Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday designated actor and activist George Clooney a U.N. “Messenger of Peace” to help promote global awareness of the world body’s activities especially in its far-flung peacekeeping missions.
Clooney, who has been campaigning for an end to the 4 1/2-year war in Darfur and for humanitarian aid for the millions caught up in the conflict, will become the ninth U.N. peace envoy.
While many U.N. agencies have goodwill ambassadors to promote their activities ranging from helping children and refugees to promoting human rights, “Messengers of Peace” are selected by the secretary-general to promote the broader work of the United Nations.
U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas, who made the announcement, said Clooney was recognized “for focusing public attention on crucial international political and social issues.” As a Messenger of Peace, she said, he will have “a special focus on United Nations peacekeeping.”
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The eight other Messengers of Peace are actor Michael Douglas, Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, primate expert Jane Goodall, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, Japanese-American violinist Midori Goto, and Olympic equestrian competitor Princess Haya of Jordan.
Clooney will visit U.N. headquarters on Jan. 31 to receive his designation and attend a meeting of countries that contribute troops to the 17 U.N. peacekeeping missions in countries from the Mideast and Africa to Haiti, Afghanistan and East Timor.
The 17 missions, with more than 100,000 personnel, include 73,000 troops and more than 9,000 international police. One of the newest missions is a joint African Union-U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur which started deploying this month.
Clooney and Don Cheadle — co-stars in the “Ocean’s” film installments — co-founded a humanitarian organization called Not On Our Watch together with other stars, including Brad Pitt and Matt Damon, to focus global attention on the plight of Darfur’s people. They have raised more than US$9.3 million (euro6.3 million) for humanitarian efforts in the region.
After he took over the reins of the United Nations in January 2007, Ban quietly dropped five other Messengers of Peace appointed by his predecessor Kofi Annan — U.S. boxing great Muhammad Ali, Indian tennis star Vijay Amritraj, Italian author and journalist Anna Cataldi, Algerian-born French singer Enrico Macias and American jazz musician Wynton Marsalis. Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti, who was a Messenger of Peace for nearly a decade, died on Sept. 6.