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Harry Belafonte

Goodwill Ambassador

“To really know what progress we’re making for children, we have to know how many children we have to begin with. The simple act of counting is an expression of a country’s intent to take care of its people.” – Harry Belafonte

Harry Belafonte is known worldwide for his achievements as a singer, actor and producer and for his commitment to human rights. Beginning with the American civil rights movement in the 1950’s, he has established a long and distinguished record of human rights advocacy. On 4 March 1987, he was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. 

Over the years, Mr. Belafonte’s dedication and generosity of spirit has helped set a high standard for the role of Goodwill Ambassador.  He has been an eloquent campaigner for the world’s children. He has met with presidents, parliamentarians, and members of civil society to champion the cause of UNICEF and help create partnerships for children. In 1997, UNICEF honoured Mr. Belafonte for ten years of service as a Goodwill Ambassador in a ceremony attended by then Secretary General Kofi Annan.

As the chairman of the 1987 International Symposium of Artists and Intellectuals for African Children in Senegal, he set the tone with the message that millions of child deaths each year could be prevented through simple measures such as immunization.  Mr. Belafonte has been outspoken about issues that have a negative impact on children’s lives, frequently alerting the media following his field visits. For example, he has seen and spoken about the dire need for primary health care in Mozambique, inadequate care for children affected by HIV/AIDS in South Africa, and the plight of abandoned children in Rwanda.

In 2004, after the abolition of school fees in Kenya, Mr. Belafonte visited Kenya on behalf of UNICEF to assess the impact and remaining challenges. He subsequently wrote a powerful editorial in the International Herald Tribune praising this achievement and calling for other countries to do the same. His other advocacy efforts include special concerts and broadcasts to raise funds for UNICEF and promote its programmes. He frequently supports the work of UNICEF national committees around the world.

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Born in Harlem, New York, Harry Belafonte moved to his mother’s native Jamaica where he discovered the folk music that became his trademark. His third album, Calypso, became the first recording in history to sell more than a million copies. As an actor Mr. Belafonte was first seen on Broadway in John Murray Anderson’s Almanac (1953) for which he won a Tony Award. Mr. Belafonte was the first African-American man to win an Emmy, for his television music special Tonight with Harry Belafonte (1959), the first of several TV specials he produced.

In 1960, he was named cultural adviser to the Peace Corps. Mr. Belafonte  started the campaign and was the organizer of the multi-artist recording ‘We Are the World’ which won the 1985 Grammy award for record of the year and raised millions of dollars for emergency assistance in Africa.

In 1994, he received the National Medal of the Arts from President Bill Clinton for outstanding contribution to the arts in the United States. His other awards include the Ronald McDonald House Charities’ 2000 Award of Excellence in recognition of his humanitarian work. Harry Belafonte is a 2006 honoree of the Impact Award given by the American Association of Retired Person’s magazine to those who have done extraordinary humanitarian work.

Mr Belafonte lives in New York.




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