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Showing posts with label Google. 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

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fox News will not Promote the International Day of Peace

It is not spam if it is International Peace Day. The entire Internet has been fired up by Peace and Goodwill from everyone. There is nothing more important or nothing more popular ever discussed within social network platforms globally and probably nothing more important in our world today.

The 'People's Democratic Public Diplomacy Movement' has won over the attention of the entire globe, it is democracy pure and simple, people want peace and they will have it this day. Thinking about it a little more, it is very clear to see that diplomacy and progress cannot occur with dis-accord, war, famine and injustice, we need to find common ground to establish equality and harmony on the planet, what a great start to unite all people and start a global conversation. Peace it is so simple and so pure and a common need of mankind.

At 06:09 this morning we 'Googled' International Peace Day and they returned 53,000,000 unique hits; then from their news search and found 26,458 news stories, 38,527 blog posts posted in the past 24 hours.

Peace not a Big Deal in the News

It is obvious to me though that not everyone wants peace on earth; not even on this special day or even recognizes this day as necessary for the people or their readers, viewers or listeners. A few moments ago at 10:04 AM, I searched "International Peace Day" and "Fox News" and learned that they have not even mentioned this day. It all boils down to being a good citizen and is unnerving to see a supposedly prestigious network like FoxNews defy the will of the public and abstain from spending a single minute for an international awareness event that has captured the attention of so many people, world leaders and other news agencies. They say they are part of the mainstream media, but their abstinence and failure to recognize such an important event and observance worries me that they are the instigators of war and hatred.

They have on the other hand managed to mention, attack, and question the motives and work of US President Barack Obama 739 times in the last 24 hours. It is absolutely beyond me how a news network that serves millions to have such hatred and venom in their heart. Perhaps it is not a conspiracy, but I am positive it is not a coincidence, especially knowing that they have received over 100 news releases from all sorts of organizations relative to this day including the United Nations, Buckingham Palace, and the White House. Simply abominable, if a civil war or racial riots break out in the United States anytime soon, they will surely be responsible. As a strategist, I constantly watch them just to be informed as to where they stand and to know what the so called conservatives are doing. Which side are they on? Can they continue to be considered the right wingers if they are so far to the left of democracy and the will of the people?

Here are two screen captures to illustrate my point. Question everything said and reported on by Fox News. As an international strategist I watch them everyday, just to be aware of what is going on from all perspectives. I must say I enjoy watching them from here in Caracas, Venezuela as well, they have very good segments and informative stories; I know now though more than ever that they cannot be trusted to report on good news and that they are part of some higher agenda that is not very nice toward the people I help and work with everyday.

International Peace Day

International Peace Day, September 21, 2009: The International Day of Peace occurs annually on September 21. It is dedicated to peace, or specifically the absence of war, such as might be occasioned by a temporary ceasefire in a combat zone. It is observed by many nations, political groups, military groups, and peoples.

To inaugurate the day, the "Peace Bell" is rung at UN Headquarters in New York City. The bell is cast from coins donated by children from all continents. It was given as a gift by the Diet of Japan, and is referred to as "a reminder of the human cost of war." The inscription on its side reads: "Long live absolute world peace. Source: Wikipedia

If you are on Facebook or involved in social network platforms find the time to do a mini-post, write a story or form an opinion about International Peace Day today.

Also see the special message from the United Nations site by Ban Ki-Moon

We created two special links to help you find information and general content faster using TinyURL.
There is no other agenda more important today than International Peace Day. So far it has become the most successful social network observance event ever in history.

To follow us on Facebook and enjoy some of our programs that strive for a better world use these links below to our awareness campaigns. Here are three of many public awareness initiatives.

International Observances | Goodwill Ambassadors of the World | World Leaders Coalition

Editor's note: Just to make sure and give FoxNews the benefit of the doubt I made an additional search at 10:30 AM EST under a number of different parameters, I am sorry to report that I found 0 (zero) stories, written, televised or on any radio network they have or are affiliated with anywhere in the United States. FoxNews is owned by NewsCorp a powerful and influential news network watched by tens of millions of people worldwide.

Lets see if FoxNews changes their poor reporting and abstentionism toward world peace by day's end.

Here is the exact search parameter I created to follow Fox News:

All fellow Ambassadors, Fans, other Bloggers, Governments and International Agencies are welcome to post this article and make quotes without requesting permission.