With the passing of Lord Richard Attenborough, ‘the world has lost not only a great voice, but a great soul’, said United Nation Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Anthony Lake today as the agency remembered the life of its Goodwill Ambassador who died on Sunday at the age of 90.
“Lord Attenborough touched the lives of millions of people through his remarkable films, and through his travels and work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, he changed the lives of countless children. We join his many admirers in honouring his life and mourning his loss,” Mr. Lake said in a press release.
Mr. Attenborough was an Oscar-winning director and one of Britain’s leading actors. He also had a long and distinguished association with UNICEF, where he became a Goodwill Ambassador in October 1987. He built his familiarity with UNICEF programmes and staff during the filming of Gandhi in India, which he directed, and later Cry Freedom in Zimbabwe.
UNICEF benefited directly from special fundraising premieres of both of these films- Gandhi, for instance, raised almost one million dollars.
In October and November 1994, Mr. Attenborough undertook an extensive mission to Africa. He returned to South Africa in November 1995, after it had ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, for which he had campaigned on his earlier visit.
In April 2000, he visited Mozambique after it had been devastated by floods and set up a joint appeal by UNICEF and the United Kingdom’s Observer newspaper. He has also visited several UNICEF-supported projects in Thailand.
Mr. Attenborough worked tirelessly for UNICEF closer to home, too, supporting many advocacy and fund-raising initiatives and working to bring children’s issues to the forefront of the political and news agenda, Mr. Lake said. For example, in December 1998, he joined UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy to launch The State of the World’s Children report in London, using his unique standing and skills to publicize its aims with the world’s media.
While ill health in recent years curtailed his activities, Mr. Attenborough “remained a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador until his death,” Mr. Lake said.