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Showing posts with label Bono. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bono. Show all posts

Monday, October 28, 2013

How GOOD are Goodwill Ambassadors?

Goodwill Ambassadors are Great

By Kristy Siegfried, IRIN Global

JOHANNESBURG, 28 October 2013 (IRIN) - Humanitarian professionals tend to cringe at the spectacle of khaki-clad celebrities handing out food rations to refugees in Sudan or singing nursery rhymes to orphans in Malawi, but there is no denying the global attention and resources that well-known personalities can bring to their chosen causes.

The UN has long recognized this potential. It started using celebrities to publicize its work and raise funds in 1954, with the appointment of American entertainer Danny Kaye as the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) first Goodwill Ambassador. The UN now has 183 Goodwill Ambassadors, and most international aid organizations have followed suit with their own celebrity ambassador programs.

But using actors, musicians and sports stars to convey messages about potentially complex development issues has its pitfalls. Recently, the US publication People Magazine ran an article about singer Christina Aguilera’s “emotional” trip to “war-torn” Rwanda as an Ambassador Against Hunger for the UN World Food Program.

“The people of Rwanda touched me in a way I cannot express or put into words,” says Aguilera in the article. “They are in a place that needs our help, and I am so proud of the work that we are doing there."

Erroneously describing Rwanda as war-torn was probably the fault of the journalist rather than Aguilera, but the piece was lacerated by critics eager to mock the singer’s apparent naivety and the suggestion that a rapidly developing country like Rwanda needs an American celebrity to save it.

In his 2012 paper, Celebrity Diplomacy, London Metropolitan University’s Mark Wheeler described how the UN’s use of Goodwill Ambassadors has evolved from the “glamorous conformity” of stars like Danny Kaye and Audrey Hepburn to the more politically engaged and problematic Goodwill Ambassadors of the 1980s and 1990s, such as Richard Gere, who criticized the UN over its “non-recognition of Tibet”.

Under UN Secretary-General Kofi Anan, the use of Goodwill Ambassadors became “ubiquitous”, and by the end of his tenure in 2006 there were more than 400 of them.

“The difficulty is then it gets out of control,” Wheeler told IRIN. “The celebrity can actually act against your cause, like [singer] Geri Haliwell, who was brought in to talk about sexually transmitted diseases [for UNFPA] and ended up being completely out of her depth.”

Amplifying the Message

Marissa Buckanoff, who heads up UNICEF’s celebrity relations and partnerships division in New York, said that a six to 12 month “courtship period” is mandatory for celebrities before they are designated Goodwill Ambassadors for UNICEF. “It’s really a getting-to-know-each-other period,” she told IRIN. “It’s informing them, knowing their interests, keeping them updated on our work.”

“If you use the wrong person for the wrong issue, you’re setting them up to fail,” she added.

Marie-Vincente Pasdeloup, who manages Oxfam’s Global Ambassador program, agreed that celebrities need to be thoroughly briefed and informed about the purpose of a particular campaign before they make any public appearances on behalf of the organization. At that point, they are expected to convey core messages in their own words. “We have statements and press releases and blogs that are done by Oxfam’s core professionals. For the Ambassadors, it’s not the same messages we expect,” she told IRIN. “They’ll say, ‘I met these people, I was moved, I think it’s unjust and we need to act’, so it’s not like the nitty-gritty.”

"We have statements and press releases and blogs that are done by Oxfam's professionals. For the Ambassadors, it's not the same messages we expect"

She added that one of main goals of using celebrities was to reach an audience the organization would not normally reach and get them interested in an issue. “It’s an essential entry point for people,” she said. “Then we have policy papers and actions at all kinds of other levels.”

Social media has had a major impact on the ways celebrity ambassadors are able to spread the messages of the organizations they represent.

Pasdeloup gave the example of popular British rock band Coldplay, which is one of Oxfam’s Global Ambassadors. “They have over 11 million followers on Twitter, so if they tweet something about Oxfam, potentially 11 million people get that information on their smart phones,” she said.

Dangers of Simplicity

Sisonke Msimang, a South Africa-based social commentator and civil society insider, welcomed the way in which celebrities can “lend their reach to amplify our message”, but cautioned that “the danger is celebrities over-simply the complexities of the challenges because their audience is one that’s not used to dealing with nuance.”

