News Stories, 11 October 2006
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina, October 11 ((UNHCR) – Popular Uruguayan actor Osvaldo Laport has been named as the UN refugee agency's first Goodwill Ambassador from Latin America. He received the official title at a high-profile public ceremony on Tuesday night in Buenos Aires, where he has been living for the past three decades.
A certificate was presented to Laport at the ceremony, which was attended by refugees from around the world, government officials and stars from the entertainment industry. UNHCR's regional representative, Flor Rojas, highlighted the veteran actor's sensitivity to refugee issues and exceptional commitment to supporting their cause. She also said that a new stage of "hard work" was about to begin for Laport, including visits to refugee camps next year.
An emotional Laport called on his peers from the showbiz world to join him on his new journey. "As a part of Argentine society, I would like to work with all of you to ensure that we always keep our doors open to the men, women and children who most need it, and who provide us with their example every day," he said.
"I know I am not alone and that many of us will work together for a world of equals where peace reigns and where human rights are violated no longer. Latin America has been built by exiled persons. Today too it will provide an example," added Laport. He called on society to keep working to ensure that countries like Argentina keep their doors open to refugee men, women and children "who provide us with their example every day."
During the event held at a major downtown hotel, UNHCR also launched its new publicity campaign for southern Latin America produced by the advertising agency Young & Rubicam. The campaign comprises three one-minute television spots which use humour to call on the public to help refugees rebuild their lives.
Laport, who is best known for his starring roles in soap operas broadcast in more than two dozen countries around the world, has been collaborating with UNHCR and promoting its work since 2004. In that year he gave a percentage of the earnings from his men's fragrance, Tiempo, to the agency and later donated his services for an award-winning television spot marking World Refugee Day.
He has since taken every opportunity, including TV shows, concerts, celebrity auctions and sports events, to trumpet UNHCR's work and put the spotlight on the plight of refugees, asylum seekers and the displaced.
Just last month he accompanied a group of refugees living in Argentina when they handed over a petition asking Congress to move ahead with a draft refugee law approved in 2005 by the upper chamber.
Laport joins UNHCR's six other Goodwill Ambassadors: Barbara Hendricks, Adel Imam, Angelina Jolie, Giorgio Armani, Julien Clerc and George Dalaras.
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.
By Nazli Zaki in Buenos Aires, Argentina