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Celebrity Diplomacy

by on February 3, 2014

We have seen The UN and other UN organisations such as UNICEF; conducting diplomacy by involving celebrities as Goodwill Ambassadors to interact with the general public. This modern PR techniques are said to help gain them more audiences. This development mostly started under the Secretary-General Kofi Annan. NGOs such as Oxfam, Greenpeace and Amnesty international, are examples of NGOs who have been using PR strategies. There was a high level of public ignorance on the duties of the UN; a number of movies were filmed at the UN Headquarter in NEW York as a method of an outreach , including television shows such as Law and Order SUV and Ugly betty. The use of celebrity diplomacy is criticised for its motives by both sides and if there is propaganda to it. Department of public information argue that this method is not propagandist but provides neutral information and promotes causes such as human rights.


Celebrities are said to be used to raise awareness. At this time of age where, what celebrities are wearing gets more coverage than current affairs around the world, The UN can’t be blamed for using celebrities as good will ambassadors to inform the nation and get media’s attention. It could be because celebrities genuinely want to help ‘give back’ and this creates a platform for both charity organisations and celebrities to meet and work together to bring something good. using a celebrity diplomacy as a soft power dates back to 1950s and early 1960s when when American jazz stars were sent overseas to promote a positive image of the US during the cold war, but as far as celebrity involvement in international affair for charity is concerned; it is safe to say, its a new practise.
Celebrity diplomacy is criticized for bringing attention to international affairs and not bringing real change. Celebrities’ motives is also questioned.

Cash over Charity?

Oxfam Ambassador Scarlett Johansson at a camp in northern Kenya during a visit to east Africa.

Oxfam Ambassador Scarlett Johansson at a camp in northern Kenya during a visit to east Africa.

As the current issue with scarlet Johansson, who was reported to quit Oxfam and choose her new role as an ambassador of Soda Stream : which is a company operating in 20 Israeli-run industrial zones in the west bank and contradicts the morals Oxfam lives by; The motives continues to be questioned in using celebrity advocates. in this case, the actress has been criticised for what looks like prioritising money and fame by choosing to be an ambassador of a controversy.

Scarlett Johansson on Soda Stream advert.

Scarlett Johansson on Soda Stream advert.

An anonymous MAG official commented: ‘For instance in the case of MAG I know that Angelina Jolie did not seek any material or personal gain when promoting the causes of banning of landmines. …. she appreciated what she had to do, was on-message and didn’t provide any risks in return ‘Elsewhere another nameless soap star had agreed to attend a MAG special walk which was a good event to attract paying customers. … However, we received a cryptic note from this star saying she couldn’t attend. Then a couple of months later she appeared in a ‘Hello’ magazine spread for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC). Clearly MAG was not considered to be sufficiently well-known to give her enough visibility.’


M. Wheeler, ‘Celebrity Diplomacy: United Nations’ Goodwill Ambassadors and Messengers of Peace’ in Celebrity Studies, Vol. 2, No. 1, 2011

M. Wheeler, Celebrity Politics: Image and Identity in Contemporary Political Communication, (Cambridge: Polity Publisher, 2013).


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