“You want regular people to care about poverty, and the risk is that if they only care about it because Miley Cyrus does, it kind of diminishes the complexity of what we’re trying to do,” she told IRIN.

Other commentators have gone further, arguing that the star power celebrities lend to charitable causes diverts public attention from the real social and economic causes of poverty and inequality and promotes simplistic clichés about “basket case” Africa - a continent in need of Western charity and incapable of solving its own problems.

Photo: Simone D. McCourtie/World Bank
Bono's access to leaders like World Bank President Jim Yong Kim gives him more influence than many NGOs working on the ground.

The most scathing such criticisms are often reserved for the go-it-alone brand of celebrity activism made famous by U2 front-man Bono, who, notes Wheeler, has lobbied Western governments to implement debt relief for developing nations while being engaged in schemes to avoid paying his own band’s taxes.

Msimang described Bono as a cautionary tale for celebrities considering getting involved “in the policy side of things” or founding their own NGOs. “Your celebrity might give you access to important people, but if you don’t have the technical knowledge, the roots on the ground for you to broker meaningful agreements, you should just stop at raising money.”

The more respectful route, she argued, was for celebrities to align themselves with existing credible institutions. “When there’s no visible institution behind them, the suspicion is that it’s about grandstanding - for building the persona of Bono, for example,” she said.

Return on Investment?

Measuring the return on the investment that UN agencies and NGOs make into ambassador programs appears to be far from scientific. Although celebrities generally volunteer their time and often make personal donations, there are costs associated with managing ambassador programs and flying celebrities and photographers out to visit projects in Madagascar or Myanmar.

In 2006, the Joint Inspection Unit - an independent, external oversight body for the UN - conducted an evaluation of Goodwill Ambassador programs run by UN agencies. It recommended that the number of these ambassadors be “rationalized” and their services limited to a two-year period, “renewable subject to an end-of-term evaluation of the job carried out by the Goodwill Ambassador and its impact”. It also recommended more self-financing of travel by Goodwill Ambassadors who, in most cases, could readily afford it.

At UNICEF, which continues to maintain the largest Goodwill Ambassador program - with 30 global ambassadors, 13 regional ones and well over a 100 national ones - self-financing is encouraged, according to Buckanoff, but varies on a case-by-case basis.

Measuring the return on a celebrity trip to a UNICEF project was not precise, but Buckanoff said the amount of media coverage and social media interest generated, as well as funds raised, gave a strong indication. “It’s very cost-effective because we would never reach the numbers we reach if we didn't have them to help us,” she said.

Aziyadé Poltier-Mutal, communications partnerships manager with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), said her agency does annual reports to gauge the impacts of its nine international Goodwill Ambassadors.

“We have learned to be very strategic. We call on them only when we are sure we will receive a return on the investment of their time and energy,” she told IRIN.

A frequent criticism of celebrity activists has been that the most-high profile ones are invariably drawn from Europe and the US, reinforcing the perception that Africa needs to be saved by the West. An increasing number of Goodwill Ambassadors, particularly regional and national ones, are now drawn from developing countries, but in an era when traditional donor sources are drying up, “the kinds of resources that celebrities from the West have, particularly from the US, is pretty unparalleled,” said Msimang.

“When it’s done well, it has potential to be a win-win,” she added. “You raise the profile of a cause and you also add gravitas to celebrities who may or may not deserve it.”

Translation edited from British English to American English by the Globcal International Commission

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Stars Shine Light on Global Causes

Public: Politicians more Apt to Focus on Touted Policies

Joshua E. Keating | Foreign Policy

Between the Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga-fueled spread of the Kony 2012 campaign and George Clooney’s arrest in Washington D.C., celebrity activism seems to be the trending topic of the moment.

Activists tend to grumble at celebrity do-gooders, but cable networks and politicians tend to focus on the world’s undercovered hotspots more easily when there’s a famous face to go along with a worthy cause. Here’s a look at 10 stars who, for better or worse, are shaping the debate on global poverty and conflict.

George Clooney | Cause: Sudan

Actor George Clooney embraces activist Dick
Gregory during a protest at the Sudan Embassy
in Washington D.C. this month. The actor was
among people arrested at the protest.
In 2010, the actor helped found the Satellite Sentinel project to monitor human rights abuses in South Sudan. More recently, he traveled to Sudan to document violence in the Nuba mountains, where the Sudanese government is accused of blocking humanitarian assistance as part of an effort to crack down on separatists.

