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Cate Blanchett

About Cate

Cate Blanchett was announced as Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in May 2016. On appointment, Cate said:

"I am deeply proud to take on this role. There has never been a more crucial time to stand with refugees and show solidarity”.

As one of UNHCR’s most dedicated ambassadors, Cate’s support ranges from high-level advocacy to fundraising, to meeting refugees in countries across the globe. Above all, Cate works to amplify refugee voices and ensure the human stories behind the figures are heard.

Cate most recently took her advocacy for refugees to the European Parliament. Her address made a strong plea for humane asylum policies, rooted in the 1951 Refugee Convention, and for support at every stage of the refugee journey, including countries of origin, transit and destination. She outlined the urgent need for more funding for agencies like UNHCR as forced displacement topped 114 million. Read the full address.

2023 Missions to Jordan, Niger, South Sudan, and Washington, D.C.

In July 2023, Cate visited Niger and South Sudan with UNHCR to raise awareness of work with and for refugees in both countries.

In Niger, Cate witnessed initiatives aimed at encouraging sustainable livelihoods and peaceful co-existence between refugees, internally displaced people and local communities, as well as mitigating the effects of climate change.

Cate travelled onwards from Niger to South Sudan, where she met with refugees and returnees fleeing the ongoing crisis in Sudan. Cate visited Gorom Refugee Camp and Renk Transit Centre to learn about the lived reality of those forced to flee, including many South Sudanese returnees.

In May 2023, Cate joined UNHCR’s High Commissioner in Washington DC, advocating to Congress for sustained U.S. leadership and continued bipartisan support for refugees. She also received the Humanitarian Award at the annual Kuwait-American Foundation Gala hosted by Sheikha Rima, which raised over $1m for UNHCR’s work.

This came shortly after a trip to Jordan where she visited Za’atari refugee camp in Jordan for the second time, to draw attention to the stories of refugees residing there, with a particular focus on the needs of women and girls. Whilst there, Cate reunited with Syrian refugee Alaa who she met on her first visit to the camp in 2016. In the seven years since Cate saw her last, Alaa has become a mother to three children and is now working as a teacher in a primary school in the camp. The visit also included meetings with refugees living in urban settings and struggling to make ends meet, as well as a discussing access to tertiary education for refugee students with university presidents.

Cate outlined her experiences and the devastating impact of under-funding via various media outlets including Bustle, Al Jazeera, Reuters, Asahi, El Pais, and Der Spiegel.

Recent advocacy and campaigning

Cate’s support for UNHCR extends beyond field trips; she has consistently used her platform and talents to amplify the voice of refugees through her contribution to UNHCR advocacy efforts and campaigns.

In December 2023, Cate opened the second Global Refugee Forum in Geneva; she delivered a moving performance of high-profile supporter JJ Bola's poem 'Refuge' alongside UNHCR Supporter Ke Huy Quan.

Earlier in 2023, Cate joined fellow Goodwill Ambassador and former refugee Yusra Mardini in spearheading UNHCR’s Blue Ribbon initiative, encouraging celebrities to wear a ribbon at the Oscars, BAFTAs, and Screen Actors Guild Awards.

In June 2023, she gave a statement at the 30th anniversary of the World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna, affirming the importance of continued efforts to defend human rights: “if we don’t protect them, if we don’t champion them, humanity’s future is at stake”.

To celebrate the 8th anniversary of UNHCR’s #IBelong Campaign in November 2022, Cate recorded a video on statelessness which was screened at the Geneva-based anniversary event.  She has consistently supported the campaign from its inception, including moderating a plenary panel at the 2019 High Level Segment on Statelessness at UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting in Geneva, and via this explainer on what it means to be stateless.

Cate has spoken widely about her passion for equal access to education and, in 2021, she took part in UNHCR’s Aiming Higher appeal to secure scholarships for refugees by personally pledging support and urging others to join her.

