High-profile support for World Refugee Day reaches more than 100 million

News Stories, 21 June 2013

© Photo by Brad Penner
This year's Lady Antebellum message was broadcast for the whole day in Times Square, the heart of New York's Manhattan district.

GENEVA, June 21 (UNHCR) A host of celebrities from around the world came together this week for World Refugee Day to support UNHCR and show solidarity for refugee families. Spearheaded by UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, who met Syrian refugees in Jordan, celebrities added their voices to the agency's 1Family Campaign through film, photography and social media, driving home the message that one family torn apart by war is too many.

Jolie's exclusively authored report from Jordan was featured on CNN's Amanpour and Piers Morgan Tonight, bringing the moving plight of individual Syrian families to a huge audience.

Meanwhile, acclaimed writers Paulo Coelho, Neil Gaiman, Henning Mankell and Khaled Hosseini posted messages of solidarity, and were joined by iconic artist Yoko Ono, comedian, writer and actor Stephen Fry, supermodel and humanitarian Iman, comedian Eddie Izzard and popular musicians Lady Antebellum, Juanes, Maher Zain, Paula Abdul, Professor Green, George Dalaras and Bastian Baker. Support also came from actors Forest Whitaker, Gillian Anderson, Elena Anaya, Yao Chen and David Tennant, WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) divas Alicia Fox and Natalya, and basketball star and former Sudanese refugee Luol Deng.

Actor Kat Graham and fellow members of the cast of the hit American TV series, "The Vampire Diaries," created a special video message, reflecting on the most important thing they would take with them if they were forced to flee. Celebrities from many more countries, including Abu Dhabi, Canada, Colombia, Ecuador, Ghana, Greece, Italy, Kenya, Mali, Mexico, Sweden and Venezuela shared photos of their "1thing" (http://pinterest.com/refugees/the-most-important-thing-celebrities/).

Together, these celebrity driven activities provided a social media reach of more than 100 million.

Broadcast coverage was also strong. Alongside Special Envoy Jolie's report, television presenter Kate Garraway presented a special two-part TV diary on the United Kingdom's "Daybreak" programme, while respected reporters Jon Snow, Lyse Doucet and Sotiris Danezis spread their own personal message of concern for refugees.

Public Service Announcements (PSAs) were recorded by 15 celebrity supporters, including Honorary UNHCR Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador Barbara Hendricks, and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors Osvaldo Laport, Alek Wek and Jesus Vazquez, long-standing supporter Juanes, as well as UNHCR Eminent Advocate Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi. Lady Antebellum's PSA was featured on a huge billboard in New York's Times Square. A special film in Spanish, "Welcome to my Country," was made by actress Elena Anaya and film director Fernando León.

In Washington, DC, 2012 X-Factor finalist Diamond White sang the song, "Peace," at a World Refugee Day ceremony led by US Secretary of State John Kerry. The song, written by John Legend and Toby Gad, was also featured by the mPowering Action platform, encouraging young people to engage with the refugee cause. Substantial media coverage was garnered by former refugees Alek Wek and Khaled Hosseini as well as Olympics marathon runner, Guor Marial, a refugee who returned to South Sudan to mark World Refugee Day and to be reunited with his family.

Showing their support for this year's World Refugee Day, Lady Antebellum said, "Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict millions of families have been forced to leave their homes. Families just like ours. Desperate and scared, most have fled with only the clothes on their backs. They need our help. They need our hope. Please take a minute and join us and help UNHCR protect and support a family."

Daniel Endres, UNHCR's director of external relations, was impressed by the breadth and depth of high-profile support. "Celebrity voices have enabled us to amplify our vital message about the impact of war on refugee families and given the public an opportunity to show their support through their advocacy and donations. They have raised our visibility and helped us reach new audiences this World Refugee Day and, most importantly, they send a message to refugees and the displaced that they are not forgotten. At a time when we are facing an unprecedented scale of displacement and when UNHCR is calling for renewed support to meet the needs of the millions displaced in the Syrian crisis, high-profile voices are needed now more than ever."

To see who recorded PSAs for World Refugee Day, go to (http://www.youtube.com/user/unhcr)

To see who shared their 1thing photos, go to (http://pinterest.com/refugees/the-most-important-thing-celebrities/)

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