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Leading musical stars join in Pavarotti memorial concert for Afghan refugees

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Leading musical stars join in Pavarotti memorial concert for Afghan refugees

16 September 2008

UNHCR/WFP News Release

16 September 2008

Milan - A year after his death, Luciano Pavarotti's legacy of generosity lives on in a tribute charity concert and memorial ceremony to be held in Petra, Jordan on 11 and 12 October. Under the patronage of HRH Princess Haya Bint al Hussein of Jordan, a UN Messenger of Peace, the concert at the renowned archaeological site at Petra will generate funds for projects in Afghanistan by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The line-up of performers was announced at today's press conference in Milan by Nicoletta Mantovani, widow of the late Maestro. They include some of world's biggest stars of classical and pop music, such as Sting, Andrea Bocelli, Jovanotti, Zucchero, Laura Pausini, Angela Gheorghiu, Andrea Griminelli, Cynthia Lawrence and Roberto Alagna; the concert will be conducted by Maestro Eugene Kohn.

Since 2002, over 5 million Afghans have returned to the eastern provinces of their country from Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere. The joint UNHCR/WFP projects will focus on the most vulnerable of them - especially women and children - and pay to construct schools, provide health, skills and literacy training, and build micro-hydropower and irrigation canals to bring electricity and improve agricultural production.

The Government of Italy will also support the event, and announced at the press conference a donation of Euro 2.1 million through Italian Cooperation for Development for the joint UNHCR-WFP project in Afghanistan.

"With this contribution, we wish to honour the Maestro's exceptional commitment to humanitarian activities and his dedication to fostering the development of other countries," said Elisabetta Belloni, Director General of Italian Cooperation during the press conference. She went on to emphasize how this initiative will provide concrete aid for thousands of Afghan refugees who have decided to go back to what remains of their home villages.

For over ten years, until his death in September 2007, Maestro Pavarotti actively supported UNHCR projects in Kosovo, Pakistan, Zambia, and Iraq. For his continuous commitment to refugee causes, Luciano Pavarotti received UNHCR's Nansen Refugee Award and was named a UN Messenger of Peace.

"UNHCR remembers the Maestro as a unique artist, an extremely generous man and a friend. Luciano Pavarotti was one of the greatest supporters of UNHCR's work, using his amazing talents to raise awareness of refugee issues around the world," said Radhouane Nouicer, UNHCR's Director of the Middle East and North Africa Office in Geneva.

"Millions of Afghans live in dire poverty. In particular returnees who, after many years, arrive home needing everything: food, shelter and a future. The spirit of the great Maestro Pavarotti brings people together, even now. We will always remember him for his extraordinary efforts to help reach those in need," said Susana Rico, WFP Director in Afghanistan.

Nouicer and Rico thanked HRH Princess Haya of Jordan and the widow of the Maestro, Nicoletta Mantovani, whose initial idea and continued support were crucial in making the event in Petra possible.

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WFP is the world's largest humanitarian agency and the UN's frontline agency for hunger solutions. This year, WFP plans to feed around 90 million people in 80 countries.

UNHCR provides protection and assistance to refugees and internally displaced people around the world. At the beginning of 2008, the UNHCR assisted some 31.7 million worldwide.