabah Theatre in Ramallah and attend a performance of the theatreâ€™s production of Smile for Palestine. At a press conference in Jerusalem, Ms. Redgrave appealed to the international community to contribute more to UNRWAâ€™s Emergency Appeal for the West Bank and Gaza for 2004. So far, only 30 per cent ($62 million out of $209 million) of UNRWAâ€™s needs for the year has been pledged.” http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2004/pal2005.doc.htm