“It has been my good fortune to play many roles: actor, novelist, playwright, director, commentator and others. And one of the most satisfying ‘others’ began more than 30 years ago, when I first became associated with UNICEF in support of children’s rights throughout the world.”Renaissance man; Goodwill ambassador
Sir Peter Ustinov’s accomplishments in the humanitarian arena and his unique and vastly effective work for more than 35 years as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador will never be forgotten, especially by the millions of children whose lives he directly influenced through his partnership with UNICEF.
Sir Peter was born in London in 1921 into a culturally diverse family – a Russian, German, French and Italian mix. This ancestral mix was a source of pride for Sir Peter, who on commenting on his background often expressed, “I really have automatic loyalty to something like the United Nations…”
He was the perfect UNICEF ambassador with a natural ease around children of all nations.
Although he achieved international acclaim as an actor, producer, playwright, novelist and raconteur, his role as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador was equally distinguished.
Appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 1968, Sir Peter fulfilled the voluntary position with delight. His travels on behalf of UNICEF took him to China, Russia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Kenya, Egypt and Thailand, among other countries, and he lobbied governments at the highest levels to recognize the rights of children worldwide.
Several of his missions to visit UNICEF projects, such as his 1986 visit to child health and education projects in China, were filmed for television. A two-week filmed mission to the Russian Federation in 1993 gave him the opportunity to help build awareness of the situation facing children in that country. In schools, hospitals, shelters and care facilities in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and other cities, he met with children who had been abused, children with disabilities, children living on the streets and children whose lives had been blighted by environmental degradation.
Sir Peter represented UNICEF in numerous international television specials over the years and his inimitable style contributed to several award-winning radio and television commercials. Premieres of several of his films have benefited UNICEF National Committees. Throughout his long career as a Goodwill Ambassador, he actively supported National Committees by participating in advocacy and fund-raising events and through media interviews.
|Sir Peter Ustinov poses with children who have just performed a traditional folk dance at the UNICEF-assisted child protection centre in Takhman district. Cambodia, 1996.|
It is hard to do justice to the sheer range of accomplishments in other aspects of Sir Peter’s life. Sir Peter has written numerous plays, books, and film scripts, and he has starred in 40 films and 14 plays. He has directed 8 films, 8 plays and 10 operas; recorded 8 best-selling records, starred in his own radio show, appeared in dozens of top television shows all over the world, and narrated many others.
Over his life, Sir Peter accumulated a considerable list of credits and awards for his professional life, among them two Academy Awards for Best Actor (Spartacus in 1961 and Topkapi in 1964) and numerous Academy nominations, Emmys, a Grammy, the Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for “Services to the Arts,” and was honoured in France when he was chosen in 1989 to become the Membre Etranger de l’Academie des Beaux Arts et de l’Institut de France.
In June 1990, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II made him a Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in recognition of his artistic and humanitarian achievements.
Building bridges of peace
But it wasn’t the glamour and or the glitz that Sir Peter sought through his brilliant longstanding career. One of his major objectives was to help build friendship and understanding between East,West, North and South – and between generations.
His legacy will continue to inspire the millions of lives he touched.
Sir Peter died on 28 March 2004 in Switzerland.
View video obituary of Sir Peter Ustinov