Living in a world far removed from the reality and brutality of everyday life, celebrities are often considered superficial and self-indulgent. But every so often, the United Nations taps a selfless celebrity to become one of their ambassadors and help them save the world. These celebrities donate their time to making the world a better place…and they look hot doing it.
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10. Maria Grazia Cucinotta
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Maria Grazia Cucinotta is a famous Italian actress best known for her role in the Academy Award-winning film Il Postino and for playing Cigar Girl in the James Bond film The World is Not Enough.
Maria was named an Ambassador against hunger with the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) in 2006. The WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian organization, providing food to more than 90 million people a year. Maria and the WFP strive to eradicate hunger and malnutrition across the globe.
On a field trip to India, Maria urged the international community to support WFP programs as a way of educating hungry and poor children. She told reporters, “Working side by side with WFP has taught me that each one can make a difference in the fight against hunger. Food can serve as a magnet to bring children to school and change their life.” This Bond Girl believes indifference is the enemy of the fight against hunger.
9. Naomi Watts
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The blonde Aussie actress was named a Special Representative for the United Nation’s program for HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2006. The star of 21 Grams joined the U.N. program to raise awareness about AIDS and to give a greater voice to the needs of people living with HIV.
Naomi has participated in AIDS summits and recorded a PSA for UNAIDS. In 2006, she headed to Zambia for a fact-finding mission, which highlighted the socio-economic impact of HIV on women and girls.
"In Zambia, I saw first hand the devastating impact of AIDS on individuals, families, and communities,” said Naomi. “I was both humbled and inspired by the strength and courage of the women, men and children I met, who are truly moving mountains to save lives. They are the real heroes in this fight."
Naomi believes everyone can make a difference in the fight against AIDS and HIV.
8. Nicole Kidman
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Academy Award-winning beauty Nicole Kidman once played a United Nations interpreter in the film The Interpreter. Now she actually works for them. Nicole was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in early 2006. Nicole works with the organization to raise awareness of the issues women face around the world.
Last year Nicole was a high profile participant in the U.N.’s "Say NO to Violence Against Women" campaign. She addressed the United Nations, revealing the sobering statistic that one in three women encounter violence against them in some shape or form.
In her speech she said, "I have been UNIFEM's Goodwill Ambassador for more than two years now and I have seen how being born a woman puts you at risk of the most appalling and widespread human rights violation of our time. The "Say NO" campaign provides people all over the world with an opportunity to add their names to an ever-growing movement of people demanding that ending violence against women be made a top priority for governments around the world."
You can join over five million people and say "No" to violence against women by visiting SayNOtoViolence.org.
7. Liya Kebede
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Liya Kebede is an Ethiopian model who has twice appeared on the cover of U.S. Vogue. In 2007 Forbes magazine named her the 11th highest paid model in the world. Liya is more than just a pretty face -- she has a helping hand. In March 2005, she was appointed a World Health Organization (WHO) Goodwill Ambassador. She has made it her life mission to raise awareness of the health risks facing new mothers and infants in her native Ethiopia and around the world.
In accepting her position with the United Nations, Liya made a point of outlining the health risks women face when giving birth in the undeveloped world. She said, “Every day we hear about the dangers of cancer, heart disease and AIDS. But how many of us realize that, in much of the world, the act of giving life to a child is still the biggest killer of women of child-bearing age? That over half a million die every year? Or that three million babies are stillborn? Or that another four million die during the first days and weeks of life?”
Liya also gives back to her native Ethiopia. In 2007, she launched a line of kid clothing that is manufactured in Ethiopia through her charity foundation. The clothes provide jobs and an economic way to rise out of poverty.
6. Catarina Furtado
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Catarina Furtado is one of Portugal’s most popular celebrities. She is an actress, television personality, and a champion of women’s rights. Catarina was appointed a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Goodwill Ambassador in 1999. She has worked tirelessly to educate people about sexual and reproductive health as well as participating each year in the launch of the UNFPA's State of the World Population report.