Upon his return, he testified before Congress, debriefed President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on his trip and sat next to first lady Michelle Obama at British Prime Minister David Cameron’s state dinner.

On March 16, he was arrested along with his father at a protest outside the Sudanese embassy in Washington.

Don Cheadle | Cause: Sudan

The “Hotel Rwanda” star has, for years, been associated with the Enough Project, which works to raise awareness of crimes against humanity, particularly in Sudan’s Darfur region.

Cheadle toured Darfur with the group in 2005 and said the experience made it impossible to return to “my comfortable life and take stock in all the privileges … and do nothing.” In 2007, Cheadle co-wrote the book “Not On Our Watch: The Mission to End Genocide in Darfur and Beyond” with Enough Project founder John Prendergast.

Along with Clooney, Cheadle was an outspoken advocate for South Sudanese independence.

Angelina Jolie | Cause: Children and War

Jolie says her interest in humanitarian work was first piqued in 2000, when she traveled to Cambodia to film “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.” The following year, she was appointed a goodwill ambassador by the U.N. High Commission for Refugees.

Jolie is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a perch she’s used to raise awareness of women in war.

But Jolie’s advocacy has mostly focused on the impact of war on children. With her partner Brad Pitt, Jolie has also adopted children from Cambodia, Vietnam and Ethiopia, and may be partly responsible for an uptick in international adoptions.

Oprah Winfrey | Cause: Education in Africa

The talk-show queen may have thought she had found a fairly controversy-free way to do good by funding a $40 million leadership academy for young women in South Africa, but the project has been dogged by controversy from the start. First, there were some who questioned whether Winfrey’s money could have helped more children if she hadn’t insisted on amenities such as a yoga studio, beauty salon and 200-thread-count sheets at the facility. Other scandals at the academy include sexual-assault allegations against one of the school matrons and the discovery of a dead newborn baby in the bag of one of the students.

Oprah Winfrey walks with honor graduates after the first graduation ceremony at her leadership academy for girls in South Africa. Winfrey has also been a high-profile supporter of Invisible Children’s Stop Kony campaign and has had the group’s founders on her show.

Bono | Cause: Debt Relief, Foreign Aid

The one-named Irish rocker has become a virtual shorthand for show-business activism and was named the most politically effective celebrity of all time in 2011 by National Journal. He’s been particularly outspoken on the topic of Third World debt relief and foreign aid in Africa.

He was at George W. Bush’s side in 2002 when the then president announced a $5 billion increase in aid to Africa. In 2006, he helped organized the Product Red campaign, in which companies like Apple and the Gap sold “Red”-branded goods to raise money for AIDS charities.

Bono has also made a point of partnering with Christian evangelical groups on his humanitarian projects and was a speaker at one of Bush’s national prayer breakfasts.

Ben Affleck | Cause: Eastern Congo

“The Town” star has traveled repeatedly to the restive Eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo since 2007 to raise money to help alleviate poverty in the region and raise awareness of its ongoing violence. He has brought along traveling companions including Cindy McCain and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011.

In 2010, he founded his own NGO, the Eastern Congo Initiative, to raise funds for civil society-building projects in the region. He has testified before Congress on the issue of child soldiers and sexual assault in the region and urged the Obama administration to appoint a special envoy to the DRC.

Affleck recently praised the Kony 2012 campaign for raising international awareness about the Lord’s Resistance Army, which has been active in Eastern Congo, but cautioned that “Westerners are not and will never be the ‘saviors’ of Africa.”

Kristen Bell, Ryan Gosling | Cause: Uganda, LRA

Bell and Gosling can rightfully claim to have been on the Stop Kony bandwagon before Invisible Children’s incredibly successful Kony 2012 viral video campaign made the African warlord a household name last week. Bell has been the controversial group’s most dedicated celebrity spokesperson and has lobbied Congress on its behalf and recorded videos promoting its message. A visualization of how the Kony 2012 meme spread throughout Twitter shows the actress has a surprising level of social media clout.

