Top 9 Celebrities for Social Justice

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1. Angelina Jolie

Acclaimed actress and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Special Envoy Jolie used her prominent celebrity influence to heighten awareness of the Syrian crises in an UNHCR video.

She told reporters, “The Syrian crisis here in Jordan and across the region is the most acute humanitarian crisis anywhere in the world today.”

According to UNHCR, she said refugees from the Syrian conflict, “have left behind a country in which millions of people are displaced… and where at least 93,000 have been killed: the friends, neighbors, fathers, mothers and children of people in this camp today.”

Known for her role in the blockbuster film “Tomb Raiders,” Jolie has been passionate about advocating for those displaced by war and conflict.  She was named Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR in 2001 and has covered almost 50 countries meeting with refugee families in remote, extreme locations. She was appointed as UNHCR Special Envoy in 2012, and began on an amplified advocacy role centering on multifaceted catastrophes such as the Syria crises.

Jolie’s commitment to the poor and displaced was revealed through her donations to UNHCR, which came up to more than $5 million since 2001. The donations have gone towards constructing schools in Afghanistan and Kenya, and other projects to improve the lives of the forcibly displaced.

On November 2013, Jolie was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award for her work “on behalf of the forcibly displaced and victims of sexual violence.” She received the award at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Governors Awards in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

The annual award is handed out in recognition of an “individual in the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry.”

Watch Jolie in conversation with Syrian refugees and on World Refugee Day.

Jolie speaks for refugees on CNN.

2. David Guetta, Usher & Taio Cruz

Guetta, Usher Raymond, and Taio Cruz, produced a music video in conjunction with the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs and to raise funds for the U.N. Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in response to the food crises in Sahel, West Africa. The artists and the song’s writers, publishers and music labels donated the soundtrack “Without You” to the U.N. Foundation for use in the five-minute music video.

“Music is a powerful way to bring people together,” said Guetta on the U.N. Foundation’s website. “And together, we can help the people of the Sahel help themselves. The video shows how hard the families are willing to work to support each other. Lending our support in a time of drought is the least we can do.”

The video clip is a combination of “storytelling and cross-cultural connections” set against the backdrop of music as a universal language to illustrate the impact of the food crisis on a family living on the fringes of Niamey, Niger’s capital.

“The story is communicated through an Australian brother and sister, William, 24, and Georgina, 26. They shadow 18-year-old Ali Koba, his father Abdoulaye and mother, Haoua, who are eking out a livelihood and struggling to feed their family due to a meager harvest and the effects of a severe drought.

The popular singer and father of two said when he heard about the family in need, his immediate reaction was “what can I do to help?” “I just thought about what it would be like if I did not have enough food to feed my family, so I decided to lend my voice and ask people to help spread the word by watching and sharing the video,” continued Guetta.

Raymond agrees and highlighted, “We are each a part of one global community and it is crucial that we use our voices to shine a light on the issues affecting those around us. The families and children of the Sahel are suffering from hunger and are in need of our help – it is time to lend a hand.”

Cruz commented that “he wanted to create a song that represented the strength of love and courage.” “I am so honored to know that this song is being used in such a positive way to help bring light to an incredibly worthy cause.”

Watch Guetta, Raymond and Taio Cruz’s music video featuring “Without You.” 

3. Stephen Curry

Curry, a guard for the Golden State Warriors guard, is a champion for U.N. Foundation’s Nothing for Nets. Curry has been advocating for the campaign against malaria since his time at Davidson College. He has committed to protect families from malaria and embarked on a campaign to send three life-saving bed nets for every three-point shot he made during the 2012-13 season.

Within one single season, he set a new NBA record of three-pointers and broke Ray Allen’s record of 269 (for the Seattle SuperSonics in 2005-06). With the 272 shots he made, he sent 816 bed nets to families who are now able to effectively shield their children from malaria.

During the summer of 2013, Curry visited the Nyarugusu refugee camp in western Tanzania to distribute and install the insecticide treated mosquito nets for the families.

Malaria kills one person every 60 seconds and is leading killer of children in Africa. These mosquito nets, which are a simple, cost-effective solution, can reduce the spread of malaria by as much as 90 percent. It costs a mere $10 to send a mosquito net, install it and provide training on its use.

“It’s an honor to join the Nothing But Nets campaign again this season to help raise awareness of the malaria crisis in Africa and to help provide the resources to make this disease a thing of the past,” Curry told NBA. “After seeing first-hand the impact these bed nets provide, I cannot thank the Warriors enough for joining me in helping to protect families from malaria.”

Watch Stephen Curry’s Three for Three Challenge and his three-point record season.

4. Katy Perry

Global pop superstar Perry was appointed UNICEF’s newest Goodwill Ambassador on December 3, 2013, with a special focus on “engaging young people in the agency’s work to improve the lives of the world’s most vulnerable children and adolescents.”

“I believe young people have the power to change their own lives, with our help,” said Katy.  “I am honored to join UNICEF as a Goodwill Ambassador and committed to doing everything I can to help children and adolescents who come from such different backgrounds but want the same thing: a brighter future.”

Earlier this year, 29-year-old Perry visited Madagascar on a UNICEF mission to highlight the dire situation of children in one of the world’s poorest country. In October, Perry joined in UNICEF’s celebration of the International Day of the Girl Child and lent her hit song “Roar” to the soundtrack of a new PSA for the international organization. Perry also encouraged her social media followers to support UNICEF’s emergency relief efforts for children, especially those affected by Typhoon Haiyan.

Listen to Perry as she shares what inspired her song, “Unconditionally.”

