Goodwill Ambassadors and Celebrities

Prominent individuals from the worlds of art, sports, literature and entertainment have been associated with different branches of the UN for many years. They have helped publicize development issues, raise funds and mobilize public opinion around the need for policy changes. In addition to the Goodwill Ambassadors, Messengers of Peace are designated by the UN Secretary-General for important causes. UN guidelines cover selection criteria and conditions of service for both categories.

UNDP, along with other UN agencies, has long enlisted the voluntary services and support of prominent individuals as Goodwill Ambassadors to highlight important causes. Their fame helps amplify the urgent and universal message of human development and international cooperation, helping to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

These Goodwill Ambassadors articulate the UNDP development philosophy and programmes of self-reliant opportunities and motivate people to act in the interest of improving their own lives and those of their fellow citizens. They give their time freely to help UNDP in its challenging mission, and travel often to developing countries for first-hand observation so that they can bring the human development message to the industrialized world.

UNDP currently has six global ambassadors, four of which are managed through the Geneva office:

Zinédine Zidane:

Zinédine Zidane

French soccer star Zinédine Zidane was appointed a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in March 2001 to help countries reduce poverty and support their efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Mr. Zidane first collaborated with UNDP in September 1999 when he and another soccer superstar, Ronaldo, launched the UNDP mobilization campaign, "Teams to End Poverty" which appeared in an advertisement carried pro-bono by more than 150 media outlets throughout Europe, inviting people, businesses and institutions to get involved in anti-poverty actions locally or internationally. He himself chose to support an education project in Albania, one of Europe's poorest countries.

Zidane's other social and humanitarian activities include public appearances, such as a match in Marseille with the French team in early 2000, organized by Secours Populaire Francais, to benefit 60,000 children whose families could not afford to send on vacation. He and Ronaldo team up every year with their friends in the widely televised Match Against Poverty in competition against each other to raise awareness of the MDGs and to raise funds for poverty-fighting initiatives on behalf of UNDP. In December 2007 Zidane visited UNDP anti poverty projects during a three day visit to Niger



Ronaldo has been a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador since his appointment in 2000. In the years since his appointment, Ronaldo has shone the light of his soccer superstardom on critical causes in the fight against poverty. "I am particularly concerned that everyone should be able to have an education to be equipped for life," he says. "The goal of ending poverty is within reach and everyone can contribute to it by getting involved or supporting organizations that are already working to give the poor a better life."

As with his soccer, Ronaldo's anti-poverty efforts began among the poor children of Brazil, funding projects to help those living in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. He supported the inter-agency efforts of UNAIDS as special representative in its 1998 and 1999 awareness-raising campaigns against HIV/AIDS. In 1999, Ronaldo launched the UNDP global mobilization campaign called Teams to End Poverty, donating a cheque for the rehabilitation of a school in Kosovo.

Didier Drogba:

Didier Drogba

Didier Drogba of Côte d'Ivoire is the leading scorer in both the English Premier League and the UEFA Champions League. He became an Ambassador on 24 January 2007. Drogba has previously collaborated with several charities and organizations and has long been active in mobilizing support for the eradication of poverty. He has also participated in several HIV/AIDS campaigns, and will continue to focus on this issue--and its implications for human rights and women's empowerment. Dider Drogba also supports UNDP's work in conflict prevention and recovery. A spot with Didier Drogba on cluster munitions and armed violence has been produced for two international conferences on these issues and will be broadcast in countries concerned.

Maria Sharapova:

Maria Sharapova

Russian Tennis Superstar Maria Sharapova became a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador February 2007. While she addresses on global issues in her role as Goodwill Ambassador, she also places a special focus on Chernobyl recovery and development efforts in a region often lacking in resources and which is of special personal significance for her. 

Most recently, on 18 September 2008, Ms. Sharapova launched a $210,000 scholarship programme for students from Chernobyl-affected areas of Belarus. The programme is a joint initiative of the Maria Sharapova Foundation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The scholarships will enable 12 talented young people from Chernobyl-affected regions to follow a full course of studies at two leading universities in Belarus.

When appointed GWA Maria Sharapova' also contributed though her Foundation $100,000 to youth-oriented projects in the regions of Belarus, the Russian Federation, and Ukraine affected by the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident.

Other Activities

Through the "Teaming Up against Poverty initiative" the UNDP Geneva office has enlisted the support of many celebrities (including Carla Bruni, Gerard Depardieu, Jemel Debbouze, Patick Demarchelier, Sergio Garcia, LeBron James, Jeanne Moreau, Rafael Nadal, Michael Schumacher, Jacques Villeneuve and Wim Wenders), each of whom has contributed significant time, energy and/or resources to causes supported by UNDP. Without necessarily being names as a Goodwill Ambassador, this initiative provides an opportunity for celebrities to support UNDP's messages. Through the Match Against Poverty, for example, many football players, sports stars and celebrities have contributed to making this important event a success.

For more information on UNDP's Goodwill Ambassadors, please visit the Corporate UNDP GWA Webpage.