Cate Blanchett was named a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador in May 2016. Following a visit to settlements in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar in March 2018, she warned of a “race against time” to protect Rohingya refugees from the worst impacts of the upcoming monsoon season. She called for urgent action from the international community to support UNHCR and its partners, working alongside the Government of Bangladesh, to avoid an “emergency within an emergency”. In August 2018, to mark the first anniversary of the onset of the Rohingya emergency, Blanchett spoke movingly to the UN Security Council, sharing individual stories of refugees she had met, and urging the international community to provide much-needed support in Bangladesh, as well as to ensure conditions in Myanmar that would allow the voluntary, safe and dignified return of refugees.
In January 2018 Blanchett was awarded the prestigious Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum, honouring her tireless advocacy for refugees. In her capacity as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate called on political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum, Davos to rethink their approach to refugees, emphasizing the need for compassion and burden-sharing. During an interview with Nick Kristof of the New York Times, she called for a renewed focus on the human perspective. She also visited UNHCR’s headquarters to meet staff.
Blanchett has undertaken fact-finding missions to Lebanon, and Jordan, to meet refugees and stateless people who have been displaced by the Syrian conflict. She has also visited Australia to celebrate UNHCR’s ‘Human Lives, Human Rights’ campaign, which marked the 40th anniversary of the first major refugee arrival. Blanchett is committed to raising awareness on issues of forced displacement, and, in particular, on the scourge of statelessness which affects millions of people worldwide, denying them basic rights, including access to education, healthcare and the ability to work and travel.
In 2016, Blanchett helped bring together a group of artists to perform an ensemble reading of Jenifer Toksvig’s poem ‘What They Took With Them’. Blanchett launched a unique “world tour” of Facebook Live events, featuring supporters across the globe highlighting the urgent need for solidarity with refugees. Blanchett has spoken about the refugee crisis at the Google Zeitgeist event, and the Women in the World Conference. Blanchett has supported UNHCR partners including the Saïd and Asfari Foundations’ ‘Hands up for Syria’ appeal and the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
In 2015, Cate travelled to Lebanon to meet with Syrian refugees, as well as to hear testimonies from stateless people as part of her broader support for UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign. One stateless person she met was Rama, a young girl with huge ambitions, but with her potential limited by her lack of nationality and all the rights that bestows. Blanchett also spoke with Ahmad, a Syrian refugee who left home with his family, but hopes to return to Syria one day and fulfill his dream of becoming an airline pilot.
Cate has also met refugee and asylum-seeker families in Brisbane who had previously been transferred by Australia to Christmas Island, Nauru and Papua New Guinea. She heard firsthand of the immense harm they had suffered under Australia’s “offshore-processing” approach. Additionally, she visited resettled refugees and celebrated UNHCR’s 'Human Lives, Human Rights' campaign in Queensland, marking the 40th anniversary of the first major refugee arrival.
In 2017 Blanchett was awarded the Companion of the Order of Australia in the General Division for her eminent service to the performing arts as an international stage and screen actor, through seminal contributions as director of artistic organizations, as a role model for women and young performers, and as a supporter of humanitarian and environmental causes. Blanchett has been awarded the Centenary Medal for Service to Australian Society through Acting and in 2014, received a Doctor of Letters honoris causa from Macquarie University. Blanchett received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement award from the Australian Academy Awards and was awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister for Culture in 2012, in recognition of her significant contributions to the arts. In 2007, she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.