Watch UNICEF video featuring Perry’s Unconditionally.

Hear Perry roar for International Day of the Girl Child.

Watch Perry expresses unconditional support for UNICEF.

5. David Beckham

British football legend and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Beckham made an emotional appeal on various news media outlets as typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines:

“My heart goes out to everyone affected by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. I was in Manila with UNICEF just two years ago and saw how vulnerable to natural disasters the country is. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, roads are impassable and children and their families need food, water, shelter and power right now. UNICEF estimates four million children could be affected by the disaster and are stepping up their emergency response. Children need your help. Please support UNICEF’s work for children affected by this terrible disaster – visit unicef.org.uk.”

Additionally, the former footballer wrote a Facebook message to his 32 million followers encouraging them to support UNICEF’s work in the Philippines and provided a link to UNICEF’s donation page.

Visit Beckham’s Facebook page as he thanks fans for supporting UNICEF’s work in Philippines.

6. Nicole Kidman

Academy award-winning actress Kidman wore orange to raise awareness for U.N. Women to End Violence Against Women campaign. She is the international spokesperson for U.N. Women Say No to UNiTE to End Violence Against Women and extensively promotes women’s rights around the world.

Kidman was appointed as U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador in January 2006. Her efforts are focused on raising global awareness on women’s human rights, in particular, violence against women as one in every three women are affected.

“As the Goodwill Ambassador of U.N. Women, the United Nations’ organization working to empower women and girls, I have seen that there is no limit to what women can achieve when given the opportunity,” says Kidman. “Working with U.N. Women, I have met women who had to overcome enormous obstacles, yet who went on to help others and organize to achieve social change. To me, these women embody resilience, strength, dignity—and hope.”

Watch Kidman as she accepts the first-ever awards from the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women on 25 November 2013.

7. Victoria Justice

Justice, a teen celebrity and icon, released her new song and music video, Girl Up, on February 16, 2013 as an appreciation gift to fans to thank them for meeting Justice’s GirlRaiser Challenge that raised more than $20,000 for the Girl Up campaign.

Nineteen year-old Justice has been a passionate spokesperson for Girl Up campaign since its launch in 2010 and is centered on raising awareness to reach and empower underserved adolescent girls in the developing world. Through Girl Up’s program, these girls have the chance to be educated, healthy, safe and be counted as the next generation of leaders.

“When I went to Guatemala, I saw firsthand the impact that donations to Girl Up can have through the United Nations’ programs there,” said Justice. Her trip to Guatemala inspired her to write the song to help and empower young girls, “just like the ones I met,” she says.

Guatemala is one of the most ethnical diverse nation in Latin America and the poorest country in Western Hemisphere, after 36 years of conflict. Girl Up supporters are encouraged to give a “High Five” by donating $5 or more to provide girls with basic necessities and access to school supplies, clean water, health services as well as safety and protection.

“The great response to my GirlRaiser Challenge shows that there are so many girls in the United States just like me who are ready to stand up for other girls around the world,” Justice said.  “Through the Girl Up campaign, we can make sure these girls are educated, healthy, and safe. I am proud to be a Girl Up Champion and to use my voice to give back.”

Watch Victoria Justice help a Girl Up.

Hear Girl Up champion, Victoria Justice, ask for a High Five.

8. Gisele Bündchen

Bündchen, an international supermodel and fashion icon, teamed up with former Vice-president Al Gore and Kandeh Yumkella, Director General of U.N. Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Special Representative for Sustainable Energy for All, to advocate for sustainable energy for all.

The Sustainable Energy for All Initiative hopes to achieve three goals by 2030: “universal access to modern energy services; the doubling of energy efficiency; and the doubling of the share of renewable energy in the world’s energy mix.”

Designated as the Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in 2009, Bündchen is a familiar face as an environmental activist and has supported several
causes, including clean water initiatives, environmental sustainability as well as the conservation of South American rainforests. Bündchen was conferred the Harvard’s 2011 Global Environmental Citizen as the Greenest Celebrity by the 2011 International Green Awards.

More recently, Rainforest Alliance announced the appointment of Bündchen to its Board of Directors on January 2. As a board member, Bündchen will help shape the vision, strategic plans and policies that guide the Rainforest Alliance’s development and global sustainability efforts.

Watch Bündchen bring the message of sustainable energy for all.

9. Jennifer Lopez

Actress, Singer and Co-Founder of the Lopez Family Foundation lent her voice to the U.N. Global Mom Relay in support of Every Woman Every Child. This global movement, launched by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, aims to save the lives of 16 million women and children by 2015.

Starting on International Women’s Day, moms and friends rallied their networks of people to start a “virtual relay,” which brought about 60 days of online conversations through sharing stories and “inspiration about motherhood,” making donations and taking action steps.

“My sister Lynda and I had children around the same time and both feel strongly about helping other mothers who are in need so that they have the chance to experience a healthy start as a new mom,” said Lopez.  “It is an honor to be part of this important global conversation and I hope others will join us.”

Hear Lopez speak on the Global Mom Relay.

– Flora Khoo

Sources: UNHCR, UNHCR, UNOCHA, UN Foundation, UN Foundation, NBA, NBA, UNICEF, UNICEF, UN Women, UN Women, Huffington Post, Girl Up, Girl Up, UNEP, UN Foundation
Photo: Time Dot Com

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About Author

Flora is from Singapore and she graduated from Regent University with a master’s degree in Journalism. She was drawn to The Borgen Project because of her love for writing and interest in international development issues. She speaks both English and Mandarin and enjoys canoeing.

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