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Emi Mahmoud appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

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Emi Mahmoud appointed UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador

8 June 2018
Portrait of UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Emi Mahmoud against the backdrop of Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in March 2018.
Emi Mahmoud visits Azraq refugee camp in Jordan in March 2018.

GENEVA – UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, today announces the appointment of Sudanese-American slam poet Emtithal (Emi) Mahmoud as a national Goodwill Ambassador (US).

The announcement comes as Mahmoud is preparing to open and perform at TEDxKakumaCamp, the first ever TEDx event to take place at a refugee camp in Kenya on 9 June.

Mahmoud has been supporting UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, since 2016. She helps advocate and raise awareness about refugees through her poetry and performances, including performances at UNHCR’s Nansen award ceremony in Geneva, as well as in Washington, Davos, Uganda and Jordan.

As a former refugee from Sudan, Emi uses her personal experience to share the emotional impact of losing a home, of being forcibly displaced and of the lack of rights of women and refugees.

“I am so honoured to be appointed a Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR,” Mahmoud said. “I can’t possibly explain what it is like to flee your home, to leave your memories and loved ones behind, but that is exactly the reality that my parents and millions like them had to deal with and that is the reason why I am here.

“And that's the reality that new people face every day. I want to use my experience and my ability as an artist, a writer and a performer to help raise awareness and advocate for others, and inspire the world to stand with refugees.”

Mahmoud added: “For me, here in Kenya, opening tomorrow the TedxKakumaCamp – the first ever TEDx event to be held in a refugee camp – I find myself rededicated to the future and can see the positivity, creativity and resilience of refugees. But I know that so much more needs to be done. And I am committed to doing everything I can to help refugees as they build better lives for the future. I have dedicated my life to giving a voice to the voiceless – and working with UNHCR, the world’s leading organization for the most vulnerable people, is exactly how I intend to do that.

“As an advocate for the work of UNHCR, Emi has conveyed powerful messages to global audiences, through her spoken word,” said Melissa Fleming, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “This dedicated advocacy has had a truly positive impact on the important mandate to protect displaced persons around the world. From Washington and Davos, to Uganda and the camps of Jordan, Emi has shared her work with a passion and commitment that has had people in tears and given standing ovations. She is a fearless campaigner and we welcome Emi as a new and exciting supporter for the refugee cause.”

Mahmoud has witnessed UNHCR’s frontline work in the field, meeting refugees in Jordan, Uganda and Greece. Mahmoud has also represented UNHCR at various high-profile events, including the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society in Paris, and the 2017 anniversary event for the #IBelong campaign to end statelessness.

Mahmoud has been a committed supporter of many UNHCR campaigns. She added her voice to UNHCR’s #WithRefugees Campaign and performed at the historic hand in of the petition at the 2016 UN General Assembly in New York.

Emi Mahmoud is available for interviews

For more information regarding Emi Mahmoud’s support to date, please visit this page

Related images are available at

Videos of Emi Mahmoud are available here: Boy in the Sand and Head over Heels


About UNHCR:

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, was established on December 14, 1950, by the United Nations General Assembly. UNHCR safeguards the rights and well-being of refugees and stateless people. In more than six decades, the agency has helped tens of millions of people restart their lives. UNHCR is on the front lines of the world's major humanitarian crises, including Syria, Iraq, Central African Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar-Bangladesh, and countless other emergencies.