Cate’s continuous advocacy for the displaced community was honored by Variety’s Power of Women series in 2020, in which they recognized the commitment and contribution of women humanitarians. Earlier that year, Cate penned a powerful Letter of Hope for a global initiative by Vogue. She also joined UNHCR in launching #FilmsOfHope with IMDb, sharing her personal list of film recommendations for people to watch during the COVID-19 lockdown as a way of exploring issues of identity, community, hope, and home. As part of the project, Cate recorded a conversation with director, James Gray, in which she urged people to “imagine for a moment what it would be like in an overcrowded refugee camp with the threat of COVID-19”.

Also in 2020, Cate attended the Berlin Film Festival in February for the Netflix premiere of the TV drama, Stateless. The show explores issues relating to asylum, detention, and broader themes of identity. Speaking about the series, Cate said. “we live in a world where about one per cent of all humanity is now displaced as a result of conflict or persecution. Through Stateless, I hope to prompt people to rethink how we all are responding to the current displacement crisis”. Stateless launched on ABC Australia, before going global on Netflix in July 2020. In a podcast promoting the series, Cate discussed the Australian immigration system with Gillian Triggs, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.

The year before, Cate spoke at the High Level Segment on Statelessness at the UN Palais in Geneva. Her contribution included an inspiring interview with Maha Mamo, who shared with Cate her personal story of displacement and her journey from statelessness to Brazilian citizenship.

Past highlights of Cate's UNHCR support

As one of UNHCR’s most active ambassadors, Cate’s support has spanned almost a decade. She has long played a crucial role in both the creation and amplification of UNHCR efforts.

In December 2019, Cate joined refugees and fellow Goodwill Ambassadors in marking the first Global Refugee Forum through the #EveryoneCounts initiative. The campaign celebrates the resilience and skillsets that refugees bring to their host communities and urges everyone to play a part in finding solutions to the global displacement crisis.

In January 2018, Cate was awarded the prestigious Crystal Award at the World Economic Forum to honor her tireless advocacy for the refugee plight. In her capacity as UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador, Cate called on political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum to rethink their approach to refugee issues, emphasizing the need for compassion and burden-sharing.

Highlighted above are only a few of Cate’s many dedicated efforts to support UNHCR. Other high-level speaking engagements include Google, Zeitgeist, and Women in the World.

Cate’s transparency and openness regarding her own learning experience is part of what makes her advocacy so poignant. In a 2019 episode on UNHCR’s podcast Awake at Night with Melissa Fleming, Cate shared her experience of meeting refugees and how it has profoundly altered her perception of human suffering and the capacity to hope.

Previous missions to Bangladesh, Jordan and Lebanon

In March 2018, Cate visited Rohingya refugee settlements in Bangladesh, where she warned of a “race against time” to protect Rohingya refugees from the upcoming monsoon season. On her return home from the mission, Cate spoke movingly to the UN Security Council to mark the first anniversary of the onset of the Rohingya emergency. Cate shared the individual stories of refugees she had met in Bangladesh and urged the international community to provide much-needed support for the crisis, as well as ensure that conditions in Myanmar would allow for the voluntary, safe, and dignified return of refugees.  

In 2016, Cate visited Jordan with UNHCR for the first time, where she met with Syrian refugees. Following her mission, Cate helped bring together a group of artists to perform an ensemble reading of Jenifer Toksvig’s poem ‘What They Took With Them’ in support of UNHCR's #WithRefugees campaign. Cate launched a unique “world tour” of Facebook Live events, featuring supporters across the globe highlighting the urgent need for solidarity with Syrian refugees. 

In 2015, Cate travelled to Lebanon to meet with Syrian refugees and hear testimonies from stateless people.

Cate has also met refugee and asylum-seeker families in Brisbane, Australia, who had previously been transferred to Christmas Island, Nauru, and Papua New Guinea. She heard firsthand of the immense harm they had suffered under Australia’s “offshore-processing” approach.