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50 years of Goodwill Ambassadors; Belafonte continues tradition

2004 marks 50 years since UNICEF appointed its first Goodwill Ambassador, US comedian and entertainer Danny Kaye, who began a tradition of service that still brings hope to hundreds of millions of children worldwide.

Carrying on the dedication and commitment of dozens of other celebrities who have generously stood with UNICEF, singer Harry Belafonte is one of the agency's most outspoken and active advocates for children.

Upon his appointment in March 1987, Harry visited Senegal with then Executive Director James P. Grant. In Senegal, he served as chairman of the International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children, spreading the message that it is possible to save millions of children from dying.  He also participated musically, performing along with more than 20 other artists in the largest concert ever held in sub-Saharan Africa.

Over the next 17 years, Harry supported UNICEF's efforts by participating in benefit concerts, television specials and fund-raising events and speaking out for children on every occassion.  Harry's passion for children's rights carried him far and wide with UNICEF, crisscrossing the globe and meeting children from Gambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa, Jamaica as well as dozens of other countries.

The list of awards given to Harry in recognition of his humanitarian work is lengthy.  Among the highlights are: In March l98l, Belafonte was awarded the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal in Belgium, and in l982 the Martin Luther King Non-Violent Peace Prize.  He received a Kennedy Center Honor in December l989, and in April l990 received the first Nelson Mandela Courage Award. In
May 1997, Belafonte was honoured by the United Nations for his work on behalf of children around the world. At the ceremony, he was presented with the UNICEF Silver Statuette to commemorate 10 years as UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.  In December 2003, UNICEF named Harry one of three Goodwill Laureates in honour of his extraordinary efforts for UNICEF.

A few quick facts:

  •  Born in New York City's Harlem
  •  Moved to his mother's birthplace Jamaica
  •  His third album, Calypso, sparked an international calypso craze in
  •  l955 and was the first album in history to sell over 1 million copies.
  •  In 1962 named the cultural adviser to the Peace Corps by the late President John F. Kennedy
  • March 4, 1987 named UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador

Harry's fellow global goodwill ambassadors are:

Lord Richard Attenborough,  Emmanuelle Beart,  Judy Collins, Mia Farrow, Whoopi Goldberg, Angelique Kidjo,  Johann Olav Koss, Tetsuko Kuroyanagi, Femi Kuti, Leon Lai, Jessica Lange, Sir Roger Moore, Nana Mouskouri, Youssou N'Dour, Vanessa Redgrave, Sebastião Salgado, Susan Sarandon, Vendela  Thommessen, Sir Peter Ustinov,  Maxim Vengerov, George Weah

Attention broadcasters:  UNICEF has prepared archival b-roll footage of several ambassadors.  Please visit:




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