Sunday, July 3, 2011

Goodwill ambassadors

We must admit it: it’s really annoying to see some Hollywood celebrities visiting a refugee camp or a hospital in a Third World country as goodwill ambassador of some international organisation, specially when this same celebrity recently bought a castle in the south of France or he/she spends our lifetime money on a party on a tropical island. Somehow, it is as shocking as those winners of beauty contests who promise that this prize will be used to bring peace to the world.
It is perfectly legitimate to feel outraged in front of these apparently hypocritical acts, which are often seen as a clearing of conscience or just as a personal marketing campaign. But it is also true that such goodwill ambassadors have a very important task: they are meant to change things so that we can build up a better world. Some days ago Angelina Jolie (UNHCR’s goodwill ambassador, the UN Refugee Agency) visited the Turkey’s border with Syria to raise awareness about Syrian refugees who fled their country due to Bashar al-Assad’s repression. The actress appeared in the front page and covers of newspapers and magazines and on the TV news, so that some people realised for the first time that there are street riots in Syria and that the Syrian army shoots demonstrators. Some people even heard for the first time about Syria and its president Bashar al-Assad. But not only newspaper readers: celebrity-news magazines and TV programmes also talked about Syria and repression. Maybe our prejudices (we all have prejudices, don’t we?) cast a shadow on the positive side of goodwill ambassadors. So let’s analyse who they really are and what they really do.
There are hundreds of goodwill ambassadors, some of them really well-known personalities. They are celebrities from the worlds of cinema, sports or music, but there are also writers, scientists and activists. These goodwill ambassadors devote some of their time advocating for international organization campaigns and making them visible, because otherwise they would never appear on the mass media --or at least, not as often and as significantly as they do with celebrities’ presence. Goodwill ambassadors also play a significant role when it comes to putting pressure on governments to listen to the claims of these organisations.
Many NGOs and international organizations have goodwill ambassadors. The most well-known celebrities collaborate with UN agencies like UNHCR (Angelina Jolie, Barbara Hendricks, Jesús Vázquez or Giorgio Armani, among others), WHO (Jet Li or the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra), UNESCO (Kitín Muñoz, Wole Soyinka or Bahia Hariri), or UNICEF (David Beckham, Mia Farrow, Orlando Bloom, Leo Messi or Shakira), and many more. The European Union, the Lions Club, the African Union or the International Olympic Committee also have goodwill ambassadors, as well as other associations like the Global Peace Index. Even some universities, towns or countries… Here you can find a complete list of goodwill ambassadors of UN agencies. 
With the aim of letting people know about conflicts, problems and organizations which work to make a better world, any support is welcome. And you can add as many ifs and buts as you want, of course.


  1. The castle bought by Angelina Jolie, UNHCR’s goodwill ambassador, in the south of France:
  2. An example of reply by a beauty queen:
  3. UNHCR’s goodwill ambassadors: 
  4. WHO’s goodwill ambassadors:
  5. UNESCO’s goodwill ambassadors:
  6. UNICEF’s goodwill ambassadors:
  7. Post at Delivering Data about the Global Peace Index:
  8. UN agencies’ goodwill ambassadors:



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