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Who are UNICEF Ambassadors?

Posted on  in Turtle Bay

The United Nations International Emergency Fund, UNICEF, was formed on 11 December 1943. In 1954, Danny Kaye, an American actor and philanthropist, was named as the very first UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. Kaye, and every ambassador after him, works on behalf of the United Children’s Fund to defend the rights of children.

It’s important to note that UNICEF Ambassadors, or Goodwill Ambassadors as they’re known, do not formally represent the views of the state or non-state body that they hail from.

This is becauseUNICEF Ambassadors are not diplomatic personnel covered by the Vienna Convention of 1961. Essentially, Goodwill Ambassadors are marketing personnel who volunteer to contribute to the brand recognition of UNICEF. However, just because they are not formal ambassadors does not mean that Goodwill Ambassadors do not do good work.

A UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador is  commonly a celebrity with a global audience and name recognition. UNICEF officials have chosen celebrities such as Millie Bobby Brown to represent them. Millie Bobby Brown is currently the youngest UNICEF Ambassador

and plans on using her position to bring attention to children’s rights. Specifically, Brown wants to focus on lack of education, lack of safe places to play and learn, violence against children, and the effects of bullying.

Previous to Brown, celebrities such as Audrey Hepburn have served for UNICEF. During her service, Hepburn visited Ethiopia after years of civil strife and drought caused a severe famine. Hepburn visited the United Nations emergency sites and went back to The United States of America  and Europe to talk to the media about what was happening in Ethiopia in search for continued support of the United Nations’ efforts in Ethiopia. Later in her service as a UNICEF ambassador, Hepburn testified before the United States Congress on behalf of UNICEF and worked on the World Summit for Children.

Athletes have been asked to be UNICEF Goodwill Ambassadors as well. World champion tennis player, Serena Williams, was asked to be an ambassador on 25 September 2011.  Williams first teamed up with UNICEF in 2006 on a trip to Ghana for a public health campaign.  Since then, Williams has focused her work to ensure that the most vulnerable children are receiving a quality education. A few years after Williams, tennis star Novak Djokovic was asked to be a Goodwill Ambassador in 2015.

Sometimes, it’s not a celebrity or athlete who gets asked by UNICEF to be a Goodwill Ambassador. Sometimes, it is royalty. On 19 April 2007, Her Royal Highness, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg Maria Teresa, was asked to be the Eminent Advocate for Children. The Grand Duchess has spent her time as an ambassador working to help children affected by HIV and AIDS. Previous to HRH, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, Her Majesty Queen Rania of Jordan was asked to be the first Eminent Advocate for Children in January 2007 after being a Goodwill Ambassador for years.

But, being a celebrity alone is not enough. According to UNICEF, ambassadors must be, “in a position to focus the world’s eyes on the needs of children, both in their own countries and by visiting field projects and emergency programmes abroad. . . .They can use their talents and fame to fundraise and advocate for children and support UNICEF’s mission to ensure every child’s right to health, education, equality and protection.” In short, the celebrity in question must be more than a household name. All UNICEF Ambassadors must have the drive to improve the lives of children across the globe, as well as the ability to actually create the changes they set out to accomplish.

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