US-born world renowned classical singer Barbara Hendricks was appointed to the role of Goodwill Ambassador in 1987 and is UNHCR’s longest-serving Ambassador. In 2002, in recognition of her outstanding commitment to refugees, Barbara was named Honorary Lifetime Goodwill Ambassador.
Barbara supports our fundraising and awareness-raising work and advocates for refugees at the highest diplomatic and governmental levels. Over the past 25 years, Barbara has travelled extensively with UNHCR, meeting refugees and policy-makers in Africa, Asia and Europe.
In 1989, Barbara travelled to Mozambique and Zambia to meet refugees preparing to return to Namibia. In 1990, she visited Vietnamese refugees in Pulau Bidong camp in Malaysia. In 1992, she travelled to several Cambodian refugee sites in Thailand and a year later she returned to greet some of those same refugees as they returned home with UNHCR's help. Additionally, Barbara has undertaken missions to Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Cote D’Ivoire.
Barbara has also been an active supporter of World Refugee Day activities and has performed at the UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award on several occasions, in addition to performing at many other concerts in celebration and support of UNHCR and refugees. On 31 December 1991, Barbara gave a concert for peace in Dubrovnik, Croatia, which was then a city under fire. She returned to the Balkans in 1997 to witness developments in post-conflict projects in Sarajevo.
Recent support and field visits
In June 2018 Barbara joined UNHCR donors and VIPs at the Art Basel event, where she performed a Medley for Refugee Children with her husband Ulf accompanying.
In March 2017 Barbara performed and delivered an impassioned speech at the Treaty of Rome 60th Anniversary Ceremony in the European Parliament, calling on the European Union to remember its founding values and rise to meet the challenges of the refugee crisis. Whilst in Brussels Barbara also visited resettled refugees.
In June 2016 Barbara went to Greece to visit different refugee camps, emergency reception sites, and shelters for unaccompanied minors. She also performed at Thessonaliki Concert Hall, raising funds to continue the vital work at Diavata reception site where a safe space for unaccompanied and separated children was recently established. Barbara returned to Thessaloniki in April 2017 to sing with refugee children at the 7th Festival of Children’s–Youth Choirs.
In October 2015, Barbara performed alongside friend and fellow humanitarian Angelique Kidjo at UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Awards in celebration of Afghan refugee teacher Aqeela Asifi. She also spoke and performed at a fundraising event in Dubai organised by one of UNHCR’s corporate partners.
In 2014 Barbara travelled to Cote D’Ivoire to speak at the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Conference in support of UNHCR’s work to end statelessness and our iBelong campaign.
Barbara has continued to build empathy and understanding for refugees by helping to launch Bienvenue!, a book of essays about refugees by renowned French authors. She has also featured in a film with fellow UNHCR ambassadors and high profile supporters called Words Matter.
25 years of service
High Commissioner and staff pay tribute to Barbara Hendricks for her quarter-of-a-century of service to UNHCR and the cause of refugees worldwide.