Fame of UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors help accelerate MDGs

01 Feb 2006


They are at the top of their field, whether it's broadcasting, the literary world or the football stadium, with talents and achievements that have made them household names in their own, and in some cases, in many other countries.

New Horizons - Despite their diverse claims to fame, however, they all share a deep concern for the world's poor and a commitment to making the planet a better place for all, ridding it of poverty, combating HIV/AIDS, ensuring environmental sustainability, protecting human rights, and empowering women.

UNDP, along with other UN agencies, has long enlisted the voluntary services and support of prominent individuals as Goodwill Ambassadors to highlight

development and international cooperation, helping to accelerate achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). They 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.

South African writer and winner of the 1991 Nobel Prize in Literature Nadine Gordimer, Japanese actress, author and TV personality Misako Konno, Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway as well as two soccer stars, Ronaldo de Lima and Zinédine Zidane, are among UNDP's Global Goodwill Ambassadors.

Zidane: "There are things I would not give up for fame or success"
French soccer star Zinédine Zidane earned his reputation as one of the world's best players with his peerless, often impossible-looking displays of technique and control, but there are things that he would not "give up for any amount of fame or success." One of these is his commitment, since being appointed UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in March 2001, to help countries reduce poverty and achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).

"I've known hard times, too," he says. "I know what poverty is. I, too, lived in difficult places, where we didn't have everything. And today I want to help. There are things in this world that are more important than football." He describes his anti-poverty efforts as "the kind of thing my family, my upbringing and people I love have always encouraged. It's something that is part of you or isn't - but it's not something you embark upon or give up for any amount of fame or success."

Zidane first collaborated with UNDP in September 1999 when he and another soccer superstar, Ronaldo, launched the UNDP mobilization campaign "Teams to End Poverty". They 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.

Ronaldo and Zidane in the "Match Against Poverty" as UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors.

His 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.

In December 2003, he and Ronaldo, also a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, along with such stars as England's captain David Beckham and Brazilians Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos, raised more than US$800,000 for anti-poverty projects in developing countries at the "Match Against Poverty" in Basel, Switzerland.

The second "Match Against Poverty" took place in Madrid in 2004, and UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors Ronaldo and Zidane were again among famed international players who were on the pitch for the third match on 22 December 2005 in Düsseldorf.

Ronaldo: Soccer superstar fulfils poor boy's promise
"I suffered a lot during my childhood and I have not forgotten my origins." Growing up poor in Brazil prompted Ronaldo to become a UNDP Goodwill Ambassador in 2000 to help move the world against poverty in the new millennium.

"When I was a child I vowed that one day I would become rich so that I could help my family," he recalls. He began playing soccer barefoot in the streets of a poor Rio de Janeiro neighbourhood where he was born in 1976, and signed up with his first club when he was 14 years old.

"In football I learned that with motivation and determination I could achieve my dreams - even if they seemed impossible at times. If the whole world unites against poverty and hunger, we can beat it and become champions."

Ronaldo has personally committed to developing new partnerships, to spread the word to help sensitize people to bring about real and tangible change in the struggle against poverty. "No one should be doomed to a life of poverty, whether by birth or as a consequence of war," he declares.

In the years since his appointment, Ronaldo has shone the light of his soccer superstardom on what needs to be done. "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."

Despite his optimism, Ronaldo has no illusions of the immensity of the task. "There are many challenges ahead of us," he points out. "Today millions of people still go to bed hungry every night, a women dies of pregnancy or childbirth every minute, HIV/AIDS continues to spread and destroy families and communities, and a child dies every three seconds from preventable diseases."

When the call came from UNDP, Ronaldo recalls, "I could not think of a better way to start the season in 2001 than in a single event that brings together two great motivations - football, which is my passion and my responsibilities as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador, in the service of the fight against poverty."

A highlight of his career as Goodwill Ambassador was an appearance in the Match Against Poverty in Basel, Switzerland, in December 2003. "It was a real thrill to have my friends join me to raise awareness and take a stand against the deprivation that plagues one-fifth of the world population," he remembers.

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.