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Goodwill Ambassador: The New Celebrity Fallback Career

Stars like Ben Affleck and Nicole Kidman are busy distracting public attention from everything the U.N. doesn't do.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

December 15, 2008 - 12:21 am
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Shortly before Thanksgiving, the tens of thousands of Congolese languishing in fetid refugee camps sure could have used an extra morsel or two, perhaps some medicine to stave off the illnesses that spread through such encampments, and perhaps, above all, some U.N. peacekeepers willing to use their guns to protect them from government vs. rebel warfare. Instead, they got Ben Affleck.

In true Hollywood fashion, Affleck donned the complete Visit Third-World Refugee Camp ensemble a la Eddie Bauer — down to the floppy fishing/adventurer hat — and his most somber expression to stroll through a displacement camp near Kibati. “I’m not an expert in international affairs or diplomacy, but it doesn’t take that to see the tremendous suffering here,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s not something that we as human beings can, in good conscience, ignore.”

Sounds innocuous, even noble, right? You should have seen the looks on the faces of the Congolese as Affleck surveyed the camp, video camera in hand and five o’clock shadow in full effect. Truth be told, they weren’t wowed by the celebrity presence. They seemed genuinely disinterested by the Good Will Hunting Oscar winner turned goodwill ambassador, intently scanning the landscape as the AP photographer snapped away.

In fact, perhaps TMZ should start hanging out in refugee camps to snag the latest hot shots of Tinsel Town residents. As the hot celebrity fallback career used to be designing handbags, it’s now offering impassioned pleas and striking a pose with Ban Ki-moon as the latest U.N. goodwill ambassador.

The goodwill ambassadors range from Angelina Jolie to Giorgio Armani, who represent the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, to the myriad UNICEF ambassadors: Mia Farrow, Whoppi Goldberg, Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon, Vanessa Redgrave, Harry Belafonte … well, you get the picture. Spice Girl Geri Halwell is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Population Fund, and the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra serves as one, big, giant goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization. (Try fitting them in a cholera clinic in Zimbabwe for a photo op.) Maria Sharapova is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. Development Program, along with French soccer star Zinedine Zidane (think massive head butt at the last World Cup, which didn’t show much good will).�

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