UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador since 2007
"I know the nature of what it is to be forgotten, what it is to lose your humanity, and more importantly, what it is to recover from it and to have another life."
Ishmael Beah, bestselling author and human rights spokesperson, was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador in 2007, pledging to give a voice to children whose lives have been scarred by violence.
In 1991, the outbreak of a brutal civil war in Sierra Leone upended the lives of millions. Ishmael’s parents and two brothers were killed before he was forcibly recruited into the war at age thirteen. After two years, Ishmael was removed from the army, with help from UNICEF, and placed in a rehabilitation home in Freetown.
Through advocacy, he aims to change the course for thousands of children still trapped in war.
Ishmael is a member of the Human Rights Watch Children’s Rights Division Advisory Committee and has testified before the United States Congress.
Ishmael Beah's activity with UNICEF
On World Children’s Day, Ishmael spoke with Lunjok, a 14-year-old activist and writer in South Sudan, to discuss sustainability in her country.
Ishmael participated in a panel at the “Celebrating Champions for Children in Sierra Leone” event to advocate for sustaining critical prevention and response services to end violence against children.
Ishmael received the UNICEF USA Spirit of Compassion Award.
Ishmael was keynote speaker at the 25th annual UNICEF Canada Water for Life Gala, which raised over $1 million to provide clean water for children around the world.
Ishmael travelled to Jordan to amplify the voices of vulnerable children and young people affected by the conflict in Syria. While there, he helped develop the advocacy skills of nearly fifty young people from Jordan, Lebanon and Syria at a workshop funded by the EU Regional Trust Fund.
- Ishmael visited his native Sierra Leone, where he met with child survivors of sexual abuse, children in contact with the law, and orphaned children. He also met with President Julius Maada Bio and discussed the protection and promotion of the welfare of children in Sierra Leone.
- Ishmael travelled to Slovenia and Croatia, where he met with students, participated in fundraising activities and delivered a speech at the Better Business for Children Conference.
Ishmael spoke about his experience as a child soldier in Sierra Leone and his work advocating against the recruitment of children into armed groups at an event to commemorate UNICEF’s seventieth anniversary in New York.
Ishmael travelled to Sierra Leone to share how, as a child solider, he was able to reclaim his life with the support of UNICEF to become one of the most passionate advocates for children affected by war.
Ishmael travelled to South Sudan to meet with former child soldiers, as well as various parties to the conflict, to advocate for the release of child soldiers and their re-integration into communities.
Ishmael joined UNICEF Luxembourg to launch the KANNERLIICHT child rights action week, aimed at galvanizing public support for the work of UNICEF worldwide.
On a mission to the conflict-affected towns of N’délé and Akroussoulback in the Central African Republic, Ishmael witnessed the release of ten children from the armed group Convention of Patriots for Justice of Peace.
Ishmael helped raise the profile of UNICEF by participating in events in support of the UNICEF USA Fund: He was keynote speaker for a series on child protection and also spoke at the World Affairs Council.
At the United Nations headquarters in New York, Ishmael participated in a ministerial forum to assess the implementation of the Paris Commitments.
Ishmael attended a conference in Chad on ending the recruitment of child soldiers in six Central African countries.
In New York, Ishmael recorded a public service announcement to appeal for donations to help children in Haiti following the 12 January earthquake.
- Ishmael was Master of Ceremony and spoke at the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, held at the United Nations Trusteeship Council in New York.
- In New York, Ishmael recorded a public service announcement for the 20th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and was interviewed for the Big Think, a global forum connecting people and ideas.
- Ishmael wrote for the special edition of the State of the World’s Children Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- At the United Nations in New York, Ishmael and two other former child soldiers launched the Network of Young People Affected by War.
- In Jamaica, on his first UNICEF mission, Ishmael visited communities where children’s lives had been disrupted by crime and gang conflict.
- At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Ishmael spoke on “Journeys of Change.”
- At the United Nations in New York, Ishmael addressed world leaders and participated in a press conference with senior UN officials.
- At UNICEF headquarters in New York, Ishmael hosted a reception for his book, A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.
- In Hiroshima and Kyoto, Japan, Ishmael was keynote speaker at the Religions for Peace Youth Assembly.