Greek singer George Dalaras named UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

News Stories, 6 October 2006

© UNHCR Greece
George Dalaras (left) with the UNHCR Representative in Greece, Karen Farkas, and Greece's President Karolos Papoulias after the singer was proclaimed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.

ATHENS, Greece, October 6 (UNHCR) Greek singing star and musician George Dalaras was officially proclaimed a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador during a glittering ceremony earlier this week in Athens.

President Karolos Papoulias and many other dignitaries looked on Thursday night as Dalaras was presented with a certificate marking his appointment in the Congress hall of the capital's old parliament building. The president later praised Dalaras and UNHCR for their work in helping refugees and urged the public to do more to support those who have lost home and homeland.

The appointment is recognition of Dalaras' artistic achievements, humanitarian qualities and his significant contribution to the work of UNHCR over the last five years. It also marks the beginning of a partnership in UNHCR efforts to protect and assist refugees and others under the agency's care.

"I am a little embarrassed as I consider these contributions to UNHCR self-evident as an artist and as a citizen. I accept this title not as an acknowledgement of what I have done, but as a commitment of what my family and I will continue doing," said a visibly moved Dalaras.

The popular 57-year-old musician, whose own mother was a Greek refugee from Asia Minor, also had some advice for the many politicians attending the ceremony. He said the country "needs a responsible state policy ... to tackle the acute problem of reception, care and asylum for refugees."

He then picked up a guitar and, accompanied by a piano, played a song composed by the famous Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis, entitled "I open the door at night." He dedicated the performance to the world's refugees.

Earlier in the ceremony, a recorded message of welcome from Deputy High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin was shown as well as a five-minute video with songs performed by the artist from benefit concerts for UNHCR.

Dalaras, who has played his distinctive style of Greek folk and blues music at concerts around the world, joins UNHCR's other Goodwill Ambassadors: Barbara Hendricks, Adel Imam, Angelina Jolie, Giorgio Armani and Julien Clerc.

He has had an impressive record of involvement with the refugee agency since playing several benefits concerts in 2001 to mark UNHCR's 50th anniversary. One of the concerts, in the atmospheric Herod Atticus Theatre at the foot of the Acropolis, raised 230,000 euros for UNHCR programmes around the world.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassadors use their talents and time to advocate for refugees, communicating to the general public the message of respect and solidarity with those fleeing persecution and conflict in a uniquely powerful way. They effectively use their privileged access to media and influential members of civil society to give a voice to refugees.

Dalaras has drawn up an annual plan with UNHCR for a series of activities in Greece and around the world.

By Ketty Kehayioylou in Athens, Greece