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Annan hails contributions of celebrity advocates to UN causes

Annan hails contributions of celebrity advocates to UN causes

UN Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace at Headquarters today
Hailing the contributions of celebrity advocates to United Nations causes, Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged them to continue to use their talents to improve understanding of important global issues and to help the UN make the world a better place.

"Whenever you put your name to a message, you raise awareness far and wide, among policy-makers and among the millions of people who elect them," the Secretary-General told an audience at the UN's New York headquarters that included more than 40 Messengers of Peace and Goodwill Ambassadors appointed by him and the heads of various UN agencies.

"In an age when the media tends to focus on issues they think of as more immediately accessible to the public, our chances of breaking through the barrier of indifference are vastly improved when we have people like you to plead our case," Mr. Annan added.

The Secretary-General said that the celebrities, in particular, could capture the attention and imagination of young people, those who will continue the work started by the current generation. "You can help instil in young people the values of understanding, solidarity, respect and communication across cultures - the very ideals the United Nations stands for - so that those values come to them naturally for the rest of their lives," he stressed.

Princess Basma Bint Talal of Jordan, a Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), said that one of the most challenging and inspiring aspects of her role was to create a deeper understanding of the linkages that existed between global policies and local realities. As an Arab Muslim woman, the Princess added, she had seen firsthand the positive impact of sustainable human development approaches promoted by UNDP and the dignity and self-reliance which capacity development created for individuals and local communities. In her desperately troubled region, it was such efforts that created opportunities, choices and hope.

Basketball player Dikembe Mutombo, a Goodwill Ambassador on behalf of UNDP, said his experiences have been extremely rewarding, recalling one memorable experience that took place at the World Conference on HIV/AIDS in Durban, South Africa. On the first day of the conference, an 11-year-old boy named Nkosi gave an inspiring message to the delegates. His voice was small but powerful, Mr. Mutombo said, and he spoke about unconditional love, courage, brotherhood, tolerance and forgiveness. Though his community had rejected him, a loving foster family had taken him in and he had fought a long, hard battle with AIDS as his short life had made an impact on all who had met him and heard him that day.

The 48 celebrities - drawn from the worlds of art, music, film, sports, literature and public affairs - are meeting at the invitation of the Secretary-General to share information on the priorities of the UN system and to enlist their support for lending greater impetus to the Millennium Development Goals campaign.

The Messengers and Ambassadors help raise awareness of key UN issues and activities, ranging from 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 two-day programme, entitled "Celebrity Advocacy for the New Millennium," will include a series of workshops focusing on the priorities Member States have set up in the Millennium Declaration and which will guide the work of the Organization for the coming years.

Among those attending the meeting are Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, actor Danny Glover and former Miss Universe Lara Dutta. Singer and actor Harry Belafonte, actor Peter Ustinov and actress Feryal Ali Gauhar are also participating in the event, as are actress Angelina Jolie, actor Dr. Chea Samnang and Her Royal Highness Queen Inkhositaki La Motsa of Swaziland.