Catarina is proud of the work she conducts on behalf of the U.N. She says, “Being a UNFPA Goodwill Ambassador is being a spokesperson for all the women and children who cannot speak for themselves and who need urgent help. This mission fills me with a huge sense of responsibility. UNFPA fights on a daily basis to ensure that all women, girls, and children are treated with dignity and respect.”
In 2005, Catarina received the "Ordem de Mérito – Comendador" award by the Portuguese Government for her services to humanity.
5. Maria Sharapova
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Former world number one Maria Sharapova is one of the most beautiful women in tennis. The winner of three Grand Slams was named a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Goodwill Ambassador in 2007. The UNDP focuses on poverty reduction, HIV/AIDS, democratic governance, energy and environment, and crisis prevention and recovery.
Maria’s first act as an Ambassador was to donate $100,000 of her own money to UNDP Chernobyl-recovery projects. When giving the money Maria said, “My first step is to focus on the Chernobyl-affected region, where my family has roots. Today, it is poverty and lack of opportunities that pose the greatest threat for young people in the Chernobyl region.”
Maria is currently active in promoting the UNDP’s eight Millennium Development Goals. These goals are aimed at achieving measurable improvements in the lives of the world’s poorest people by “eradicating poverty, putting children in primary school, promoting women’s rights, fighting killer diseases, and providing access to safe drinking water.” For more information about the Millennium Development Goals visit MDGMonitor.org.
4. Angelina Jolie
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Angelina Jolie is on a mission to save the world. The activist actress was named a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2001. Since then she has visited over 20 countries to highlight the plight of millions of refugees. Among the places she has visited include Sudan, Chad, Syria, Iraq, and Sierra Leone. In 2007, she donated $1 million to help those affected by the Darfur crisis. This year she was in Thailand, pressuring the Thai government to accept more refugees from Myanmar.
When asked about her motives for partnering with the U.N., Jolie said: "We cannot close ourselves off to information and ignore the fact that millions of people are out there suffering. I honestly want to help. I don't believe I feel differently from other people. I think we all want justice and equality, a chance for a life with meaning. All of us would like to believe that if we were in a bad situation someone would help us."
Angelina’s tireless campaign on behalf of refugees has seen her awarded the first ever Citizen of the World Award by the United Nations Correspondents. In 2005, she received the Global Humanitarian Award by the United Nations Association of the USA and the Business Council for the United Nations.
3. Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan
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Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein is the daughter of the now-deceased King of Jordan. The Princess is an extraordinary woman. She is not only beautiful, but an accomplished athlete having represented Jordan in show jumping at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.
Princess Haya is also an ardent humanitarian. In 2007, she was appointed a United Nations Messenger of Peace. This is the highest title a celebrity can receive. From 2005 to 2007, she served as a Goodwill Ambassador for the World Food Programme. She was also the first woman and first Arab to serve in this position.
The Princess works tirelessly to promote health, education and sports issues among youth in the Arab and Muslim world. She believes it her “inherited duty to help relieve the plight of people who suffer the devastating effects of poverty.”
2. Lara Dutta
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Lara Dutta is an Indian actress and former Miss Universe. During the Miss Universe competition, Lara received the highest individual score in any category in the history of the contest. Lara received a perfect 9.99 from each of the judges for her interview answer.
Lara was made a United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Goodwill Ambassador in 2001, the year following her Miss Universe win. When named, she was the youngest person appointed to such a position. She has used her role to represent Indian women and be a “voice for those whose voices are not strong enough to be heard by the global community.” Lara is passionate about raising AIDS/HIV awareness, women’s rights, and education.
1. Charlize Theron
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Late last year, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named Charlize Theron its newest Messenger of Peace. Charlize joins nine other celebrities, including George Clooney and Michael Douglas, who are charged with promoting U.N. activities and ideals through public appearances and media contacts. Charlize has been given the special focus of ending violence against women.
The Academy Award-winning actress has a long history of humanitarian work. She has been a tireless campaigner in her native South Africa. Through her charity she has worked hard helping rural communities deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic sweeping Africa. She also filmed a series of PSA in support of the Cape Town Rape Crisis Center, urging no tolerance for rape or domestic violence.