For his part, Gosling has traveled to Uganda, Congo and Darfur and spoken out on behalf of Invisible Children and the Enough Project. But his efforts at advocacy filmmaking, including a scripted film on child soldiers and a documentary about a Darfuri refugee camp, have been less successful than his soaring Hollywood career.

“They both failed. I’ve not done very well,” he told the Guardian newspaper last year.

Natalie Portman | Cause: Mircofinance

The Israeli-American starlet first took an interest in microfinance – the practice of giving small loans to developing world entrepreneurs, generally women – in her senior year at Harvard.

Portman has become an evangelist for the concept, serving as a goodwill ambassador for the microfinance organization FINCA and co-chair of its Village Banking campaign, along with Jordan’s Queen Rania. She has also toured U.S. college campuses to promote microfinance.

Danny Glover | Multiple causes

The actor and activist has served as a Goodwill ambassador for the United Nations Development Program and as UNICEF ambassador, and is chairman of the advocacy group TransAfrica Forum. Glover has courted controversy in the United States by meeting with Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and with his fierce criticism of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

“I think the World Bank either has to be abolished or it has to change,” he said in an interview promoting the anti-globalization film “Bamako.” In 2011, Glover stepped into a statesman’s role when he traveled to South Africa to accompany exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide back to his home country.

Madonna | Cause: Children in Malawi

The Material Girl may have made a career out of courting controversy, but the kind attracted by her charity in Malawi hasn’t exactly been the welcome variety.

In 2006, she founded Raising Malawi, a charity aimed at providing education and aid to Malawi’s children. The foundation has been criticized for squandering millions of dollars in donations on a school that was never built and attempting to evict people from their homes to build a school. The country’s government has declined to work with the singer on her foundation’s latest construction plan, with a spokeswoman saying, “We now feel like this is all about propping up her global image and not in our interest.”

Then there was her protracted legal battle with the father of a child she wanted to adopt.

Of course, Madonna may have something to prove. Her ex-husband, Sean Penn, has earned international attention for his relief work in Haiti.

Originally published as Stars Shine Light on Global Causes by The Journal Gazette.

Monday, March 12, 2012

New Film in Response to KONY 2012 will be Released

Invisible Children To Address Questions In New Film

'KONY 2012' Has Been Viewed More Than 72M Times By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) -- Invisible Children, the nonprofit group that produced a hugely popular half-hour documentary about the notorious African warlord Joseph Kony, says it will release a new film Monday to respond to criticism and questions over its approach.

The group's "KONY 2012" video had been viewed more than 72 million times on YouTube by late Sunday night. Invisible Children, based in San Diego, says it wants to make Kony a household name and drum up global support to end the murders, rapes, abuses and abductions committed by the Lord's Resistance Army in central Africa.

But with the popularity of the video and kudos to the filmmakers for raising awareness of an African tragedy came a flurry of questions about Invisible Children's intentions, its transparency and whether the social media frenzy was too little, too late.

"There's nothing to hide -- Invisible Children has been transparent since 2004, when we started," Ben Keesey, the group's chief executive, said in an interview on "CNN Newsroom" Sunday night. "That's our intention and we want to show that this campaign is part of a model and strategy that's comprehensive."

He said the group planned to release a 10-minute video Monday "that clicks through some of the questions."

The interview with Keesey and Jason Russell, the director of the video and one the founders of Invisible Children, followed fierce debate online and in the news media over the group's methods and strategy.

Russell said he had been a little surprised by some of the criticism. "I didn't know there was that much tension," he said.

Evelyn Apoko, who was abducted by the LRA in 2001 and spent three harrowing years in captivity, said last week that Kony needs to face justice and she hoped the documentary would help make that happen.

But she worried that a military campaign against Kony might bring more injury to children who have suffered enough. Apoko was severely disfigured after a military bombing targeting the LRA.

"It hurts a lot of young innocent kids," she said. "They don't know how to protect themselves."

Keesey said Sunday that Invisible Children was acutely aware of those risks.

"Any approach to stop the LRA needs to be sensitive to that," he said. "It needs to do everything possible to protect those innocent women and children."

He said that was "absolutely the mission and the point of this campaign."

Now a fellow for Strongheart, a Liberia-based group that provides opportunities for young people who have survived conflict, Apoko said she found the film powerful but that the crisis goes beyond Kony.

"They should open their eyes more on the people affected by the war," she said. "And the children -- they need to find a way to protect them. They have no hope, no way to escape."

Russell said that Invisible Children had chosen Kony as a focal point in order to get its message out.

"Because of the zeitgeist of the culture and the world, we need an enemy," he said. "We need to know who the worst is."

Kony has operated in central Africa for two decades and is wanted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court. In October, the United States sent 100 combat-equipped troops on a mission to kill or capture Kony.

Invisible Children says it wants Kony's name to become so familiar that it will pressure the United States and other governments to stay on the chase. On April 20, the group plans to paper cities with Kony posters.

But the media attention on Kony may actually hamper efforts to catch Kony, said Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council.

"All I can say is, it couldn't have happened at a more unhelpful moment when you look at it strategically and operationally," said Pham, a civilian adviser to the military command that sent the U.S. troops.

The film comes after a regional -- and covert -- military operation has been under way for several months. The attention could prompt Kony to go on the move again and seriously set back African and U.S. efforts to catch Kony once and for all.

The LRA terrorized Uganda for years in a failed attempt to overthrow the government. But since 2006, when it was pushed out of northern Uganda, it has largely operated the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic.

The United Nations refugee agency said last week that 3,000 people were recently displaced after fresh LRA attacks in Congo's Orientale province. The agency reported 20 new attacks since the start of the year, with one person killed and 17 abducted.

The cultish rebel group stands accused of using vicious tactics to recruit and force thousands of children into taking up arms. There are reports of child soldiers brainwashed into killing their own parents.

Invisible Children's film follows an alleged former Ugandan child soldier and calls for action against Kony.

But several observers are urging caution, saying that Invisible Children has manipulated facts in the past and advised viewers to watch the documentary with that in mind.

A student blog called "Visible Children" linked to a photograph of Invisible Children's founders -- Bobby Bailey, Laren Poole, and Russell -- posing with hardcore weaponry with members of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, who have battled the LRA.

"The group is in favor of direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government's army and various other military forces," the Visible Children blog post said. "Both the Ugandan army and Sudan People's Liberation Army are riddled with accusations of rape and looting, but Invisible Children defends them."

Bloggers debated the merit of arming one group to fight another and questioned why only about 30 percent of Invisible Children's budget was used to help children in Uganda.

"We're an unorthodox organization," Russell said in a previous interview last week. "We work outside of the traditional box of what you think about charity and nonprofit."

He said a third of fund-raising dollars were spent on the film, another third on film-related advocacy and the rest on a mission to end the war and rehabilitate war-affected children.

"So that's our model," he said. "That's who we are. We're not World Vision. We are not these other organizations that do amazing work on the ground. If you want to fund a cow or you want to help someone in a village in that component, you can do that. That's a third of what we do."

On its website, Invisible Children said it spent 80.46 percent on programs in 2011; 16.24 percent on administration and management costs; and 3.22 percent on direct fundraising.

Invisible Children spokeswoman Noelle Jouglet said any money generated from the film will go to Invisible Children, which builds schools in Uganda. Money will also go to support a high-frequency radio station that Invisible Children operates, which broadcasts anti-LRA messages to fighters urging them to defect. CNN is unable to immediately verify this information or any of Invisible Children's activities in African nations.

Actress Mia Farrow, a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF who has visited LRA-attacked areas, commended Invisible Children for bringing "unprecedented focus" to a horrific situation but urged people to donate money to agencies like the Red Cross and UNICEF that work to help LRA victims.

Ugandan government spokesman Fred Opolot said Invisible Children's campaign reflected Africa as a dark continent of incessant trouble.

"Invisible Children, if it is using such images to dupe the international community into, into ensuring that they contribute financially into its works, I'm afraid to say it is a wrong approach," he said, "and indeed its activities in northern Uganda will be further questioned, in as far as the amount of money they receive vis-a-vis the actual interventions that they make in northern Uganda where he thinks he is concerned about."

"KONY 2012" skyrocketed to popularity on YouTube propelled by thousands of posts on Twitter and Facebook, especially by celebrities.

Invisible Children sent Twitter messages about the documentary to 20 celebrities, including Bono, Angelina Jolie, Jay Z, Ryan Seacrest and Rihanna. Many of the tweets about the film appear to be from fans who follow those celebrities.

Copyright CNN 2012

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